We have had a truly incredible, life-changing experience. We've been attacked by sharks, and up close with massive crocodiles, dugongs, blue whales, manta rays, Komodo dragons, dolphins and thousands of turtles. We've eaten a spartan meal on the kitchen floor with the family of a fisherman and we've been served up fresh red emporer, and even cold beer, on remote and inaccessible islands. We have paddled through some of the world's most amazing waterways, over so many thousands of hectares of tropical reef, and through regions of indescribable beauty.
The support we have had from the readers of this blog has been fantastic, and it has encouraged us on the hardest days to know that so many people are following along, as part of this adventure, from all over the world. We have met beautiful and incredible people from so many different backgrounds, from betel nut chewing grannies, vegetable farmers, goat herders and so many fishermen, to the quirky characters of north Queensland, and our beautiful saviours, the Angels of Cooktown (Margs and Mausey).
None of this adventure would have been able to take place without the generous support of our sponsors and so it is with humble gratitude that I'd like to say thanks to the following organisations, who took a gamble to support our bold plans.
The Australian Geographic Society - Thanks for your financial support and for giving so many others the opportunity to know that tis adventure is taking place. We were honoured and proud to be associated with such a prestigious organisation during the Archipaddlo Expedition and we are so thankful for the way you unquestioningly offered your support, and your concern for our safety, even when our plans changed so drastically during the trip.
Sea To Summit - Thanks for generously supplying so much of the equipment for this expedition. On so many occasions we were amazed at how well the equipment performed, and lasted, when exposed to such extreme conditions for such an extended period of time. Of particular note were the Solution Gear Helion paddles which are beautifully designed, lightweight and even after being used so many times as gondola poles in shallow reefs, they proved to be tough, durable and reliable. Thanks for making and supplying gear that is built to last.
GME - It was your safety equipment that gave us the confidence to venture into remote and wild areas of QLD and Indonesia. We kept our GME Personal Locator Beacons attached to ourselves (via a lanyard to an 'emergency bag') at all times we were on the water, like a seatbelt in a car. Fortunately we never had to use this equipment but we would not have attempted such a bold challenge without the peace of mind of knowing that should we need it, we'd be able to call for a rescue.
Pacific Action Sails - One of the finest and most valuable pieces of equipment that came along for the ride was the beautiful red sails that were strapped to the bow of our boats. On the days when the wind blew in the right direction (not so often in Indonesia!) the sails gave us that extra bit of propulsion needed to relieve our desperately tired muscles. The Pacific Action Sails are beautifully designed, they showed almost no signs of wear even after 8 months in the beating tropical sun, and I find it hard to imagine ever getting in my kayak again without this beautiful sail strapped to the deck.
Cooper Anchors - Thanks for supplying such a practical anchor, purpose built for kayaks. The plastic anchor not only holds firm into the sea bed, it did not damage our boats or other gear in any way which was a huge bonus. Minimising the metal in our boats was very important as everything rusts and corrodes in such harsh conditions so this anchor was the perfect solution.
Buff Headgear - Trying to tame a wild head of dreadlocks in a 30 knot wind, while hanging onto a paddle would have been impossible without wearing my Buff Headwear. This innovative headwear kept us protected from the sun, the wind, and so many bad hair days. Such a simple article should be an essential ingredient in any serious adventure.
I know there are so many others who have helped to get us through this adventure. Villagers who helped haul our heavy kayaks up a steep beach, fisherman who offered us their catch, people who cooked us a meal and pointed us in the right direction. Thank you to everyone who helped us and encouraged us to make this adventure a success.
Lastly, it is our families that have been the foundation of support for our adventure and we simply could not have achieved any of this crazy dream without your unwavering support. Thanks especially to Ma and Pa for sharing a beautiful part of this adventure with us, and for accepting two stowaways onto Trivial Pursuit for a couple of weeks. Thanks Rob for all of your technical genius - there simply would not have been a blog, and most likely no adventure, without your patient help. Thanks Jan for looking after the puppies (and all the rest of our gear) and for preventing Rob from chopping them into little pieces. Thanks Dad for so many emails and blog comments along the way. And to Honi, Lucy, Mum, Adam and Iron, thanks for keeping us motivated when we needed to hear a happy voice from home.
Archipaddlo has been such an incredible journey but we are not sad it is finished. We have learnt so much about ourselves and the world around us and we will take this adventure with us, applying the lessons and carrying the memories for the rest of our lives.
I'm madly tapping away at a keyboard to organise many of the stories from this adventure into a book that will hopefully be available some time in mid 2012. I'll keep you posted…