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IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT MADNESS by Dave Briggs 0825501462




Dave Briggs, a legend among enthusiasts of extreme events in South Africa, has spent his life in a relentless quest for adventure. ‘It’s not just about madness’ is a rollicking account of various exploits, sometimes hilarious, sometimes hair-raising, told in episodic campfire-tales style, to bring – as he puts it – some fun into our lives, while it also asks ‘why?’. So fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the raw energy of a sometimes bumpy ride with a pilot who is equally as ready to face the challenge of the mighty Colorado Rives as to express his own frank views on the world he sees around him




Pg 11               Foreword

     14               Introduction

     15               Human existence, adrenalin, endorphins & junkies

     22               Ghosts

     25               Down the Congo in the middle of the night

     31               Kayaking over a waterfall & trapped in a cave

     35               “Hair-raising”

     37               Rafting a flooded gorge

42                              A close shave 

44               My relationship with upturned cars, fences & crayfish

48               Other road hazards

     52               A typical Friday afternoon

     54               Upside down motorcycles & bicycles

     57               A rope, a bridge & a long way down

     62               South Africans and their rock-throwing abilities

     64               A midnight paddle

     67               Contract flying – early days “It’s all about publicity!”

     79               “My room’s gone!”

     80               The theft ‘of’ an aeroplane

     83               My other episode with seawater

     84               Other water-related encounters

     88               The day I speared a shark

     89               Dolphins & whales

     95               The ricksha experience

     98               Underwater wrecks & artefacts off East Africa

     100             One of my closest encounters with death

     104             Poachers, dynamite fishing & narcotics

     108             There’s a rocket in my hair

     110             Flying down Africa

     114             Airborne activities & hooked upside down on a guide wire

 117             Hanging from an electrified pole

 119             Blown out to sea

 121             Other spectacular accidents and the day I detached my foot from my leg

 128             An accident-prone family?

     130             Our universe & days gone by

     136             Mountain biking in Tasmania

     137             “Don’t worry mate I saw a nostril hair twitch”.

     140             A kangaroo on my bicycle

     143             My first microlight lesson

     144             Flying out in the Indian Ocean islands

     146             The infant days of microlighting & a few encounters

     152             Circumnavigating South Africa

     160             Microlight meets barbwire and fence

     164             My earlier attempts at tandem flying & more shrubbery

     170             Encounters with fishing gaffs, bedrock & ensnared animals

177             Monstrous waves, suicidal surf & interesting epics out at sea

184             Fishing lines, spanners and banners

188             Rotating backboards & other detached components

190             The mystery of my disappearing propeller

     192             Test flying in Australia

     194             Kangaroo & pig hunters

     198             There’s a pig in my freezer

     200             Crocodiles & hippos on the Zambezi & other rivers

205             Tree-dwelling carnivorous ants on the Nile & Africa’s untamed wilderness

209             Aughrabies, Blyde, Grand Canyon & the “Duzi” canoe marathon

     220             High-flying arachnids

     221             Paraglider & propeller meet

     223             The day I set my flying machine alight

     225             Sand kiting & canine beasts

     230             There’s an eagle in my line

     231             An unglamorous way to die!

233             Africa and a deadly little beast!

238              More “life in Africa” encounters - Monkey business   & a Gecko’s revenge

    243              Hitchhiker!

245              Food for thought

    247              Conclusion


This new publication ‘It’s not just about madness’ is a true live account of Dave Briggs adventures which take the reader from extreme kayaking to flying and many other activities. They are told in a humorous manner with each story illustrated by a professional cartoonist. These stories are however not just a wild and humorous account of what at first may seem as total madness. When the reader looks closer one will see the interaction of the ID, Ego and Superego at play, helping and contributing to direct people into their respective endeavors. This interplay is a combination of upbringing Vs what society expects and the norms and pressures it places on people. Throughout the book Dave also draws attention to the spiritual world and a ‘devoted Guardian Angel’ that sits (sometimes quite precariously) on his shoulder. This he is convinced has contributed to his longevity so far through some quite extreme situations and is a possible reason why some people are ‘kept’ alive under ridiculous circumstances why other die for lesser known reasons. (Also ones pre-destined journey has not ended yet).

He also touches on the AIDS pandemic with some interesting facts and explanations which is ravishing the world.


There’s a rocket in my hair!


