Moving forward

When I swam ashore at Makapu beach, I was surprised to see a local TV crew waiting for me. I had done this swim to create awareness of the importance of eliminating the use of single use plastic so the crew did a short interview with me after the swim which was aired on the local news that night.

My boyfriend, Andries, his sister (Juanita), Linda and her friend, Jane and my brother’s friend Michelle were all on the beach at the finish with leis (Hawaiian garlands) and hugs to congratulate me and my team on the swim. We piled into Linda’s truck and headed to fetch our stuff from the boat and to thank Ivan and his crew for getting us across safely and then we headed home. I don’t remember much more about that evening besides watching the news.

I had a pretty restless sleep that night. Apparently I was groaning in pain because of my shoulder and eventually Sarah got up to give me an anti-inflammatory. I slept after that.

Day 1 post swim

At 6am the following morning I was awake! Adrenaline does that. John was also up so we left Sarah to sleep and headed to Makapu Lighthouse for a short hike up the hill to reflect on what I had just achieved. It still didn’t feel real.
It was an eye-opener for me to hear John’s account of what happened out there on that shelf. We looked into the horizon towards Molokai and spotted the shelf with its current more or less seven miles away from shore. As we stared down towards Makapu beach and the long stretch of coral reef we swam against, John retold his account of what happened out there. It was crazy.

We headed back down the mountain the long way by the road and once we got home, I crashed. My resting heart rate was 100 beats per minute lying down! It was racing and it wouldn’t stop. I realised I had done too much and would have to take it easy for a few days! The rest of that day is a blur.

Day 2 post swim

Sarah and I had a lazy morning. John was full of beans and had done a hike and surf and was about to do yoga before he persuaded us to get out the house. I could manage a drive as that involved sitting in a car and looking out the window.

I was struggling to eat at this point. My mouth was still swollen from almost 18 hours in salt water and I had lost most of my taste buds. Sarah was managing to get me to drink smoothies and ensure shakes which helped keep my energy levels up for a short period of time, but we hadn’t yet figured out that I needed to keep fuelling my body every 90 minutes or so to keep my energy levels constant.
 
John contacted some old friends from when he was on the island 25 years ago and surprisingly they were all still there! We picked up Andries and his sister who were staying in a hotel in Waikiki about 20km from where we were in Hawaii Kai and headed to the north shore.

We met up with John’s friend Matt, a South African who owns a vegan restaurant and he treated us all to lunch. We then headed to the Soap Factory to see some more of John’s friends and I was given this local Hawaiian oil for my badly peeling face.

The whole right side of my face and ear were peeling terribly and I had a horrible cap tan from all the sun exposure (it was worse on the right because I had to breathe mostly to the right to stay near the kayak).
From there we went to John’s mates Ian and Jil in Waimea bay. We went down for a snorkel in the bay and then had sundowners of margaritas overlooking the bay. It was beautiful. We had not really eaten since lunch time and the drink knocked me. I crashed and we drove home (a one hour drive.) Sarah forced an ensure shake down my throat before I slept.

Day 3 post swim

This was the worst day. I felt awful physically and my emotions were all over the place. I was feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and generally just yuck. Our room looked like a bomb had hit it and there was stuff from the swim scattered all over Linda’s lounge. I couldn’t think straight. I managed to find some energy to at least sort out the house and our room which made me feel a bit better and more in control. We had bought post cards the day before so I wrote some of those to post and then John persuaded us to get out the house. We went to Sandy’s beach for a snorkel float which was lovely.
 
Day 4 post swim

We woke up early to meet up with some of Linda’s friends Tom, Marg and Lawrie for a swim at Ala Moana Bay (The same place we had swum the day before my channel crossing).
John swam with Tom, Marg and Lawrie, Sarah hung back with me and we made it just past the wreck before I ran out of gas so we turned around. At the wreck we spotted a family of white tip oceanic sharks under a ledge (apparently a local spot for these guys) that was pretty cool.

We went from there to get some breakfast. I wasn’t feeling great. I felt like a zombie and had very little energy. We drove to check out a monk seal and her cub on the other side of Waikiki and then John and Sarah dropped me off at Andries’s hotel to sleep. Three hours later they fetched me and we headed to China Town. I was grumpy. This recovery thing was worse than all the training and the actual channel swim itself. I wondered when or if I would ever feel normal again.

