Fri 08/11-2013 Day 560

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The friendly loacl guy with his caught alive Iguana

 

In Georgetown! Finish of the second stage of my trip!

Pos: here
Loc: Georgetown
Acc: Cara Lodge
Dist: 32,5 km
Start: 5:30 End: 13:00

My three friendly locals came back from their walk along the beach yesterday afternoon around 4 pm. They brought me a few bottles of fresh rain water, after I mentioned loosely on our first talk I am a bit short on water. Thanks very much! They also had with them a bound, but still alive iguana, a pretty guy, but still relatively small. They will sell it for around ten US dollars. Poor animal, but that’s the nature! Catching and being caught! They had already dragged on their way up an about three meters long flexible bamboo stick with them, now I realize for what it was: It had a sling at one end for catching iguanas! Well, this island is aptly named “Leguan Island”…

I also learned on our now longer chat that the first of these three islands in this wide river mouth, named “Tiger Island”, had also his name for it’s real wildlife there…good I decided not to stay on “Tiger Island”. The warning from the guys on the pilot station in Venezuela was obviously true – since the Venezuelan peninsula until this “Tiger Island” (fortunately not further along, and not on Leguan Island any more…), I had to count on Tigers, better named Jaguars…but my sense for wildlife was also true they would rarely visit a beach. But if they’d be strolling around my tent at night, a strong flash light would be likely to chase them away, or, what I had handy at night since that warning, my lit camp stove would also be a good “weapon”. Still, a very scary thought!

I was asking them about what they grow on these islands, mostly rice, bananas and platanas (bananas for cooking). They also admitted there are a bunch of people living on drug dealing here when we were talking about Colombia…a fast running motorboat meeting a smaller fishing boat is always a bad sign. They cut with their bush knives the bananas from the tree behind me, and said they’d be ripe in about 4-5 days. I will take them home! I think I also want such a bush knife (machete)…

I got a bit soaked at night waking up too late with my earplugs in when some light rain started, but nothing serious. Just refreshing :-). I was eager to go this morning, starting as usual with first light, hoping this would really be now my last paddling day of this section. By the time I had packed and even already ate breakfast the tide was so much in I could get out over the muddy base of my sandy beach. The tide was still against me, but with the change only three hours later at around 8.30 am, it will be nicely pushing me into Georgetown. Low wind now, and with higher winds in the afternoon I could use the helping tide! So my crossing got a bit out of the direct line, but eventually I ended up doing the shortest straight line which wasn’t bad either. Some very choppy seas at the beginning of the crossing where the outgoing river current meets the incoming tidal current, but all easy. If I’d have been trying to paddle so many degrees ahead to make a straight line, I’d have made not any progress at all on the crossing of the river. So this path was a good compromise to make around 3-4 km/h.

Later with the tidal change and the wind breezing up I still made easy 5-6 km/h, when I did not paddle, I at least was first standing still against 15+ knots wind and with the tidal current, later “just” pushed back about 1 km/h. Better than going faster backward…so overall today’s paddle seemed to be relatively relaxing after the half day off yesterday. Still my sciatic tail bone nerve was hurting like hell…my body is crying for a long rest.

The low coast was guarded with a concrete dyke like the  one I had crossed, with very few half possibilities to land and to drag up the boat, if necessary. Only once there was an about 50 m long natural sandy high beach left between the concrete walls, you may think the locals would appreciate this nice piece of accessible sea across a village and keep it nice? The crown of the beach was an about a meter high wall of old plastic bottles…what a “shitty” attitude! On many spots the concrete sea wall was also used as a trash dump, with dogs and goats digging in there.

The choice of wall design was either a halfway accessible wall of 45 degrees made out of big rock pieces where you can mostly land upfront on the mostly calm seat, but the loaded kayak would suffer a lot being dragged up there. Or an also 45 degrees sloping concrete wall with a meter high vertical crown, mostly with a small ridge before. Very few tiny staircases. Best access to my idea. Or a hollow, bending over toward the sea wall, full inaccessible even for a single person. How nice are our natural grassy dykes in Germany! But they maybe not suitable here.

The access to the entry of the Demara River where Georgetown in located was over a shallow piece of water. My chart tried to suggest the water depth, and the low tide at 1.40 pm was relatively high, so I dared to paddle over that area hoping to not get stuck with the receeding water, ETA at 1 pm in Georgetown. It worked, but always in the sight of many, many shipwrecks for whom the water depth obviously did NOT work any more! Also, the coast guard had promised to meet me and to guide me into the proposed landing spot, but surely there was not any other boat of any size around on this shallow area.

