THIS PAGE IS CURRENTLY HAVING SOME WORK DONE ON IT AS SOME OF IT MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED - STAY TUNED!
Stage 2 is now complete (SEE MAP / EXPEDITION DASHBOARD). It began with a new kayak - a second-hand folding kayak for stage 2. After Cyprus, Speck crossed to Syria and then went by bus with his folding kayak to the Euphrates River and travelled through to Iraq, ending up in the Persian Gulf. He then followed the coast of Iran and Pakistan (then India) to India.
Despite months of planning, Sandy's plans to paddle in the Persian Gulf were halted in 2012 because it was not possible to obtain the necessary permission for the kayaking expedition there. With Pakistan being currently listed by the Dept of Foreign Affairs as "reconsider your need to travel", Stage 2 began in Gujarat. India is an amazing journey & this is where you will find the full story written in a diary format.
The Photo below is thanks to Jehan Driver of Quest Expeditions and shows the crowd gathered around me at Kovalam whilst I pack the kayak to depart! Thanks JD
India Initial Preparations with Support from Prasanth Menon, Quest Expeditions & Mustak Mepani
Nov 24th Landed in Kochi, Hosted by Dinesh & his wife, a friend of Prasanth Menon
Nov 25th Sightseeing in Kochi, Hosted by Prasanth Menon through couchsurfing network
Nov 26th Flew to Mumbai, Hosted by Daniel from Quest Expeditions in Colaba
Nov 27 & 28th Preparing for my expedition in India with assistance from the team at Quest Expeditions, Hosted by Daniel from Quest Expeditions.
Gujarat & Diu
Checking in daily with Jehan Driver from Quest Expeditions & Gujarat support from Mustak Mepani, Rustom Patel, the Wadia family of Porbander, Magico Do Mar Resort & Quest Expeditions
Nov 29th Drove from Mumbai to Jamnagar with the Quest Expeditions team, Hosted at Hotel President by Mustak Mepani
Nov 30th Expedition preparations in Jamnagar with hosts Mustak Mepani and Quest Expeditions, Got Permission for entering the Marine National Park (Gulf of Kutch) from the Chief Conservator, Made arrangements with Coastguard Okha so they are aware of my expedition. Stayed at Hotel President in Jamnagar
December 1st Arrived at launch point in Narara, Marine National Park, set up kayak, tent camp overnight at Narara at the National Park base
Day 1: December 2nd Narara to Ajad Island, 41km, tent camp
Day 2: December 3rd Ajad Island to Shankhohar/Bet Island, 24km, tent camp
Day 3: December 4th Shankhohar/Bet Island to Kachchigadh Lighthouse Beach, 33km, tent camp, Mustak Mepani & friends visited to see how I was going
Day 4: December 5th Paddled 1 km down the beach, had to get assistance from Mustak Mepani as some of my things were stolen overnight, went shopping to replace food items taken etc. Stayed overnight at Kachchigadh Lighthouse
Day 5: December 6th Kachchigadh Lighthouse to Bhogat, 43.9km, tent camp
Day 6: December 7th Bhogat to Visawada, 41.7km, tent camp
Day 7: December 8th Visawada to Navibandar, 52.1km, then portage arranged by Rustom Patel/Wadia family for me to stay in Porbander in a hotel
Day 8: December 9th Rest Day/Planning in Porbandar, hosted in a hotel by the Wadia family of Porbander
Day 9: December 10th Planning in Porbander, hosted in a hotel by the Wadia family of Porbander
Day 10: December 11th Porbander to Madhavpur Beach (about 15kms before the town), 40km, camped overnight in a tent on the beach
Day 11: December 12th Madhavpur Beach to Mangrol, 31km & Vehicle shuttle to Veraval, stayed at Hotel Park
Day 12: December 13th Day off in Veraval, Stayed at Hotel Park, met with local coastguard regarding best launch site for tomorrow
Day 13: December 14th Veraval to Diu Head, 60kms & stayed in the kayak overnight as was not able to find a good landing site before it got dark
Day 14: December 15th, Diu Head to Hoka Island Villa on Nagoa Beach, Diu, 14km
Day 15: December 16th, Nagoa Beach, Diu to Magico Do Mar Resort, Ahmedpur Mandvi Beach, 13.5km, Hosted by Magico Do Mar Resort
Day 16: December 17th Sightseeing in Diu, folded up the kayak and organised parts that need to be repaired, Hosted by Magico Do Mar Resort
Day 17: December 18th Travelling from Magico Do Mar to Baroda with a driver, Hosted in Baroda by Rustom Patel
Day 18: December 19th Hosted in Baroda by Rustom Patel
Checking in daily with Jehan Driver from Quest Expeditions, Maharashtra support from water-sports centres along the coast , Quest Expeditions & Praful Pendurkar
Day 19: December 20th Road Trip Baroda to Mumbai & Transfer by ferry to Alibaug, Hosted by Quest Expeditions
Day 20: December 21st Paddled Mandwa to Alibaug, paddling with Bangalore kayaker Rahul Chakravorty, 24km, hosted in Alibaug by Quest Expeditions
Day 21: December 22nd Day off for planning the route south from here. (Still waiting on parts to repair my folding kayak, hosted in Alibaug by Quest Expeditions
Day 22: December 23rd Planning Day, hosted in Alibaug by Quest Expeditions
Day 23: December 24th Expedition Planning, hosted in Alibaug by Quest Expeditions
Day 24, 25, 26, 27: December 25-Dec 28th Expedition Planning/Shopping/Repairs/Permissions.... hosted in Alibaug by Quest Expeditions
Day 28: December 29th Alibaug to Murud, 38.8km, Hotel stay
Day 29: Dec 30th Murud Janjira to Subdan Beach House, Shrivardhan, 38.5km
Day 30: Dec 31st Shrivardhan to Durga Beach Resort, Harnai Murud, 35.3km, halted by local police
Days 31 to 33: Jan 1-3 Stuck at Harnai Murud, 0km, awaiting permission from local police
Day 34: Jan 4 Harnai Murud to Mody Villa, Guhagar, 33km, Mody Villa arranged by Quest Expeditions
Day 35: Jan 5 Guhagar to Malgund 42.8km, Assisted by Watersports team on the beach at Malgund with hotel arrangements.
