This post by Dave Cornthwaite and is part of an Adventure Blogging Chain I’m in with Tim Moss, Mark Kalch and Sarah Outen.
This post is particularly special as it’s written by one of us about one of us! This is Dave quite rightly singing the praises of Sarah Outen:
I write from Vancouver, Canada, where I’m preparing for a two week, 1400 mile pedal to Las Vegas on a tandem bike, alongside my good friend Sebastian Terry. I say ‘preparing’ but that’s popping too fine a word on it. We leave tomorrow morning, and I arrived a couple of hours ago. Why cut it so fine? You might ask. And I have an answer, a good one, there was something going on in London that I just wasn’t going to miss. It happened yesterday.
April Fools Day, London, 1pm. Sarah Outen paddles her kayak downstream, passes underneath Tower Bridge, waves at the crowd on the overpass above her, pauses for a minute to take a photo with her support kayaker Justine Curgenven, and then she continues. To her left, on the gangways of HMS President, more than 200 people wave banners and cheer. It’s a deserving send off for a young woman who has been planning her new endeavour for one year. In 2009 she broke three world records at the age of 24 by rowing solo across the Indian Ocean. She was the first woman to row that ocean alone, the youngest woman at the time to row any ocean, and the youngest person to row the Indian. It could easily have rested as the challenge of a lifetime, but Sarah decided to extend her adventuring career in the only way she knows how, by taking on the planet.
At heart it’s a simple, natural idea; to circumnavigate the globe under human power, but to consider doing so by multiple means and in such a way that makes you shake your head at the audacity of it all, well, it takes someone special to pull it off. Sarah Outen has never just been a talker. From the moment she conceived the idea of kayaking, rowing, and cycling around the world her poor Mum was resigned to the fact that not only would her daughter leave when she promised, but she’d never waiver from a commitment to taking on a continuous journey that is likely to keep her away from home for two and a half years.
Adventurers are a dime a dozen these days, who isn’t a bloody adventurer? I am! Look at me! Of course I am! I did something new once! Some dine on past glories, some are physically above the average grade, but the stand out Adventurers are undeniably impressive. Find me one thing that isn’t impressive about Sarah, dare you! I was on the phone to her last week, three days before this global extravaganza of hers, and she’s chatting away like she’s on holiday. The conversation went something like this:
‘Ootsy, how are you feeling, can I help with anything?’
‘All under control D-Man, we’re tying up loose ends with the website, finalising the tracking system, got some cool tech guys working on syncing up blogs and tweets and pictures with the online maps. Three busloads of schoolchildren heading to Tower Bridge on Friday, kit’s being reprinted because of the new sponsor. I’m so excited, it’s happening!’
‘Are you sleeping enough?’
‘I’m getting a bit.’
She’s about to go on a two and a half year journey under her own steam and within seconds we were talking about everyday stuff, like sleep. If anyone reading this hasn’t heard of Sarah Outen then for goodness sake go to www.sarahouten.com. She’s a role model for kids, for adults, for anyone who has no qualms about making Mars Bars their favourite topic of conversation. We Stand Up Paddleboarded 150 miles from Bath to London last year and at one point we happened to pass two elderly ladies on a Canal Boat. One of them fell in at that moment, the quay was too high, she would have drowned. I was just scrabbling around, trying to grab this woman’s limbs. Sarah saved her life. Instantly she came up with a plan and talked her through the steps that would eventually see her out of the water, gasping for breath, soaked and freezing. Special to witness.
The scale of Sarah’s current mission, London to London Via the World, is such that by the time I join her for a swift cycle across North America it will be late 2012. Between now and then she’ll have kayaked a chunk of the Thames and across the Channel, cycled the breadth of Europe and Asia, kayaked to Japan and rowed across the Pacific. Yesterday this sentence was thrown about with such wild abandon by experienced adventurers that it became cliched, ‘if anyone can do it, Sarah can.’ Cliches are there for a reason, they’re based on fact, and Sarah Outen is capable of it because she walks the walk however big the talk is. And in this case, it’s pretty big.
As I sit here in Canada I’ve just realised that destiny has dictated that I shall never leave Vancouver by anything but a form of bicycle. Seb and I are yet to decide who gets the back seat on the tandem, but we’ve set ourselves a very fun and silly task. It hit me last week that I’ve been so excited about jumping on this bike and experiencing America in all its guises that I’d forgotten this will be the third of my twenty-five 1000-mile journeys. Sure, 100 miles a day for two weeks will produce some aching limbs and some chafing that will surely make Seb whimper (I’m stoical, in these situations), but we’re already visualising pedalling those desert roads into Vegas and just thinking about it is enough to confirm that whatever it takes, we’re going to make it in time to open a business conference on the 17th April.
I daresay, in the briefest moments, Sarah will have allowed herself brief consideration on how it might feel to row or kayak back under Tower Bridge in 2013. A lot happens in two and a half years. She’ll be 27 when she finishes. She’ll have become the first woman to row non-stop, solo and unsupported across the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. She’ll be a good cyclist by then. And I know, without a doubt, that she’ll have run out of Mars Bars at least three weeks before the end. Thankfully, the initial consignment of her favourite foodstuff arrived 45 minutes before her thank you speech yesterday morning. Even the best of us have to allow for the odd glitch.
Good luck Sarah, you won’t need it at all.