Thursday, February 6, 2014


“All I wanted to do was get back to Africa. We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already. Now, looking out the tunnel of trees over the ravine at the sky with white clouds moving across in the wind, I loved the country so that I was happy as you are after you have been with a woman that you really love, when, empty, you feel it welling up again and there it is and you can never have it all and yet what there is, now, you can have, and you want more and more, to have, and be, and live in, to possess now again for always, for that long sudden-ended always; making time stand still, sometimes so very still that afterwards you wait to hear it move, and it is slow in starting. But you are not alone because if you have every really loved her happy and untragic, she loves you always; no matter whom she loves nor where she goes she loves you more.”
[Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa]

Africa is an amazing Place, the world was meant to be seen.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Uganda, The White Nile

It is 1:30am and I am sitting in the airport in Entebbe, Uganda. I am awaiting to board my plane for a long few days of travel back to the states. We are finishing up an amazing 3 weeks of a relaxing kayaking holiday. The Zambezi crew that headed up here included John, Sean and myself. On arrival to the country we were picked up by a taxi driver that was suppose to take us to our friend Rueben home in Jinja. The ride took about 3 hours and was an exciting early morning drive with some cold beers to start our day.

With the commotion of us arriving and dogs barking, Rueben woke up at about 4:30 to come greet us and welcome us to Uganda. That first morning we decided, or well Rueben decided, that we did not need any sleep after a full day of African flights to Uganda.(Inter-African flights are like buses every else in the world, multiple stops) So instead of showing us to our sleeping quarters, the garage/hanger, we had another beer and watched the sunrise on the banks of the White Nile. Reuben’s Mrs., Courtney woke up with the sunrise as well and came out for some morning coffee with some and chat.
Dropping into Kalagala

That first day continued on to the river to paddle across from Rueben’s casa to Nile River Explores to sort Sean out with a kayak and to try out the traditional Uganda Chapatti for breakfast. A chapatti is essentially a flour type tortilla but thicker usually with an omelet and veggie mix, Ugandan breakfast burrito that soon would become our go to snack for the  trip. Then the plan after breakfast was to do what we came here to do, kayak. So after no sleep for almost 36 hours  we set off to run a section from Kalagala down to Nile Special, which would become a classic run we did plenty more times. That first day was epic but it was nice to finally crash out after 2 long days of no sleep.

The goal for our trip was vacation. Nothing to special planned, just enjoy the river and chorble hard, by no means where we necessarily on the charge mission. The first few days we went down the river with Reuben and Nalubale Rafting for the whole section, lots of flat-water. Most of the rapids are pretty straight forward and provide plenty of good surf waves. The hardest rapid, Itunda, comes right before the rafting lunch stop. It is quite a long complex rapid with some huge holes you want to avoid or maybe get the balls to have a quick surf in one of them. Basically the river is super wide with a bunch of different channels when coming to Itunda. You need to pick the right channel that is class 2ish that leads into the first big ramp down the rapid into a big hole, then left of the pencil sharpener, right of the Cuban, right of the ashtray and left of the bad place. All simple if you have someone like Anton Immler to say hey man just follow close to me, down the ramp, left, right, right, then left, happy days. No scout just follow the charger.

Surf Session Malalu
A few fun days of tagging along with the raft trip then back to some of our Kalagala to Nile Special chorble paddle sessions which would start about noon, after about 2 pots of coffee, reading, big breakfast, some stretching and just chilling on Reuben’s porch with a river view. Reuben took us on a little camping/ surf mission at a really fun play wave. It was good to sleep on the river and enjoy some good surf sessions. The end of our trip was also the Kayak Festival. Not being an expert at play boating compared to some of the local shredders and a bit of party I only entered the Itunda race on our last day. Instead of tagging along with the festival for the first few days we decided, or well I wanted to paddle for Itunda down a few more times to get comfortable with the lines.