Day 36: Jan 6 Malgund to Ratnasagar Resort, Bhatye Beach, Ratnagiri, 26.8km, Assisted by one of Praful’s contacts to portage to the resort and arrange accommodation there.
Day 37: Jan 7 Ratnagiri to Samindar Beach House, Ambolgad, 40.1km
Day 38: Jan 8 Ambolgad to Devgad (Beach Camp), 34.8km, Camped in a Tent
Day 39: Jan 9 Devgad to Rosary Paradise, Devbag/Tarkarli, 45km, discounted accommodation provided at Rosary Paradise
Day 40: Jan 10 Deobag to Dolphin Bay Resort (Past Vengurla), 32.1km
Checking in daily with Jehan Driver from Quest Expeditions & Felix Furtado at Rustic India, Goa support from Quest Expeditions & Rustic India
Day 41: Jan 11 Dolphin Bay to Baga, Goa, 29km, Hotel Stay
Day 42-44: Jan 12, 13, 14th, 0km, Rest, Resupply, Repairs, preparations for the next section of coast, Hotel stay in Baga
Day 45: Jan 15th Baga to Charmaine’s Aunty’s house, 30.4km, Charmaine works at Quest Expeditions
Day 46: Jan 16th Day Off, 0km
Day 47: Jan 17th Off to Agonda Beach, South Goa, 43km, Local tourist accommodation.
Checking in daily with Jehan Driver from Quest Expeditions, Karnataka support from Extreme Karawali Adventures, Surfing Swami’s, Quest Expeditions Rahul Chakravorty & The Mangalorean
Day 48: Jan 18th Agonda Beach to Karwar, 31km, hosted by Extreme Karawali Adventures at a local hotel
Day 49: Jan 19th Portage Navy Exclusion Zone with help from Extreme Karawali Adventures, then Paddle to Om Beach, 28.5km, local tourist accommodation.
Day 50: Jan 20th Rest Day at Om Beach, 0km, local tourist accommodation.
Day 51: Jan 21st Om Beach to Manki, 41.8km, Hosted by local people in the community.
Day 52: Jan 22nd Manki to Kerekund Island, 20.8km, camped in tent
Day 53: Jan 23rd Kerekund Island to Turtle Beach Resort, Coondapoor, 43.1km, Turtle Beach Resort arranged by Quest expeditions.
Day 54: Jan 24th Coondapoor to St Mary's Island, 37.8km, camped on St Mary’s Island
Day 55: Jan 25th St Mary's Island to Surfing Swami's Mantra Beach Club, Mulki, 37.5km, Hosted by the Surfing Swami’s
Day 56: Jan 26th Day Off in Mulki at the Surf Ashram, hosted by the Surfing Swami's
Day 57: Jan 27th Mulki to Summer Sands Beach Resort via Mangalore Beach Festival, 31km
Day 58: Jan 28th Day off in Mangalore for Press Interviews & St Agnes College Presentation, Hosted by Summer Sands Beach Resort
Checking in daily with Mr Shajan Daniel, Motorsports Event Organiser from Kochi & The Indian Navy (for Kochi to the Tamil Nadu border). Kerala support from Musa Sherif, Shajan Daniel, Sea Shell Haris Beach Home, Rustic India, Kayak Adventure, Quilon Motorsports Club, Rahul Chakravorty, Prasanth Menon, The International Hotel & watersports enthusiasts in Kovalam
Day 59: Jan 29th Mangalore to Kumbla, 25.6km, camped in a tent on the beach, expedition support from Musa Sherif
Day 60: Jan 30th Kumbla to Kasaragod, 17.8km, stopped by police there, had to stay overnight in a hotel, Musa Sherrif’s contacts helped make arrangements for transport etc.
Day 61: Jan 31st Kasaragod to Khanhan Beach Resort, Nileshwar, 27.8km, Hosted by Khanhan Beach Resort
Day 62: Feb 1st Khanhan Beach Resort to the Sea Shell Haris Beach Home, Kannur, 59.4km, Hosted by Sea Shell Haris Beach Home
Day 63: Feb 2nd Rest & Planning Day at the Sea Shell - Haris Beach Home, Kannur, 0km, Hosted by Sea Shell Haris Beach Home
Your Donations help keep this journey alive:
Below is Joy Mulavarikkl and his family who saw me in the newspaper and came to Sea Shell to visit me. Joy lived and worked in South Australia for a while. Joy, Jaswin & Jasnitha are handing me a donation toward my journey which will really help. THANKYOU :)
Day 64: Feb 3rd Rest Day/ Theyyam Visit organised by Sea Shell Haris Beach Home, Kannur, 0km, Hosted by Sea Shell Haris Beach Home
Day 65: Feb 4th Kannur to Tikotti, 46km, camped in a tent overnight near a local home.
