Almost one month in. Hair like a 70’s rock star. Body fat all gone. I live in a wetsuit. Pee in my wetsuit. Pull it off at the end of the day. Back on in the morning. In the water. Away down the Missouri River. This is life right now.
I’ve never been a swimmer. Bar a 5 mile float down the Thames in mid July I’d never swum further than a couple of hundred metres in one go without gasping for breath. Things have changed.
Last year I paddleboarded down the Mississippi River and just north of St Louis a river flowed in from the right. A hundred metres wide, rushing fast. The Missouri. It stayed on my mind, I knew one day I’d pop out into that confluence from the other direction, just didn’t know it would be so soon. Christmas just gone I opened a small package from my parents. Some swimming goggles. I looked at them and then my parents, a glint in my eye. The smallest things set off the biggest adventures for me these days, that was all I needed.
I usually travel solo so it was a big step deciding on a team for this expedition. I wanted to make some noise, raise some good money for CoppaFeel! to help them continue to spread their life-saving message, and share the beauty of adventure directly with a group of people who had never experienced this before. From 60 applicants I chose 7. Each has their own role from social media to filming to blogging to nutrition, together we’re a solid team heading downstream, taking on a challenge like nothing else I’ve experienced.
Physically, I’m lighter and constantly tired. Psychologically the battle of travelling so far with such little perspective (compared to standing 6 foot on a paddleboard distances seem so much greater down in the water) has played constant tricks on my mind. Add to this the double-edge of this expedition. 180 miles of lakes, no current, slow progress and unbelievable exposure to the elements. This first 200 miles took the first half of our expedition’s allotted time. We now have just another 4 weeks to cover the remaining 800 miles. Swimming is still hard but now we cover greater distances, finally the Missouri is giving us a helping hand.
Wherever I’ve travelled and however I’ve chosen to move around, the one constant of an adventure is the generosity and immediate friendship offered by complete strangers. I worried that with such a big group it would be harder to accommodate us, for that generosity to become as apparent as it so often does when I’m just travelling by myself, but if anything we’ve experienced greater warmth. So many strangers immediately become friends, our journey has been shaped by the people we’ve met just as much as our experiences on the river.
It feels like I’ve been swimming for years but we’ve all been given a new energy now the river has begun to flow with us. The second half of the expedition is now under way. I’m going to sign out now, pop my wetsuit back on and jump back in the river. Thanks to everyone for their support, this is quite the adventure!