As someone who circumnavigated Australia by kayak in 2010, Stuart Trueman is used to explaining his risk-taking pastime to perplexed strangers.
“I can understand that it’s a big question for people who just don’t understand the value in something like this,” said the Faulconbridge resident.
“All they see is the suffering and the cost and the possibility of not coming back in extreme situations. Unless you’ve tried it, it’s hard for me to explain the rewards. But there are other things that people do that I don’t ‘get’, like gambling for example. . . This is what I do and if people don’t ‘get’ it I’ll try and explain it to them.”
The 50-year-old has done just that in the pages of All the Way Round, a book he wrote about his 17,000km trek around Australia published by Pan Macmillan this year.
Told with wry humour, it charts the ups and downs of the epic trek from huge seas and wild surf, encounters with sharks and crocodiles to extremes in weather that caused heatstroke and hypothermia.
“It took about as long to write the book as it did to do the trip. I’ve never written anything like that before . . . Both were rewarding in their own way — but I can’t say I’d do either again!” said Mr Trueman.
Born in England, he took up kayaking after knee injuries put an end to his a passion for rockclimbing. He quickly transferred his adventurous spirit to paddling, taking on early challenges like kayaking from Sydney to Brisbane.
Mr Trueman set off on his trip around Australia in April 2010, taking 16 months to complete the journey.
One of the lowest points was getting hypothermia while struggling along the Baxter Cliffs in the Great Australian Bight. “It was a very long paddle,” he said in typical English understatement.
The expedition was low-budget and low-profile but the resilient adventurer wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I do like the idea of being self-sufficient and not relying on the decision-making and support of others, and that’s my choice. It worked for me. The rewards are greater at the end of the day but the risks are greater too,” he said.
That’s not to say there weren’t times when a little human company would have been welcome.
“The hardest thing was when you arrived at a good place and you would have liked to share it with others — to know there was somebody else there going ‘wow’ as well,” he said.
The trip provided challenges for his family back in the Blue Mountains as well, especially for his wife Sharon.
“I’ve become hardened,” she said.
“I think it really worried me initially. On one of his first trips he paddled from Sydney to Brisbane and I was a wreck but these last ones really haven’t fazed me. I think it’s just something you get used to to a certain degree.”
Now back in his Sydney office job, Mr Trueman has been following with interest the progress of Katoomba adventurer Jason Beachcroft (featured on the Gazette’s front page on August 7) who is also kayaking around Australia.
The 44-year-old is heading into a perilous part of his journey — a challenge people will only appreciate more if they read All the Way Round.
Although the book’s publication has given Mr Trueman a degree of public recognition, he happily admits most of his neighbours probably aren’t aware of his adventuring achievements.
“I’m not a household name in the suburb I live in . . . I’m not even a household name in my own house,” he joked.
But he is definitely a household name in his hometown of Frisby on the Wreake in Leicestershire where the Trueman family is heading for holidays next month. His mother has already booked the village hall so her son can give a talk about his around Australia trip.
“My mum’s pretty chuffed — although I think she’s more chuffed that I’ve written a book. It justifies her making me do all that homework,” he said.
All the Way Round is available from local bookshops.