By Jim Kakuk
(editor’s note: This week, Tsunami Rangers Captain Jim Kakuk relates some of his experiences during his recent trip to the Land Down Under)
Australia! Even the name conjures up images of a country filled with big adventures and a wilderness larger than the Wild West. Geographically the size of the lower 48 states, Australia has a rather small population of 20 million. Though the majority of people live along the coastal green belt, there is still a lot of open space and long distances between cities and shires. I just traveled two and a half months in New South Wales but only caught a glimpse of what this great continent has to offer.
Arriving in Sydney in late January, I knew it was summer and hot. Dee Ratcliffe picked me up at the airport and we went straight to the water along the south Sydney beaches to freshen up in the warm salty sea at Clovelly. The next day Dee and Mike Steinfeld, my host, took me on a paddle in the Sydney harbour. We launched from the south side and crossed to the north shore, under the Harbour Bridge and then back past the opera house to Shark Island. This was a nice introduction to the beautiful Sydney city seascape. The rest of the week I hiked the stunning coastal trail and swam in the beaches from Bondi to Maroubra along the shore looking over the South Pacific, on the other side of the world.
On a sunny afternoon, I went for a paddle with Rob Mercer from Expedition Kayaks out around the South Head and along the refracting headlands of sand stone that is the prevalent rock form in Sydney. Rob dropped me off downtown at “Central” and I headed south. Trains are a really good form of transportation in Sydney and to the outlying towns, like my next destination, Cambeltown. There I found Wayne and Mel Hanley at their dojo. I watched the Jujitsu class that Mel was teaching before catching a ride with them to Jervis Bay. Like many coastal towns, Jervis Bay is touristy with miles of sandy beaches that features the whitest and squeakiest sand I have seen or felt under my feet. I stayed at Sasha Joura’s for a week and hung out with her and Tsunami Ranger Mark Hutson. We swam the remote spots and tramped the coastal trails of Booderee Park. The plentiful bar-b-q grills abound in the park camp and picnic spots made cooking out easy and we had many a sausage on the Barbie!
Sasha and Mark dropped me off in Moruya, where I camped for a few days before my next excursion to the southern end of New South Wales in the shire of Bega. There I worked with Lawrence Geoghegan of Nadgee Kayaks building a Tsunami Ranger X-16 mold and test boat. I visited the Bega cheese factory, the whaling museum in Eden and enjoyed fantastic “hippy gourmet” meals prepared by Lawrence’s wife Nadia. While I was in Brogo, we were inundated by torrential summer rains and witnessed the highest water in the river since 1972. While I was watching the flood waters rise, other disasters were going on in the world—cyclones and floods in Queensland and earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan.
On April1st I went to the New South Wales sea kayak club’s annual gathering in Bateman’s Bay and taught a rock garden class and gave a presentation about the Tsunami Rangers and adventure kayaking in surf, rocks and caves along the California-Oregon coast. It was well received and a good turnout of 160 people from the club participated in the three-day event called “Rock n Roll”. At R&R I met John Anderson and he gave me a ride up to the Central Coast, which is above Sydney.
In the town of Budgewoi, I enjoyed quiet time with John and his family before heading back down to North Sydney. In the suburb of Hornsby, I stayed with Sean Smith and his family for my last week. Sean, AKA the “Fat Paddler”, had set up a paddle out of Sydney Harbor Kayaks. We met for a day of rocking along the south shore towards Manley. Great weather, warm water and rocks with waves made for a “Rangeresque” day with the Fat Paddler team. That evening we went out in downtown Sydney for a Mexican dinner complete with shots of tequila, just like in California!
I also got to meet Justin Jones, who with James Castrission paddled from Australia to New Zealand in 2007. The book and movie of their expedition is called, “Crossing the Ditch”. The “Ditch” is the common name given to the Tasman Sea that separates New Zealand from Australia. There is a lot to this achievement in kayak folklore Downunder, and the story has two parts. The book Solo by Vicki McAuley describes Andrew McAuley’s earlier attempt to kayak solo across the Tasman and his disappearance within sight of New Zealand. I recommend reading both books starting with “Solo”.
Recent kayaking events in Australia include Freya Hoffmeister’s circumnavigation, following the epic journey of Paul Caffyn. Currently, Stuart Trueman is attempting to be the third person to make this 15,000k paddle. In 2007, Sandy Robson ended her trip just shy of completion after being attacked by a giant salt water crocodile! And we think Herberts are a hazard.
If you go to Australia, allow plenty of time to catch the spirit of this big country and hospitable people. Next year it’s Oz2 from Sydney to Darwin!
Readers are invited to share their kayaking stories from Australia and to ask Jim questions. Just push the comment button below and go for it!