Cas and Jonesy, two young Aussie adventurers who have taken on the wildest of wild expeditions and succeeded in doing so,are venturing to the Luminosity Youth Summit in Port Macquarie. Jonesy shares part of their journey with FOCUS.
Take us back to beginning. Where did you grow up, and what were your interests as a child?
I was born in Hornsby in Sydney, but at 6 months of age moved to Indonesia. My mum is actually Chinese Indonesian and my dad was working over there. I lived there for the next 11 years in some interesting jungle settlements near mines that my dad worked at and also in Jakarta, the major capital there. As a child I was a pretty curious individual; I was quite gregarious and open and loud when I was young.
I was the youngest of three. The outdoors become a really important thing for me when I was in high school; that was when Cas and I actually met and we starting going out on small bush walks. Initially it was with the Cadets, but our trips just started getting bigger and bigger.
Where did the crazy idea come from to take on the Tasman Sea in a kayak?
In 2001, Cas and I and another friend from school were in our first year of university. We decided to paddle the entire length of the Murray River; as I mentioned before, we started out as just bushwalkers and then it seemed like the next obvious step … Kayaking is like bushwalking on water. You can cover greater distances, and being on the water is an amazingly freeing thing to do. So, we decided to paddle down the entire length of the Murray River, and I can’t remember exactly what day it was, but it was on that trip that Cas turned around to me and said, “Hey mate, can you imagine doing something like this but out in the open ocean? Do you reckon anyone’s ever paddled a kayak from Australia to New Zealand?” At the time, I told him he was an absolute idiot. I didn’t want anything to do with it; I actually thought that he had heatstroke and he’d fried his brain! We actually didn’t talk about this idea for the next two or three years, and then it popped back into our consciousness and we started working out how we could potentially piece this trip together.
What emotions were running through you as you reached land, after completing the trip?
So many feelings were going through our heads at the time; it was absolutely amazing. We first saw land from two days out; it was day 60, and we were 113 km from land and we saw the top of Mt Taranaki on the North Island. It was just beautiful, the sun was setting, it was just perfect – it was an amazing moment. She disappeared from view and we paddled on through the night, but when we first reached land, jumping off that kayak, feeling sand between our toes, staggering between 25,000 people who were down on this beach to greet us in … It was phenomenal. I’m getting worked up just thinking about it. Nothing is probably going to be able to beat that feeling of finishing that end. Our family and our friends were there; there was an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment, of disbelief that so many people had come out to see us. I initially thought that they’d painted the foreshore all different colours and mentioned that to Cas, and he said, “No, you idiot they’re actually people!” It was phenomenal; we were on a high for so long after that expedition.
Since achieving that amazing goal, you and Cas have set out on some extreme adventures, defeating the odds and proving that anything is possible. How do you keep so motivated?
That’s a tough question. It’s a very individual thing, what motivates someone.
I suppose I’m motivated by not wanting to waste this life that I have. I want to be able to say I actually well and truly lived; I experienced all the things I could possibly have done.
And there’s a fear of sort of missing out on that. I have enough regrets in my life, so I’ve made the stand that I don’t want to regret anything else. I want to go out there and chase these adventures – and these expeditions really give you an idea of what makes you tick as a human being. You go out there and you push yourself to extremes; it’s interesting to see how you operate as a person …
When you’re working on a dream for three and a half years/four years, you become quite motivated to actually see it succeed. You’re not going to let things deter you, because you’ve worked on that for so long, you own that project – it’s yours – and of course it helps having your mate there pushing you along and being there for each other. No one wants to go through a journey alone.
Talk us through some of highest points in your journey so far …
I suppose there’s a lot, reaching New Zealand, and actually even pushing off that first day on that expedition after three and a half years with this idea that so many people told us it wasn’t possible. When we pushed out of Forster, that feeling was just amazing; we felt like we’d succeeded at that point alone. We’ve met some pretty amazing, crazy, brilliant people along the way who have helped us … The training trips, paddling across Bass Strait, that was an unbelievable experience. Going to Baffin Island, stepping out of a plane and you take a breath of air in and the moisture in your nostrils just all freezes up – just all those things, those experiences.
Life is all about experiences, and those experiences are just amazing. Antarctica – I don’t really want to give this away, but the end of that expedition was utterly brilliant … Phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal.
With highs also come lows; there must’ve been some times where you were frightened for your life. How do you deal with moments like this?
There definitely were times that we were both terrified for what might or what could happen. On the Antarctic journey, Cas fell waist deep into a crevasse – one leg kind of just completely disappeared down there, and that was terrifying. On the Tasman we had storms with 10 metre waves crashing around us. We had a horrible night where the parachute anchor line had wrapped around a rudder, and we didn’t know that was going to break the whole back end of the kayak or would bend our rudder.
Incredibly terrifying, but if you know that you’ve done all the right preparation and planning and you’ve thought about every eventual possibility that could happen out there and you’ve planned for it, it enables you to actually deal with situations when they crop up. You can go into a bit of robo-mode, and think, “All right, this is what we’ve got to do to get out of this situation” …
There’s no, “What should we really do”; it’s kind of like we know what to do straightaway, and having that course of action is a really important thing.
Cas and I always say preparation is king. These expeditions are 95% or 99% preparation and only 5% or 1% in the execution. You’ve got to think everything through beforehand.
Having been awarded the title of one of the country’s best motivational speakers, what’s the vibe you and your partner in adventure, Cas, will be bringing to the Luminosity Youth Summit in July this year?
We really want to show people that Cas and I, we’re pretty ordinary, average blokes. We weren’t the smartest guys at school, we weren’t the fittest, the best looking or anything like that. But we were guys who had this idea, and we went out there and methodically worked away at it … and really, it’s that preparation and plan that enabled us to go out there and follow this crazy dream. A lot of people in life tell you that you can’t do things, and I’d question that. I’d say, “Well, why can’t you?”
The expeditions for us really took our blinkers off and made us believe that just about anything is possible, as long as you go out there and do it in a safe, responsible manner, with preparation and planning, and getting the right team around you.
We try to make our presentations fun as well, because the expeditions are bloody tough. In Antarctica I lost 30 kg, Cas lost 26 kg; it’s really hard work.
But there’s a lot of fun and light and it’s a journey of ups and downs – and that’s life. Biggest thing though, is to really go out there and show people that if you want to go out there and follow your passions, then do – just make sure you do it in the right manner and don’t necessarily listen to all the naysayers. There are two different kinds of naysayers out there: ones who come from an uneducated background, and others who come from a perspective of some weight or knowledge.
It’s the latter group that you’ve got to listen to. People told us we couldn’t do the kayak trip; they turned around and said, “You shouldn’t be doing that, because of these reasons” – and it was those people that we worked with and said, “Ok, how can we actually satisfy you”, making sure the points they raised were addressed. So don’t be afraid to dream big!
Any new adventures in the pipeline?
There’s definitely always an adventure to be had, and it’s an interesting thing, Cas and I have always had a saying that adventure is relative. No one can tell you what your adventure is going to be; it’s relative to yourself and that’s it, whether its going off and doing an expedition like we did or going off and jumping into a business and starting that up, or going off and acting in a play.
Cas has started a business up in the Blue Mountains where he lives, and it’s about getting people into the outdoors, and I’m working on expedition plans, there are going to be two. One is happening in September of this year up in the Pilbara, and one is happening next year here in the outback, which is going to be a pretty long exhibition … but more details on that later.
And finally, where can our readers find out more about Cas and Jonesy and follow your journey?
Check us out at casandjonesy.com.au and Facebook.
This article was from issue 116 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus.