Kayaking from Sweden to Africa: 1001 Ways to Fail (Part One)
With a solid bottom underneath my feet, I straggled to the beach, step by careful step, only to lose my footing when a big wave came crashing on the beach. I let the waves take over, bringing my kayak and I roaring and snorting into the country. I was still alive! The two figures that had witnessed my arrival looked at me with eyes as big as saucers. I remembered nothing of what they said, except that they just stood there and stared at me while I jumped and bounced around like a ping-poll ball to get my circulation going.
Further along the beach a house with its windows glinting in the sunset beckoned to me. I ran towards it and tapped on the door. The door swung back and a man with a towel wrapped around his hips stood at the entrance, staring at me. I had just knocked on the door of the winter bathers, the Penguins’ Sauna Club!
I went in and planted myself under the shower while waiting for someone to help me get my clothes off because I was too numb to do it myself. Inside the sauna I sat and waited. I was frozen solid so it took a hell of a long time until I got feeling back in my body. When I was warm enough, I put on some shorts and jumped into the sea to salvage my kayak and my personal belongings. I managed to get everything to safety in the three trips between cold ocean waves and a hot sauna.
Meanwhile, members of the Penguins managed to get in touch with The Evening Post to relate the interesting events that happened at their club earlier that day. The Post found my story newsworthy enough to come over and do an interview. Later that day I got to participate in the Penguins’ Lucia celebration. I was invited to sleep over and was offered help to bring in my now shattered kayak and salvaged equipment.
The next day I was on the front page of The Evening Post. Sydnytt came for an interview, and then Mitt Nytt showed up on the doorstep. Suddenly, half the kingdom knew that there was an idiot trying to paddle down to Africa in the middle of winter…
As I sat with a broken kayak and barely any money, I thought about what I should do. To say that I was frustrated would be an understatement. Then Ingvar provided the solution. He reached out to me through email after seeing the report in the news. He proposed that if I could just get the kayak to Västervik, he and his sons would fix it and even strengthen it with a few layers of carbon fiber. So be it. I rented a car and drove up to Västervik. I stayed in town for two days while the kayak was being fixed. I realized that I owed a lot of debt to Ingvar and I was extremely grateful to receive such assistance.
Back in Malmo, I enjoyed a nice visit with my friends Stefan and Amanda while waiting for the skies to clear up. I really had to get going, but the weather was still bad. To get away, I needed to take the Peter Pan ferry to Travemünde. It was the 26th of December. Stefan left me at the harbor after saying goodbye. I walked up the ramp, rolling my kayak behind me. At the end of the ramp stood the first mate and a few other members of the crew, welcoming the passengers aboard. After mouthing off pleasantries, the first mate checked my ticket and then said to me, “The fare is different if you bring a kayak with you.” The guy was trying to pull my leg. But I had an ace up my sleeve: in front of me stood an old classmate of mine, Magnus Shalin, whom I hadn’t seen in several years. He was briefly taken aback when I introduced myself, but he quickly recovered and invited me up to the bridge. I even ended up having my own cabin.
I got off the Peter Pan, feature-packed and ready to give my adventure another go. As I paddled past the behemoth, I looked up at the bridge and saw a white-clad person waving to me. I saluted with the paddle and thought that, yes, we ended up with totally different futures. Up there was an old classmate from my toddler years, controlling a giant ferry, and here I sat in a kayak, on the road to madness and the unknown.
My diary that I had with me was still blank except for the introduction that I wrote at the start of my trip: 1,001 ways to fail… and how to get over them. Let the journey begin!