Louis Tapper (New Zealand)

Louis wrote this about Hendri on his own blog…

I met Hendri in Uganda 4 years ago when he was training for the first solo
descent of the Murchison falls section of the White Nile. Solo trip from
Nile River Explores down to the Hairy Lemon Island were standard training
runs for Hendri at the time. He was somewhat of a legend in the area after
leading the first source to see trip of the White Nile.

A few of us kiwis were asked towards the end of the trip in Uganda if we
wanted to join Hendri on a road trip to Murchison Falls to help start his
solo adventure.

The departure time was early sometime around 5am as we packed ourselves
into the van. Half asleep I was struggling to close the back boot of the
van and Hendri quips ” I wouldn’t rely on you in an emergency in a
warzone”.  In my half asleep state I thought to myself, I would love to
prove you wrong one day.

As we unpacked at the get in for the start of Henrys’ paddle there was a
surreal sense of will we see this guy again? The odds weren’t in his favour
give the stats. The highest concentrations of Hippos and Crocs in Africa, 3
rebel groups, including the Lords Resistance Army… oh and did I mention
that it was also solid class 4/5 whitewater and solo? My question about
what he thought the risks were, met with a “no comment”.

Perhaps in that moment it set my benchmark for risky which I would later
compare my own adventures to. Part of me is like, well kiting solo can’t be
so bad, at least I don’t have to worry about Hippos and Crocs. Hendri
himself was to comment in one of his posts that he was surprised to make 30
and what that entailed.

Thankfully he was successful in completing the trip in 2 days, something
that have taken other teams at least 4 days. We greeted him at the take-out
above the spectacular Murchison Falls. “Hendri where’s your helmet? Oh, I
had to feed to the crocs. I got charged by 7 times on the trip, the last
one got a bit close so I threw my helmet at the croc to distract it and
paddled of”.  The conversation followed all night by a very understated “Did
I tell you how brave I was?” I truth, none of us could really understand
and certainly one of the things I was later to appreciate on my own Solo

I have met plenty of dirt bag kayakers travelling the world and making
their money off the river. There was something different about him that I
was only to understand later after reading the few Facebook notes he had
written about a trip into the heart of Congo. Articulate and intelligent,
not your usual deadhead kayaker. Not concerned about fame or fortune but in
search of the “Best Day Ever” (BDE). Before you write off the BDE as some
sort of hedonist pursuit, it’s actually more of a time worn philosophy
which I am only just realising now.

But the best day ever (BDE) is not just a saying, it is a philosophy. The
need for the best day ever was born out of the simple premises that it is
impossible to ever life in any other day than today. Yesterday did exist
and it will have an influence on today. But no matter how good yesterday was, come today it’s just another memory gathering dust, its bright colors either being distorted to fit your needs,
or fading with every passing minute. Tomorrow will always be a day away. Its
dreams and hopes just like memories, nothing but mental constructs.
Bringing us… today.

I read a lot of others adventures and some people have written that society
needs more adventures like Hendri. I have always been a bit skeptical as
one could argue that these sort of adventures are nothing more than a
selfish pursuit and what really does society gain out of it? I can only
talk about what Hendri has left us and I think it is to challenge our
reality and to live in the present. His concept of the Best Day ever might
sound a little strange to most but if you read carefully, ignore the
concept of God, and it’s actually pretty sound thinking…