Rob Coffey

I kayaked with Hendri at the start of his Norway period in 2005. We got on like a house on fire. His kayaking skills on the steep creeks of Norway at that time were on a steep learning curve, as he was used to the big volume rivers of Africa. But he learnt quickly, and we bonded over some strong spirits and a shared love of William Blake’ s The Tyger.

I did not see him for a few years before his death, but we stayed in touch, and one stage he mailed me that we were ‘kindred spirits’. In the few months before his death we corresponded frequently through our shared love of yoga and self-discovery. I recommended that he read some Karl Jung (which he had), and I believe some of the emails he sent to me at that time eloquently express his growing awareness that his voyage of self -discovery would be within, not on the rivers of Africa.

For example, two months before he died he wrote to me:

“Nice to hear from you, I know what you mean, also finally realized that my search for adventure was a search for the Stillness that I found i the eye of the storm. It seems to me thought that I will now look for the extremes in meditation ..lol.. what an incredible journey it is though to finally be focused on the soul exclusively. Live is indeed worth living, every day I start to understand better. Love Jung, have ordered the book, keep the recommendations coming. Awareness is a beautiful thing, I am committed to become more so with what is left of my life..”

….I also think I understand how difficult a path Hendri chose. Karl Jung once wrote that the price of following your own path is isolation. And that is the paradox of Hendri: so social, inspirational and popular yet struggling with loneliness and occasional dark times. I think it is not a coincidence that so many of his close friends were women, despite the rugged South African exterior I found him to be a very sensitive person. Many guys, especially in the kayak scene were perhaps jealous or intimidated by him. So I think when writing his story it is important to make a distinction between the heroic perceptions and the reality. He suffered the same doubts and fears as everyone else, it was his overcoming of these that made him great….

I think Hendri’s story is so important, and needs to be told, but given his nature it will be hard to combine all the different aspects of his life.

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