29 Apr, 2013

Adventure FEATure!

Adventure FEATure!

There were plenty of “Ooohs” and “aaahs” from the audience at the annual FEAT (Fascinating Expedition & Adventure Talks) event early in October in Johannesburg, as the panel of guest speakers took turns to present truly inspiring seven-minute talks on their adventures:

?         Ed February: With 30 years’ climbing experience on more than 200 routes, Ed spoke about mountaineering back in the day without today’s technologically advanced equipment.

?         Elizabeth de Speville: In 2011 Liz read about the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain online, started walking regularly for training, and is now a firm believer that the only way to see a place is to walk it!

?         Elsie Bezuidenhout: Her mountain journey started with Kilimanjaro, then she climbed Aconcagua and Erebus, which motivated her to climb the highest peak on each continent and join the Seven Summits club. Only Everest remains...

?         James Lea: Together with his friend Mark Yetman, James went on what became known as the ‘Big Ride Africa,’ taking in 19 countries and clocking 15 458km over six months.

?         James Pitman: He was one member of the three-person team to fly their South African designed and built light aircraft, Sling 4, around the world, including a 30-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

?         Keith Jones: The amusing adventure of a yacht master managing a dismasting in the Caribbean, blowing his engine in Patagonia and again in the Falklands, and recording probably the slowest crossing of the Southern Ocean.

?         Martin Dreyer: After discovering there is more to life while working on a commercial fishing boat in the icy Pacific Ocean, he not only won numerous Duzi Canoe Marathons and the Land Rover G4 Challenge, but also established the Change a Life Academy.

?         Rob Thomas: Having grown up on the slopes of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak in Cape Town, Rob has many stories to share about the adventures of being a mountain rescuer.

?         Christo Smeda: After winning the sponsored adventure prize at FEAT 2011, Christo took his friends Regardt Botes and Flip du Plessis and circumnavigated the island of Zanzibar on Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boards.



FEAT organiser Lisa de Spellville then announced a surprise bonus speaker, solo adventurer Davey Du Plessis, in his first public appearance since his traumatic near-death ordeal on the Amazon River in South America. Davey had set out to cycle from Arequippa to Chivay in Peru (145km, mostly uphill), followed by a five-day hike to the source of the Amazon on Mount Misimi, then cycle 465km to Crusco and finish off the adventure by paddling 4 500km to the mouth of the Amazon.


With the gruelling bike legs behind him, Davey gave his bike away and set out on the paddling leg. However, the rapids were far bigger than he had expected and his kayak was too fragile, so he stopped at Quillabamba and purchased a tractor tyre as replacement! More worrying was the fact that there had recently been 30 kidnappings in that area, allegedly by a drug cartel operating in the area. Davey had seen local people by the river, who seemed intrigued by his appearance but never posed a threat, until he came across some kids that initially also seemed harmless. Suddenly he heard gunshots and felt numbness in the back of his neck, then fell into the water. “My arms felt like they were no longer part of my body, and it was almost a peaceful feeling drifting underneath the water with my eyes open,” he says.


Once he regained his senses, he managed to get his head above the water, where the shots were still coming, then clawed his way onto the riverbank. “I was waiting for what I thought was death,” he says. Then instinct kicked in, making Davey get to his feet and run for help. When he saw locals after about 5km, he tried to call for help, but with a bullet lodged in his throat, no sound came out. Then they wanted money in return for helping him, but Davey had no money left…


After being left to lie in a boat for four hours, Davey started coughing blood, which fortunately sparked some urgency amongst the locals, and he was passed from one tribe to the next until he reached a hospital in Pucallapa, where X-rays showed that he had been shot in the head, neck and chest, with bullet fragments lodged in his lungs and heart. Davey underwent successful surgery to remove the bullets, but the shrapnel in his heart will need to be closely monitored for the rest of his life. “The greatest message to have come out of this whole incident was seeing how people from all over the world managed to connect and offer assistance that ensured my wellbeing,” says Davey.”