Ben ter Welle, my German Honorary Consul, promised to meet me on my arrival and had organized with the Ministry of Tourism a landing spot. It was supposed to be at the Vreedenham boat house on the western side of the river, where the many small ferry boats are landing. Well, I arrived there easily paddling into the river on that side even against the current, and landed on almost low tide at a wooden staircase, finding a slot among the many small ferryboats. Friendly people helped me dragging up my kayak, which was fortunately eventually relatively light weight with almost no drinking water and food left. Then I was sitting there and looking out for the announced coast guard and my Honorary Consul, but no one was there!

When I tried to call him again, I got a message from Peter on my sat phone the new landing spot was now on the eastern, city side of the river, which made more sense to me anyway. The coastguard would guide me in! Ok…I launched again between the boats, after I already gained some kind of “star status” at that jetty among all the friendly people. I decided to paddle simply to the other side to the ferry port, as there was for sure no coast guard boat to be seen anywhere…This was already a good start, I noticed the river current was still going out and pushed me sideways to the sea. Still I arrived at the ferry port almost easy, only at the end, where I suddenly noticed the current was at the strongest, I almost got pushed under the round bulky bow of a huge tanker ship tied up just besides the small ferry port…shit! I must admit I am not an experienced river paddler, but as so far I could handle the well noticeable current with ease, paddling against it, I really didn’t expect such a drag of the current! I really paddled for my life with heavy strokes, but made it eventually with not too close contact with the bow (of about 5 m…) into the small eddy of the corner where the many small ferry boat were tied up. Not to imagine what would have happened I’d got stuck there…

In hindsight, I figured I should have learned that the current coming out of the eddy accelerates just on the corner to it’s max…ok, I was in the ferry port eddy. But still not the right place! But the ferry boaters knew eventually where to go for me now, and waved me only about 100 m up the river to a in third row tied up larger pilot boat where I also saw some uniformed men waving at me. So a pilot boat is used here by the coast guard? I paddled upstream with ease again, and they waved at me and told me to get out alongside the big pilot boat. What? Here? This boat has a 3 m steep ladder to climb, how should I get my kayak and gear up there? They understood, and now waved me again around the bow of the boat into the probably tiny bay there. I honestly started to get a bit annoyed eventually, first guided to the wrong side of the river with no one there, then not meeting any coast guard boat as promised on the water to guide me where to go, or simply just getting a new precise GPS position where to land…

Well, then I will find an accessible spot around this in third row tied up large pilot boat! Did I forget the close shave with the round bulky bow of the huge tanker on entering the previous eddy bay??? My mind was just set on landing eventually somewhere after this annoying Odyssey, and I started to continue to paddle upstream, turning in too close to the bow of the pilot boat now, just focused on landing. I was just able to pass this bow with the current which instantly was catching up in the same way as just five minutes before, but got heavily caught in the current and pressed sideways against almost under the bow of the second boat tied up in this package…FUCK!!! FUCK!!! FUCK!!! FUCK!!! FUCK!!!

I was shouting out loud, probably cussing in German, trying to free me and my kayak from the current pressing us against the metal bow, making ugly scratching and cracking noises on my poor baby. I dropped my paddle to my right side as I used both hands to try to push me off this fucking bow, or eventually at least not to get dragged further back into the streaming gap of the two ships. I was fighting for my life and for the life of my kayak…my paddle got flooded under my kayak, I picked it somehow up on the side between my kayak and the ship, but sure my bungee paddle leash was wrapped around the hull now…I really now shouted out for help in true panic, not able at all to free me from this stupid dangerous position. I heard something splashing besides me…was a person jumping into the water to help me? I doubted it…They eventually threw me the rescue ring from the pilot boat (fortunately they had one handy, and even a line attached…) which I was fortune to be able to grab. It took precious seconds until they were able to tighten the attached line pointing into the direction of the pilot’s boat bow, where I could pull myself off the bow and the streaming water and paddled with a few strongest strokes out of the danger zone.