Our last day paddling before the race we put-in at a play wave above Itunda and as I was paddling down the flat section I stopped for a few minutes on an island above Itunda to let the boys walk downstream for some safety/video. As I put my spray deck back on, splashed my face and set off alone towards Itunda I felt alive. I stopped and looked around at where I was and I had one of those moments. One of those moments where you just stop and recognize how beautiful life is and how blessed I am to be where I am at today. A quick class 5 prayer then off I went down the private paradise of the White Nile. I ended up making the final top 5 for the race which started out first with  heats of 2 guys the top 5 fastest times overall would be in an expression style final and requirements where you had to run the bad place on purpose. I was up first and to be honest, I did not really have much desire to want to do play boating moves down a class 5 rapid. Besides a quick front surf in the Cuban, my run was pretty normal. I was stoked to paddle such an amazing rapid 2 times on my last day and also to watch some of the local boys crushing it.

After the festival we boarded a taxi and where off to pick up our gear and to the airport for the long haul home. My first flight got delayed and I missed my second flight from Nairobi to Joberg, so 12 hours in a nearby airport hotel with plenty of time to blog and internet surf. Tour de Suenos continues on. Life is Grand, live the best day ever.

Plenty of fun surf

Local boys

Adios Zambia

Good Bye Zambia

The time has come once again to pack up the bags and get on the plane to the next destination. For the past four months I have been blessed to call Zambia home and on almost a daily basis walked down to one of the most beautiful rivers around the world. Just about everyday I would wake up, drink a cup of coffee, have a small breakfast and head to work. The word “work” to some may not always mean something exciting, but for me it meant being able to play on the Zambezi. Whether I was taking people down in rafts or in my kayak doing safety, every day on the river was and will always be a good day. 

On average I would say I got on the river about 5 days a week. Not necessarily working everyone of those days, but on the water. Over the season I got to paddle and meet some amazing people. One of the best things about the river is the people you meet along the way. The next few journeys I am about to embark on are with some of the amazing friends I have made on the Zambezi river. Sean, John and myself are en-route to Uganda to spend about 3 weeks with a friend Rueben on the White Nile, paddling, relaxing and enjoying the beauty of Africa. From Uganda the plans are to head back to California for a few weeks then off to South America for a few months Road tripping through Chile and upward to Peru. 

The last few days in Zambia were spent relaxing and enjoying some tourist activities. We checked out the crocodile park and spent a morning  doing an elephant ride. Ru and I had our last paddle from rapid 1-10 at some high water. It was a private paradise running with just the 2 of us and amazing to see the river all brown and pumping with power. No matter how many times I get on this river it still seems to bring a smile to my face. On my last night we drove to the top of the gorge, above rapid 7, and had a few farewell drinks and said goodbye to the Zambezi. It is not a forever goodbye, but more of a see you later and to give thanks for what this river means to me and to so many others. May the waters of life continue to bring joy and blessings to this world. 
Ru being croc handler
Otto coming to say hi to sean

Shuttle ride home with the gear truck

A gift for my last day, Zambezi the beautiful

What makes me happy #9
photo: mathieu dumoulin

Mt Bat crushing 9

Yes life is good

croc farm

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Photo Update of the Zam

   Photo Madnessssss

Life is going great here in Zam. Daily rafting and kayaking is still going with the occasional change in schedule as well. We did a 3 day rafting multi-day trip a few weeks back with Ru's friend Hamish: epic small private trip, rain storms and waterfalls in the canyon, rainy night then beautiful star filled night at Moemba and epic times with good mates ( Diego, Sean, Ru, Hamish, Makuma and myself) and Helicopter take outs. Thanks Hamish for pushing us to spend time in such an amazing gorge.
The river is slowly on the rise but still low plenty of great days to be had.

Diego the Latino Legend

Flooding tributary

Sunset #25

Makuma working hard

Not ideal place to be in #9

dropping into 8

Start of an epic flip at 18

Boof Train

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Minus Rapids

Sometimes you wake up with a feeling that today is going to be a big day.

The Start of some very steep rapids

 Before I came to Zambia this year I knew that the thought of running the Minus Rapids would be on my mind and something I would be training up to do. The Minus rapids lay directly below Victoria Falls and are some of the biggest runnable rapids around. The window to run these rapids is during low water due to the fact that when the river is high the Falls produce to much spray and it is hard to see down in the minus rapids, and they are also huge at high water as well. I never say I will run a rapid until I actually get to the rapid, but I knew that those big boys would be waiting until the day felt right and the crew was there.

