Monday, October 21, 2013

Latest book review from Canoe and Kayak

Valhalla Bound: Coetzee
African river explorer Hendri Coetzee’s posthumous memoir is now available for pre-order. Living the Best Day Ever is compiled from Coetzee’s extensive journals and blogs, written in the explorer’s distinctive, no-holds-barred style. It seems certain to shed new light on Coetzee’s extraordinary life and philosophy.
Coetzee died as he lived, dramatically. On December 7, 2010, as he was exploring the Lukuga River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a crocodile pulled Coetzee and his creekboat under the surface. His body was never found.
Coetzee famously spent his life in search of what he called the best day ever. This wasn’t some unattainable superlative; for Coetzee it was a moving benchmark, a goal that he frequently achieved and sought always to better. The quest focused on the disciplines of paddling, exploration and partying, often rolled into one.
The search led him from the guide quarters on the Zambezi River, north to Uganda and, in 2004, on the first source-to-sea descent of the White Nile. The 4,160-mile trip took four and a half months and crossed two war zones. His best friend and companion on that trip, Pete Meredith, wrote the forward to the book. Another friend, Kara Blackmore, edited the memoir.
Coetzee was the first to run the Nile’s Murchison Falls—a feat he repeated eight times. He remains the only person ever to run it solo. He ran large sections of the upper and lower Congo River and explored rivers throughout Africa. Coetzee’s accomplishments add up to one of the most impressive resumes in the business, but when river-runners invoke his memory they seldom speak of deeds. They talk about the way he ran those rivers and the purity of his purpose. Living the Best Day Ever promises more of that philosophy from the man himself, together with plenty of adventure yarns and deep insights into the chaos and inequity of the African continent that Coetzee loved so well.
Living the Best Day Ever is available now for pre-order at
Read more about Coetzee’s extraordinary life and adventures in these stories from the magazine.

Testing Boundaries Our goal for the week was a first descent of the Ruzizi River, which forms the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. Due to some recent rebel activity, we focused on the prize: 15 kilometers of what could be some of the steepest big-volume creeking in Africa.

He Didn’t Like Baggage by Peter Meredith Hendri had never been rafting or kayaking before I hired him. The Zambezi is pretty full-on, especially in the early season when the water is high. We threw him right in. Within a month he was taking some poor unsuspecting customers down the river, and long before that he kept telling me, ‘I’m ready, I’m ready.’

The Best Day Ever by Seth Warren The fall of 2004 at the Nile Rivers Explorers bar had a Never Never Land feel, and Hendri had that Peter Pan demeanor. I don’t recall the moment we met, but I’ll never forget the first time we paddled together;straight off the ski jump from the bar, and through the center of the ‘Hump,’ a giant Class V rapid right in front of Speke Camp.

Meeting Hendri by Joe Henry I can’t even roll a kayak, but that’s how we met. In 2006, I was on a truck tour through Africa and Hendri was working as a raft guide on the Nile in Jinja. I signed up for a kayak tour.

Hendri’s Way by Gustav Nel The river, according to the locals, was flooded. It was higher than it had ever been, and we reached the first rapids in about three hours. You could only scout from the top, so Hendri got on Joe Henry’s shoulders to try and pick a line.

He Brought Perseverance by Ben Stookesberry Hendri was hard. It was tough to keep up with him. He would push for 12 hours of daylight, wake up first thing in the morning and keep going. He brought so much intelligence, maturity and strength. He brought perseverance.

No Half Measures by Celliers Kruger Hendri walked into my office a couple of years ago, asking for sponsorship. By that time we knew about each other for a while already, but hadn’t met yet. My answer was an obvious yes—his reputation for running the hardest stuff was already growing. Since then a close relationship grew between two paddlers who discussed everything except paddling.

Laughing In The Rain by Chris Korbulic People kept telling me that Hendri is the hardest, toughest, bravest guy anybody’s ever met; and here I am going on an expedition that Hendri is saying is going to be the hardest expedition he’s ever done. I wondered how I would measure up.

Timeline – Remembering Hendri The lifeline and experiences of Johannes Hendrik Coetzee—Kadoma—1975-2010

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Many thanks from all at "Living the Best Day Ever" to those listed below for there support and publicity
and a Huge thank you Nick Harding at Sports Scene for the great review.....