Day 5

I finally managed to make my own meals and food and spent the morning feeding myself small amounts of food. I ate six times before 12 o’clock and finally felt normal again!
We headed to the east coast and had delicious shrimps from a roadside food truck before snorkeling at sharks cove on the north shore.

I had walked through the worst part of the recovery process but we made sure I had regular snacks throughout the day so I did not crash again! John said I was better when I ate!

The next 10 days we had the most incredible adventure exploring the island, meeting up with locals and spending loads of time in the blue warm ocean. We saw a turtle EVERY time we got in the water and it was just an incredible,incredible time. We met the most wonderful people who welcomed us with open arms showing us their island and their culture with no restraint. They had huge respect for me and my team for crossing the Molokai Channel and it was humbling. The people of Hawaii showed us the true Aloha spirit (Aloha means love) and we left a piece of our hearts on that island. Our experience will never be forgotten, not just because of the indescribably blue, warm, clean, vibrant ocean, but because of the people who showed us the true spirit of Hawaii and their culture. We will never forget you guys and will always have room for you back here in South Africa if you ever visit!

We would reminisce about the crossing and I would learn new things about what happened out there. It was a special time and none of us were ready to step on a plane to come back home.
 
Home

But all adventures have to come to an end and so as we settle back into normality, I am faced with what the rest of my life will look like. They say a channel changes you. I am not this sure yet if I can agree or disagree with this statement. I am still the same person now as I was before the swim. I have a few more hours and kilometres of swimming under my belt and the last few remnants of a cap tan and itchy back from sea mites, but fundamentally I am still me. The relationships and memories that were forged in that channel have grown stronger and the memories will be there forever, but I am still me. My psychologist friend asked me if I feel like I have done the swim. I don’t. It is still surreal to think I have crossed a channel and I can call myself a channel crosser.
 
I got to stay in the house of a multiple channel swimmer whom I have huge respect and admiration for and yet she is just as ordinary a person as me or the friends that I have. She is a tough woman who does inspiring things, but we are all just people at the end of the day. I am sure it will take time to process what has happened and I suspect the next chapter of my life will look very different from before as a result of what I have achieved. I am already yearning to find a new goal and a new channel to cross, but at the same time I am not in a hurry to rush or make any major life decisions after enduring what I have the past few weeks.
 
Our beautiful bubble in paradise on the other side of the world has burst as we have stepped back into the life we had before the swim. Nothing has really changed, there are bills to be paid, groceries to buy, chores to be done. But we hold onto the beautiful freedom we felt out there in the big, blue, Pacific Ocean on the other side of the world. An ocean where I luckily did not swim into any plastic, but an ocean that I would like to keep clean and blue. The fundamental reason for me enduring ocean currents, storms, water mites, sharks and stings is to protect these oceans and the life that lives in it for our future generations to enjoy.
 
Flying over the channel before my swim I was in awe of how big the ocean is (70% of our earth is made up of the ocean). We have only explored 30% of what it has to offer and yet we are destroying it with every straw we use, every plastic bag we buy at the shops and every single use plastic item that we consume.
 
I didn’t just wake up one day and swim across a channel. It took years of planning training, teamwork and sacrifice to achieve this dream of mine. As John puts it so nicely, I did over 60 000 strokes to get myself across the channel, but I did it one stroke at a time. And before I even stepped into the Molokai Channel, I spent days, hours, and minutes preparing: training, eating, sleeping, strategizing. I got there one good decision at a time. I didn’t always get it right, but every good choice moved me towards my goal.
 
You may think this plastic problem is too big for you as an individual. How can you not using a straw or buying a plastic packet make any difference to our ocean and planet? But if you add up every single straw and plastic packet you said no to over a month or even a year, you will be shocked at the difference just you can make. Imagine if you got your whole family and all your friends to do the same and they reciprocated by getting their family and friends to say no to single use plastic.
 
One good decision at a time. One less straw. One less packet. Together we can change the statistic that says that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. And accumulatively we can all reach the goal of a plastic-free ocean.
 
Start now. Say no to single use plastic. It’s your choice and it will affect your children’s children.