Day 66: Feb 5th Tikotti to Valikkunnu, 52.8km, Hotel Stay
Day 67: Feb 6th Valikkunnu to Veliancode, 42.8km, Hosted in fishing village by local women, translations thanks to Prasanth Menon in Kochi
I found one good person in the dodgy hotel - Alan! He volunteered to start early and help me launch...THANKYOU. He came down to the beach with me and the guys playing volleyball there also assisted so I could get out between the big waves. I was very happy to be paddling away from there. The beaches on this part of the coast of Kerala are long and straight and either rock wall along the sea front or dumping waves onto steep beaches. It is monotonous paddling and my day is only made interesting by the fishermen that I meet and the occasional fishing village with interesting boats and people whistling and yelling out to me to land. There is the occasional lighthouse and river mouth too. I was planning to land at Anoth Beach Resort. I had seen it on google earth and I got their phone number but when i tried to call there was no answer, so I just thought I would show up and there would be a room. When I arrived I could land on the beach right below the resort in crashing surf or I could land at the other end of the beach at a calm river mouth and then portage to the resort. It looked like there was a road so i went to the river mouth and landed there. After landing and unloading my kayak I realised that there actually was no road so now I had to do an almost 1km portage through heavy beach sand....I began and some men came to watch me. I was asked 'Where is your husband'...One man said he would help me if I paid him. I declined on principal, even though it was killing me doing it alone. After 600m of portage a man from the other end of the beach willingly came and helped me and I told him I was going to the hotel at the end of the beach. At the end of the beach about 1 and a half hours after I had landed it became evident that there was no hotel at all, just a crumbling rubble of former buildings. I had to call for a translator to get me out of this one! Prasanth in Kochi was my saviour. He spoke on the phone to a local man for me and it was arranged for me to stay in the Muslim fishing village there in a ladies only house. There was a bit more portaging over a small creek and then at last, I could relax. They were very kind people and I enjoyed the evening with women and children laughing a lot. I didn't have much food with me, but they all came to the kitchen to see how I would cook my two-minute noodles! They gave me chai and sweets try and a lovely refreshing shower to wash the salt off. Staying at this place is a memory I will cherish.
Day 68: Feb 7th Veliancode to Rajah Island Ayurvedic Hospital, 40km, Hosted at the Ayurvedic centre.
Day 69: Feb 8th Rajah Island to Cherai Beach Hotel, 48.3km, Arrangements thanks to Shajan Daniel
Day 70: Feb 9th Cherai Beach to Fort Kochi, 22.5km, Hosted by The International Hotel
Arrangements thanks to Shajan Daniel
Day 71: Feb 10th Kochi - Kayak Maintenance Day, 0km, Hosted by The International Hotel, Arrangements thanks to Shajan Daniel
Mr Daniel picked me up at 9.30am and I spent most of the day at the Cochin Club where I used the large lawn area to pull apart my entire kayak. I washed out the skin and hung it up to dry whilst i lubricated all of the kayak joints. Then after lunch I put everything back together again. This maintenance is good to do regularly with a folding kayak and I can see that my frame is taking a beating from the days at sea. A regular kayak is so much less maintenance, but then I would not have the luxury to fold it up and pop it in a backpack at the end of the journey. Anyway, amongst all of this work there were some nice distractions as some guys who are involved in coordinating Biennale (a huge art exhibition featuring artists from all over the world) in Kochi popped in for a visit and Rahul Chakravorty drove to Kochi all the way from Bangalore to drop in some parcels to me and some supplies I needed (that's fellow Kayaker support for you). Rahul is the only other sea kayaker that I have met whilst in India (see Dec 20-22). I left my paddling gloves in Malgund on Jan 6th and via Mr Bhushun Mehendale, Mr Jehan Driver and Mr Rahul Chakravorty, I now have them back in Kochi. After all the work was done I was lucky to be invited for a guided tour of some of the art exhibits with Shyam Patel, the Production Manager for Biennale. Mr Daniel got us some tickets and I really enjoyed the personalised tour of the exhibition. If you are in Kochi go check it out. I threw my fears into a massive thorny bamboo cocoon that is suspended up high in the trees...they will be burned at the end of the exhibition when the cocoon is set on fire, so now I am one day away from launching from Kochi and I can't wait to see the other side of India. Come along for the ride by continuing to follow my blog. And if I am passing by your part of the world PLEASE...email me. Tonight I am hosted at The International Hotel again, but who knows where I will be by next week.
Day 72: Feb 11th Kochi - Preparations for next Section & Hosted at the Cochin Club
Arrangements thanks to Shajan Daniel
I spent half the day at the International Hotel working on my trip route and then a half a day running around shopping for supplies, with some press interviews in between, then in the evening I was hosted at the Cochin Club in a room big enough to park the kayak inside! It is right next to my launching site for the morning so I really appreciate their generous support of my expedition along with the support of Mr Daniel who has been driving me around all day to get everything done. It is so much easier when you go shopping with a local guide and it was lovely also to meet his family today. Checkout the team car! I have not had this kind of advertising before :)
In the News: Indian Express & The Hindu
Day 73: Feb 12th Kochi to OG Beach Bungalow, Marari, 48.4km, Hosted by OG Beach Bungalow
Day 74: Feb 13th Marari Beach to Thottappally, 32km, Stayed at Omkaram Homestay, portage help from Shajan Daniel
Day 75: Feb 14th Thottappally to Valiazheekal, 22.6km, Tent stay near local homes as arranged by Shajan Daniel in Kochi.