‘Living the Best Day Ever’, Hendri Coetzee – memoirs of the Nile source-to-sea expedition

canoe kayak rafting hendri coetzee expedition nile south africa explorer sportscene book memoirs biography
Nick Harding | @HardingNicolaas - Sportscene was given exclusive access to the pre-published draft of Hendri Coetzee's autobiography; the South African was one of the most-respected explorers and paddlers in African history who navigated, by raft, the source of the Nile to its sea-mouth, Coetzee was sadly presumed dead in 2010 following an attack on his kayak by a crocodile. 
Hendri Coetzee relives his wayward ways as a youth prior to military service as well as his drunken days that lead him and fellow rafter / best friend Pete to undertake a voyage of epic proportions paddling approximately 6700km from the Nile Basin in Lake Victoria to its Mediterranean-mouth at Rosetta through 3 politically-heated countries at the time (Uganda, Sudan, Eqypt). Weaving his life-tapestry Coetzee, also an exceptional kayaker, makes reference to his descents on the Zambezi River, the Congo and his first ascents on the last expedition of the Great Lakes, Central Africa.
“I would never live a better day.”

canoe kayak rafting hendri coetzee expedition nile south africa explorer sportscene book memoirs biographyReview
Sitting outside a cafĂ© in a traditional Swiss square I find myself fully-absorbed, addicted and several hours later, many coffees down wanting to finish the book in a day – this rarely happens!
If you enjoyed watching Steve Fisher's film Congo: The Grand Inga Project (2010) or really got into Claire O'Hara's article about her Ugandan trip earlier this year, then you'll really get your teeth into this soon-to-be released book written by ex-military turned raft-guide Hendri Coetzee himself and then, following his death, edited by Kara Blackmore.
Originally thinking this story would be merely a macho testicle-driven account of an incredible and near-unrepeatable river descent, of which part of it is because Coetzee is one tough cookie with a relentless hunger to party, it far exceeded all expectations – his writing is beautiful scratching deep below the surface of many controversial issues affecting life in Africa as well as the banality of everyday life using dark humour and some unbelievable comparisons:
“Rafting on this section is like being lost without a map while driving in a foreign city at rush hour. Scattered islands mean we have to change intersections a few times to find the right turnoff, taking great care to give the hippopotamus traffic as much space as possible.”
It doesn't matter whether you are a die-hard paddler or a casual one, you will be just as captivated by Coetzee's description of the river features and scares he encountered during his expeditions; get ready for speechlessness and a lump in your throat (this one was taken from his extract kayaking the Congo):
Waterfalls sixty meters high, drift serenely alongside frenzied rapids that burst through patches of green vegetation. Eventually, tired and complacent, I make a mistake. The penalty is a few moments of dread as I paddle uphill from a section that might just kill me. It is a nice reminder. I should focus. I should know better than to give in to an inclination to rush.
Like any excursion-travelogue you want to follow the trip from beginning to end because of passing time, in this case I was drawn to: one; the Nile-trip was an unusually long-winded raft adventure and two; his personal complexes from his youth remained through his later adult years.
Part of the book's charm is that it's littered with reoccurring themes, many a professional athlete can identify with them: drinking as the ultimate goal to celebrate successfully nailing a hard-river section, drinking as dystopian escapism, chasing something (women, an adrenaline rush, a dream unshared by others), conquering and fearing death, losing and gaining faith, as he puts it sub-culture 'freaks' attracting 'freaks' and those who are all about 'the image' not the sport, the difficulty of getting sponsorship (especially when Pete is involved), macho-ism amongst your mates and what makes a 'real' man, physical strength as a benefit and lack of it a potential death-risk, wanting and getting fame, power, the deadly-rewarding sides of nature and post-high syndrome to name a few.
canoe kayak rafting hendri coetzee expedition nile south africa explorer sportscene book memoirs biography
His writing isn't just for athletes though, anyone can really identify with what he says about having your leadership undermined because you are young or as others are close-minded, how to function in the real world, the randomness of reality, the outrageousness of daily life, not trusting people, managing your anger, doing something full-throttle, the attraction of illegality with after-drug paranoia, plus creating your own destiny.
Coetzee essentially writes about two worlds colliding whether it be being a white South African in a black world, paddling-existence fusing to become normal life and how to survive a world without structure; what do you do when you leave the military? what do you do when do complete your expedition?
He is a wizard at comparing these worlds with nature and his writing is satirically very funny too! He manages to balance the seriousness of his real-life experiences of impoverished and war-torn Africa with the strangeness of his own life; comedy and swearing aplenty!
Pete will end up buying everyone drinks and spending all our money, while using his on-board freak magnet to attract and befriend the weirdest characters in a hundred-mile radius. He will no doubt send us into worlds so strange that we will look like the normal ones!
However, beware there are parts of his life-story that are graphic because he ultimately writes openly reciting the horrors he has seen.
I hadn't seen the accompanying images of his raft-journey with Pete before I finished this section, yet I didn't need to – so visual and accurate his writing was that I was sitting there with brown shorts on the “action raft”, as he called it, or feeling like I was grimacing too when 'suicide' tequila shots were being downed!
I won't give away any spoilers but do read on.