I still was cussing out loudest, thankfully again in German, half about my own stupidness that I didn’t learn out of the previous tanker bow close shave, half being overtired and stressed and annoyed about this unnecessary odyssey having no precise GPS position and trying to give everyone else the blame. I was really in shock now after this rather life threatening situation, but was finding somehow the low wooden boat with a helpful coast guard man where I could land along side and pull my boat out of the water. Still we had to call a third person climbing down the ladder. I started to unload my kayak as usual, not able to look up to the platform where a bunch of press people were probably watching my struggle and cussing. I was under shock, my hands were shaking and was barely able to calm down doing my regular routine. I think I envisioned a different kind of finish of my second stage of the trip! And the welcoming committee probably did the same…

So instead of applause, waving upstairs and flashing cameras, it was deadly silent up there, and I was not even looking, but just doing my job. Didi the crowd really realized what kind of life threatening danger I just escaped from? I could easily have been drowning and/ or cracked my boat. It fortunately had only some little damage on top of the seam line, but nothing serious or leaking. Was the crowd even able to see my fight, or just thought “This kayak lady is really stupid and impolite, arriving here only shouting and cussing instead of smiling friendly?” I apologize for any misunderstanding…

But I was alive, my boat in reasonable shape and my gear safe. I just realized later I had heavy bruises on both of the top of my thighs from clinging inside the kayak. No problem…

Eventually I could reach my loaded bags up the ladder, and helpful hands were lifting the empty boat up. I regained my breath and smile, but my hand still shaking. I was greeted the Lady from the Tourism office who had arranged a nice fruit buffet for my welcome. Thanks very much! I am sorry my arrival was such a trouble! I did my TV and press interviews, got my customs and immigration procedures, was able to store my kayak at the coast guard station a bit up the river and Ben finally drove me to the Cara Lodge, a beautiful old fashioned Colonial style hotel where Gavin and Shawn, the two managers, had agreed to host me for free. Many thanks to them all organizing my well deserved rest!

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Shawn and Gavin, the managers of the Cara Lodge Hotel where I was hosted nicely for free during my stay in Georgetown. Many thanks!

 

Ben was so nice to invite me for dinner in the hotel together with his family, and I enjoyed an excellent meal freshly showered, in my new dress and relatively relaxed, knowing I have now about two months of rest at home in Germany ahead! Thanks to the sea gods and my ever present guardian angels that all went eventually well, I am safe and alive!

34 comments on “Fri 08/11-2013 Day 560

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Randall Lackey

Thanks for all the wonderful Pictures.They bring to life so much more of your wonderfully told events of each day.you do a great job of telling of your days and the pics add so much more,WOW. thanks again.

roberto

Whew…. what an entrance. So glad you are able to share it. Deep breath. Back to business. Now a well earned rest. Many thanks for the details from your adventurous life. Safe trip home.

HiFreya. Congratulations on finishing of the second leg!
I`m reading your blog everyday and every day I`m amased by your adventures. I`m looking forward to the third leg and I cant stop thinking about what you will do next. Have a nice stay back in Germany.

Ben

Awesome, Freya! Your strength and your courage are an inspiration. You have certainly earned a break. Rest well. The finish line is now in sight…

Randall Lackey

Glad to read youre safely ashore but what a hell of a finish. Youll remember that one for a long time.Hate that youve got to log that frightful event to memory. Your Angels had to be taking care of you.So glad for that. Enjoy your break and dont let todays events vear your courage to finish this wonderful feat. Rest well and enjoy your time with family and friends.Safe Flying.

Karen

So glad that you are on solid ground and on the road of rejuvenation.
Freya as you know communication is vital in your pursuit of kayaking around SA, let this be a reminder to your support staff and supporting coast guards. Life is precious, anything can happen at any time. Now you learned the power of rivers.
Presently I am reading a book called Willful Blindness by Margaret Heffernan. I highly recommend that you read it while you are off for the next two months. Bloggers you also would benefit from reading this book.
Have a wonderful reunion with your family and friends.
Thank you to the person who threw the rescue ring to Freya.

Glenn Wilkes

Phew! I had already started to feel so relieved that all the troubles of that difficult and dangerous leg of your circumnavigation were over when I read this last blog. Sounds like a Hollywood script. But you’re now truly “high and dry”, and I’m sure we’ll all understand if you do take the opportunity to get “high”, even if it’s a bit late for Oktoberfest. Enjoy your break.

Giancarlo

Safe trip back home Freya.Have a nice time in Germany.I will be’ waiting for your return in genuary!

Frances Price

To think you’ve come all this way including around Cape Horn, only to be nearly smashed and/or drowned upon landing! I am thankful and relieved that you are safe; sorry about the bruises and the damage to your baby.
I hope you make the most of your two months’ R&R, Freya, and that you find everything and everyone safe and well at home in Germany.

Barbara G.

Hi Freya, congratulations on finishing the second leg! Sorry to hear that you had to go through such truly dramatic moments just at the end. I can see that this was very different from the arrival you had imagined. Hope that people there continue to pamper you, so that you can get over the shock and look forward to your break. Have a safe trip home!

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