Since I replaced a backpack for a skateboard I’ve not had much time for being a tourist. I don’t mean this to knock tourism, but when I previously travelled it was just that - travelling, travelling, because I could, perhaps just to see things that were in the guidebooks. Indeed, I carried a guidebook.
But I don’t remember much from the few disappearing acts of ‘gap year’ and university holidays, and I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s because I didn’t have a purpose. There was no rhyme or reason to my ventures. And looking back, I guess the reason for those journeys was to find myself somehow. If I had the chance again I honestly think I’d do it differently, I’d set myself a mission, quite possibly like the ones I attempt now. The memories are etched into my mind from the moment an idea for an adventure takes seed; each step is worth remembering, because it means something.
Stuck on Sydkoster (South Koster Island), on Sweden’s only marine reserve, I still don’t have the urge to go exploring when I’m here. Sometimes these journeys are a chance to get a slight feel for a place, a nod to a future visit when I do have more time, and I’ve made peace with the occasional straight-lining through a place in protection against fatigue. If I kept moving on those few days when a chance for rest is offered, I’d burn out before 500 miles.
A brisk, hour-long walk with the camera is always part of the plan, though. No tour guides or buses, just a walk out of the tent - or the hotel, or the stranger’s spare room - and meander. It’s nice feeling how the rocks are beneath the shoes, to stand at the water’s edge knowing you’re not about to get on - or in - it. Everywhere has an electricity and energy and only by moving away from houses and infrastructure can you work out whether you’re connected to it.
From my vantage point, the sea looks flat. The Swedish flags billowing out from the rooftops remind me that the wind is up to 15 or 16 metres a second, and I feel duped by calmness of this sheltered bay. I want to be out there, on the move, but in these conditions I’d be asking for trouble.
A day later I was pedalling through and out of the channel, then out into the water that yesterday had looked so flat. The wind is lower today, growing from 6 m/s to 10 m/s, and I’m glad I had that day of rest.
I’m on the edge of comfort, aware of my mortality, of the ramifications of a loss of focus and a capsize. I’d plotted my route; to the right of that island, to the left of that, to try and maximise shelter from the rolling North Sea for as long as possible, but knew at some point I’d have to rotate east and make the 2-mile crossing to the mainland archipelago.
I’d decided to go for it from the first island but opted out halfway through and made a 30 degree change. ‘Let’s give it 20 minutes, see what the weather does.’ I found a lovely little beach facing north east, escaped from Hobie, and the rain started to drop. And I mean drop, because fall wouldn’t do it justice.
The weather was sharing its wisdom. ‘Go now, or you’ll just get cold. Go now, or you might not go at all.’
Hobie is brilliantly stable and in high seas, with feet pumping (unlike a normal kayak my toes will never get cold) and arms doing the same, mainly using the paddle for stability and bracing, I never felt close to capsize. But the potential was there. I’m SO glad I didn’t leave Koster yesterday.
Waves towered overhead, often blocking out any view of the dark grey islands that rose up from the east coast. I picked my spot, a route that would take me into a sheltered channel until the next open water section, and went for it. Compared to Saturday’s crossing from Norway to Koster, this was a gauntlet. Tense, soaked through (the water temperature of the North Sea rush is not as mild as that of the Oslo Fjord) and resolute not to let one of the regular rogue waves over-tickle Hobie’s bottom, thus promoting a topple.
In other words, I wasn’t going over, I was just getting to the other side. An hour after leaving my sheltered cove, we slipped into the lee of the first island in the archipelago, and a few gulls chattered in congratulation. So far, Sweden has been a challenge.
The third day of this journey was one of two halves. The first, a calm, gentle trail from headland to headland, water lapping at the bow, a solitary seal popping up nearby to eye me curiously before releasing a disappointing cough and descending to the deep. A short swim in waters now cooled by the North Sea, then finally out of the Oslo Fjord and into open water.
