Lago D Orta Beckons

Lago D Orta Beckons
Lago D Orta Beckons

Seven days to go!!

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read this. This Blog serves two purposes, to Keep you abreast of what is happening in the Hippo world and this month, the wider world. A lot has happened  in the last couple of weeks. I find myself in a bit of an Ironic situation. I have lived in two countries in my life and the last two weeks has seen both of those countries tearing them apart for different reasons. Firstly Brexit and for a while I found myself in a country that noone wanted to govern. Prime ministers resigning, Opposition all by slinking back into their dark corners, unwilling to follow through with what they had started, the pound collapsing and now, an Anti brexiter has put their head above the parapet and  pick up the reins to try and salvage something. Slimhippo and I decided it was time to leave all this turmoil to go to Malta for a week.

In another part of the world, A government that has refused to step down for 36 years. Out of this, something phenominal was happening, a revolution, powered solely by one man with unyielding faith who had had enough and, through social media created, what I think, is a massive gulvanisation of a country . You will not have heard of this in the news, The world really does not care about African countries run by despots. About 6 weeks ago, Evan Mawarire had had enough of 36 years under a dictatorial regime. A Pastor by profession, after a bad day in the office, he had been wrestling with the question of how he was going to pay school fees and put food on the table. On his way out of his office, he wrapped the national flag around his shoulders, turned his laptop on and began to rant about the situation in Zimbabwe. #ThisFlag was born. Little did Evan know how instrumental in the lives of an entire nation this rant would become. It went viral virtually overnight and the winds of change then sarted to blow, a light gust at first, then a breeze, constantly gaining in strength.

Last week he succeeded in Shutting an ENTIRE COUNTRY DOWN. An entire countrywide, industry wide national strike. All this whilst Pleading to all his followers to do this in a non violent, non confrontational way – Peaceful protests. Pity the Riot police did not get the memo. Beatings were common, abductions a distinct possibility But Evan came out pleading with the population to do all of this WITHOUT VIOLENCE. The West could learn something from this. Two days ago, arrested and put in jail on trumped up charges, the following day spending 9 hours in court. This is where it gets interesting. The script was meant to see him put in jail. which is where anyone who has ever talked up against the regime goes.

I can only assume that When the judge asked, ” who stands in defence of the accused?” No less than 60 lawyers stood up and were on his defence team. There were about 50 more but they could not fit in the courtroom.  One prosecuting lawyer for the state against about 100 lawyers for the defence. You know that judge has a bad day ahead of them. Not taking into account outside, more than 2000 people gathered – with people gatherng in the UK, USA, Australia, South Africa, with further protests and nationwide shutdowns planned until the ruling party answers some questions. For the first time in 36 years, the Script did not go according to plan, a person had talked up against a regime and had not mysteriously disappeared or ended up with a long stretch behind bars. The Breeze was now a tornado and with little signs of it being controlled, this movement is achieving the impossible.

Evan, I salute you and I dedicate this next swim to you and all Zimbabweans around the world. Your vision has created something phenomenal using nothing but Social media. You have achieved what many have tried and failed. You have given a nation belief in themselves, beleif that as a nation of united people, you can do Great things? You are the living embodiment of History in the making.

Evan Mawawire

Back to Swimming

 My tak is a little less daunting, It will not end with me behind bars or “disappearing” But it does require cohesion amoungst a team and my extended groups that support me.Last weekend, I was invited to do what I will be doing in Lago D orta – an inaugural swim. The plan was to swim up the jubilee River 10km and then the following day, Down the Thames River. All in all – 23 km of swimming. As it was a first, we had to make it up as we went along but thanks to Sean, for putting the outline together. Up at 4.30am to get to the start for 6am. Four mad, intrepid swimmers and land support arrived at the car park for the start of the upriver swim.

4 intrepid swimmers

4 intrepid swimmers


What we were about to do hit home when we were walking past some fishermen and they asked what we were up to and we told them, the look on their faces was priceless. Sadly for me, on the drive up there I sneezed and instantly felt a pain in my neck and top of my shoulder. I pulled a muscle or something whilst sneezing OF ALL THE TIMES TO DO IT!!! Well, I was here so best get in and do what I need to do. Swim. We all jumped in and off we went. Weather was good, overcast but warm, water was about 18 degrees and I very soon learnt what that sneeze had done, I could not turn my head high enough to breathe properly so I now had to adjust my stroke to accomodate a crooked neck. Oh what fun! Because I could not turn my head enough to breathe, I was swallowing a lot more water when I did breathe. Luckily, the pace of the swimmers varied hugely, me at about 4 km/h and Kevin at about 2.2km/h so I could spend a lot of time doing breaststroke to let my neck have a break and the rest catch up so we did not spread out too much along the river.