  As any person involved in the entertainment or instructional industry will tell you, a vast amount of time is spent with clients, students or visiting personnel. I remember a time when I was teaching diving that a group of us (mostly visiting divers and students) went to the local pub down the road to celebrate the successful completion of their open-water dive course. This particular pub was frequented primarily by tourists with various groups and diving schools scattered throughout. During the course I used to keep a note of all misdemeanors that had occurred during the training period, and once at a venue such as this, make students pay the necessary forfeit. This usually entailed downing a considerable amount of the local home brew. This ferment was usually pure unrefined sugarcane alcohol or a similar liquid with an equally objectionable nauseating taste and effect, drunk through a snorkel, which had a funnel on the end, into which this liquid was copiously poured. The victim had to wear a diving mask while completing the forfeit, which made the task of drinking and breathing fairly tricky. At some stage towards the end of the evening someone produced a Guy Fawkes rocket which when ignited would career up into the sky and explode in a cascade of brilliant sparks, colours and associated bangs. This, I thought, could only be fun, so without hesitation I lit it. Well, you can imagine what ensued within the confined area of the pub. The rocket-propelled missile launched itself across the room towards our opposition school and their students, bouncing in a torrent of sparks and hisses in a magnificent display of pyrotechnics, while discharging itself off walls, tables and anything else in its trajectory. Unfortunately, though incredibly humorously, it came to rest still exploding and discharging its combustible entrails, firmly implanted in the mane of a female who had enough hair to support a number of eagles’ nests. If you have ever lit your arm hairs or any other hairy part of your anatomy, you will well know how combustible collagen is. This unfortunate visitor was clearly on fire, with everyone’s focus now firmly on the tail end of the rocket still protruding from her mop of permed hair. While people patted, banged and smothered the igniting rocket, some clever spark eventually poured a full jug of beer over her head in an attempt to extinguish what was originally envisaged to be the high point celebrating the successful completion of a dive course. This was incredibly hilarious and our entire side of the pub collapsed in absolutely uncontrolled hysterics. Undoubtedly it was the funniest thing I had seen for a long time. No malicious harm was meant, no injuries were sustained and to our astonishment very little of her hair was in fact burned. The most difficult part of this adventure was attempting to placate the opposition school who were convinced we had openly provoked and deliberately attempted to tarnish their credibility.


What we think, what we know and what we believe, is in the end of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do.


Kangaroo on my bicycle


One other recollection that will probably stay with me forever is one I will very briefly detail for you as there really is not much drama involved, but it’s rather intriguing nevertheless. We were cycling along at dusk in the pouring rain, trying to achieve that wretched goal set earlier which interestingly was now rapidly dividing our reasons for visiting this geographical location. We had absolutely no idea of where we were going to spend the night, when this stranger pulled over in his pick-up and said “hop on” as he would like to offer us a place to stay for the night while his wife would cook us dinner. I was extremely uneasy with this suggestion, as Tasmania had recently experienced a number of hitchhiker murders, and while free food and a warm place to stay sounded like heaven, I had no immediate desire to cease respiring just yet. So it was with a huge amount of trepidation, based on meteorological and culinary comforts, that we accepted the offer and climbed onto the back.

   My fears were compounded as we were driven deeper into the wilds with the dirt track eventually ending at a half built wood cabin. This was starting to appear like a potential murder scene. I decided I needed a weapon, which I managed to find in the form of an old steel pipe lying in the back of the van next to me. Should our driver give me just the slightest reason to deem him a monster, I was going to deliver one almighty blow to his ego via his head. We figured for the time being we would give him the benefit of the doubt and see whether he had the wife, or possible co-conspirator, about whom he’d spoken. This might redeem him slightly from the murderous character I was now envisaging him as. Keeping our distance, and my weapon hidden, we followed him inside and, lo and behold, there was something resembling a fair amount of oestrogen! Still not convinced, I figured this charitable gesture could be a facade to put us at ease before his attack. I retained my pole to ensure our prolonged existence and minimize any immediate possibility of becoming an exotic delicacy for some psychotic madman and his cannibalistic partner. Two strangers being offered a place to stay and food in the middle of goodness knows where, was not normal in my estimation.

   Anyway, surviving the wine and food without any adversity removed all prior apprehensions I had had, and we settled down to a rather comfortable evening around a log fire somewhere in the remotest part of this hostile, wet and cold little island. This was, however, short-lived as he offered, at about midnight, to take us to shoot some lunch for tomorrow, in the form of a smaller version of its marsupial cousin the kangaroo. Well, I surmised, this was where he was going to make his move. I figured this just could in all reality be the serial killer that had made headline news weeks before we had embarked on this venture of madness, so I ensured I was at all times close behind him, his gun and any homicidal thoughts that might arise in his deranged head. Again, as promised, the only thing that died that night was our lunch for the following day. This was taken home, skinned and cooked by his wife and neatly packaged for our departure. Well, ok, I thought, maybe he is a teacher with a wife that lives out in the midst of nowhere, picks up two strangers in the rain on their bicycles, takes them home, feeds them and shoots them a wallaby for their lunch. True to his word, the next day our feast was strapped onto the back of my mountain bike and we were taken some distance down the road, pointed in the right direction, and off we pedaled.



