Bushwise Tales – the final chapter
On Cahora Bassa that doesn’t hold true. I was paddling about one and a half kilometers from the shore line into strong headwinds and big waves. Something made me turn around and I saw a croc larger than the kayak coming for me from my left about 100 metres away. It was moving very fast with it’s neck out of the water. There was no way I was going to out paddle it, so I stopped and waited for it to get closer so that I could hit it with a pencil flare. It took all my self control not to shoot the flare off straight away and when the croc was about 5 metres away I fired. It didn’t go off. From then onwards, everything was in slow motion. Although the whole thing could only have taken seconds, I had time to think and act. As the croc got within a paddle length I hit it on the nose with my paddle – but didn’t get in a good strike as it was right at the end of my reach.
I then brought the paddle back to hit it again but it came out the water at me.
At first it’s mouth was closed, but as it got closer it opened its mouth and I could see right down it’s throat. Expecting a huge impact I lunged forward with all my weight and rammed the paddle into it’s mouth. It snapped shut and bits of fiberglass flew out everywhere. The impact, together with the horrific smell of its breath, pushed me over to the right. The crocs front leg was on the kayak next to my hip and as I rolled back upright, I managed to push it off using the paddle (which at this stage was still in it’s mouth). Thinking that I had to keep it focused on the paddle and not me, I pushed it around in it’s mouth. Then I let the paddle go, rolled upside down, pulled the splash cover and froze. I drifted away from the kayak expecting an attack from the croc at any moment. It took all my self control again not to swim flat out for the shore. All I wanted to do was to get onto land. I thought my life was about to come to an end because if the croc came for me I knew I didn’t have a chance – It must have weighed about 700 kg’s.
I didn’t know how long I drifted for, but eventually started doggy paddling to the shore.
It seemed to take hours to get close to the land. As I got close to the shore, my foot brushed past a submerged log – my heart tried to jump out of my mouth!
I crawled onto the shore and cannot put that feeling into words. I was crying like a baby.
I spent the night in the bush in an African village and was rescued by my son the following day on one of the Capenta fishing rigs on the dam.
It took me 5 days to find that the kayak had been handed in to Mozambique police at the Zumbo border post. The police would not give it to me because the diplomatic mission in Maputo had advised them that T.F van Coller was dead – drowned or eaten by a croc.