Martin Chambers

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Book review: All the way round.

published: June 17th, 2013

All the way round, by Stuart Trueman. (MacMillan, ISBN 9781742612225)

Used to be that I did quite a lot of sea kayaking. Kayaking trips. I took school groups and tourists for a day or a week, and in my spare time I headed out with a kayak full of camping gear and spent time on some of these same beaches, just me and the mosquitoes.

Fortunately, there are people like Stuart Trueman who can do it a whole lot better than I and write about it, so I can live vicariously in armchair comfort and know that the mosquitoes and sandflies are still happy, the crocs still lurk, the sharks bump and bite rudders, country people are friendlier than those in the city and Ken Wilson is still at Kalbarri waiting for passing kayakers. No mention of the bagpipes, though.

This book will be a part of every kayaking bookshelf alongside Paul Caffyn. Well, not alongside because Paul’s Dreamtime Voyage is folio size and this is a standard book, but you know what I mean. And like Dreamtime Voyage or Keep Australia on your left, it will probably not be read by anyone else. There is just not enough interest for most people in such a long voyage, in paddling, in adventure, in one person’s exploits. Very few true adventure books do rise above. Unless something goes spectacularly wrong, Touching the Void style. Or maybe if you don’t set such grandiose plans and can laugh at your own lack of talent. The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de’Crow. Because to set grand plans and succeed is ultimately pretty uninteresting. Us humans are drawn to tales of our own frailty.

One of the most interesting bits I found was quite personal and eerily prescient. While paddling somewhere in the tropics, alone, probably dehydrated and daydreaming, Stuart has a vision of meeting the Swedish women’s gymnastic team. They are on a tour boat and arrive just as he wrestles a fish from the mouth of a crocodile. Something like that. Thing is, and this is absolutely true, at the very same time as he was fantasising I was in Norway and I met the Swedish women’s gymnastics team. I was on the same flight as them. Well, I was on the tarmac while the crew unloaded the entire cargo hold looking for the gas canister I had forgotten to take out, and the Swedish women’s gymnastics team were looking out of those little oval airplane windows at me. A look of ‘I’d rather be somewhere in the tropics on a beach with a hunk who wrestles dinner from the mouths of hungry crocodiles’.

At the end of the book Stuart says ‘When I’d completed other adventures, I’d had a feeling that I hadn’t reached my limits which left me unsatisfied…’ and then a paragraph later ‘During my trip I got close enough to my limits to be satisfied …’

In one of his former lives Stuart climbed mountains and while hanging someplace off Mt Blanc was struck by lightening. Twice. This is mentioned only in passing as he successfully avoids lightning while alone in his kayak on the water. I would have thought being struck by lightning and sleeping in a blizzard with no tent or sleeping bag was closer to anyone’s limit than a simple kayak trip. We get a hint that here is more and I look forward to some of the stories yet to come.