Some years ago I was rowing the Indian Ocean from Australia to Africa. What you say! Is this man completely mad? Well, you can read about the whole story in my book ‘Wild Waters in the Roar’, but for the moment I want to offer you an extract from my diary, which I hope you will find interesting:
Back at the oars, the night seemed endless. The monotony of rowing made us feel like robots, but with the very human reality of sore arms and backs. Then, at five o’clock, the wind paused as we entered that magical zone with when night turns to day. I stared eastwards as the first vestiges of light crept over the wave tops, my eyes adjusting to a slowly spreading splendour. Stars faded and slipped, one by one, behind the waking sky. This was the best time of all, when you were glad to be alive, with the promise of a new day and renewed optimism after the struggle of the night.
The decks stay dry as the sea quietened now and stopped flooding through the gunwales. The only sounds were the creaking of the oar gates as I dipped the blades through light turquoise waters, and the rolling of the seat wheels on the deck track.
The light filled the eastern horizon, although behind me the night was still stubbornly unwilling to make way for the sun. An orchestra of light began with a dull red glow that joined with purple, mauve and pink hues in the brightening sky. It was time to wake Rob but I decided to wait and absorb the spectacle undisturbed. The crown of the sun’s golden orb appeared and began its slow, imperial ascent. The temperature rose rapidly and the sea awoke with fish jumping everywhere. It was as if they had woken up and decided to play before getting down to the serious business of eating each other. A school of Dorado rushed past the boat like tube commuters, but more colourfully, in a magnificent blur of blues and greens. Flying fish began their graceful journeys, skimming the wave tops. In the distance, something bigger splashed loudly. I instinctively thought of grabbing my fishing line but decided it was better just to watch it all. I told myself how blessed I was to be here, right now. However long I live I will always treasure the beauty of those moments.
Life on the ocean is as dangerous as it is beautiful. I expected to grow bored with all that water, but instead I came to marvel at its majesty. It could have killed us but it exuded peace and tranquillity. We humans dash around on the land, rarely finding time to appreciate nature.
Now I felt humbled by my environment. As TS Eliot once wrote “the sea has many voices, many gods and many voices”. With its fluid vistas - it is eternally moving, rolling, surging and twisting, and endlessly fascinating. Its colours change constantly from black to blues and greens to greys and has an impenetrable mystery about it.
Even the most wondrous places I’ve visited on the land from mountain peaks to empty deserts and sweaty jungles - they almost seem dull and static compared with the ocean. When you are walking or climbing, you get excited at the thought of what lies around the corner. Here I felt that every wave carried something unexpected. Sure enough, watching the splendour of nature in front of me, something totally unexpected happened. A butterfly landed on the deck. Can you believe that? Here we were 1200 miles from land, and a beautiful butterfly landed beside me! It opened its wings to reveal a myriad of wonderful colours. I had heard of the Monarch butterfly crossing thousands of miles – but that was over land. Here, this wonderful creature had come across water. Where had it come from and where was it going? A fantastic few moments of beauty and calm for me to enjoy…
Moral of the Story:
No matter how frail we appear, there are mighty journeys inside all of us, and we CAN do them, and all around people and things are doing exactly that!