A means to a beginning.
One million and more paddle strokes purchased, two thousand four hundred thirty nine kilometers traversed, ten consecutive weeks, one dream dreamt. For ten weeks I ate, slept, and bathed in the waters that brought me to the ocean of the southern ocean of Australia. The daily erection of a tent, the boiling of a pot of water, the cooking of dehydrated meals, and of course the eight hours a day of gliding atop the sparkling surface of the Murray River. That became my world, a completely comfortable way of which each day is lived out. Breath, eat, sleep. A roof over my head, a soapy shower, cars, and concrete have become so foreign to me that I feel at a loss and realize it’s going to take some time to adjust back into normal civilization. Withdrawal symptoms are surfacing but self-pitying can be spared, my saving grace is the next adventure already beating down the front door to tear a piece from me.
It’s an incredibly powerful feeling to have paddled the third longest navigable river in the world, another reminder that we are only ever limited by ourselves. It’s a testament that anything can be accomplished if the mind is set and the heart is pure. Determination is the mind pushing the body past its physical limits despite the inner protest. Perseverance is the stubborn knowledge of waking up and doing it all again. But this journey to me wasn’t about proving anything to myself or others. Like any other expedition I’ve set out on in my life, the thing I’ve cherished most are the relationships weaved, the laughs shared, and the forever surprising kindness and hospitality shown by strangers.
One thing even more rewarding than bearing the Source to Sea title is the look in someone’s eyes when you’ve just filled them with inspiration. I couldn’t even pretend to brag about what I’ve just accomplished considering my paddling companions are two to two and half times my age and complained half as much. When we surfaced into small blips of civilization throughout the ten weeks most people were appalled at our filth and lack of bodily etiquette but the few people who dared to risk contact all barred the same amazement to the scale of our endeavour. What most people assume is in order to tackle an adventure like this you need to be a professional athlete, sponsored by major financial bodies, or lying on the non-conventional death bed. I can assure you that I am none of those. We are just normal people, carpenters, school teachers, pharmacist, mothers, fathers, humans. The only thing we have in common is none of us have ever stopped pursuing our dreams and goals. We never gave criticism a chance to interfere with believing in ourselves. Those riverbank spectators watched us paddle away those days with future possibilities in their eyes and hope in their chests.
The Murray has done a good job of testing my limits, feeling my weaknesses, and working its way into my faults. A worthy challenge it has been, however the Mighty Murray is the Rook in the game of thrones. Pawn to D3, I find my path blocked by the world’s King and Queen. South America to F7, Africa to E2, The Amazon and Nile are on my board game of maps and landscapes. What doesn’t kill you prepares you to do something that will.
Check Mate, Bring it on.