A certainly worthwhile brilliantly-written read, time it well when to go onto the more solemn and graphic sections though. You won't be disappointed by its realistic buttock-clenching action and the humanism behind Coetzee's rendition of his expedition.
The autobiography, once published, is a eulogy, a hommage to the life and soul of an incredible adventurer who loved his continent, a man who loved the freedom paddling gave him, a man who lived for each day and celebrated his existence hard, a man who pursued and lived his dreams.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

living the best day ever - by hendri coetzee

I met Hendri in 2006 when I arrived in Jinja, Uganda. Fresh off a Kampala coach and fairly new to rivers I was excited by the stories I had been hearing about the Nile and the funky folk that lived along it.

I had spent the previous 3 weeks rafting the Omo River in Ethiopia with Hendri’s best friend and partner in crime Pete Meredith but Hendri’s reputation preceded that moment. I’d seen documentaries he’d starred in, heard tales of madness, bravery and adventure and I was hardly a river chick who hung about in those crowds.

He superceeded his reputation in every way. Smart should have been genius, gorgeous, shockingly so, out spoken – brazenly. Not scared to go against the crowd in fact Hendri thrived on being different.  He was full of ideas, crazy ones, realistic ones, passionate ones. It was his idea to raft the longest river in the world and he did. He hand paddled crazy rapids, opened new lines on waterfalls, took troubled kids out of their comfort zone and into war zones using his psychology degree to show them there was more to life. His ideas and plans got him into mischief, into the depths of the rain forest in DRC and later to the depths of his mind as he began meditating.

Being Petes’s girlfriend meant I had access to this charismatic, cricket loving character who loved me like a sister.

Hendri leaving this earth life brought many of us close together.  His legacy had spread over continents, he had touched a lot of hearts and changed a lot of lives. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him and his family over the years in South Africa and since his death his mother Marie and I have become dear friends. If you ever have the opportunity to meet or connect with her, don’t miss it. She embodies love and is a living inspiration. She has the biggest, gentlest heart, is honest, brave and intelligent. No wonder she made such an epic son.

Marie asked me recently if I would be keen on writing on Hendri’s blog? How could I refuse? So I accepted the offer and then had a mild panic attack – What would I say? Would I be smarty, funny, adventurous and cool enough? Would I do his memory justice? Would I be able to help launch his book through regular blogs? I write now nervously. I wish with all my heart it was Hendri continuing this blog himself – making us laugh out loud and shocking us with fearless exploits – But it’s not, it’s me. Keeping the memories alive and one of a chain of  friends involved with publishing Hendri’s book and fulfilling his dream of getting it to print.

The book  Hendri wrote is not an autobiography it is a memoir. Reflections on his life. It is part adventure, part psychology, part travel. It is captivating, engrossing, funny and un put downable. His writing is smart, lucid and lyrical and through his words he inspires and reminds us all to “live our best day ever” every day.

The book is about to be self published. It will be ready before Christmas. We invite you his friends and peers who were part of his life to purchase a copy (first 1000 limited edition) and help us spread his story globally. Please use your social media contacts and friends to get it out there. If you have a story or a photo you want to share you can email me on And I will add it to my entries. I look forward to sharing this exciting phase with you all.
Watch this space