Monday, 17 February 2014

Cooktown to Kokoda

A few months back we were contacted by Paul & Carlo, asking about expedition boats for a trip they & a few mates had in the pipeline. Three of them, Mike, Carlo & Paul, were accomplished ski paddlers, coming through the surf clubs around Newcastle, while the fourth, Mark, 'would beat them all if they were on horses'!

They were planning a multi-faceted expedition that involved a mountain bike ride from Cooktown to Cape York, a crossing of the Torres Strait to PNG, then a trek over the Kokoda Track.

Rob has extensive experience of top-end paddling & the demands that this challenging part of the world can throw up, and we struck up an instant rapport with them whilst discussing what would be involved in pulling off the paddling part of their adventure.
After a memorable test paddle & some pointed instruction from Rob, the guys snaffled our last three Rockpool Tarans, whilst Mark decided on the Tiderace Pace 17 Tour with it's inherently more sympathetic performance, better suited to his lower base skill level. None of them had any real sea kayaking experience, and over the past few months they've been out working on skills as a group. This has included learning to use their Flat Earth Sails, busting a few moves in the Newcastle surf, and soon they'll be zeroing in on the navigation & seamanship skills required to successfully cross the Torres Strait & the myriad tidal and wind obstacles that this complex place can pose.

There is a deeper purpose to their journey however, as outlined so eloquently on their just-launched website:

"In 2006 Paul Murdoch’s wife Sue died from breast cancer, leaving behind a loving father and two young boys. Sue was everything to her 3 boys and is dearly missed.
Paul and Sue had been childhood sweethearts and following Sue’s death Paul wanted to do something memorable and challenging to remember Sue. 
We had tossed up a number of ideas and then Paul heard of a small group of elite athletes who had ridden mountain bikes from Cape Tribulation to Cape York, sea kayaked to PNG and ran the Kokoda trail. They achieved all this in less than two weeks.
Paul was inspired by their adventure and we are now undertaking our own adventure in memory of Sue and with a desire to reach out to the communities of Cape York and the Torres Strait and raise the awareness of breast cancer."

They have been hard at their training over the past few months with the aim of setting out on bikes from Cooktown in early August. When I say training, I mean training, check out their blog HERE to see the sort of application required to bring an adventure like this one to life.
The thing that struck me about these guys is their infectious enthusiasm & a rollicking good sense of humour & fearlessness. Their stories of taking their boats down to Nobbys & into the surf the first day they had them, were confirmation enough that they weren't going to be leaving much in the tank. I love the fact that they've set a goal, and now they're doing everything the right way towards achieving it, and doing it in style.
Their website (HERE) is a cracking read, with information on their journey, their team members & their support of the McGrath Foundation, for whom so far they have managed to raise over $6000.

In a paddling landscape cluttered with all kinds of bold journeys, this one stands out for me as a unique & heartfelt expedition, with all the elements of a true adventure. Keep an eye out for the guys' regular updates & join Rob & I in wishing them well on their journey.


  1. Sharks, crocodiles and stonefish will be the least of their worries - it's the rascols lurking around Jacksons Airport with 18 inch bush knives in their bilums that they'll need to be wise to.

  2. Lest my comment above be interpreted that PNG is a place of ever-present violence allow me to add that most PNG-ians are welcoming, hospitable and curious. However a degree of additional caution needs to be engaged in urban areas. Good luck to this team for a fascinating adventure.


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