Day 76: Feb 15th Valliazheekal to Kollam Beach Retreat, Kollam (Quilon), 33km, Hosted by Quillon Motorsports club at a Hotel there, Arrangements thanks to Shajan Daniel
Day 77: Feb 16th Day Off at Kollam, 0km, Hosted by Quillon Motorsports club at a Hotel there, Arrangements thanks to Shajan Daniel
Day 78: Feb 17th Kollam to Puthenthope, 46.8km, Hotel stay Wild Palms on the Sea, Landing assistance from ‘Kayak Adventure’
Day 79: Feb 18th Reccy of next Landing Site thanks to the ‘Kayak Adventure’ Team, 0km,
Hotel Stay in Puthenthope, Wild Palms on the Sea.
The swell is still huge and I wonder if it will drop off if I wait a day or two? I decided to go to visit Hubert’s Kayak Adventure centre today (photo at entry gate below) and he and his partner Sunil gave me a tour. They hope to run corporate teambuilding activities and school holiday program activities from their adventure centre, including kayaking. You can camp at their place in tents. It is all very new and looks great. What a pity I could not get in there from the sea. In the afternoon Hubert helped me by accompanying me to Kovalam so that I could reccy the landing site there. We went via Trivandrum and caught a bus to Kovalam. Yesterday 2 boats capsized in the Kovalam surf so I wanted to see if I could get in there ok with the kayak and actually, it was more of a challenge to find a hotel that would take me with the kayak so it was lucky I did a reccy. It is very touristic and the hoteliers have no idea what a kayak is, so most of them said they could not help. Eventually we found Kishore at Sumangali Tourist Home who was our savior and said he could organise everything for me when I wanted to come.
Day 80 - 82: Feb 19th to 21st - Days Off, 0km, Hotel stay in Puthenthope – Wild Palms on the Sea
Checking in daily with Jehan Driver from Quest Expeditions & Mr Shajan Daniel. Tamil Nadu West Coast support from Frankin from the Couchsurfing Network, Shajan Daniel & Guhan Shetty
Day 84: Feb 23rd Kovalam to Colachel in Tamil Nadu, 40km, Hotel Stay in Covalam, assistance with portage from Franklin (a couchsurfing host).
Day 85: Feb 24th Colachel to Chothavalai Beach, 25.7km, stayed in a local guest house, sponsored by Guhan Shetty, landing/portage assistance from Franklin & Guhan Shetty & Shajan Daniel’s contacts.
Day 86: Feb 25th Chothavalai Beach to Kanyakumari, 12.7km, Hotel Stay sponsored by Guhan Shetty, Assistance for landing arranged by Guhan Shetty.
Day 87-89: Feb 26-28th Days Off at Kanyakumari, Hotel Stay
Tamil Nadu East Coast
Checking in daily with Coastguard Tuticorin (Manapad to Gulf of Mannar), Coastguard Mandapam (Gulf of Mannar to Vederranyam) as well as Jehan Driver from Quest Expeditions. Tamil Nadu East Coast support from Quest Expeditions, Arun Miranda, Coastguard Tuticorin, Coastguard Mandapam, Bison House, Royal Madras Yacht Club, Navaz Currimbhoy (Chennai), Martin Landauer (Australian Consulate Chennai), Sunder Ganesh (Chennai), Villa Christophe Pondicherry, Aurofilio Schiavina (Pondicherry)
Day 90: Mar 1st Portage with help from Xavier of Villa de Joseph, Manapad (Avoiding Nuclear Protest area), hosted by Arun Miranda of Villa de Joseph
Day 91: Mar 2nd Day preparing for next section, hosted by Arun Miranda of Villa de Joseph, Manapad
Day 92: Mar 3rd Manapad to Tiruchendur, 16.9km, Hotel Stay Sivamurugan Lodging sponsored by Arun Miranda
Day 93-95: Mar 4-6th Tiruchendur, waiting for the winds to ease, Hotel Stay sponsored by Arun Miranda
Day 96: Mar 7th Tiruchendur to Tuticorin, 30km, Hotel stay arranged with help from local Coastguard.