The second half is when the wind rises and our destination is a silhouette on the horizon, clear sight of which is increasingly blocked by growing waves. The first real test of the Hobie’s stability, which it passes. The first test of my nerve in unsettling conditions. A reminder of the stamina and determination it takes to complete even one leg of a journey like this; forget the whole thing.
For three hours we battled across the open stretch between the Norwegian island of Vesterøy and the national park of Kosterhavets across the border in Sweden, and it was with great relief that as the island neared the path of the wind was blocked, and entry to the South Koster marina was an easy one.
I’ve come to realise these past few days that this journey isn’t going to be a non-stop smash. Travelling on the ocean encourages patience and reverence to the elements. I wake to big weather. The winds are high and a crossing to the mainland today would be a risk. So, on just the fourth day of this journey, I am forced into a waiting game. This will not be the first of such days.
Still, there are worse places to be stuck than the Kosterhavet islands. Sweden’s only official Marine National Park (opened 2009). A kayakers dream (when the winds aren’t this high), a playground for harbour seals, teeming with birdlife and a protected marine ecosystem, Koster could keep you busy for a week. I took a walk out to each end of South Koster island to survey the sea from where I’d come and the waters I was still to cross. The quiet, whistling wind keeps the Swedish flags flying on their masts as the smooth, rounded granite rocks (which I’ll soon become used to) mark the island’s territory.
Forced as my stay is, the chance to breath in the air from a stationary position is enjoyable and relaxing, the ideal opportunity to prepare for a more measured approach down the coastline of West Sweden.
For an hour before the leaving party arrived, Titus and I knelt in the rain on the Aker Brygge dock and did all those things which summed up how last-minute this journey was.
Stickers on the kayak, working out where each bag was supposed to go (there are two main bulkheads and a day hole, in addition to a storage tray area behind the seat), understanding how the rudder worked and the Mirage drive slotted into the hull.
And all of a sudden a few faces turned up and I found myself climbing into the Hobie Mirage Adventure for the very first time and tentatively pedalling away with a wave. This was my first time in a Hobie kayak, and I had just started a journey to Helsinki from Oslo. I mean, why not?
There were two other Hobie’s on the water with me. Titus, in his borrowed white craft, and another remarkable man, Cato Zahl Pedersen, who at the age of 14 had climbed an electricity pole in order to get a view of a fine Oslo sunset and had been hit with 17,000 volts.
He fell to the ground and lost both of his arms. Surrounded by sorrow from family and friends in the weeks and months to follow, he found solace in the local running club who just wanted people to run faster. ‘Well, I could do that,’ he said with a smile.
Cato has gone on to win multiple gold medals in various Paralympic disciplines in both Winter and Summer. He climbed Everest and had to turn back 200 metres from the Summit because there were so many people he wouldn’t have had time to Summit and return safely. He has the true mark of a successful man, suggesting it was a good thing not to have fingers in -40C temperatures when skiing to the South Pole.
Perhaps more rewarding than any of his endurance feats, is the hope he gives to youngsters, especially those with disabilities. When we met on the dock he thrust his right-handed hook towards me leaving no option other than to shake it. ‘I’m a normal man,’ that move said, loud and clear.
Cato left us after 4 miles (Titus and I were kind of glad, because the guy was supremely fast!) and pedalled to his hometown beach, and the day continued. I’ve done no real exercise since I finished my last expedition in mid June and was sore after 10 miles. Titus was feeling the same - pedalling recumbent style will take some getting used to, but I felt solace from the thought that in a few days this will be second nature.
Following Titus’ fairly impressive backflip off a 6 metre diving board (mainly impressive because his legs were so stiff he could barely climb the steps to the board!), we stopped for the day 20 miles out of Oslo, in Drøbak, staying for one more night at Titus and Vanja’s home just 30 metres from the water, and then Day Two began in earnest. Titus opted to swap his Hobie Kayak for a Stand Up Paddleboard (he has one helluva journey of his own coming up next year) and we made fine progress south along the Oslo fjord, a gentle tailwind making life easy.
