Harold Murphy has Traveled More Than 4,000 Miles of North American Rivers in his Innova Safari Inflatable Kayak

From Harold Murphy on June 18, 2010 (more to come once his photos are scanned):

I “completed” my Pennsylvania-New York-New Jersey trip today. It did not turn out as I had planned. The Upper Delaware River was great, and fairly “easy” with mainly class I rapids. But, as I got to Skinner’s Falls, the river turned more difficult, and Dangerous for me.

My Innova Safari inflatable kayak is a Super boat, with about 4,000 river miles to date, But, with my body weight of 170 pounds, and 60-70 pounds of food for 10 days, tent, sleeping bag, clothes, water, etc., a Class I+ becomes too dangerous while I am alone.

According to my mental records, I went through about 40+ rapids in 40+ miles, with some serious rapids below Narrowsburg, New York. I completed my Susquehanna River from Harrisburg to Chesapeake Bay, with very little danger; the biggest danger was under a railroad bridge with serious rapids across the entire river.

I decided to cancel the Potomac River until I can study it in more detail. It can wait until next year, and I can tie the Allegeny River in with the Potomac River, with a few days at the end of the trip at Niagra Falls.

My next Safari trip will be July 22 on either the Illinois River to St. Louis, or a northern Illinopis River to the Mississippi.

I sure do meet a lot of people who might think I am a little “crazy” an a lot of people who “dream” of doing what I am doing, but probably never will.

600 Miles to Timbuktu in an Innova Safari

Called a “real-life Lara Croft” by the New York Times, Kira Salak is the first documented person to kayak solo 600 miles down West Africa’s Niger River.

Below are excerpts From the Print Edition of National Geographic Adventure Magazine
December 2002/January 2003 issue

(click here to read the article)

(click here for a National Geographic video on Kira Salak)

(click here for a CBS Evening News interview with Kira Salak)

(click here for more excerpts)

Mungo Made Me Do It—Rafting to Timbuktu

Writer KIRA SALAK’s aim was audacious: To paddle nearly 600 miles [966 kilometers] down the Niger River, a hazardous journey, inspired by legendary Scottish explorer Mungo Park, that no person had ever completed solo. She was slightly crazy, people thought; highly determined, she knew; and completely alone: in a little red boat, en route to Timbuktu.

In the beginning, all my journeys feel at best ludicrous, at worst insane. This one is no exception. The idea is to paddle nearly 600 miles on the Niger River in a kayak, alone, from the town of Old Ségou to Timbuktu.

And now, at the very hour I have decided to leave, a thunderstorm bursts open the skies, sending down apocalyptic rain, washing away the ground beneath my feet. It is the rainy season in Mali, for which there can be no comparison in the world.

Lightning pierces trees, slices across houses. Thunder wracks the skies and pounds the Earth like mortar fire, and every living thing huddles in its tenuous shelter, expecting the world to end. Which it doesn’t. At least not this time.

So we all give a collective sigh to the salvation from the passing storm as it rumbles east, and I survey the river I’m to depart on this morning. Rain or no rain, today is the day for the journey to begin.

“Let’s do it,” I say, leaving the shelter of an adobe hut. My guide from town, Modibo, points to the north, to further storms. He says he will pray for me. It’s the best he can do. To his knowledge, no man has ever completed such a trip, though a few have tried. And certainly no woman has done such a thing.

Earlier this morning he took me aside and told me he thinks I’m crazy, which I understood as concern, and so I thanked him. He told me that the people of Old Ségou think I’m crazy, too, and that only uncanny good luck will keep me safe.

What he doesn’t know is that the worst thing a person can do is to tell me I can’t do something, because then I’ll want to do it all the more. It may be a failing of mine.

I carry my inflatable kayak through the labyrinthine alleys of Old Ségou, past the huts melting in the rain, past the huddling goats and the smoke of cooking fires, past people peering out at me from dark entranceways.

Old Ségou must have looked much the same to Scottish explorer Mungo Park, who left here on the first of his two river journeys 206 years ago to the day. It is no coincidence that I’ve picked this date, July 22, and this spot to begin my journey.

Park is my guarantee of sorts. If he could travel down the Niger, then so can I. Of course, Park also died on the river, but so far I’ve managed to overlook that.

Thunder again. Hobbled donkeys cower under a new onslaught of rain, ears back, necks craned. Naked children dare one another to touch me, and I make it easy for them, stopping and holding out my arm. They stroke my white skin as if it were velvet, using only the pads of their fingers, then stare at their hands, looking for wet paint.

I stop on the banks of the river near a centuries-old kapok tree, under which I imagine Park once took shade. I open my bag, spread out my little red kayak, and start to pump it up. A photographer, who will check in on me from time to time in his motorized boat, feverishly snaps pictures.

A couple of women nearby, with colorful cloth wraps called pagnes tied tightly about their breasts, gaze at me as if to ask: Who are you, and what do you think you’re doing?

The Niger, in a surly mood, churns and slaps the shore.

I don’t pretend to know what I’m doing. Just one thing at a time now: kayak inflated, kayak loaded, paddles fitted together. Modibo watches me.

“I’ll pray for you,” he reminds me.

I balance my gear and get in. Finally, irrevocably, I paddle away.