Day 97: Mar 8th Tuticorin to Kariya Shulli Island, 34km, tent camp
Day 98: Mar 9th Kariya Shulli Island to Uppu Tanni Island, 32km, tent camp
Day 99: Mar 10th Uppu Tanni Island to Nalla Tanni Island, 11.5km, tent camp
Day 100: Mar 11th Nalla Tanni Island to Appa Tivu, 32km, tent camp
Day 101: Mar 12th Appa Tivu to Musal Tivu, 30km, tent camp
I had seen the giant hovercrafts of Coastguard India at the beginning of my journey in Gujarat's Marine National Park. The hovercraft can access all areas for a rescue and they do not damage the coral if they pass over it because they are elevated on a cushion of air. However, you cannot sneak up on someone with a hovercraft. They roar! When you are in a tiny (by comparison) sea kayak and a hovercraft is coming straight at you at high speed it is absolutely terrifying. You have no idea if the pilot has seen you yet, and you begin to make plans for your underwater escape should it mow straight over the top of you. The hovercraft goes at such speed that there is no time to get out the phone and turn it on and make a call. VHF radio is banned. So I resort for my last options. I must make myself as visible as possible. I put up my sail and begin waving my paddle madly, whilst contemplating attempting abrupt changes in direction to avoid a collision. I know they are looking for me. I told him I would be scared if the hovercraft was coming at me fast, but I can only stop the emergency siren in my head when at last they do change direction a bit and then give me a wave as they zoom past - Phew! Heart rate returning to normal. The gigantic hovercraft does a turn and comes closer then halts and deflates. A door opens on the side reminding me of a space ship opening and the alien emerges - a coastguard man in uniform wearing a bright orange life vest. Then more coastguard men come out on deck, and last of all the officers in glorious white starched uniforms. They give me three cheers and applause. It took them just a couple of hours to fly around Pamban Island and out here to the western most part of their district and on the way to patrol their district, they have stopped to deliver the kayaker some cold fruit and drinks for the journey. WOW! Big Highlight! I am left alone later on the sea in my kayak with packages of chopped up cold watermelon and some nice cold fruit juice, re-energised for my remaining paddle to Musal Tivu. If I return to the Gulf of Mannar someday then I am going to bring a snorkel mask to do a drift dive along the entire length of Talairi Tivu. It is a long thin island and I think it would be an amazing drift dive. The coral near Musal Tivu was also brilliant and I think it just would keep getting better the further east you go. For me though, this is my last night in the Gulf of Mannar. A place I can never forget. Magic!
Day 102: Mar 13th Musal Tivu to Bison House, Mandappam, 24km, Hosted by Bison House
It was Filio who first told me about Bison House. It is a massive old mansion house on a beach front property just inside the entrance to Palk Bay. Commandant More gave me the best description of arriving at Bison House in days pre-electricity. He arrived in the depths of the night. It really felt like the depths of the night because Mandapam in those days had no electricity and therefore no street lighting and no ambient light from houses in the small village. When he drove up the long driveway, the caretaker Kalanjiam came out to meet holding up an oil filled lamp to illuminate their meeting and it felt like arriving into another century. He was led to the front door and shown up the winding wooden staircase to the rooms. It was like arriving to a ghost house as they creaked up the stairs that are polished from much use. There may be plans for Bison House to become a boutique hotel in the future, but my friends secretly hope that it will not lose the character and the ghosts that may be lurking in the 150 year old walls. I was met by the coastguard in a small boat just before I passed under the Pamban Bridge. I went through the navigation channel because the old bridge still lurks in the water under the new bridge and threatens to rip apart fragile craft such as mine, so the navigation channel was the safest. Kallanjiam met me on the beach waving a rice bag overhead. Commandant More and Kallinjiam and his wife helped transfer my kayak and gear up to the house, up a garden path that is paved with huge hunks of coral. Whose brainwave in past days was it to use coral reef to make a path? Hopefully times are changing. I tried hard in the remainder of the day to get everything ready to depart the following day. I found though, that I had very little information about Palk Bay and I needed a day to gather more information and plan my next camping sites. In the evening I was invited out to the most amazing seafood meal that I have ever eaten... in the residence at a Seafood factory.
Day 103: Mar 14th Day Off for planning Palk Bay section, Hosted by Bison House
I was lucky today to get some planning time with Commandant More and he helped me out with contacts and places I could stay for the whole of Palk Bay. I also posed the problem of getting permission to paddle to Sri lanka and he gave me some advice and information to assist me in starting the process. It seems that two swimmers have made the journey across the 30km strait between India and Sri lanka. Knowing this makes it seem a lot more possible. I got to have a look inside a hovercraft, and I can see I need some serious renovations on my kayak, perhaps I could put in a downstairs! They can make cups of tea on a stove! The new ones are all touch screen instrumentation. In the evening we had a little party at Bison house and for a change the women outnumbered the men. I can't wait for my return to Bison house when I will be preparing to paddle out to Pamban Island, Dhanushkodi, Lands End and Sri Lanka. Once again I have met some amazing people here who have taken me a step closer to reaching a goal.
