Melissa De Mari (USA)

I met Hendri in the spring of 2008. I had been raft guiding for a few years already, but decided to learn to kayak. I was encouraged to go to Norway where I could earn money rafting and kayak a lot…. Well the first day out kayaking I realised this was not a place for a beginner. Also the crew there was very tight-knit and all excellent boaters. I spent the first week feeling very defeated, a little scared and very lonely. Within the first few days though, Hendri approached me and invited me to go kayaking. While still pretty scar3ed and a little resistant, I went anyways. The days went on, and little by little, my skills improved and I felt a little more at ease, though he continued to try and scare me J. While the main crew still just only went kayaking by themselves, no matter what, Hendri never left me out. He always managed to take time out for me. He became like a brother, being there for conversation, advice, kayaking or just fun… He later invited me to Uganda< or rather the Nile the “center of the Universe” as he called it. Little did I know my job would be to take people down river in tubes!.. When I arrived early December I was ushered to the river 9almost straight of the plan), grabbed Hendri’s kayak (which was much too big for me) and completed the Silverback race (having never ever seen the river). I remember that day, feeling so proud, excited and happy. I felt like I was home and couldn’t wait to tell Hendri how I already did my first brave thing. And though he never came back (from his last expedition) I know he was there and my big brother was proud!