FORMER Ulladulla High School students John Miller and James Knight admitted they might have bitten off more than they could chew with their latest adventure.
And after spending 52 days paddling 2400km on the Murray River from Corryong in NSW to Goolwa in South Australia at the river’s entrance to the Southern Ocean, John said the whole idea was “a bit crazy”.
During 2013 John cycled to and from Cairns to raise money for children’s charity Compassion, but was back only a few weeks before heading off on the canoe marathon.
In fact he was asking friends about canoeing the Murray River a couple of weeks before beginning his bike trek, and James put up his hand.
“Two weeks later he took off on his bike, but when he got back he called me up to see if I was still interested, and I was, and we set off about three weeks later after I quit my job in Sydney,” James explained.
“It was a good excuse to get out of my job and experience a bit of an adventure.”
However that attitude soon changed once the reality of days and days paddling hit, particularly amid difficult conditions at Corryong.
“The first day really destroyed our confidence,” John said.
“I was totally not ready mentally for what it was,” James agreed.
“At the start I felt like quitting because I wasn’t ready for how physically and mentally demanding it would be.”
Paddling all day left them tired, but the toughest part was trying to stay positive, they said.
“You’d paddle all day and you’d feel like you’ve gone a long way, then you’d look at the map and see how far you still had to go,” John said.
“It was so daunting,” James agreed.
“A lot of the time it was monotonous, so you had to push through and look forward to dinner,” John said, even if that dinner consisted only of some tinned soup or pasta.
“Having a campfire was always good, you always looked forward to relaxing beside it at the end of the day,” James added.
To help keep their spirits up they had some sing-alongs while paddling, but said Row, Row, Row Your Boat never got a mention.
“I refused to play I-spy,” James added with a laugh.
At nights they slept in swags, once in a deserted caravan, sometimes in barbecue shelters or under park benches when it was raining, and a couple of times they were sleeping in the open and were woken by automatic sprinklers spraying them.
At the same time the adventure raised more than $1000 for Compassion, and people can still donate to the cause by visiting www.everydayhero.com.au and visiting the supporters section, then typing in James and John.
The trip also deepened and strengthened the friendship between the two young men, and fuelled James’ thirst for adventure.
He spoke of visiting an uncle in Kenya, and “doing a bit more travelling, now I’ve got a taste for it”.
But John is about to start university to study to be a primary teacher after completing an adventurous gap year.