Diego giving Minus 2 a good look.

This past weekend was the start of the Zambezi river festival and I had the intent to enter the event and I paddled the first day of the festival with all the competitors. Then on day 2 of the festival, I came to work and longtime friend Diego Castro and Diego and Santiago Ibenez showed up at the Waterfront with the intent of running the Minus Rapids. Part of me wanted to be a part of the festival then there was also part of me that felt the calling to run the Minus Rapids. I told myself I would decide when I got to the river, and when I got to the top of the gorge I went out to the lookout to get a view of the Minus Rapids. With that first look I knew that it was the right day. I was with a strong team, had been paddling hard this last month and half and made the decision to go up-river with the boys.

Along with the South Americans, John and Cooper came along to help out with safety and to capture the adventures on camera. We put-in and paddled across number 1 and then carried our kayaks up to the top of rapid 1 then paddled to the bottom of the Minus rapids. The plan was to carry our boats up-river and have a scout of the rapids and from there make a decision. No matter how many times I look at these rapids, even after paddling hard for the last month and a half they are still massive. The top hole to Minus 2 looked huge and mean and the lead into the hole is a fine line as well. Then once you make it through Minus 2 you have a short distance before you are lining up the top hole of Minus 1 and aiming to stay away from the pour-over and make it down on the left side. Well these are all things that you plan on doing, but you never know until you are actually on the river.

After staring into the pit of maw on the top hole of Minus 2 for quiet some time, Santiago gave me
the thumbs up, he was ready to give it a go. I told him I was feeling it as well and we carried our boats up to the eddy above Minus 2. We got our final scout in from the rocks of the lead-in and made the plan to both run the rapid, Santiago going first then me following. A few practice rolls, a splash to the face, high five and "Buenas Lineas Compadre", Santi was off. I watched from the eddy as Cooper was high on the rock taking photos, and the Diego's a bit down stream with filming, with John all the way down in the bottom eddy waiting in his kayak.

Santiago at the lead-in to Minus 2
I was waiting till Cooper gave me the go ahead to run the rapid. Then  Cooper gave me the sign that Santiago had swam, then with-in 30 seconds or so he gave me the okay head tap that he was fine and made it to the eddy on the right and did not swim Minus 1. So now I got this feeling going on inside, of why did he swim? Is that hole to big to break through? Then Coop gives me the okay sign, but signals to eddy out right after the rapid. First thing I thought was, I need to get through this rapid before I think about catching a small eddy on the right before Minus 1. Then a quick prayer and I was ferry across the eddy and out into the current. The entrance seemed to go well and after making it over the first diagonal and avoiding the rock in the middle I pushed as hard as I could to hit the left side of the massive pour over, then Bammmm. Before I could picture that last stroke I was getting a beating of a lifetime. I knew that I did not break through the hole and was violently getting rag dolled in the hole. Never have I ever felt a force so strong, then just as I felt like I should give up I felt the rag dolling slow down and knew that I was out of the hole.
About to drop into a massive hole with a beating to come.
Not breaking through the hole!!!

When I rolled up I paddled as hard as I could and made the eddy to see Santiago's smiling face and also team Diego on the other side of the river. I checked in with Santiago and he was fine and after I caught my breathe I peeled out of the eddy with full force to ferry back across from river right to the center of the river to line up the top wave/hole of minus 1. Before I knew it, I blasted through the top hole and made my way down left and got flipped at the bottom of the rapid and then rolled up to finish the run and see that all the competitors of the Festival where in the eddy about to start the race. Chris and a few of the boys gave me a hug and where happy to see me. It was good to be at the bottom of those rapids and to have just experienced such a powerful force of nature and fought through it.

Dropping into Minus 1

After watching both of us have quiet the fight in that top hole both Diego's opted out of running Minus 2, but Diego Ibanez dropped in and ran Minus 1 and came out with a huge smile on his face. All of us then paddled down the river to number 6 and hike out from there. We all got our boof on in number five and finished the day with some cold mosi's back by the pool. It was great to be with such an awesome group and to have pushed each other in a positive way. Life is good in Africa:)
Thanks Cooper Freeman for some epic photos.
Life is Beautiful