Day 104: Mar 15th Bison House, Mandappam to Devipattinam, 37.5km, Host arranged by local police
With delicious omlette and chappitis packed for the paddle I said goodbye to my new Mandappam friends and launched for my first day in Palk Bay. My destination was Devipattinam. I had the wind behind me for the first time in 2 weeks, so getting my sail up was pretty nice. Commandant More had told me that I would see the fishing boats heading out east from the Palk bay villages. There was a lot of traffic going in and out from the fishing grounds and I came across several fishermen fishing solo with a line for squid. When I paddled in close to the shore of Palk Bay in the afternoon I saw that the waterfront was indeed very calm, but along with this the smell increased and the water turned brown even 50m out from the villages. There was no swell to wash it all away - at least until monsoon. I was searching along the shore and looking for the police station. I knew that the police were expecting me and would be waving for me to come in, but so was everyone else that saw me, so this made it confusing. I did not want to paddle too close to the shore in the sewage filled water, so I was scouting out for someone in uniform waving at me and for a place that looked better to land. Eventually I saw someone with the stance of the police, yes, after all of my police encounters I know them just by how they stand now. They waved me in. On the shore there was green grass, but between me and the waiting entourage there was about 50m of sewerage to paddle through which got shallower and shallower until finally I had to get out and wade through it to get on the grass! The police stayed firmly on the grass and sent out some locals to help me get my boat in. I was quite concerned about the garbage there hidden beneath the black water and hoping not to puncture the kayak. Once on shore I was treated like a special guest and many photos were taken. Several locals got in the photos and I think one little girl was about to drop her dacks and have a poo right there on the grass right in the middle of the crowd until someone yelled at her and made her stop. My kayak was later parked next to the police boat and I was given a flower and drinks and biscuits. Many people were excited to meet me and the police organised a room for me in the town and later one of the nicest dinners I had whilst in southern India was delivered to my room. I was very interested to see the local temple which was 9 simple adorned pillars in a bathing pool into which water flowed from the sea. The sewage filled water mentioned earlier was flowing in and out and worshippers were bathing merrily in the water saying prayers, note to self.... don't convert to hindu! There is no way i would get in that water. Interesting though. When they delivered my dinner, my contact, the policeman who I called Paul (because I could not pronounce his name right) kept asking me over and over again what is my motivation for this journey. He did not seem to believe that a woman alone would want to do such a trip. He said he would be scared to camp alone in the Gulf of Mannar. I would be scared to arrive alone to Devipattinam, so I was really glad to have their support. One man came with a young girl to see me and she had never seen a white woman before and just screamed until finally he had to leave. I kind of liked Devipattinam because they just made me feel so welcome.
Day 105: Mar 16th Devipattinam to Thondi, 33km, local accommodation arranged by local police after my plans went awry
In the morning Paul and some other police returned to my guest house to collect me in the police car. Once at my kayak I re-packed all of my things on the green grass. There was a moment when I realised I was kneeling down next to a decaying sanitary napkin and I saw a woman tip a bucket into the sea... I think it may have been a pee bucket from her house. In India you just have to tune out to some aspects of the places. What is overwhelming is the genuine enthusiasm of the people around me and their support of my journey and willingness to help me in any way. So after a TV interview which I had to cut short after some concern that the tide may be going out and increasing my potential wade through the sewage to launch ... I was finally in my boat with sewage covered feet and paddling out to the 'cleaner' water to wash that off before continuing. My destination today was Thondi where there is a Naval Base that Commandant More said would host me. Well now there we have a story! You see I arrived at the Naval Base Beach and there was no entourage waiting to receive me in uniform, so I called their office number and they said they knew nothing about me. I thought Commandant More had arranged everything so i called him to see if he could straighten it out. All the while a crowd of onlookers gathered on the pier and the shore watching and waiting for the alien to land. Soon there were around 150 people waiting for my landing. I knew that if I landed I would be swarmed by people in Gujarati style and i would find it difficult to make a phone call, so I tried calling from the water on my mobile phone, but in the end it got dark and nothing was resolved so I had to land anyway. The crowd began to swarm and one fishermen who was simply brilliant was yelling and flicking a cloth at the children to keep them back. Then the crowd engulfed and in one swoop picked up the kayak and we went forth as a throng to the navy gate. They would not let me in. The police were called. It all looked pretty suspect. Now here I was with my crowd outside a highly restricted secure area. The police found me a place to stay nearby and assisted with the kayak. I was of course questioned as to the reason i was here and it all fell into place that nothing had been pre-arranged for my stay and i was not welcome with the Navy. My former status of protected woman in India by order of the Indian Navy definitely did not apply in Tamil Nadu. The police went overboard for my safety and insisted I spend the night guarded by a female police officer which I was not too thrilled about. After a gruelling 12hrs on the water into wind, and then this stuff up of a plan for the evening, I would have liked to just sleep and be alone. They brought me dinner that was too spicy for me to eat which i threw away and I finished the day a much less than happy camper. To make matters worse, one of my kayak trolley wheels got punctured in all the mess, and I could not fix it. The police tried but the attempt was unsuccessful. What a day. At least I have made it another 33kms further around the shores of Palk Bay...hmmmm maybe not a place I am putting back on my sea kayaking list!
Day 106: Mar 17th Thondi to Kottaipattanam, 36.6km, beach camp
I could not wait to get out of there! I was up early and now, all planning was out the window! I had planned several stops this week at Naval Bases in Palk Bay, but now a new plan had emerged, that is, no plan at all, just paddle and have a look and see. I resolved to just keep on paddling in the event of finding nowhere to camp. Several boats with sails were also on the water early and heading east out of Palk Bay to the fishing grounds. I also had my sail up for a while chasing the same route away from the sewage shores and into the much nicer deep seas. The wind would only be in my favour though for a part of the morning and then I expected to be paddling into it again. It is amazing how the morning light can steal way all of the tension of the previous day and make the world a magical place again. I was really enjoying being on the water and at ease even though my destination was uncertain. During the day I found a great place to pause for a break on a relatively clean bit of sand next to a sewage outlet pipe and an inland lake. I had a little siesta in the sun there because I was still tired after the dramas yesterday. Then feeling refreshed I continued on North. Originally I had planned to go to Jagthapattinam, but I made it further past there. At one town some police came out on a boat and stopped me and offered to bring me ashore there, but the shore did not look nice to paddle on to and I really wanted a night off from the police after my police observer last night. Not too much further along the coast I saw a beach that looked ok to land on. I went in and found that the sand was clean, the beach was fairly isolated and the beach was also fenced off from the nearby road. It looked to me like an ok place to camp. I pulled up my kayak and waited until the sun set. It didn't take too long and 2 men came walking down the beach and identified themselves as police. I explained that I was just going to stay here tonight and leave on dawn. I said it seemed like a safe place and they agreed. They suggested I could leave my kayak there and they would take me to a hotel, but I was not keen to abandon my kayak and gear, so I stuck to my plan. It was too windy to cook, so I was really glad when they offered to go and get me some dinner. Whilst I was waiting for the police to return with some food, two police from a different division came along, but they could not communicate with me properly because they could not speak English. Then the original police returned and the four police had a little chat. It was agreed that I would take a phone number of one policeman in case I needed to call them and they explained that a patrol car would be left overnight on the nearby road so i could go there if I needed assistance. Then they left me with a nice warm meal and the beach to myself again. It was nice to sleep under the stars and I used my sari as a ground sheet. I fell asleep soundly in the cool breeze and the scent of the nearby sewage filled creek was all around me but somehow, I didn't care about that because soon I would be past Palk Bay and in a new place. For the people here, this landscape that I am immersed in is their normal everyday world. I am also getting thoroughly desensitised to sewage now. There are some old mosquito bites on my ankles now that are a bit infected from the wading in that water, but they will heal.
