joolee's forty

forty days. forty stories.

hippos and crocs and elephants, oh my!

Kayaking Gabon’s Gamba Complex with Joolee

by Doug Armstrong

Chigis’ Chingaderos about to start paddling in Gabon

Jewels, Rick and I spent the morning paddling down a labyrinth of narrow channels through the mangroves, scaring up the occasional manatee and enjoying the photo opportunities amongst the tree islands and grandly arching mangrove roots.  We were relaxed and happy as we approached a wider channel, knowing we were within an hour’s paddle of the day’s destination, Sette Cama.  Suddenly, Jules, let out a yelp and started paddling her kayak backwards a bit faster than I’d ever seen a sea kayak go forwards.  Joules was quite the vision, cursing as she back-paddled upstream, sporting a grungy, drying sports bra on her head.  Rick and I started back-paddling, as well, as soon as we saw the mist plumes from a couple of huge, snorting hippo heads that had broken the surface of the water like a pair of bulbous submarines about 100 feet in front of us.  We had a huddle at the bank to make a plan to get around this obstacle.  We already knew that hippos are near-sighted and short-tempered and are Africa’s most dangerous animal, killing more humans than the next five animals combined.  Forget about lions, leopards and rhinos – hippos are the granddaddies of Africa’s dangerous mega-fauna and we needed to get past them.  We’d learned that the best way to deal with these ornery critters was to give them plenty of space, try not to cut off their path to deep water – their sanctuary – and keep tapping your gunnels or combing with your paddle to let them know where you are at all times.  We’d heard stories of hippos putting holes in 25-foot fiberglass-hulled power boats; suddenly, the cloth hulls of our 16-foot folding kayaks didn’t seem like much protection.  Yet, there was our Dirty Girl, unshaken and ready to move forward into the unknown, yet again.

Rick, Joolee and Doug, the Chingaderos in Mongolia

The next couple of weeks entailed paddling past elephants and crocodiles in narrow streams, digging insects out of our feet, portaging boats through the jungle, sauntering past coiled cobras, having baby gorillas suck the salt out of our paddling gloves, dealing with constant heat and humidity and – for Julz – putting up with the raunchy humor of travel companions.  This was always taken in stride by our unflappable young heroine, who never failed to open doors for us with her winning smile and outgoing personality.   From drinking Pickled Mongolians on the shores of Hovsgol Nuur to Glasnost picnics in Sao Tome’ to Ojo de Pollo in Chile, travel with Jules is always an adventure and a joy.  This is one Chingadero that is looking forward to seeing where the next 40 years takes you.

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3 comments on “hippos and crocs and elephants, oh my!

  1. joolee
    March 4, 2012

    Doogelly! What a deeelightful surprise! I am smiling in my mind at one of our first evenings on a beach in Mongolia (it may even have been the eve of the birth of our moniker)…I have a very clear picture in my mind of Licky with a drybag on his head and you with a bandanna on yours (tied under the chin in fair-maiden style). That was before the cow carcass encounter, the mongo moth onslaught, and me missing my pee bottle. Is that right? More than one perhap.

  2. Doug
    March 4, 2012

    Affirmative – more than one perhap, indeed. If I remember correctly, you drank us both under the table, that night – even though there wasn’t a table within 50 miles. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Seward at the end of April. I’ll try to remember to bring the dayglo t-shirts and the pickle juice!

  3. joolee
    March 4, 2012

    Yipppeeeee! I wanted to say that we were so excited that there was pants-peeing, but my WebAdministrator just reminded me that this goes to the whole world, so more on that topic later. We are super duper eager to squeeze both (or is it all three of ya’ll’s) guts out in April?!?! ROSE! (Jack!) ROSE! (Remember The Titanic? 🙂 OOOOXXXX (that’s one for every human and poodle in the household). We love you! J n B

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This entry was posted on March 4, 2012 by in stories.

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