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How quickly time passes and things can change. December 7, one year since our expedition in the Congo ended tragically with the loss of Hendri Coetzee, I spent on the rim of the Zambezi Gorge, above rapid number 7, with Ben Stookesberry, Pete Meredith, Hendri’s best mate, and others significant in Hendri’s life. This is where Pete Meredith met Hendri for the first time; he did not need to explain the significance of this fact. Light fading, and shadows of our selves growing far to the east with the setting sun, there was not a sound, and nothing moved. Not a breeze in the air, not a leaf in a tree, not a bird in the sky. It’s easy to sensationalize what you don’t understand, but we sat in that immense stillness trying to make sense of the last year to ensure this one will be the best ever.

Despite the stinging knowledge of our mortality and risk becoming harsh reality, this year is not so unlike the last. We are still traveling, paddling, and living the only way we know; as much as we want fantasy and heroism, people want truth, or something close to it, and we’re here looking. Unfortunately there is no simple overview, no laminated pamphlet listing the myriad ways to find it, but are by no means easy to stumble upon.

Christmas Day on the Lusymfwa River in Northern Zambia, Pedro seemed much more comfortable than Ben or me, and I explained to him that the deep, slow pool in front of camp, bordered by more wildlife than we’d seen to that point, is a place where a croc could live for decades, growing to distressing proportions. I did not need to explain the significance of this fact. In the morning, we would paddle down, through the pool, knowing that as we put ourselves in this place, it was our responsibility to endure the knowledge of threats we neither see, understand, nor, at that point, could do anything about. In the afternoon we completed the first descent of the Wonder Gorge. Merry Christmas, indeed.

And now we carry on in this new year, looking immediately toward more paddle strokes in Northern Zambia, unforeseen adventures, hardships, and joys to come. We have but one task, relatively simple, to take each step carefully, each breath preciously, and each day as it is: the best day ever.