We had to get out a few times to walk around the weirs and this time was spent refuelling. The sun shone for a while and the scenary along the river is pretty cool.part of a nature reserve so no houses just fields and open spaces. You do not get to see the scenary when swimming so taking time to appreciate my surroundings and marvel at how lucky I am to be fit enough to do stuff like this was time well spent. What would normally take me about 2.5 hours took me about 4 hours of mental bliss, physically my neck was being obtuse but I felt great. Who needs to breathe anyway????

seanRob sean



Jubilee swim


I managed about 9.5km in total before my neck started to really hurt so I called it a day. All in all it was a fantastic swim and also very weird swimming that river the wrong way. I have done it quite a few times in the opposite direction but to see it all from a reverse perpective was quite interesting. As we got closer towards the end, the scenery was pretty awesome. As it is in a nature reserve, the birdlife is amazing. I was swimming amongst about 30 swans. Unlike the swans around where I live, these swans are not out to try and kill you. I honestly thought I was in for a few fights along the way especially as most of them have cygnets in tow and are usually very protective of their young.


Sunday – another early start.

Another 5 am start. Today there was a difference, The slimhippo was coming to join us. Today we would be swimming down the Thames. 12 km through a pretty impoverished  and built up (high density housing – private joke, my parents might get it) part of the world. The swim took us from Taplow to Eton. Most the houses along this part of the river probably do not sell for anything less than £2 Million -so yes- pretty impoverished. This Swim would see us going through 3 locks whilst wending our way down the Thames to Eton. As we were on the Thames, we needed the slimhippo. We also had a tandem kayak, kindly provided by Sean.

Due to my neck still not being 100%, the fact I had swallowed half of the Jubilee river and now had a sore throat, I opted to help out slimhippo with the kayaking as she had never been in a tandem kayak and also had never been in a lock in  kayak before. Today there were three swimmers. Emma Smith, Sean Haywood and Rob Eustace. Initially, the swim was great and then we entered through a lock into Bray. There is a rowing club here so we now had to share the river with these people who insist on going backwards through life so kayak support was pretty essential in this area. We didn’t want to have a rower mown over by a swimmer or a swimmer sliced in half by one of those little slimline boats.

After Bray, we then had the river to ourselves ourselves again and three swimmers spread out along it. Again, different speeds made supporting them a little bit more tricky but the pod of hippos in the kayaks managed – even if we were totally out of sync on many occasions. drifitng under some bridges past the ramshackle establishments was wonderful – a total difference from the previous day. It would have been more so had the weather played ball a bit more. It started to drizzle, the typical british drizzle not hard enough to soak you but just soft enough to make you a bit damp and upset my hairstyle. On the last lock we discovered that some of the locks have a specific place for portaging a kayak which would have saved us time earlier if we had actually used the portage facilities rather than the locks. This was the first time atempting this swim so was all a bit of a learning curve.

Soon we were past Dorney and now into Windsor area, the boats became bigger and more powerful and the houses got more ameniable to the eye until we soon spotted Queen Elisabeths gaff – Windsor castle we tried to phone her and let her know we would pop in for tea and scones but she was out for the day. were nearly there at this point, we made a concerted effort to keep the swimmers together so the tourist boats ploughing that stretch of water only had to avoid a small compact group f swimmers and kayak support.

All in all a great weekend with a lot of time spent in or on the water. Thank you to Sean for organising, Rob, Emma, Kevin for joining in the swim and as always, the slimhippo. Without you, We as swimmers would never be able to do these swims.

My neck and my cough are still there so have not done a lot of training this week. I was meant to do a 3km race at my local lake yesterday but it was cancelled due to low turnout. A pity as I needed to win it so I can get some more free Swims. I suppose I will have to pay for them for a while. I will probably try a 6 – 7km swim on Saturday and some more kayaking locally to where we live  and then I think that will be it apart from a day or two of jsut getting to the lake, river or pool to move my arms and float around. It seems that this last Thames Jubilee loop is already gaining traction with people already putting their hands up to do the whole loop in a day so watch this space

This time next week

The Slimhippo and I will hopefully be in Italy doing our final preparations before taking on the Marathon Lago D orta Swim. As it is with every swim, I feel that I have not prepared enough so am relying more on my mental capability and my very resilient body to get me through this, It has not let me down yet and I will be dammed if it is going to start now. I have just been checking and it seems that 14 solo swimmers from around the globe have been invited and 9 relay teams. I feel very proud to have been invited to this event that is the first of what we hope will become a regular event. It will also be great to catch up with some American friends, Italian friends and meet new people along the way. have I ever mentioned the people I meet along the way are fabulous, this is what keeps me coming back again and again and again.

Nest Stop Italy and I will write an article on the Inaugural Lago D Orta marathon swim.

Stay well, keep focused and once on a great path, stick at it, you never know where it will take you

About the author

Ameteur Endurance athlete and marathon swimmer Having taken up marathon swimmng in 2008 with the challenge of the English Channel, I then continued on to Cycle up Britain, Kayak across Scotland and run a few marathons. None of those held the draw that marathon swimming held so in 2014 I was back in the water to Swim the longest swim in Switzerland and then, in 2015 I opted to take on my biggest swim to date. SCAR challenge.- 4 lakes in 4 days with distances Ranging from 6 miles to 18 miles.

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