It’s not too soon to think of Christmas, for two reasons. First, what do you get the kayaker who has everything? How about an autographed copy of Paul Caffyn’s The Dreamtime Voyage: Around Australia Kayak Odyssey, 25th anniversary edition, published in 2010?
The other reason to think of Christmas is Paul set out on his incredible expedition just a couple of days after Christmas 1981. He tried but could not get major sponsors. He courted filmmakers, but that didn’t work because they wanted to stage a crocodile attack to make it more exciting. Finally, he determined to finance the voyage himself and just go for it.
After much dreaming, visualizing, and planning, Paul and a paddling partner launched from Port Phillip Bay on December 28th and headed counter-clockwise around Australia in the Round Australia Kayaking Expedition (RAKE). They soon squabbled and broke up their partnership a few days later. Paul continued on, undaunted. Fortunately, he had a little help from his friends, who did food drops, and camped and paddled with him when possible. Other than two-way radios, Paul did not use a GPS or other electronic gadgets on his trip. He used gumption, not gizmos to complete his circumnavigation.
It was a rigorous, vigorous journey. Paul kept a diary and recounted every important detail, which he inserts into the book. To show the reader how it really was, Paul includes a slew of beautiful and exciting photographs, with over five dozen in full color. The glossy pictures alone made me want the book, but it was his sharp and colorful writing that kept my interest.
Here is an excerpt from the early part of the book, when Paul was embarking through surf, alone:
“The surf was heavy and dumping with great force. At 2:30p.m. I launched into the calm water of a small creek and began punching into the inshore break. Nearing the back of this line of breakers, a big mother dropped right on top of me. Its force popped the sprayskirt in. The kayak stood on its stern briefly, but I braced hard and the kayak hurtled backwards for the beach on the face of the wave. With a cockpit half full of water, I paddled back to the sand and emptied out.” What an ordeal! But that was nothing, compared to a failed trip through the surf late in his journey. Want to know more? Get the book.
On page 114, Paul recounts feeling sleepy while making one of many long crossings, when suddenly “…a black object caught my eye which hadn’t been there minutes before. A huge triangular-shaped fin was weaving in behind the stern. I could see a smaller tail fin 10 feet behind the dorsal fin. It was an enormous shark. My sleepiness was instantly shed.” What happened next? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
These excerpts let us savor the flavor of the expedition and his writing style. He is matter of fact throughout as he describes his daily tribulations, and inserts his dry downunder humor throughout the narrative to keep us laughing through his pain. Truly, his writing is so good it should be considered literature.
For those of you who have not yet read the book, your primary question may be “did the rake finish the RAKE?” (spoiler alert!) Yes, he did. On December 23rd, Paul finished at the start of his circumnavigation. After thrills and spills, and many long days of grueling paddling in dangerous and beautiful waters, The Dreamtime Voyage was over.
Paul wrote in the epilogue: “The ability to daydream lies within all of us. All that is involved is setting your sights on a goal that is achievable, then steadfastly working towards fulfilling that dream.” As a daydreamer myself, I really connected with his words. Paul inspires us to live the dream, to imagine what can be, to figure a way to make it happen, and then do it.
Dreamtime is a book you will cherish. Get it for the kayaker who has everything, or get it just for yourself. The bad news is the book is not widely available, especially in the States. The good news is you can obtain a copy by ordering directly from Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org . It will be worth it.