The seed is waiting in the earth,
For the rain to come and give it birth,
That’s all it really needs to set it free.
About 300 miles across the Mozambique Channel from continental Africa lies the island of Madagascar. A place most of us know only from a DreamWorks film. Yet Madagascar is a very special place. Having slowly slipped away from the continent of Africa over 65 million years ago, Madagascar’s plants and animals evolved quite differently than their continental cousins. In fact half of the birds, and pretty much all of its reptiles, amphibians and of course lemurs, can be found nowhere else on the planet. It’s no surprise that Madagascar has been on the radar of expedition paddlers for many years.
There was always some talk about circumnavigating Madagascar. Many of us wondered who would be the first to make the attempt. At over 4,800 km of coastline however it seemed pretty daunting. But unlike some other long distance destinations that come to mind, the challenge of circumnavigating Madagascar is more than simply an issue of mileage & logistics. Madagascar is one of those places in the world where social and political turmoil has made it hard for the country to address other issues such as poverty or the environment and all the complications that go with them. Madagascar has major problems with deforestation, water contamination, over grazing and desertification that threatens the very existence of those diverse species that have made Madagascar famous around the world. Suffice to say a visiting sea kayaker can’t simply paddle town to town to pick up supplies or pop online to “check in”. Madagascar is also not a destination for a paddler simply seeking a sunny tourist destination.
As we all know now, the crazy person who jumped first was Simon Osborne of Sea Kayaking Cornwall in the UK. Simon has had some experience with big ventures having circumnavigated Great Britain in 2002 and Ireland in 2004. On the first leg he would be joined by another very experienced paddler, Phil Clegg. Phil who works for Seakayaking UK, has also paddled around the world including joining a team who circumnavigated the UK in just 80 days.
Simon and Phil set off for Madagascar in November of 2007. They made good time and by January of 2008 they had made it pretty much halfway around the world’s fourth largest Island. Due to travel restrictions they would have to return home and come back later to complete their journey.
In January of this year it was time to return to Madagascar. This time however, only Simon would be making the return trip. Once back in Madagascar he soon began to realize that fate was not playing in his favor. As is often the case no issue or problem got in the way as much as just a bunch of little things that added up to send him a message. Still Simon & his new partner began the second leg. By mid-month they took stock of the situation and made a choice. Simon decided that rather than fight the current simply for the sake of the end goal he would find the best possible way to take advantage of his situation. In the end he they decided to end the expedition as it were and Simon went off to explore more of Madagascar. Along the way he made the first decent of a wild mountain river, paddled in a cyclone, road a wooden sailing cargo boat, and paddled the largest river in Madagascar all before returning home to England just a short time ago.
Now that Simon is back home and the experiences are starting to settle and take shape in his mind I’m sure he will be sharing much more of his adventures. I look forward to hearing more about the experiences along the way and about the series of events that brought the trip to its early conclusion. For the moment you can see lots of pictures and slideshows from his travels in Madagascar at the Sea Kayaking Cornwall website right here.
*image provided by Simon Osborne. Thank you!