ďWhat most people donít get,Ē mused Eric aloud while spreading the keel strip adhesive on the faded 25 year old Klepper skin sprawled below him, ďis that itís destiny. I couldnít stop the trip now even if I desired. Everything, from my cellular matrix to the more ethereal substance of my spirit, is pushing me forward at dizzying speed. Itís as if in another life I was a warrior and this was the battle I was born to fight. Every David has his Goliath, and this is the trip where I slay my dragon. When itís all over, weíll have paddled over 10,000 miles. 85% of that time weíll have dry land to bed on. Other times, weíll sleep in the boat as best we can. The big one, of course, is the Gulf of Carpentaria. Itís a 400-mile open crossing that will take us anywhere from 12 - 15 days. Tony and I will switch off sleeping and paddling, continually keeping the boat in motion until weíre across. Then, of course, thereís the 20 foot sea crocks that can cleave a man in half with a bite; the monsoons that come out of nowhere; and the Great Whites that place man on the opposite end of the food chain. But I donít see these as adversaries. Itís more of a tenuous partnership. After all, itís their world. To survive, we must learn how to co-exist.
Some of my friends think Iím daft to take this on, but theyíre missing the big picture. As a being, Iíll have to re-think everything I knew about living. If Iím hungry, Iíll have to forage the seas and the shore. If Iím thirsty, Iíll have to desalinate water. All the rules change. I can see myself being so enmeshed in an ecosystem that my facade of civilization actually burns away under the scorching Australian sun. The experience will be transforming. Even if I make it back, this me wonít make it back. The me that returns will be remade. Thatís why Iím going. The doorís open and Iím going to step through!
But you know whatís really odd? Weíve been planning this trip for over two years. But the night everything started to come together, the night I knew we were really going to pull it off, was the night before the ground invasion of Desert Storm. I imagined those men on the line, their faces, their eyes, and I realized they were preparing for battle. Something clicked in me then and I wrote this poem. Iíd like you to have it. I think maybe it sums it up better then I ever could.Ē
Eric Stiller and Tony Brown left New York on February 20, 1992, for their year long circumnavigation of Australia.
We presented this article as food for thought! Planning an expedition .. be it for a week, a month .. a year? What's going through your mind?
Copyright © 1996
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