A geckos revenge


  Another rather nauseating encounter with wild beasts of usually elevated realms took place during a visit from chief officer Bowker. I wonder whether he had any part to play in this harrowing experience, which he convincingly and strenuously denies any part thereof. I, however, am not that certain. He arrived at my house and was filling up the kettle when he asked me what a lizard in the later stages of mortal decay was doing at the bottom, draped and rigorously fastened over the elements? It had obviously been there for some time as its entrails were in a rather liquidised form. So was its torso, which was a sickening pale colour with most of its appendages scattered over the base of the container. Its eyes were staring blankly at the unknown, mostly because they were hanging out of its sockets by threads.

   This gecko had been boiled a number of times and inadvertently added to various cups of tea and coffee, which the unfortunate recipients had ingested. I myself had consumed a cup of coffee a few hours prior to this discovery, which now was attempting to relocate itself out into the external environment. This was undoubtedly one of my more traumatic consumption experiences. Were the typical oddments such as traces of coagulated milk, often found in beverages, indeed of palatable bovine origin or were they, horror upon horrors, the innards, eyeball or other genetic remnants from this once very alive and voluptuous reptile? I will never know. I can now only hope that it had been there for the previous twenty-four hours, meaning many friendly and neighbourly visitors, to my great delight, were now wonderfully in the same digestive predicament! I guess we were all lucky, as the city newspaper recently featured an article about three people who died after ingesting water, also out of a kettle, that was contaminated with these house-dwelling lizards.


    “What if your fears and dreams existed in the same place? What if, to get to heaven, you had to brave hell? What if everything you’ve ever wanted, cost you everything you’ve ever achieved? Would you still go there?


There’s a pig in my freezer! 


 Having briefly made reference to pigs, an image is immediately evoked that to this day makes me chuckle. I was visiting people who had one of those small, black and usually obnoxious miniature pet pigs. (They also had a parrot which was just as loathsome and unbearable and which nearly bit my finger off.) Like all animals that are not disciplined from youth, this pig ran around the house urinating when it was too lazy to go outside, and would deliberately antagonise everyone who opposed it in any way. For those of you saying, “well it’s not the pig’s but the owners’ fault”, agreed. However it would still urinate on my shoes and then, like a dysfunctional child, take off in an attention-seizing tantrum squealing blue murder when reprimanded. Almost as if we were about to roast the beastly creature. I had on occasion suggested this to the owners; however they never responded positively, but rather with looks of utter disgust and horror.

   Why is there this aversion to eating something you have owned? One is quite happy to eat bits of pork that has been neatly sanitised and packaged as long as the provider of the culinary delight is far removed from one’s view and subjective implications. It is still a pig, it still died and it is still providing a certain amount of gastronomic ecstasy, hopefully without the associated medicinal implications involving various de-worming or antibacterial agents. If one is so attached and sentimental about edible or domestic pets, why not have them professionally treated on their deaths and mounted above one’s bed, as a reminder of their loyalty and attachment?

   Anyway, during one party we had, this hairy little creature was incredibly badly behaved and came hurtling into the kitchen for some unknown reason. Having none of the female guests present - who seemed to worship this “cute”, “cuddly” black ball of undomesticated pork - I grabbed it by its curly tail before it could abscond, and stuffed it in the freezer to calm down. This ice chest was by most standards rather full so the contents had to be pushed and manoeuvred into a corner to make space for this oversized lump of bacon. I figured a few minutes in the cooler would do the trick; however, at that precise moment the owner of that pig and a few companions came waltzing into the kitchen asking the whereabouts of little Snookems.

   Figuring there was enough of us in the kitchen and blame couldn’t be levelled at me alone, I excused myself from a quickly-deteriorating situation. This was a bad place to be while their pet pig was in the freezer, so I readily denied all knowledge of his whereabouts. Someone must have opened the freezer, possibly to retrieve their wine, I don’t know, but the next thing Snookems absconded and came careering into the lounge with fridge ice all over his black hair, transforming him into a replica of a baby polar bear. He was clearly annoyed and continued to act as if the end of the world had arrived.