We pulled over when cruise ships passed, enjoyed the 200 metre change of scenery through the canal in Moss, and revelled in round the small harbour in Larkollen to be greeted by Titus’ wife and child, Theo. We’re being hosted by Ninette tonight, and she was there too, arms wide, beaming. A ray of sunshine.
It was a lovely evening, an incredible four-course meal that Ninette had been preparing all day, and a little more planning and preparation. Tomorrow I leave alone. It’s time to head to Sweden.
Tired, weather-beaten and thoroughly soaked through, I fastened my kayak to the jetty, made my way up the pontoon and squelched through the open restaurant. From both sides the most gorgeous heads turned towards me. Perfectly symmetrical faces, blonde hair, blue eyes, that soft, tanned look of healthy, well-toned people.
I’m on a constant pursuit to find situations in which feeling inadequate and inconsequential is the result (it takes the pressure off, knowing we’re less important than we’d like to make out), but this took the biscuit. Without planning it, I’ve descended upon a part of the world which breeds beautiful, strong humans. This will be character building.
Three weeks ago my plans for the summer were thrown into the air by a cancelled project, and so I had to make a swift decision: spend my summer lying in bed, or have an adventure…
For a while I’ve been eyeing up the Hobie Kayak, an innovative craft based on your average kayak but with one, critical difference; it’s pedal-powered! The Hobie is one of the remaining items on my list that required little to no prior experience before setting off on a journey; so with a lack of time to prepare, it seemed like a cool choice.
I’d been talking to Hobie about working together on a journey already so thankfully they jumped right in with my suggestion to paddle around the Swedish coastline. Sadly the Swedish distributor was on holiday and off grid (she was pedalling a Hobie kayak around an archipelago!) so the closest kayak we could access was in Norway.
The plan evolved fast - it had to! Talking closely with Vesseli from the European HQ and Kristian in Norway, the decision was taken to begin in Oslo, Norway and end in Helsinki, Finland. Taking in more countries on this trip would be better promotion for Hobie, and a more varied experience for me. Win win.
Also, and this is no joke, I’ve always wanted to finish a journey in Finland. Get it?
And so, the idea was set. A furious week of emailing, calling in favours, linking arms with sponsors I’ve grown close to over the years. I went to my parent’s house so I could have a fixed delivery address, and the postman came day after day. Expedition Christmas.
You know, things just come together when you open up and allow them too. A little hard work is essential, of course, but making a plan and putting it out to the world invites just as much kindness as negativity (although the negativity has abated in recent years, try and tell me these things can’t be done and I’ll just prove you wrong!).
Case in point. A week ago I didn’t know anyone in Norway, needed a place to stay and prepare on my arrival, and I also needed some stickers made up last-minute to pimp up the kayak.
All the way down to an hour before I flew little bits of gear arrived, but ultimately it all came and it was time to roll. A day later I stumbled off the plane in Oslo to be met my Titus, who had been following along on Facebook and had offered ground support for the first couple of days.
It so happened that Titus and his wife Vanja had a very cool sticker-making business. Life is good! It’s important to remember that each of us could be the nudge, the support network for a challenge like this. Just a bit of time, generosity and kindness can give someone else the chance to be brilliant. Titus and his family became my support network this time round. Stay open to your chance to be helped, or be the helper :)
I’ll write more about the first three days on the water in my next post, but this one is intended to show just how fast these things can come together. One idea, a little persistence and, most importantly, a decision. Let’s do it.
MEDIA RELEASE | 14TH AUGUST 2014
BRITISH ADVENTURER BEGINS
MIRAGE KAYAK JOURNEY
FROM OSLO TO HELSINKI
Since quitting his day job in 2005 British man Dave Cornthwaite has written three books and broken eight world records in the pursuit of an ambitious self-powered goal that has already seen him cover over 18,000 miles around the world.
This morning in Oslo, Cornthwaite begins the 11th leg of Expedition1000, a project to complete a series of 25 different non-motorised journeys, each a minimum of 1000 miles in distance.
