Last hurdle to New York rowing epic

2014-10-23 00:00

ADVENTURER Riaan Manser and his partner Vasti Geldenhuys will be rowing across the Hudson River in New York City this weekend.

Last June, after leaving behind the boat in which they had rowed nearly 11 000 kilometres across the Atlantic from Africa, they thought would it would be a simple matter to have it rowed across the Hudson — just over a kilometre wide at this point — from Manhattan to the container port for shipping home. However, there were no takers: “People either said they didn’t know the currents or the river traffic was too heavy.

“So we are flying over to row it across ourselves so it can be crated and shipped back home,” said Manser, adding the craft will then tour South Africa.

Manser was speaking to The Witness before the BlackBerry Experience presentation at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Umhlanga, yesterday.

Manser, the first person to cycle the African coast, a distance of 37 000 kilometres, has subsequently kayaked around Madagascar and circumnavigated Iceland in a two-man kayak with disabled partner Dan Skinstad.

Manser’s adventures began with a Sunday run in 2003 through New­lands forest in Cape Town. “I sat down on a rock. I was feeling great about my life … I had a good job, money in the bank, a great girlfriend.”

But Manser realised it would be back to work the next day. “For two days you do what you love …”

Manser had always dreamt of “taking a bike around Africa” so he did. It turned out to be a great adventure, though not without its occasional downside — like the time he was taken prisoner by Liberian rebels.

“ ‘Let’s gut him, let’s kill him, we are wasting time,’ some of them were saying.”

Meanwhile, while rifling his belongings, they found a magazine with a photograph of former president Thabo Mbeki on the cover. “He’s my friend,” said the rebel leader. “Go, before we kill you.”

Manser had told Geldenhuys he thought the trip would take him a year. It took two years, two months and 15 days. “Now if I go out to get bread and milk it’s a trust issue,” he joked.

Fast forward to 2013. “Out of the blue, Vasti said ‘I want to do something incredible in my life… I’ve always wanted to go to New York’.”

Manser responded: “Okay, but we’ll go my way.” Which turned out to be in a 6,9-metre boat with two oars. They pushed off from the coast of Morocco on December 5, the day Nelson Mandela died, and named their boat Spirit of Madiba.

They reached their destination 1,8 million oar strokes — each — later on June 20. For their short row this weekend, they will fly there.

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