“For heavens sake, what’s on its fur? Looks like ice” I asked someone.

‘Yes, someone found Snookems in the freezer.’

 “How awful - wonder how he got there,” I commiserated.

   The pig’s owner was clearly infuriated and doing her best to investigate how her pet pig ended up neatly tucked away in the freezer. We didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the evening.         

A kayaking adventure on the worlds longest river.


 Just recently I returned from a kayak trip to the source of the White Nile. This is the longest river in the world, travelling more than 6500 kilometres up the African continent until it exits into the Mediterranean near Cairo, Egypt. It is certainly one of the most fascinating rivers I have ever paddled. In terms of volume it is not as large in the early stages as other big-capacity rivers such as the Congo (DRC), where quite a few expeditions have vanished and whose magnitude and fury increases to untold but captivating proportions nevertheless.

   The Nile originates from Lake Victoria, one of the largest lakes on the African continent, so large, in fact, that it has its own tide. From here it cascades through a hydroelectric scheme into the White Nile. (The Blue Nile, which is by no means blue, originates in Ethiopia, is shorter and joins the White at Khartoum, Sudan.) After the confluence, the Nile loses around a quarter of its original volume due to evaporation, seepage and various agricultural practices. I was on this river one day, sitting in my boat, hanging onto a branch of a tree while trying to take photos of another kayaker surfing a wave, when I felt an extremely uncomfortable feeling inside my helmet and up and down my arms. Looking down, I was startled to see that my entire arm was covered with a seething mass of black crawling ants that had originated out of the trees above the river.

   These creatures had obviously taken exception to this larger-than-life intruder and had unanimously undertaken to eliminate it by attempting to over-enthusiastically eat and ingest me. I was now under siege; my ears were on fire, my nostrils were itching, my head under my helmet, which I couldn’t get at, was burning, so the only option was to capsize to try to drown as

many of these irritants as possible. So I voluntarily inverted myself, holding my breath and hoping their need for oxygen was considerably stronger than mine, thereby necessitating them to vacate my body and swim for the surface. After what seemed an eternity, and nearly drowning myself in the process, I rolled up, confident of at least seeing a glimpse of my original arm colour again; however to no avail. These bothersome ants now seemed wild beyond all comprehension and appeared to simply dash in every direction, biting everything and anything that appeared in their way. My near-drowning exercise was not an effective riddance exercise, so one of the other boaters frantically brushed off as many as possible from my head, arms and other visible parts. After a minute or two most of the visible crawling beasts had been evicted into the river. However, there were now left those that had taken refuge inside the boat by migrating down my arms, legs and torso. I abandoned the boat at the next calm river section and proceeded to expel those that were ecstatically running round in some wild form of feeding frenzy. This blatant and unprovoked form of predation I will not forget in a hurry. My ears, arms and face continued to burn for the rest of the day as a reminder of the ferocious tiny black tree-dwelling creatures that bring misery and distress to anything that violates their territorial boundaries.

   My companion, a good friend and fellow kayaker from Germany, Berndt Karman, was nearly permanently and prematurely retired following this adventure. He unfortunately became violently trapped and retained in a large hydraulic - or wave in the river - and severely damaged his lower leg, forming a thrombosis (or blood clot.) The danger in this is any movement or pressure change, such as flying, could potentially dislodge the clot, resulting in it moving to a vital organ such as the heart or lungs. He also, although he didn’t know it at the time, developed malaria. Different strains of malaria affect the body in various manners and this particular parasite resulted in the destruction of haemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule found in red blood cells. On returning to his country he suddenly found he couldn’t breathe (as there was not much haemoglobin left to transport the oxygen around the body) and he was literally suffocating to death with only 12% of total capacity remaining. He was rushed to hospital with typical flu-like symptoms and after an extended stay I am glad to report he is respiring adequately once again.


   Africa’s untamed wilderness, and the real dangers still present, was brought home to me when I was chatting to one of the raft guides working on the Nile. He told me about a fellow kayaker, who paddled a waterfall on the Zambezi River called lower Moemba, which I came across many years ago on this same river. All went well until he got caught in the ‘boils’ below the falls and was unable to execute a roll in order to right himself. A lifeline was thrown to him, which he was able to catch but he was either simultaneously sucked down a whirlpool or pushed into an undercut ledge. His body was found nine days later, many kilometres down stream, and distressingly by this stage had been partly eaten by crocodiles. It is stories such as these that keep present the reality of death.


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