Starting at Aker Brygge/ Tjuvholmen at 11am, Cornthwaite left the Norwegian capital of Oslo bound for Helsinki, Finland. He will travel over 1200 miles along the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish coastlines using a pedal kayak powered by Hobie’s innovative Mirage system, based on the propulsion of penguin flippers.
In addition to encountering stunning scenery and marine life, Cornthwaite expects to face stormy weather, open water crossings and busy sea traffic, but he is no stranger to overcoming challenges.
His previous journeys include world record distances by stand up paddleboard along the Mississippi, and across Australia by skateboard. He has also sailed across the Pacific and in 2012 swam over 1000 miles down the Missouri River.
Speaking from the UK earlier this week, Cornthwaite looked forward to arriving in Oslo: “This will be a memorable way to celebrate my first visit to Scandinavia. It’s a part of the world renowned for exploration, and I hope my own journey inspires locals along the coastline to come and join me on the water.”
Cornthwaite is a passionate advocate of encouraging adventure as a way of developing human potential. His motto of ‘make life memorable, say yes more’ has already helped him raise over £100,000 for good causes. He hopes to raise £1 million by the end of his Expedition1000 project.
Notes for Editors:
More details on www.davecornthwaite.com
Email Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi-Res Images for Press Use: http://bit.ly/1a8xkpR
To follow the journey visit davecornthwaite.com and facebook.com/expedition1000.
Here’s a list of gear, item weight and associated web links for my upcoming 1200mile Hobie Kayak journey around the Scandinavian coast from Oslo to Helsinki.
If you have any questions or would like recommendations for your own trip, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Hobie Mirage Adventure | 34kg | http://bit.ly/mirageadventure
Hammock Bliss Sky Tent 2 | 1200g | http://bit.ly/hamblissskytent2
Hammock Bliss Sky Bed Hammock | 660g | http://bit.ly/hamblissskybed
Karrimor X-Lite Bivi Bag | 206g | http://bit.ly/karrimorxlitebivi
Multimat Adventure Compact 55 Sleeping Mat | 440g | http://bit.ly/multimatadventure25
Travelrest Pillow | 200g | http://bit.ly/travelrestpillow
Hammock Bliss Waterproof Shelter/ Tarp | 480g | http://bit.ly/hamblissshelter
Marmot Atom Sleeping Bag | 680g | http://bit.ly/marmotatom
Petzl Headtorch | http://www.petzl.com
DeLorme inReach GPS Explorer | | http://bit.ly/delormegpsexplorer
iPhone 5s | 112g | http://bit.ly/Appleiphone5sblack
Powertraveller Solar Gorilla | 700g | http://bit.ly/ptsolargorilla
Powertraveller Power Gorilla | 700g | http://bit.ly/ptpowergorilla
Powertraveller Power Chimp | 73g (with 2 x AA) | http://bit.ly/ptpowerchimp
GoPro Hero 3 Black | 136g | http://bit.ly/goprocamhero3black
GoPro Hero 3 Silver | 136g | http://bit.ly/goprocamhero3black
Sony Nex-5T Compact System Camera | 276g | http://bit.ly/sonynex-5t
Manfrotto BeFree Tripod | 1.4kg | http://bit.ly/befreetripod
Phantom 2 Quadricopter | 1.03kg | http://bit.ly/djiphantom2drone
6 x PT Rechargeable AA batteries | http://bit.ly/ptrechargeableAA
Aquapac 90l Upano Duffel | 876g | http://bit.ly/aquapacupano90l
Aquapac Noatak 60l Drybag | 391g | http://bit.ly/aquapacnoatak60l
Aquapac Noatak 35l Drybag | 315g | http://bit.ly/aquapacnoatak35l
Mini Whanganui Phone Pouch | 33g | http://bit.ly/aquapacminiwhan
Palm Oceana Jacket | 1.009kg | http://bit.ly/palmoceana
Palm Tempo Jacket | 275g | http://bit.ly/palmtempo
Palm Neon Paddling Pants | 679g | http://bit.ly/palmneon
Palm Horizon Shorts | 378g | http://bit.ly/palmhorizon
Palm Kaikoura PFD | 1.242kg | http://bit.ly/palmkaikoura
2 x Buff Insect Repelling | 38g | http://bit.ly/buffinsect
1 x Isobar Black Visor Buff | 53g | http://bit.ly/buffvisor
1 x SayYesMore Buff | 37g | http://bit.ly/sayyesmorebuff
1 x SayYesMore Flow397 T-Shirt | 150g | http://bit.ly/sayyesmoreflow397
2 x BAM Zipneck Baselayer | http://bit.ly/BAMZipneck
3 x BAM Sport Trunk | 130g | http://bit.ly/BAMSportTrunk
1 x Berghaus Smoulder III Hoodie | 347g | http://bit.ly/smoulderhoodie
1 x Berghaus Technical Tee | 160g | http://bit.ly/berghaustechnicaltee
And here’s a video introducing some of the gear:
Since starting Another World Adventures Larissa and I haven’t spent much time exploring our own beautiful country – we’re generally jumping on and off boats, camels or horses in far flung locations meeting our lovely operators.