Day 107: Mar 18th Kottaipattanam to Just Nth of Mallipattinum, 41km, tent camp
Just as I was about to launch in the morning the policeman returned to check I had not been disturbed in the night. It was kind of him to take such good care of me and he helped me shove the kayak out through the shallows until it floated and I could get away. I had to go a little further offshore than usual to get around a shallow section of water that reaches several kms out from the point just north of Kottaipattanam. One thing that I am coming across every day now is fish traps in Palk Bay. These are circles of poles in the water with a fishing net wrapped around and a line of poles leading into the trap with net attached so fish are drawn into the circle of net and get stuck in there. Then the boats come out periodically and a man dives in the centre of the fish trap and retrieves the caught fish. These semi-permanent traps in the sea are obstacles that I must negotiate and often there are poles in the sea that I must watch out for if they are just below water level. These and the many boats going in and out of Palk Bay are my only entertainment as I paddle. I found a floating nautilus shell today too - a sign of the riches in the seas around here. Once again, I did not have a plan for where to camp, but just north of Mallipattinum I found a tiny mangrove rimmed island where there was a grassy patch for a tent in the shelter of some bushes. It was a good inconspicuous camping site for me. The only problem I had was that my wheel of my kayak trolley was still punctured and I had to haul the kayak on the trolley with a flat tyre because the prickly acacia bushes drop branches and are littered through the sand. It would be perilous to drag the kayak on that sand. Fishermen went in and out of the nearby creeks, but did not come onto my island. With the shelter from the winds I was able to cook up some noodles for dinner. Tomorrow I would begin the paddle east along the northern shore of Palk Bay and through an area where there were apparently no villages, there was a lot of uncertainty about where I would camp, but I hoped to find a site as good as this one.
Day 108: Mar 19th Nth of Mallipattinum to Serttalaikkadu Creek, 42.7km, tent camp
I knew I would be paddling into a light wind for most of the afternoon, so the morning was the best time for me to get in as much distance as possible. I launched pre-dawn and ate my breakfast in the kayak with the wind in my sails. The familiar fishing boats went out with the same wind as me and I waved at them and laughed at their perplexed looks as they tried to figure out who i was and where I was going. The north of Palk Bay is primarily mangrove lined shores and MUD. I have never seen such an expanse of mangroves. This is an important area for waterbirds breeding and I saw some painted storks and lots of other birds, but the water gets shallow and muddy very quickly as you approach the shore so it would only be possible to get close enough for photos for me on the high tide, and that would not be until late afternoon. At one place I tried to see if I could get to shore in the early afternoon but the mud was like quicksand and appeared to be bottomless so I was too scared to step into it incase I couldn't get out. I paddled until sunset along the coast and eventually some sandy beaches appeared near the mouth of the Serttalaikkadu Creek. On high tide I was able to get onto shore on what was a pavement of tesselated clay in amazing patterns and as slippery as an ice rink. I tentatively slid my kayak across it until I reached the white sand where I could put a tent. It was the best camping site in the whole of Palk Bay with clean water and a spectacular sunset.
Day 109: Mar 20th Serttalaikkadu Creek to Vedaranniyam, 28.3km, Hotel Stay overnight
I did not know when I set out in the morning that this would be my last day of Stage 2 of my trip. I paddled hard to get around Point Calimere. I was really looking forward to getting back to paddling north as paddling into this wind was not much fun. As I approached Vedaranniyam I was trying to use my mobile phone to contact Commandant More about possible camping sites for the evening. One of my mobiles had no reception and my back-up phone started to play up. I was worried because I had to arrange where I would meet Filio the next day when he was due to collect me, and if I had no phone working then this would be a big problem. So I landed on the beach amongst the small fishing village at Vederanniyam. After a while of messing about trying to get my phone to work I basically decided that this would be a good beach to finish on, wheras ahead I didnt know what was in store for me. The beach here did not have a lot of sand blowing around and would be a suitable place to fold up the kayak. The police or some locals would likely help me with a solution of where to stay and how to get there. Not long after I landed locals came to see what I was doing, but we could not communicate really well. Then a navy man came along with a clip board and was annoyed that I did not have any permission letters to give him. He said it was really dangerous here for me and that I should not be in this area. I disputed that fact because I felt quite safe and had been very well looked after this week. Then some police arrived and they told the navy guy that I was Sandy Robson and that I had paddled here from Germany. After a while the navy guy left so I guess he decided it was all ok if the police knew about me. Later when i read the newspaper I learned that some local fishermen had been reported attacked by boats out at sea and there were some serious injuries, so no doubt, if you are way offshore in the border zone, there is cause for some Navy concern over your security. I always paddle close to shore though, so I was not aware of any dangers. The most amusing thing for me on this beach was the looks on the fishermen's faces when I transformed the kayak that I arrived in, into a backpack packed with all of the kayak parts. They could not believe it. They were also impressed that a woman could pull the boat apart. They brought their families to see and some media arrived for interviews before everything was arranged by the local police. A tempo came that I could put all my stuff in and I was squeezed in the front for the ride into town where I was accommodated in a simple lodging. It as all a bit strange to be finishing my trip. I celebrated with a street side omlette and chai for dinner.
