A Slow Boat around Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

A Slow Boat around Sri Lanka

Starting on March 8, celebrated author, survival instructor and record holding adventurer Chandan Lahiri will set out on a 40-day journey circumnavigating the country’s coast alongside fellow adventurer, bestselling author and TV reporter for ZDF, Germany’s largest TV broadcaster, Timm Kruse. They seek to tour Sri Lanka and experience its beauty, and chose to do so not in any conventional manner but paddle around it in canoe for Chandan and stand-up paddleboard, Timm’s chosen transport; a first for our nation.

“A Slow Boat around Sri Lanka” as they’ve taken to calling their journey, is quite aptly named as they seek to face the rough waters of the surrounding ocean in slow sail less, man powered boats that will test them in ways they’ve not been challenged before. That is not to say they are inexperienced. Chandan paddled 2,100 km down the 2,400 km Ganges River in 2018 and around the same time Timm sailed down the Danube, Europe’s second longest river at 3,000 km, a 60-day experience he chronicled in his book, One Man One Board.

Despite this, Timm makes it clear that navigating a river and circumnavigating a country along the ocean are two very different things. Things can be very unpredictable and while they will try their best to prepare, anything can go wrong. He mentions that he isn’t used to the temperatures of our tropical country and that sea waves crashing against their board or boat halts their progress and could be frustrating. He recounts his experience with the tail end of his expedition on the Danube, where the closer he got to the Black Sea, the more difficult things got and the exhaustion that follows is discouraging.

However, this is not the first time such a task was undertaken. Oskar Speck, a German canoeist was said to have made a seven-year journey in 1932 from Germany to Australia in a kayak, during which he was alleged to have circled all of Sri Lanka. Though this journey was not well documented, Australian kayaker Sandy Robson’s 2011 recreation of it was, including her circumnavigating our country in 2014. Despite the journey not being the first to be made, this will be the first time for it to be done by canoe and stand-up paddleboard.

They held a press conference for the event on the 6th to publicize it as much as possible in the hope that by getting the word out as much as possible, they could spread awareness of their difficult task and their experiences in the future. Due to recent events and crises, tourism has become adverse at present for Sri Lanka. Chandan and Timm have a great international audience and by thoroughly documenting their journey through and around our country they hope to convey to them our nation’s beauty and that we are safe to visit. To do so, Chandan and Timm will try to update their social medias daily and document their experiences, which will later be published as books from both of them and they will also be shooting a documentary film along the way.

Chandan, truly believes that life begins at 50 and that disabilities are a reality to accept but not prevent him from living a full and adventurous life regardless of what people say. Through his numerous well-documented adventures that he continues to embark on well past his prime and with a prosthetic knee, he hopes to spread that message by example. He has adventure in his blood, thanks to his Green Beret father and he continues to inspire that same adventurous spirit in the youth of his own country with his numerous adventure programs and organisations.

Timm Kruse is a full-blooded adventurer who works as a freelance journalist for only a few months of the year and doing so funds his many adventures of which he’s had many over the years. Timm mentions how humble a life he tries to lead, no car, low rent, no wife or kids, and living like that allows him to travel the world doing as little work as possible. He abhors the thought of living an average German life which he says, “would bore me to death”. He’s written many best-selling books on his journeys of self-discovery through fasting, meditation, sobriety, the aforementioned Danube expedition and his experience chauffeuring a guru on a road trip.

Chandan mentions that the reason the idea came to him in the first place was because of his desire to visit what was known to him as the pearl of the Indian Ocean and considering he had gotten into paddling not too long ago, this Journey was the logical conclusion. Timm, after his expedition on the Danube found himself wanting to travel all the world’s great rivers and found himself in contact with Chandan who had just recently done so with the Ganges. Chandan dissuaded him from that journey but instead invited him to try circumnavigating Sri Lanka, a plan he wished to fulfil.

Planning for the journey started 7-8 months ago and they received explicit permission and support from our Ministry of Defence and Navy, who will help monitor this expedition not only for the sake of information but also in the case of needing an emergency evacuation back to shore. Their itinerary will have them sailing for half a day for forty days, a few hours early in the day later on as well. They expect to have a day off every two days to tour the area, which they will take advantage of to experience the inner parts of the country. This specific time was chosen as it was right before the monsoon, which is when the winds and the waves are at their calmest, so the choices were made deliberately.

During his expedition on the Ganges, Chandan recounted how he never had to pitch a tent or cook a meal for even a single night as those living along the river always generously provided for him and he is confident that Sri Lanka would be much the same from what he’s seen so far. He expects it to be a lovely way to meet the locals. They have prepared further as they will have a ground team follow their path along the coastline to support them as needed. Chandan mentioned that it is impossible to be fully prepared for a journey like this, but he didn’t foresee any chance of things being called off. As this wasn’t considered a race, they could set their own pace and travel together safely but the weather would play a big role in whether they could complete before the 22nd, when Timm is due to return. Timm is certain that if the wind was against them, they would be unable to complete it.

Through this journey, Chandan and Timm hope to get a unique experience not many would have, not just overseas but for locals as well and by documenting things they will bring international attention to that experience and revitalize our nation’s reputation as a country worth visiting.