With a little help from my new friend Jessie Stone, I raised enough money to buy around the world tickets for my entire family. London, Victoria Falls (Zambezi), Sydney, New Zealand, and then back to the RV all in three months. It was my next step in total freedom as a kayaker and for my family. We were going to do what most people “can’t” do. We were going to go on a dream trip. Africa was the first highlight. The first day we didn’t think we would survive the hostel which was 100 degrees all night long and the mosquitoes were munching us. Paranoia about the kids getting Malaria was high. I got off the Zambezi River and organized an air conditioner and got the room sealed tight. Life was then incredible for everybody. After a stint on the Zambezi paddling with my newest bestest friend Steve Fisher every day we set off for a camping safari into Botswana. I can’t tell you how much it affected our lives. I am sure that those three days are among the top two memories of the entire family to date. We woke the first morning to 200 or more elephants crossing the river in front of us and marching straight through our camp. We also watched lions eating a water buffalo, giraffes appearing from behind clumps of trees everywhere. We asked our “guide” Richard, who provided us with our tents, if people get attacked by lions here. It was a logical question since we could hear the lions over our camp fire not more than 50 yards away. His response was, “recently, only two people have been killed by lions, one slapped a lion as it brushed up against his tent and the lion tore through and ate him. The other idiot, didn’t zip up his tent, so a lion just walked in and had a midnight snack.” Fair enough, I thought, until Kristine called me as she was putting the kids to bed. The zipper was broken on our tent. You have never seen cuddling, until you see two kids who are wrapped around mom’s leg and Kristine holding on for dear life to me as we try to sleep with the flap of the tent blowing in the wind and the lions prowling around outside. As you can probably guess, nobody got eaten, but at the time, the excitement was high.
From Africa the next stop was Sydney, but just a short stay. We were headed for New Zealand. Upon arriving in New Zealand we managed to get ourselves to a hotel in Taupo. I had my dream car waiting for me, an Austin Mini. I bought it there the year before and kept it for the return trip. We went to a realtor and found a “holiday home” on the beautiful blue Lake Taupo for $125/week. We started at the realtor by asking for something cheap. When she started showing us houses for $60/week that were quite nice, we said, “what’s the best thing you have”, and this became our house. The exchange rate was quite in favor of the US dollar, so we could live like royalty. Within a week I found another Austin Mini Cooper, this one was a racing machine. I bought it for $1500, where the equivalent in the US would be $15000. I still hold the world’s record time from McDonalds to Full James (the World Championships wave)
I trained hard and was paddling well. While Kristine was entertaining. We had Thanksgiving at our house for 30 athletes from North America right before the world’s started. I was seriously questioning my US citizenship. I know that isn’t a popular thing to say at this time of heightened patriotism, but the people are so friendly, the cost of living is so low, and the country is so beautiful. We lived about 30 minutes from the East Coast with great beaches and surfing. That is were we bought boogie boards for the kids. We lived 2 hours from the west coast which boasts the “world’s longest left hand break”. That is were I bought my surf board (after the worlds).