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Bid to repeat pioneering Coast-to-Coast kayaking f

Steve Gurney and Steve Moffatt in bid to repeat pioneering Coast-to-Coast kayaking feat of the 1880s

Final preparations are underway to replicate one of the great adventure expeditions of the late 1800s – the first Coast-to-Coast in 1889-1890 by kayak from Jacksons, up the Taramakau River, across Harpers Pass to the Hurunui River and down the coast to Sumner Beach.

This amazing feat was accomplished by a little-known adventurer George Park who dragged, paddled and carried his heavy one-man wooden kayak, all his food and camping gear to make the 330 kilometre journey in 13 days.

On that occasion, George was accompanied by his brother James in another kayak as far as the Hurunui Hotel.

The two modern athletes who will follow the Park’s trail from west to east across the Main Divide are Coast-to-Coast champion Steve Gurney, and George Park’s grand-nephew Steve Moffatt of Christchurch, a triathlon and endurance athlete and also a Coast-to-Coaster.

The journey begins at Jacksons on March 4 2008 and the two men are expected at the mouth of the Hurunui River on 12 March.

Then, faithful to George Park’s expedition, the pair will hoist small sails on their kayaks and voyage south to Lyttleton.

Steve Gurney will be the modern athlete, using the latest light-weight kayak and equipment, camping gear, clothing and high-energy food.

But Steve Moffatt will replicate George Park’s expedition, with a heavy wooden kayak (then called a canoe), paraffin-soaked cotton wet-weather gear, and food of the 1890s.

Both athletes will be closely monitored throughout the journey by a performance and testing scientist at Otago University, Dr Jim Cotter.

“The monitoring includes regular blood samples, and it’ll be interesting to compare our physical condition and performance indicators with each other, especially as I’ll be doing a day on fast food,” said Steve Gurney.

George Park has only lately been emerging as one of the great athletes and adventurers of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Based in Hokitika, he performed a number of outstanding and pioneering kayaking journeys, including the first crossing of Cook Strait in Rob Roy canoes with his brother William in very rough weather. He was also the first to kayak the length of Manawatu River.

There’s more detail in the attached backgrounder “Would the real Coast to Coast tough bastard stagger up”.

Excerpt from a newspaper report of the original journey Crossing the Main Divide

“They started from Hokitika on December 24th in two canoes, Mr G Park’s being the Sunbeam and Mr J Park’s the One-One, and experienced wet weather nearly all of the way through a most eventful voyage. They carted the craft to the Taramakau, and camped. On the next day, each towed his canoe with light lines up-river. The weather was squally, and great difficulty was experienced in getting up the rapids. That night they camped near the Otira in an old hut. On the following evening, they were in sight of the Hurunui saddle which is 3141 ft above sea level. Having been engaged in building trig stations in that area, Mr G Park knew some of the road, but beyond the saddle, neither had ever been before. After another day’s toil, they reached the foot of the mountain, carried up their swags and camped on the summit. Another full day was spent bringing up their canoes, and by dinner time – namely, a late dinner hour –were placed on the headwaters of the Hurunui. All this work being very arduous in consequence of the rough nature of the country caused by the earthquakes of a year ago having torn up trees and caused large chasms to open.


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