Bass by KayakSea Kayaking

Home truths: Bass Strait in a salad bowl

By April 1, 2016August 25th, 20182 Comments

Days after an expedition are odd. I eat a ridiculous amount of fresh food. Veggies and Salad consume me. I become regular again. Routine is picked up as if the handle was turned my way, waiting. Here I sit, home on the range (my pocket sized farm), with drizzle making a faint sound on the roof. An unidentifiable wind kicks about, bored. Cows moo, a distant chainsaw guns. I’ll never get sick of this scene, yet I feel like I was in it moments ago. Not three weeks ago, throwing things together for an early departure. I- we, left in a hurray, nine days earlier than planned. The wind. The wind!

Shedding the responsibilities of my calendar, an amusement park of colour coding and bad spelling, was easier than expected. Thanks to glorious ‘Yes’ people, a handful of marvellous buggers simply got on with the job of being Beau; taking on a lecture, roofing the shed, paying a bill, conducting interviews, weeing off the deck (Dad or dads dog. Probably both). They did a better job of being me than me.

At Tidal River, on the western side of Wilsons Promontory- the great outcrop of land that shovels south as Australia’s mainland tip; we packed three weeks of life into our hatches. I remind myself not to forget my spoon.

Departing from Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory 

At about the same time I forget my spoon, I skip the need to check if the epoxy resin (boat skin fixer) had gone bad (rock hard), or not (it was rock hard).

Drop off crew is Was (Warwick) in something dapper, Hotpants Helen (in jeans) and Matts Dad (wearing a hat and grin). Having travelled 8 hours from Victoria’s interior, Matt rolls up with a mountain of green dry bags. He beams, running on umpteen cups of coffee. Jeeze I like him. Matt-meet-Dan, Dan-meet-Matt (for the first time). Strips of duct tape labelled in neat cursive tell us that Lunch exists in one green bag, meds in another, spare lunch and spare meds in the next. Matt has spares for spares in drybags for drybags. Notquiteright, but she’llberight, we depart. I share a quite moment with my feet when they first hit the water, taking my time to slide on booties. It was an impulsive, yet slow, ceremony with the land I was leaving. Whilst other departures and landfalls would be made, arrival would be Tasmania.

At the southern most tip of the continent balls of wind coil in the leeside of cliffs and slam us and our sails into submission. We retreat to Oberon Bay in the rain. Plans change immediately and we slip into camp life, systems living and a full dose of sleep. I check the weather at 3am, standing in my undies on the wide beach. A crackled chat between tents has us sleeping in. We would leave late.

I’ll pause here to keep this blog in suspense. I spent the next 15 days heading (mostly) 120 degrees east-south-east. Our trio became 5, Paul and Craig joining us at dawn on day three, and proved to be exceptional company.

Group photo on Deal Island

In a nutshell, the trip- ok, expedition, was a ripper (a grumpy/wise colleague of mine hates the word ‘trip’. Sounds too much like a drug induced nosh up with ladies and booze, walking home in someone else’s pants. Aka; a bloody good time). Boyish humour offset Manish decision making; when to go, when to stay, when to get your tackle out for a gentleman’s wash (within 6-8cm of others). I laughed a lot, a lot more than I thought- the dry whit of Matt and the Faulty Towers of Dan. I filmed a lot. I wrote.

A dozen hours of footage and a notepad full of anecdotes will come to light in the coming months via 6 x 5 minute YouTube episodes. We’ll tease this with a few trailers in the coming weeks. It’s all about the aftermath. Digesting the 350k+ of Bass and her islands. So for now, a review of my brain and the meat that pushed me south:

The body.

I lathered up in anti chafe cream after getting chafe. Idiot. My left arm was definitely there (RSI pulsing deep in my elbow every so often, reminding me). My right arm didn’t seem to exist (non RSI). When my left arm stopped pulsing, the right started. Made sense- switching like twin sisters to mess with my head. Neck was stiff, shoulders were fine, back a little ‘hello’ every so often, hamstrings and quads no worries. All in all, I was oiled. Bum and ankles fine, then WHOLLY MOLLY Mother of God! Who the *&ck tenderized my arse into a pulp! Why is my arse suffering from a deep, deep burn? Bruising that felt like I’d spent the weekend at church (hard seats and all). Ah, this makes sense; sitting for 8-17 hours a day in a hard seat and hard boat. Like long range running, I continue to marvel at my bodies’ ability to take a beating. I was not alone, far from it. I know that the lads did it tougher on many of the critical days, due mostly to seasickness. Dungeon like, these days are dark and unmerciful. I saw them suffer in silence, turning over their arms. The only thing in the world that would dig them out of their pit- Land.

