Traveling Vagabond: City to Savannah, Bush to Sea

A fateful meeting at Merrill Lynch in Seattle set in place the key elements that defined the next ten years of my life [Kia Koropp].

As was “the American Way,” I had spent above my earnings and sought out a financial advisor to help me reclaim fiscal balance. During that meeting I discovered a nest egg in my investments that freed me of all my debt plus left a large capital sum in reserve. Four days following that meeting I was on safari in east Africa, and within six months I had boxed up all my belongings and said my farewells with a one-way ticket in hand.

In 2004 I left Seattle on a return trip to Africa. I lived in Kenya as a youth and had always wanted to return as an adult; I finally had the opportunity. In route I visited my birth country, Puerto Rico, hopped on a yacht sailing through the West Indies, and spent time backpacking through Europe and Morocco. From there I joined an overland company that ran land tours through East Africa. I spent the first part of the year as an overland courier running trips through Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar. I experienced all the classics such as sighting game in the big parks, kayaking down the Nile, trekking the mountain gorilla, diving in Zanzibar. Misadventures included being chased down by a pissed off rhino, bitten in my arse by fire ants, malaria and septic infection, Highlights were sensory overload and opening my eyes to the delights of the amazing African continent.

My next stage was independent travel south through Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. After settling myself into a base in Cape Town, I started to look for my next opportunity for work. I was most attracted to dive opportunities in Mozambique. Connections led me to a mad South African (the pioneer in white shark diving in SA) who was running a dive shop in Inhambane, Mozambique and arrangements were quickly made.

I spent the next year running dive operations in a very remote area of Mozambique, taking sole charge of the dive centre that catered to visitors from Czech Republic. My only colleague was a local who spoke no English, and we managed on a linguistic foundation based on his understanding of Portuguese and mine of Spanish. The Czech business owner and I were equally disadvantaged, and we communicated with gestures and a translator – often ending in misunderstanding and comedy. The diving there was magnificent and I advise anyone with an interest in the underwater world to put this region on the top of the list. With two seasons of whale shark and humpback, manta and dolphin, the area was rich in marine life both in novelty and diversity. I had the honour of riding on the back of whale shark, swimming with humpback, gliding on the wing of manta, and caressing giant moray. I had the pleasure of meeting and befriending local villagers and becoming familiar with their ways. I fell in step with a very different way of life, and I am so privileged for the experience of it.

Deciding that it was time for a new stage in my travels, I left Africa in mid 2006 to fulfill a commitment to sail across the Pacific with a friend of mine. I returned to Seattle and departed in July (6/6/6 – somewhat ominous) on a 32’ sailboat set for adventures on the high seas. We were inexperienced in open ocean sailing and navigated ourselves across 12,000 miles on a six-month passage, crossing from San Francisco to Hawaii, south to the Society Islands, west to the Cook Islands, onward to Tonga and, finally, south to New Zealand.

We arrived in Auckland December 17, 2006 and I decided to extend my time in New Zealand. I spent my first year based in rural northland, then moved into the heart of Auckland city having been issued a work permit and authorization to stay. Auckland felt like both a step back in time and a welcome return to a tech-rich industrialized nation. I was once again in the world of cappuccinos and fine wine. It no longer took me a half-day to get to the markets or to provision the boat; staples were around the corner and I didn’t need to shop for a month’s supply. Fresh fruit ad infinitum, the endless supply of edible gold, was a luxury I had almost forgotten.

In August 2010 I met John on a kitesurfing holiday in Aitutaki. By early 2011 we decided to start two new adventures: Babies and boats. On 5 May 2011 we sailed north for Fiji and Tonga on our 50’ Ganley Solution, 17 weeks pregnant and a return for both of us to a life at sea.

From here our story picks up in our first blog post and takes our readers through our first season in Fiji and Tonga; our second in Vanuatu, the Solomons, Papua New Guinea, and Sydney; the third in the Great Barrier, Northern Territories, and Indonesia. As we prepare for our fourth season toward Malaysia, Thailand and onward, our adventures will continue to be told through posts on sv-atea.com.

Welcome to our journey.

 

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Orangutan in the Wild

At the conclusion of our last season, we sailed north from Lombok to Kalimantan for the sole purpose of experiencing orangutan in the wild. We sailed 463 miles north/northwest to Kalimantan, and took Atea a further 40 miles inland up the Kumai River to join some of our cruising buddies for a four day riverboat trip up a subsidiary river to track and view orangutan in their natural habitat. It was well worth the trip to get there. After that, we made fast tracks – 600 miles – to get Atea to Malaysia as we had a flight in two weeks time to return to NZ for the birth of our daughter, Ayla Kai. We just made it!