Doing a big or small adventure is generally lots of fun, with some moments asking yourself “Why am I doing this?”
Apart from being on the adventure, I also find the planning a very rewarding and fun part of the adventure process: researching, talking to people who inspire me to have a go and enter the unknown, working out the route, and solving the logistical problems. I love to think about the possibilities and how I can overcome the challenges (I have a lot more than most people). When a blurry, sometimes whacky idea transforms into a clear vision, it’s exciting and hugely satisfying knowing that I have solved another problem, and I’m one step closer to my goal.
Of course, there are many moments when I ask myself “Why am I doing this?” but that’s part of the whole rewarding experience. The lows make you appreciate the highs and successes of your journey.
But I feel that the most important thing to keep in mind (which is hard at times) is that the big goal at the end is only a point to aim for. The goal may change due to circumstances or just because it’s not right, but all the experiences from dreaming up the idea, planning, organising, to actually doing it, is the real adventure. As the old saying goes “You need to smell the roses along the way”.
In this blog, I will talk about some of the planning aspects that have been keeping me busy over the last two years: the route and timing, how it’s structured and some of the challenges.
The Route & Timing
The route will follow the Murray River from the Hume Weir to the Sea near Goolwa, South Australia. The expedition will start on 1st March 2016 and hopefully finished by the end of May. I decided to go in Autumn as this will provide the best weather although March can be pretty hot which will be a huge challenge for me. On the flip side, if I went later in later months, it would be way too cold, especially as we will be camping on the banks of the Murray in tents.
Until we start it is impossible to know how many k’s I will be able to do each day. This will depend upon the flow in the river, how windy or hot the conditions are, or even just how I am feeling on the day.
I am anticipating paddling between 4 to 6 days in a row, and then a rest day. On each paddling day, I expect to paddle for six hours, split into two, three hour legs with a lunch break in between.
With my disability, I need lots of people power to make this expedition a reality. This expedition is a huge team effort. I am extremely fortunate to have an amazing diverse group of people who are volunteering their time, skills and even equipment to make this a reality. I will talk more about the team in later blogs.
I will have a six people involved at any one time in the roles of: Support Kayaker to help me on the water, a Support Boat Driver to take equipment, a Backup Boat Driver just in case and help out, Land Crew and Carer.
Apart from the obvious challenges of dealing with weather and logistics, I also have the challenges of pressure sores, fatigue and extreme temperatures.
Although I have a special cushion in my kayak to minimise the chance of pressure sores on my bum, they are still a very real reality for me. Paddling the two legs a day with a break in the middle for lunch will give me a chance to get out of the kayak, back into my wheelchair giving my bum a small rest. It’s something I need to be very vigilant about. If I do get one, it could be the end of the expedition.
I have been training four days per week, four to six hours of continuous paddling with short food and spray-down breaks. I usually also get in a hand cycle and weights once per week. However, paddling day-after-day over three months, fatigue will be a big issue. I’ve been told that able-bodied paddlers generally use 80% trunk and 20% arms. As I can’t move anything from the armpits down, I cannot use my trunk and I need to rely on 100% arms (and these don’t fully function). I can only take it as it comes and if I get tired, I may need to have extra breaks. It’s about going with the flow. I suppose one of the reasons why I wanted to do this expedition was the unknown, to see how far I can push myself both physically and mentally.
The dreaded temperature will be a constant battle! Not being able to control the temperature of my body is, I think one of the hardest aspects of quadriplegia. When it’s hot I cook, and in the cold I freeze. I’m just like a reptile. A good temperature range for me is between 24 – 28 degrees. Unfortunately, we won’t be getting much of that on the Murray River.
In the heat I plan to paddle early, and to keep cool, the support kayaker will spray me down with water. But once it gets over 30 degrees, I will need to stop.
The cool will be nice while paddling, but it will be tough when it’s cold and I’m getting into bed and getting up in the mornings. To overcome this we have a generator that will run a small blow heater to warm up my tent until I get into bed or get dressed in the morning.
The most important element for this expedition to be a success is flexibility. Not all things will work out and a lot of unexpected issues will arise that we as a team will deal with at the time.
Who knows what will happen but we can be assured it will be one hell of an adventure!
I can’t wait until we start!
If you have any burning questions please feel free to post comments and I will get back to you.