Ten Fun & Kind of Crazy Facts from Some of My Adventures
- While paddling across Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe (part of an expedition with Raleigh International), the double kayak I was in hit what my co-paddler, Graham and I thought was a tree stump, just under the surface of the water. Worried we may have holed the bottom of the boat, because it was made of fibreglass, Graham, who was sitting in the front, put his right hand down into the water to feel for a hole…when out of no where came this angry crocodile, which thankfully only nipped his pinky finger, as it moved towards the back of the boat, where I was. In a state of total fear, I immediately went into lets get the heck out of here mode and slammed my paddle blade into the water in a desperate attempt to get away asap, not even thinking about the fact I am right-handed…so the right paddle blade went into the water first, totally walloping said crocodile across the head! If I was frightened a second ago, I was now in absolute hysterical scared-to-the-core laughter, unable to scream or cry, because of the need to paddle the flippin kayak as fast as possible, to make sure we weren’t going to be chased by an angry croc! Thankfully, both Graham and I lived to tell the tale, never seeing angry croc ever again. It certainly made for fantastic fireside story telling for the rest of the expedition though.
I also lost one of my leather trekking boots to a hyena on that expedition – the chancer snuck into our camp, while we ate dinner and took off with it, the night before we were due to trek out of the area we were in. So lil’ ole Mary Jane had to hobble out with just one boot between her two feet for a few days.
- I returned to Zimbabwe a few years later to spend six weeks learning to raft and kayak on the Zambezi River. Based around Victoria Falls I got to play on the river every day and admittedly, I didn’t become any kind of expert…I did have the odd adventure though…like being flipped out of a raft one day, on a rapid called The Washing Machine…and it’s called this for good reason, because it sucked me down and spun me around for so long that day, that I went into those early phases of a near-death-experience.
Long story short, I earned the title that season for longest time under water, before you pop up again. I was gone for so long, the raft had been re-flipped, with everyone else back in it and safety kayakers couldn’t see any sign of me anywhere, that they thought I was a goner. Then suddenly, a few hundred metres down river, I rocketed out of the water like a bullet, with eyes out on stalks, gasping for air…because my life literally did depend on it. Not one to shy away from a scare though, I finished that day of rafting and jumped back onto the river the next day, this time on a boogie board, almost breaking my nose on the first rapid, as the board hit me in the face. Novice?…what novice?
- Another expedition adventure took me to Vietnam, where as the leader of 18 teenagers, it was about them developing their leadership skills, doing activities such as trekking in the jungle, volunteering at The Christina Noble Orphanages and basically letting the teens organise everything, from where we stayed, transport and food, right from the start, including managing the budget. Note to self…having 18 hormonal teenagers in tow is not a holiday.
- Not one to be told you can’t do that…following my first knee injury, sustained while skiing in New Zealand (my version of skiing anyway), I was told I wouldn’t do any high impact sports and adventures again. So it was no surprise to those who know me, when they discovered I was headed off on my next expedition, this time starting in Tibet to travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu on a mountain bike. Some mornings on this journey, it was so cold, my feet were like blocks of ice when I first got on the saddle. And one day, I’d been riding for so long, it was more comfortable to stay on the saddle than get off and sit down normally. The highlights were arriving into Everest Base Camp at 5500m on the Tibetan side, on my bike and seeing Chomolungma – Goddess Mother of The World in all her glory; meeting the Tibetan Nomads, as I journeyed along the rough and very windy roads and passes and getting to enjoy the longest downhill in the world, dropping from 5050m in Tibet to 540m in Nepal over a little more than 150km.
- I volunteered to bungy jump off Victoria Falls Bridge in Zimbabwe and Kawarau Bridge just outside of Queenstown, NZ, twice. That’s right, I volunteered to do that nutty stuff…without paying or being paid! Skydiving over Lake Taupo in the North Island of NZ would have to be my favourite flying experience though…the free-falling…just wow!
- Trekking through Kahurangi National Park, NZ, in spring one year, I managed to literally encounter all four seasons, some to the extreme, while there for a little over a week. During this time, with many rivers to cross, I was forced to wait for flood levels to abate, to enable safe crossing, especially with a large backpack. So I was grateful to have had walking poles with me, when I literally lost my footing completely, as I crossed this one river, with visions flashing before me, of being rapidly swept off down stream in a swath of ice cold water, never to be seen alive again! Thankfully, the poles helped to steady me, until I managed to get both feet kind of on the river bed again and slowly wade out of the water to safety.
- On another adventure, when hitching through South Africa, Lesotho and Mozambique with a friend, we ran into a spot of bother on the boarder between Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where we had our UK passports confiscated, leaving us in what was essentially no man’s land, with just our backpacks and a very flimsy tent. Not knowing what was going to happen, as we were left alone at dusk with the border now closed, we plotted our potential escape, knowing we had our far more valuable Irish passports hidden away, should we need to make a run for it. Thankfully however, sometime the next day, our UK passports were returned and we went on our way, over the border into the familiar and friendly territory of Zimbabwe, which felt like home comparatively.
- I used to teach high school pupils how to build snow caves and we’d sleep in them overnight, in the Craigieburn Mountain Range of New Zealand.
- While on a trek in the snowy mountains of Colorado one winter, my feet were so numb from the cold and kicking steps in the snow, that I didn’t realise I’d damaged my toe nails…so when I descended into the desert of Utah to warm up days later, I subsequently lost eight of my toenails…and had to wear loose Tevas, due to my rather battered feet. Nice.
- And last one for now…while out mountain biking in the back hills of Central Otago, NZ, I took a fall off my bike, where my left foot didn’t unclip from my peddle, subsequently dislocating my kneecap partially. Thinking I was in the middle of nowhere and not wanting to cause a fuss, I decided it was a good idea to learn how to pop said patella back in to place again. So with a few deep breaths and a bit of a yelp, in she went…and I jumped back on the bike to finish the ride.