The mind.

I actually don’t believe that the mind and body are separate entities. I can tell you about how I felt, but it was my feeling body that was first in line- creating the story. In any case, I now sit, ‘un-experiencing’ as it were, at a desk. My view is a tree branch washing too and fro in a gentle breeze. It sits several meters in front of me, outside. A spider makes its way to the corner pain of glass of the sash window. Steaming coffee boots out a marvellous smell. I’m experiencing an immediate space so different to Bass Strait. A space, ironically, that will bring alive what took place at sea and on those islands. I will now spend the rest of my life (ok, today for now getting you a post, then the next 6 months pushing and pulling at the lived anecdotes caught on camera and in notes- for PhD) thinking about what took place. Merging memories and visions and abstractions from what was reality. By next week I will merge Bass Strait experiences with ‘the now’, and so on. My story will gather momentum.

How do I feel? How does this evolution of experience- mused in the aftermath, make me feel? What state of mind am I in? (I’ve had to look out the window at the paddock for a few minutes. Completely silent. Completely still…bing). New. I feel new. An intense, past experience is now filtering through me. A brilliant ‘new’ set of things to think about. I now live in my head (and not over the bow), raw and directionless, yet to be told.

Some trepidation still exists. In truth, I still want to be out there. This is not a line, I am genuinely, mindfully, on those islands. Setting off with a minimum trip length of 21 days, it feels odd to be sitting here, and not in my kayak. Short changed perhaps? A little hurried, trigger-happy? Living too much by the weather when an ideal day came along within a blustery forecast? Dashing across Banks Strait- a body of water that can move as fast as a kayak, and prickles in the faintest of wind, instead of waiting for another day, another window? All a useless thought really. Nothing to do now but getting on with the job, back to work, writing up the journey and generally being stable, perhaps even uninspired in order to finish the less flashy components of my perennially unfinished life. I drink more coffee again, rush about in various modes of transport and say yes to things. Unbalance, I guess you could say, in restored. Yet short of Banks Strait being the sting in the tail, of which it was not, and like an actor after an intense period of rehearsals and then shows, the aftermath is a lost space for a while. I’m in this now. Neck deep, wondering what’s next. Yes, I’m on the verge of being a busy bugger once again, but in the meantime, my tea and coffee is still being sipped and not gulped, and I pause at the sink longer than I would usually. I’m daydreaming a lot.

Departing from Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory 

And so to answer my own unanswerable question, I’m a happy little vegemite, living in the afterglow of another great journey. Salad is tastier, the roadside apples are crunchier and tea tastes like it has sugar. To Matt and Dan, Jesus, (not on the trip) thanks lads for making it such an uncompromisingly great experience. Craig and Paul, our shadow companions for most of the journey, well done fellas on a fine effort and terrific company- nice to hear your stories. To Mirage Sea Kayaks- Bloody hell, I’m hooked on the boat. I caught myself licking my finger and wiping off a smudge yesterday. We talked a lot (the boat and I, mostly me talking) about creaks and groans, swamping’s, rough landings and our hate for sand below deck. To my crew- handshakes and hugs all round. To Mitch, my right hand, well we’re going into business together. Say no more.

Stay tuned for all this banter in visual form as we whip into shape the reams of footage. Time for a run.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Allison ford says:

    Wowzas!!!! Congratulations Beau and team! What an amazing, inspiring adventure. Cannot wait to see the clips!
    Your writings make me laugh Beau! I hope you find tonnes of support when you need it to make future daydreaming adventures come to life! Definitely watching this space 🙂

  • Kate Kenna says:

    So nice to read from someone who taught us so much. Refreshing to read when you are living outside of the country and teaching in a classroom. Where outdoor recreation is perceived to dangerous (have to check with military, programs include hotels, equipment is at American dollar prices, therefore no one has any). Say Hi to your colleague that doesn’t like the word trip from me and anyone left at the university from 2011 for me. Look forward to reading and seeing more, being in a kayak, sea or river was always a favourite of mine.