So when our friend and adventurer Dave Cornthwaite offered the opportunity to take a couple of ICE trikes (including his beloved ‘Trikey’) on an adventure around the UK we jumped at the chance, what a great opportunity for a micro-adventure on and to try out a new form of non-motorised transport.
Picking up the trikes in Falmouth in Cornwall we wound our way via the muddy off-road Bissoe trail to the north coast and from there we tackled and highs and lows of the Cornish hills.
We quickly fell in love with our trikes loving how fast they could go on the flat and downhill - like giant go-karts! The endless uphills were incredibly challenging but the excellent gear system meant even the toughest Cornish hill could be tackled with cheers of support from passers by.
Our route took us via Portreath, Hayle, St Ives, Penzance and we even managed a quick detour via the beautiful Scilly Isles -highly recommended. We wild-camped some nights with just our bivvy bags which added to the micro-adventure fun. By the time we raced the last few kilometres into Falmouth we were firm trike converts with some impressive newly-found leg muscles :-)
Our micro-adventure in stats:
Distance triked: 135km
Favourite place triked: St Marys in the Scilly Isles
Most delicious meal: Seafood pasta with mussels we collected from the beach
Top ‘Trikey’ vs ‘Red’ moment: (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=741486382557093)
Best thing about trikes: you can multi-task in a way you cant on a bike. Open gates, eat pasties and map read without ever dismounting!
He has prepared a great write-up on his blog and also sent us a cool list of statistics about his trip. It’s worth noting that Poul’s trip around Cornwall was done with barely any prep, he got the thumbs up just three days before he started. Go Poul!
#TrikeCornwall in numbers:
23.000 feet of accents (never got off to push)
6500+ twitter interactions
1000s smiles received
350 miles cycled
£145 raised (www.justgiving.com/TrikeCornwal)
17% steepest accent & decent
12 Pasties eaten
8 days on the road
3 maps to show the way
1 near crash (bus pulled out in front of me on a downhill section! I love the disk brakes on the trike)
Would you like an adventure on Trikey, or my ElliptiGO? Just drop me a line with a proposal…
Since I limped home from Nice in June 2013 with a damaged back and my ElliptiGO resting quietly in a garage on the Cote D’Azur, I’ve wondered how to get it back to the UK in one piece.
I could ride it myself, but don’t much have the time, and after all, I’ve already completed over 1000 miles on an ElliptiGO.
But someone else could do it…?
I popped the question on Facebook and in two weeks had over 100 applicants from potential ElliptiGO couriers.
Eventually I opted with Australian Tom Kelly and for the last couple of months he has been riding through Europe slowly gathering tales to tell.
Here’s Tom’s report on the trip, which ended in London just a couple of days ago:
It’s rare that any challenge can happen without help from others. Here are a few ideas for how to create the perfect team.