At Vedaranniyam I folded up my kayak, as this was the end of Stage 2 of my journey. I travelled the next day to Nagapattanam where I was picked up by a friend from Pondicherry. I stayed in Pondicherry for one night and the next day my contact Navaz from the Royal Madras Yacht Club picked me up and took me back to Chennai where I stayed for a few days before flying back to Australia (Mar 25th 2013).
Whilst in Chennai I made a presentation about my trip for a group of adults and children from the Royal Madras Yacht Club. The club will be assisting me again when I return to Chennai in 2014. I am really looking forward to returning to India.
Mar 21st Off to Pondicherry (Pondy for short)
In the morning I went for a walk around the town and found the most amazing temple in the middle of Vedaranniyam with expansive grounds. There was a monkey out the front when i arrived, so at last I got some good photos of one. I gave my left over food to the pilgrims begging at the temple gates. They all seemed very happy with the offerings. The police arranged a car to take me to Nagapattinam where I went to an NGO office and waited there for Filio to come. When I arrived, the Nagapattinam Police had sent a policeman to meet me. It took a long time for him to understand that I had folded up the kayak into a backpack and I was not going paddling there. He stayed several hours just in case I should slip out for a paddle, but then realised I was waiting around for Filio. We had a few photos there and then eventually he left. Later he came back out of uniform and met Filio. The police certainly have been very helpful on this section of the coast from Mandappam north. Watersports are new to them though, so they are very curious about what I am doing. My Pondicherry contact Filio completely understands the challenge I am undertaking and he has studied the coastal environment here and has a lot of knowledge to share. Filio helped me out with a place to stay in Pondy and I really enjoyed an Italian dinner at his home in the evening with his family. Some people you meet you just know you will be friends straight away. A night off from the Indian restaurant that i have been dining in for the past 110 days was perfect - Grin! I am looking forward to my return to Pondy by kayak next year. Maybe then I will have time to explore the beautiful buildings and touristic places there. I stayed overnight in a fabulous historic bungalow that has been restored into a boutique hotel. They sponsored my stay. It was one of the most amazing places I have stayed in the whole of India. If you are coming to India, definitely put Pondy on your list.
Mar 22nd The Day in Pondy and then travel to Chennai with Navaz
Today I had a little treat of sitting about in a house in Pondy drinking coffee and chatting to 4 Aussies. It gave me some practice at breaking into a proper aussie accent before my return to Australia. I was at a scuba diving / surf school run by to Australian fellas. They kindly let me use their facilities to wash all my stuff and get it spick and span ready for the trip home. At lunchtime Filio picked me up and we went to his house for lunch with my Chennai contact Navaz. Navaz is another person who I feel privileged to have met. He is in the Royal Madras Yacht Club in Chennai and has offered his support for my journey and loads of excellent local advice. In the fe days that i have remaining in India I will be meeting people and making valuable contacts for planning the next stage of my trip. It is incredible to think that when i arrived in India I did not know anyone and now I have so many fantastic friends here. I really wish I wasn't going home now. When I was planning this phase of the trip I did not fully understand the weather patterns on the east coast of India, and now that I do, I realise that I should be keeping on paddling, but I have made some commitments to work in Australia, so I will return I hope in March 2014 to continue the journey and if I can secure appropriate funding, Stage 3 will be a long paddle across the seas all the ay back to Australia.
Mar 23rd-25th Chennai...Packing up the kayak and meeting local contacts who will assist me when I return for Stage 3 of the Expedition.
My final three days in India for Stage 2 were a whirlwind of meeting loads of amazing people. The highlights were staying with Navaz and his family, hanging out with Jehan who came all the way from Mumbai to say goodbye from Quest Expeditions, a party arranged by the Royal Madras Yacht Club where I made a presentation about my trip & the BIG ONE, a party on my last night hosted by Martin from the Australian Consulate. I do not know how I fitted it all in, but it was really fun and affirmed for me how amazing India is and how welcoming the people are here. I know when I come back next year, it will now feel like I am coming home to visit my friends, not so much like coming to a foreign unfamiliar country. I can't wait for Stage 3. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures!
I am back in Australia now working and planning Stage 3. When I return in 2014 I hope to have permission to make the crossing of Palk Bay to SriLanka by kayak. I will circumnavigate SriLanka by kayak and then return to India to continue my journey up the east coast of India. I am looking forward to getting back out on the water.