A story of Crocodiles, Hippos, a kayaker and the best day ever

27 04 2011
“yes please” -tribute to Hendri Cotez
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 trips 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 sea trip of the White Nile.
 A few of us kiwis were asked 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 given the stats. The highest concentration 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. Hendi 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. “Hendi 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 off” 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 trip.

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 a 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 ever 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 sceptical as one could argue that these sort of adventures are nothing more that 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 (see below) might sound a little strange to most but if you read carefully,  it’s actually pretty sound thinking and I think stems from 2 ideas; Flow and The Power of Now

 RIP Hendri 1975-2010- eaten by a crocodile

I do not propose that you live everyday as if it will be your last. My personal experience living that theory was disappointing, as it left me very unprepared for reaching, beyond all my expectations, my 30s. In fact for tomorrow to be the best day ever, it has to be built on today, how else could it be better, if today did not serve as a stepping stone for an even better day tomorrow.

One might be tempted to call my theory “the best day yet”, but this could imply than one is waiting for a better tomorrow, which is counter to what BDE stands for. I hope it will become clear soon enough.

The aim of DBE is to do your best, in whatever the day offers, the BDE is filled with the best, but only you’re best, since it is your day. It does not matter if your boss is being a freak, it does not matter if it’s
raining when it supposed to be sunny. Do your best in your day.

Sport as example. In a football game only a few goals are scored, however there is movement during the whole game, attack, defense. Every one of these parts as important as the other. Back and forth, the most persistent team will, more often than not win. By wearing down the opposition they
eventually, break through.

The best day ever is based on this well tested, widely accepted principle. You keep trying to give it your best, during training, during defense, during attack, eventually without you knowing which day, you score. You actually manage to give it your best. You have a Best Day Ever. The discipline from past attempts helps you to go one step further than you have ever gone before. This does not have to translate into physical performance, while striving towards a goal, you fight more battles mentally
in a day, than you ever will fight physically in a life time.

Everyday will not be the BDE. You can only maintain a certain level of happiness for a prolonged time. After an emotionally high you will experience a low. Newton’s 3de law, for every action there has to be an equal and opposite reaction. The best day ever is about achieving days of ultimate highs more often, but it is more than that, it is about making the multitude of days that will not reach those highs, amazing days in there own right, by giving them a purpose or a chance at greatness, days where
you recognize the challenges and except them, even if there is no reward. Its about giving yourself an opportunity to do something worth remembering, even if its just for a few minutes at night as you drift of to sleep, perhaps just one little thing to help you make tomorrow the BDE.

Today, yesterday and tomorrow are not in competition. Taste that meal like it’s the first time you have tasted it, enjoy something as if you have never enjoyed it before and you will have the best day ever. Appreciate what is given to you in your day and it becomes the BDE.

Its not about winning, its not about recognition, it about living in the moment, good or bad, feel it, lap it up, good or bad, its all a miracle in some way.

So how do you live in the now?

By realizing that you are god, that everything that is happing is happening to you. The universe is infinite, making you the centre no matter where you stand.

How do you come to the understanding that you are god?

By making a difference in your life, by realizing that everything you do has consequences. By taking control of your life, the realization grows in you; I am the one who drives my universe. Don’t expect it to be easy, you will have learnt nothing if it was, the better you become at driving your universe the bigger the challenges will become but the stronger you will be to handle them.

Why then all this struggle if all that awaits is more struggle? Because the more you fight the good fight, the clearer you see that external factors are subject to your perspective of them. You can choose not to drive your universe, inside you the spark will die, and your appreciation for life with it, because without that spark, life is not worth living.

Or maybe its all means nothing, I really cant be sure…




4 responses

27 04 2011
Jules Tapper

Your friend sounds a real adventurer Louis. When you are young and single with no direct family ties it is a great time to live the dream and expand the horizons and find your own personal level of competence. The inquisitive nature of some of our family has seen some adventures and things achieved that others only dream of. I suppose you know my book is called ‘Memories not Dreams’ and the explanation is in the preface. Enjoy your new life

28 04 2011
Phillipa Durkin

With regard to Jules – An older women once said to me reagrding buying a classic – “Just keep it a dream” – this appaulled me so much that I did buy it the next day!!

28 04 2011
marlene laureys

Fantastic, inspiring writing and yes, all we know is perceived reality and therefore perceived truth. People like Hendri and yourself, get insight into ultimate truth, through their pursuits.
It comes with having to be so in the moment, that there is no room for anything else. It is in that moment of being one with everything around you, that ultimate truth shows.
Keep up the wonder and amazement.:)

29 04 2011

Lets go boating when you come back……….but first make sure you come back.

‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

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