Crocodile Tour 2022 Day 1 and 2

The Old Legs Crocodile Tour 2022 has begun. Read all about day 1 and 2 of their epic journey on the magnificent Lake Kariba – infested with hippo and crocodile. They are raising money for beleaguered Zimbabwe pensioners struggling to make ends meet.

Paddling from Milibizi to Kariba – Day 1

As a fully fledged kayaker I continue to look for positives in my new sport.

The best that I can come up with thus far is that it allows to walk around making bold truth statements like mine is six-inches longer than Mark Johnson’s.

I paddled out of Milibizi harbour and out into the vast expanse of Lake Kariba at 08.30 with heart in mouth, full of fear and trepidation. Water as far as the eye could see, and then some, and full of crocodiles and hippos. The sign at the harbour entrance set the tone for my voyage to come. It read DEAD SLOW. At least it didn’t read DEAD AND SLOW.

We paddled out in single file with point man Greg Hall tap tapping his boat with his paddle every few minutes to bring up the hippos. Hippos are very inquisitive apparently and will surface to investigate strange sounds.

We were lead out by one of the support catamarans the Biriwiri with John Stanton manning the binoculars at the Crow’s nest on look out for crocs and hippos. At our final briefing, we had worked out hand signal warnings for crocodiles and hippos left or right, rocks or rough water ahead, etcetera, etcetera. I kept eyes on John. Sitting at water level, you can’t see anything in front of you, unless it is right upon you.

John signaled emphatically. “What does that sign mean?” Mark Johnson asked from his kayak behind. “I don’t remember that sign from the briefing.”

I guessed, “I think John’s either having violent back spasms, or he can see a hippo or a croc.” It turns out John is really crap at charades and I made a big mental note to self to avoid being on the same team as him. It turns out it was a hippo. I never saw that one but went on to see thousands of others, and crocodiles. Every log, every stick, every rock, all of them were crocodiles and hippos. The lake was lousy with them.

Once out in open water, Andy Lowe Evans moved us into a box peloton formation, two abreast, with the right hand marker setting the pace for 30 minutes, then he would drop back and everyone would shuffle one position. The lake was like glass and with Greg Hall setting the pace, we fairly flew along, at 7 k.p.h. Since my life I had never paddled that fast. But I couldn’t keep up and I started dropping back further and further. It felt I was dragging sea weed but I wasn’t.

Mark Johnson pulled level with me. He told me there was something horribly wrong with my paddle technique. Apparently, from behind I was frothing the water like I had a 150 h.p.Suzuki outboard, with a hugely high cadence taking two strokes for his every one, but I was moving more like I had a Seagull engine on board. He said that I was holding my paddle at the wrong angle and my blades weren’t biting the water, they were just skimming the top of it.

I was in a quandary. Was I going to listen to Mark a self-confessed novice, or stick to the advice received from my expert coach, the very pretty slip-of-a-girl on YouTube who can even make fitting new tubeless tyres on Mountain bikes look easy? I thanked Mark for his input but decided to stick with my YouTube expert, and fell further behind. Next to pull up alongside with the same advice as Mark was Billy, followed by Greg.

Eventually, and only because my arms were looking to fall off, I tried holding my paddles at their recommended forty- five degrees, and unfortunately it worked. I am gutted that YouTube allow pretty false prophets to post falsehoods and lies.

We stopped for a snack break next to a dead hippo with four legs up in the air bobbing in the water. We thought we’d find crocs snacking on the hippo, but there weren’t any. Which hopefully meant the crocs weren’t hungry.

Others clambered out onto the yacht to stretch their legs and have a wee, but I deployed Big Blue my en-suite urinal and enjoyed a wee in my armchair with a smug smile on my face. I have told the other paddlers they can rent Big Blue for $5 a wee.

Day One was supposed to be an orientation day with a reduced target of just 17 km, so we could get used to paddling in our formations and with our support yachts, But because the Sengwa basin looms large, Andy Lowe Evans decided we should press on and bank as many extra kilometers as we can, in anticipation of big waves and wind in the Sengwa.

On their voyage down from Kariba, Andy described the water in the Sengwa as impossible to paddle, and worse case scenario, we’d have to park off on shore and wait for a break in the weather. So we decided to paddle on and take advantage of the near perfect conditions.

Hah. We paddled out of our lunch bay straight into the very gale force waves that we were paddling to avoid. It was like paddling in washing machine. But I was too happy with my boat’s seaworthiness. It bobbed merrily on the waves. But I was less than happy with my boat’s engine. It was stuttering alarmingly. It felt like I was paddling in thick porridge, thick uphill porridge. I have never worked that hard on a bicycle.

One of the things that sustained us in the heavy water was Norma van den Burgh. Norma came to meet us in Bulawayo to thank the Old Legs for helping pay for her husband Andrés no longer overdue fistula operation. She was crying and so were we. I told her I would paddle to Cairo for Andre. But I sincerely hope that she does not take me up on that.

