Australia-bound from Germany - by kayak

La Trobe graduate in outdoor education Sandy Robson is a ‘boat person’ with a difference. The adventurer recently completed the first leg - a challenging 4,000km five months paddle from Germany to Cyprus - of what she plans as an epic solo kayak voyage all the way to Australia.

sandy-robson-kayak-standardHer 50,000km route will retrace the historic kayak journey by German immigrant Oskar Speck, who arrived on Thursday Island in the 1930s.
The European section behind her, Ms Robson is now back in Australia, marshalling her resources for the rest of the voyage which she expects will take five years.

She began her trip along the Danube, Europe’s second longest river, from the German city of Ulm on May 14 this year, the 79th anniversary of the day Speck set out from his homeland.

She paddled down the scenic Danube and Vardar rivers, through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Macedonia and Greece, crossing the Aegean Sea to Turkey. From there she followed the Mediterranean coast to Cyprus.
The European media was fascinated by her exploits, with many TV and press reports including one in the leading German newspaper ‘Der Spiegel’.
Interviewed recently by award-winning sports journalist Raelee Tuckerman from the Bendigo Advertiser, Ms Robson said that she expects the marathon expedition to take five years.

A veteran extreme kayaker herself, she describes Speck’s achievement as ‘one of the most amazing kayak journeys of all time’.

Now based in Perth, Ms Robson completed her graduate diploma in outdoor education at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus in 1994. It was there that she first learnt to kayak as part of her studies.

‘Doing outdoor education affects your philosophy on life and what you value. I just like exploring new places,’ she told the Bendigo Advertiser.

She recalls her time at La Trobe as ‘one of the best years of my life’, having engaged in bushwalking, rock climbing, skiing and paddling.

‘(It) is the best outdoor education course in Australia,’ she says. ‘When you get a student who has come out of La Trobe in Bendigo, you know you are getting someone with a good quality education.’

In 2007 Ms Robson embarked on a year-long trip, paddling as far as she could around Australia.  Setting out from Queenscliff, she covered 6000km, undaunted despite being attacked by a crocodile on Cape York.

In 2009 Ms Robson was hired by La Trobe University to lead a 16-day sea kayaking expedition for students through the less treacherous waters of the Whitsundays.

Being a solo female paddler didn’t pose any major problems for her on her European odyssey: ‘You have to be careful, but I had more problems paddling around Australia than overseas,’ she told the Bendigo Advertiser.

The next stage of her extreme kayaking adventure will be more dangerous, travelling through some war-torn countries. Speck crossed from Cyprus to Syria, caught a bus to the Euphrates River, followed it to Iraq, ended up in the Persian Gulf, and then went on to Pakistan and India.

Yet, as she told the Raelee Tuckerman: she is not scared of pirates – but she is afraid of not having sufficient sponsorship!