I planed to swim this river when I arrived to the Philippines. But days after I arrived I found myself caught in an Typhoon and days later there was second Typhoon. My swim was delayed until second week in January. My swim started at 5 pm from the small city of. Talagocon , Philippines the Agusan river flows through this city. I requested the local catholic Priest to meet me at the River bank. An group of curious local residents gather, to watch what’s going on we all prayed together and the Priest, Nuns and Locals wished me an good journey to me and my crew . I prepared an small speech of my intention to swim the River , but somehow I think people didn’t understand …. I had an crew of 3 guides who agreed to accompany me during my swim. Two guides in lead canoe scouting the river about 30 meters ahead and third guide beside me in his canoe to my right side. Because of the strong Sun and hot temputures , I plan to leave at 5 pm, swim through the night and morning only to take rest breaks here and there and during the hot afternoon, no sleeping.
Very scary, Thrilling, but excited to swim start at night. This river I never been on and know little about, That’s hard core extreme, risky dangerous adventure ( I love that ) . I wore two pairs of swim trunks with an tight T- shirt, I used an mixture of brown palm tree oil, coconut oil and vasoline. I use this to cover up my whole body , to protect my skin from pollution, sunburn and chafting. I painted my face for skin protection. I wore an camouflage bandara on my head…
The Guides called me Rambo … I said no. I’m. David the flashlights we used were not so strong because the battery seem to be dying, I ask the lead boat to use an fire torch. After 10 minutes of swimming I ask myself is this an bad ideal ? Am I crazy ? After 30 minutes of swimming I decided to think of happy thoughts and the fear seemed to go away…
… I tried to stay in the middle part of the river, with every river I swam all the danger seem to be at the shoreline, It was so nice to see the people gather at the banks of the river , Philippino people are curious and shy, especially the kids. Locals couldn’t understand the concept of someone swimming pass their homes , swimming for the protection of their river, raising issues of the enviroment and Eco- system. At the beginning of the swim I found it was difficult to convince the people the purpose of what I’m doing.
As I approach next villages and towns, people started to gather to see the Canadian swimmer. They started to call me Rambo. I guess my guides told people and the name spread quickly to communities down river. People who live along the river are poor and in some areas very poor. Even though they don’t have much, and don’t know English. they still like to offer to me , rice, breads, coconuts, fruits.. I looked behind me and I saw an floatilla of boats , I guess they just want to follow for an while … as I’m approaching the next village I will stop, and thank everyone …
The locals at this village warned my guides about the crocodiles down stream around the bend as the River narrows , but not to worry they are baby crocs. ( oh gee .. thanks for letting me know ).
For my food supply , I use an variety of energy bars, Gatorade, fruits , lots of water, and baby food I bought at grocery store. The baby food in jars, very easy to digest and easy on my stomach. I ask crew members where they put my baby foods, One crew member replied ” very sorry Sir David Rambo I brought it home to feed my niece , I thought you buy it for her ? he said. ” instead of getting grumpy, I just laugh then other two crew members laugh.. Then I chewed on my energy bar and swam … I suffered from muscle cramping, legs arms and even hands, I change swim stroke and swim angle of the stroke and it went away.
No muscle cramp or anything else was going to stop my swim , I was very determined to continue. I had to portage dams, waterfalls and shallow areas, My crew carry the canoes and supplies, I offered to help them but they refused my help. I just looked around an enjoyed the moment, and absorbed the views and memories. I estimate the river current to be steady at 2 k to 5 k per hour, I didn’t see many rocks in the river, but there was hundreds of tree branches and coconut shells. I didn’t see many fishes during the swim, but I did see water buffalo using the river for their drinking and bathing. I saw many birds of all colour and sizes. I was lucky to see the endangered Philippine Eagle, an huge proud animal ‘ what an beautiful sight.’ to see the bird stretch out his wings and take flight. The water quality of the river is polluted, I estimate only 20% is somewhat clean. The biggest crocodile in the world was captured here The locals put him in an zoo, and named him ‘ Long Long’ ( I hope never to meet any of his offspring Lucy or Lyle Long )” During the second night of swimming , I was warned to stay close to canoe, we are approaching ‘ crocodile alley ‘ I picked up my swim pace and swam as fast and quietly as I can for two hours. We reach the next village and took break there. It was 3 am and there to my surprise was a crowd gathered at this village. I couldn’t believe people stayed up to welcome me, there even was an small band and local town official to greet crew and I. I greeted all the people who came out. I shook their hands ask their names and thanked them for being here. I ask them to join me for an few minutes and we pick up garbage from the shoreline. With the help of many, after about 15 minutes or so all garbage was collected and place in proper area. That’s when I felt that maybe my swim does or did make an differences in peoples behaviour about pollution, and Protecting our environment for the next generation to enjoy. Before I left that village, I resupplied my foods, for the final journey.. I told the residents that I plan to return next year, so you better keep your village clean. before I left I ate their foods and drank their beers that they offered and I swam away. My favourite time of the day to swim is morning just before and during sunrise. The jungle seem to be quiet and peaceful. The morning sun is an welcoming sight, gives me strength and encouragement. That morning as I’m swimming I saw an strange ripple in the water, it must be those turtles on the the river 200 meters I past by. Hours later my crew was laughing, I ask what’s so funny, they said I am fearless because I swam with giant Python and I never flinched. My face turned white and there was more laughter. I said why you didn’t warned me ? They replied ‘ snake came quickly and too late to warn you, you would’ve been startle and make mistake. I guess what you don’t know can’t hurt you in this situation. Later on last day of swim the wind picked up, I was approaching the sea, I can taste some salt water now but still about an hour left to go. I position myself closer to the shore because the water was getting choppy and the threat of Tiger Sharks. I finished up my swim at an monument dedicated to the Explorer Ferdinand Magellen. He did not come to shore here but at this spot has been remembered by the natives who saw his ships pass by here. I love history so I guess it’s kinda neat to finish my swim at Magellen Monument.
I thanked my support crew for their patience with me when I’m grumpy, I wished them all the best for 2016 and promised to see them when I returned.. People ask me if I was scared, crazy or brave to do such an swim my reply was I told them that I was honored and thankful to swim in their river The word ‘ scared ‘ no need to speak that word, I keep it to myself.
I call my event ‘ an extreme, hardcore,marathon, environmental River Swim….
Rank of difficulty. 6 out of 10
Rank of danger. 10 out of 10
Overall Adventure experience. Priceless!