Chris Kidd (Uganda/Canada)

I live in Uganda and Hendri, Chris and Ben spent three days with me and my wife in Kisoro, on the border with Rwanda and DRC, a few weeks back before they headed off into Congo.  I think I was the last friend to spend time with Hendri before they all went off to DRC (and the fatal trip) …..

When I met Hendri ten years ago we were both young men enjoying life.  Hendri was working with Adrift on the Nile and I was running a backpackers on an island in Lake Victoria.  We would regularly meet up in Kampala when we had time off and do a lot of drinking.  However what singled Hendri out was the dreams and passions he had and his confidence in where he wanted his life to take him.  His almost silent confidence with which he engaged life was inspiring to all who met him.  We kept in touch but didn’t see each other again for many years until this year.  In that time Hendri and I had gone on to do many different things and we looked at each other with renewed respect.  Hendri had gone on to study for his degree, travel the world and become the best expedition kayaker in the world.  I had gone back to university and completed my doctorate in social anthropology.  It seemed we came back together this year as men, much wiser, much more confident and both with a bit more peace in our hearts.

When Hendri came to stay with us a few weeks ago I managed to convince him to end his abstinence and share a drink with me.  Many hours later and after many stories we had managed to laugh our way through seven litres of red wine.  I want you to know that for those three days Hendri spent with me he was as happy as I have ever seen him and deeply focused on what lay ahead.  It felt that he was in a wonderful place in his life.  His utmost concerns were for ensuring the safety of Chris and Ben and he took his position as expedition leader with extreme seriousness.  He was in his element.  He told stories about his own adventures and about the great British explorer Shackleton who led his men out of the Arctic to safety and who never once left his men behind.  Hendri was a true man, with intelligence, bravery and a kind heart in abundance…

I adored Hendri and looked up to him in everything I have done and accomplished in my life.  He made me believe in myself through his words and actions and I will remember him throughout the rest of my life for the man that he was and then man he helped me to become.  On the final day with me before he left for Rwanda Hendri stopped me and said to me that he wanted me to know that he was proud of me for what I had achieved.  It is one of the most important things anyone has ever said to me, and meant the world to me.  I am sorry that I was so overwhelmed I didn’t tell him how proud I had become of him.

He left me with a plan to go and travel down the Amazon together next year.  His greatest gift was being able to always look into the future without missing a beat in the present.  He was able to grasp life with a passion and determination I always envied…

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