Please help us help those pensioners in need.

Until my next blog, enjoy – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong


PLEASE DONATE TO SUPPORT PENSIONERS STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE IN ZIMBABWE

Any assistance is greatly appreciated and goes a long way to giving our pensioners a better quality of life and lift the pressure of money worries which is very debilitating emotionally.

(Donations made to ZANE in Australia, are tax-deductible)

Paddling from Milibizi to Kariba – Day Two

This blog is coming to you from Binga. It is 04.00 as I type and the night sky above me is glorious. The Milky Way is still strung out from left to right but the Southern Cross is about to fall off the horizon, off to bed.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It was also a very tough day. It ticked the epic box big time, but the
fun box not so much.

Our day started at 02.35 a.m. when it started to rain. I wished Jenny Happy Mother’s Day and she told me something very rude.

No chance of rain is one of the reasons we chose May as the month of the Crocodile Tour. Unseasonal rain becomes even more of a bugger when you are sleeping out on an open deck. Jenny and I started gathering up blankets and belongings to drag them below deck, when we remembered the Halcyon doesn’t do below decks. We were just resigning ourselves to having an early shower when Skipper Andy Chadwick saved the day and threw a tarpaulin over us, and job done, we went back to sleep, dry and snug like sacks of potatoes.

We were on the water paddling by 07.30. The water was like a glass and we fairly flew along at 7 k.p.h., which is way more impressive than it sounds, until Mark Johnson stopped for coffee and a rusk. Coffee breaks bobbing in your boat on the open lake are way cool, but maybe not such a good idea when you’re chasing down a 35 km target. Rear Admiral of the paddling fleet Andy Lowe Evans was soon chomping at the bit, so we set off again, direction Binga.

Until Greg Hall saw an old Batonka fisherman that he knew, setting up his office for day, a dugout canoe tied up in the tree line.

The fisherman’s name was Mr Peter Ndhlovu and he was old like the hills. He told us he fished the same spot for bream, 7 days a week, and averaged 25 to 30 kgs of fish per day, which he sold for a $1,50 per kilo. Mr Ndhlovu had 4 rods in the water, and for rods, read 30 cm wooden sticks with no reels.

I was very glad we took time out we couldn’t afford to hang out with Mr Ndhlovu and chew the fat. Happy people content with their lot in life are few and far between. I want to be like Peter Ndhlovu when I grow up. And no, I didn’t mark his fishing spot on my GPS, and even if I did, I wouldn’t rat fink him out.

The onshore wind started blowing just after we left Mr Peter Ndhlovu’s fishing spot. One minute we were paddling flat water, and the next minute we were rocking and rolling in four foot swells, although Mark Johnson said he measured one six-footer but he is prone to over-exaggeration. We’re not talking waves like in the sea, it was more like a chop, vicious and unrelenting, and coming from all angles, like you might find in a washing machine. It was horrible. Straight away our speed dropped off to just 3 k.p.h., which is slower than my granny used to walk. Mark Johnson and I took cover behind one of the catamarans and enjoyed some brief respite from the waves, but not much, as the yachts were also taking a hammering.

Because he is a knob, Mark Johnson came up alongside me and flicked my rudder out of the water and into the up position, and then shouted at me to hold my line, damn it. I was stomping on my foot pedals with all my might but to no avail, and got thrown around in the swell like flotsam, confused and panicked. Until I heard Mark busting his gut, laughing. Knob.

Billy was almost as annoying. Every time I looked, Billy came past me the wrong way, surfing the waves, having the time of his life. Billy is from San Diego, California and paddles the surf for fun.

We lunched on a delicious potato salad in the shelter of the Binga Gorge, with fish eagles soaring overhead. It was the best lunch spot ever We were hoping the wind had dropped off, but not such luck. So it was back into the washing machine.

Greg Hall enjoyed his day in the waves somewhat less. His surf ski Psalms 91 took a hammering too many in the heavy swells and started taking water on board, rendering it impossible to paddle, and Greg has to swap it out for one of the spare Tsunami’s.

We were late paddling into our overnight mooring spot, arriving just before sunset with 35 kilometers under our belts, a massive achievement given the conditions. But it was also pretty dumb given the crocodiles. Greg was on tenterhooks, shepherding us into shore. Knackered, we were all over the place. For him it must have been like herding cats.

And as I type this last sentence, the sun is rising, fish eagles are calling, and a big bastard croc has just spotted right next to Doc O’Connor’s yacht. Here comes another day in paradise.

We are paddling 380 kilometers the length of Kariba to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please follow us on Facebook and enjoy our adventure with us.


PLEASE DONATE TO SUPPORT PENSIONERS STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE IN ZIMBABWE

Any assistance is greatly appreciated and goes a long way to giving our pensioners a better quality of life and lift the pressure of money worries which is very debilitating emotionally.

(Donations made to ZANE in Australia, are tax-deductible)

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