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Paddling around Iceland – in the first person

 The Big Issue South Africa 23 May 2019

Modern day explorer Riaan Manser and his new expedition partner, Dan Skinstad, have set out to become the first South Africans to circumnavigate Iceland in a kayak. In this exclusive column, Manser and Skinstad will share their individual experiences throughout their icy epic, dubbed ‘Iceland on inspiration’. (737 Words) - By Riaan Manser and Dan Skinstad

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Big Issue South Africa - A stroke of inspiration

Riaan Manser and Dan Skinstad on their Iceland expedition Photo: Big Issue South Africa

Riaan

"Iceland inspiration. It's begun.

People know me for the world-first cycle around the continent of Africa and also the circumnavigation of Madagascar by kayak. Most also know me for being solo in what I do. There's a reason for that. I don't want to deal with other people's problems, because I have enough of my own and, secondly, I have gone to the most dangerous places on this planet. Bottom line is that I never wanted someone else's life in my hands!

But that has changed. This circumnavigation of Iceland in a kayak is an African first attempt, yes, but this time sees me partnered with someone, namely Dan Skinstad. Dan, as many people know, has cerebral palsy and what most would consider insurmountable physical challenges. Not Dan!

Dan's attitude to this perception is what had me make this big decision to have someone tag along.

Dan is not familiar as I am with roughing it on land and sea, but he has never said no to something I've asked of him. He has done things he never dreamed he would or could ever do, things his family probably never believed he could do and has started to change the way he sees himself.

Last week we not only paddled into the Arctic Circle, we then paddled across a huge 36km bay, which at the end left him fatigued and emotional - emotions that told the whole story of how he had begun to step out of the "handicapped" shadow he has tried to avoid his whole life. Inspirational stuff.

The truth about my relationship with Dan, the part that I am most battling to come to terms with, is that of having his life literally in my hands. I am not enjoying the harshness I have to employ with him to let him understand what danger we find ourselves in. I don't think he has faced death as I have, and rightly so. I don't want him to see this trip as a Sunday stroll. If anything, I hope he learns that he needs to stand up and be counted, especially when the chips are down. Because if I'm trying to save his life in these debilitating cold waters, the truth is that mine is slipping away slowly at the same time.

This column is about this uncomfortable reality, yes, but we've got four more months to send you guys the tourist picture postcards as well. Look out for part two!"

Dan

"After months of anticipation, planning and excitement, we finally arrived at our destination and it was time to test ourselves and our gear in the sub-zero temperatures.

First on the itinerary was a play snow fight between Riaan and myself. I'd never actually been in the snow and I was like a kid at a birthday party.

After a few days in the capital we headed to Husavik, which is a charming and picturesque town in the north of the country and our starting point. There was great excitement when the kayak arrived and it gave me a sense that the journey had really begun.

After a great send-off, we began our journey, turning right past Lundey Island and clocking in a 24km paddle.

We've been making steady progress and I surprised myself by completing a big bay crossing in to Kopasker, which did loads for my confidence.

Our next big challenge was the paddle to Raufarhofn. It was both mentally and physically exhausting and a wake-up call to the fact that I need to raise my game, big time. On a positive note, I've become more confident in bigger seas and can now say I'm one of the few people on the planet who's paddled in the Arctic Circle

Afterwards we were grounded by bad weather. We're both eager to get going as time is marching on, but spirits are still high. Team Inspiration marches on!"

For more updates on the gruelling Iceland on Inspiration, follow Riaan and Dan on Twitter: @riaanmanser  @danskinstad

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