Day 9: Rough Waters – Our Longest and Hardest Day Yet. By Grant

We finished last night’s late night session with our alarms set for 4am, giving us enough time to wake up and take some food in ready for the tide at 5am. Unfortunately our limited sleep was cut short when we were woken by the engines being started on the boat at 2:30am. We were slightly confused but soon realised we had drifted far from our anchor point as we could see lights ahead of us on the south bank for Tendaba Tourist Camp, which we knew we had passed. A massive fishing net had engulfed our boat, the force of the net and the tide caused us to drift 3km backwards before our anchor caught onto a massive cluster of old nets and huge tree trunk on the riverbed forming a massive weight. The crew managed to get the anchor up to the side of the boat, it took 8 people to haul it up. They then began to cut the anchor free- that took 3 hours! We retraced our track back to our original anchor point using our GPS and prepared for our day. We had lost an hour due to the anchor fiasco but we got on our way just before 6am.

The net and tree debris stuck on our anchor

The net and tree debris stuck on our anchor

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The river is now wide making it hard to find the channel with the fastest flowing water. Getting our line wrong means we lose speed and add extra mileage trying to get onto the best line- it can be extremely frustrating to know that there could be faster water to our left or right, but it could be over a kilometre away!

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Although our morning session was cut short by the anchor problem we still managed 28km.

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We managed to catch up on some much needed sleep after our early morning session and got back out on the water again at 3pm. This was our most punishing stretch of water yet. We were faced with never ending corners that were disappearing under 1.5m waves and swells, most of which caused the kayak to nose dive severely before effectively breaking on Kamil! The constant wave bombardment really took it out of us physically and there were times we did not think we were going to cover the distance we knew we had to.

Our Kayak & Support boat anchored by James Island

Our Kayak & Support boat anchored by James Island

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The only respite was some dolphins that decided to come and play near the support boat, their playfulness worried us at times as they could easily tip our kayak. Thankfully they were more interested in the engines of the support boats and kept a safe distance. A crazy jumping kobo fish jumped into my spray deck which startled me but at least I can say I have caught a fish on this trip! We managed to cover 27km in the afternoon stint leaving a mere 22km to cover in our late night stint in order to get to our target stop point at Dog Island.

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We decided to do a reconnaissance trip in Mark’s boat to assess the conditions that we might face on our final night session. It was probably not the brightest idea as psychologically it was demoralising as it took nearly 30mins even in Mark’s boat with a 75 horsepower engine. it Was nice to get of the boat for a bit and speak to Marcel from Sitanunku Lodge www.sitanunkulodge.com about the weather and tide conditions as we are in the mouth of the river. Armed with new information about the best way to cross the mouth of the river we headed back to the boat to get some sleep in before our night session which was planned for 12:30.

Our Final Sunset on the way to Sitanunku

Our Final Sunset on the way to Sitanunku

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Alarms went off at 12:30 but we had to keep hitting the snooze button until 2:30am as the tide had not changed. We got back on the water for our final night session, our mission was to get to Dog Island, next to Sitanunku. We encountered some fairly strong winds and waves but nothing like our earlier session. We were attempting to do about 35km more than a usual day and it was taking its toll on us physically and mentally. The lights of Sitanunku jetty came as a welcome surprise just before what we thought was another never ending corner.

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Location Day 9

Location Day 9

Total distance travelled 458.5km in just over 53 hours.

Tomorrow we head for Banjul and our finish line!

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