Sunday, December 9, 2012

'Around Iceland on Inspiration' - inspirations afloat


'Inspiration' is the name of their kayak - Riaan and Dan. It's not an ordinary kayak but a shared platform on which these two unique individuals team up to achieve a common goal - to circumnavigate Iceland. Riaan Manser, an accomplished adventurer, was the first person to cycle around Africa in 2006. His partner on Inspiration is Dan Skinstad. Dan is not as physically fit as Riaan, let alone match Riaan's experience in outdoor adventures. He suffers from a mild cerebral palsy.

On 5th September 2011, they both successfully paddled about 2300 km around Iceland. They had in March 2011 begun their adventure from Husavik, conquering the first fjord Oxarfjorour to the last fjord and back in Husavik in five months. Their journey, broken up to 12 stages, required them to paddle about 20 km a day in theory, with only about 19 rest days in its entirety.

Being the 'so yesterday' person that I am, I have only started catching Riaan and Dan's Icelandic adventure on Travel Channel recently. Yesterday, I watched a repeat of their Day 125 to Day 127, circa mid August 2011.

Why are we talking about Riaan and Dan on Lisan al-Din you might ask? Because life is about having faith. It's about having faith in yourself, in your abilities and disabilities, and in other people's abilities and disabilities too. And embracing life's challenges one day at a time. 

On Day 125, Riaan continued their journey on a bad note as he struggled to fix their kayak. As he would often do throughout their paddling days, he muttered some self-affirmation words to himself: "This is not above you. This is not beyond you. This is what you can do!"

When one of the crew was getting frustrated about a technical glitch, Riaan tried to humor her - "Sense of humor is important. It makes difficult times more bearable." Which I agree.

On Day 126, from Selardalur to Skalavik, they all learned an obvious fact that while we try to plan things as much as possible, we cannot plan everything. That is what an adventure is all about. Riaan, always the fiery and positive leader, remarked about the uncertainties they have to face on a daily basis: "It's not just about looking at the maps and the weather, and just going out there. We don't know what really goes on."

Dan Skinstad is no less inspirational. His very being is an inspiration. He is not as physically stable as we are so it breaks my heart to see him trying to get out of Inspiration each time, having developed 'sea-legs' as a result of sitting and paddling for 10-12 hours non stop and to have the kind of disability that he's having. It's also touching to see how Riaan would occasionally scold him. 

But in an interview, Dan had this to say about his mentor co-paddler Riaan: "There are two types of people in life. Those that give you energy and those that take it away from you. Riaan is one of those who give energy in abundance. He lifts me up with his positivity and words of encouragement, but it is also nice to be shouted at by him. It's always constructive and its aim is your improvement."

If you have not been watching this inspiring documentary, be sure to catch Riaan and Dan on Inspiration. You will find inspirations afloat.


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