Friday, April 10, 2009

A most ambitious journey by canoe

In late 1889 to early 1890, Kiwis George and James Park paddled and dragged two 40kg (80lb) Rob Roy canoes 330km, from New Zealand’s west coast to the east coast—Hokitika to Lyttelton—in 13 days, and then paddle-sailed down the coast to Christchurch.

In 2008, Kiwi mulit-sporters Steve Gurney and Steve Moffatt (the Park brothers were Moffatt’s great-great uncles) decided to retrace George and James’ trip, just to see who the real Coast to Coast legend was (Gurney well known for his championship wins on the famous Coast to Coast race).

The Steves decided that Moffatt would do the trip as his great-great uncles would have—in a replica Rob Roy, built just for the trip, and using the same resources available in those days, including the same clothing, equipment, sail and diet (roast beef sandwiches) his ancestors would have—no Goretex or neoprene in those days; while Gurney would use light, modern day clothing, equipment and food, including an inflatable kayak—and then compare what each journey was like.

The three videos making up the
excellent adventure are all accessible here.

Take away: “Learn the skills, and go out and have an adventure.”

Excerpt from a newspaper report of the original journey, Crossing the Main Divide
"They started from Hokitika on December 24th in two canoes, Mr G Park's being the Sunbeam and Mr J Park's the One-One, and experienced wet weather nearly all of the way through a most eventful voyage. They carted the craft to the Taramakau, and camped. On the next day, each towed his canoe with light lines up-river. The weather was squally, and great difficulty was experienced in getting up the rapids. That night they camped near the Otira in an old hut. On the following evening, they were in sight of the Hurunui saddle which is 3141 ft above sea level. Having been engaged in building trig stations in that area, Mr G Park knew some of the road, but beyond the saddle, neither had ever been before. After another day's toil, they reached the foot of the mountain, carried up their swags and camped on the summit. Another full day was spent bringing up their canoes, and by dinner time – namely, a late dinner hour –were placed on the headwaters of the Hurunui. All this work being very arduous in consequence of the rough nature of the country caused by the earthquakes of a year ago having torn up trees and caused large chasms to open."

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