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Expedition Watch: Kayaking Around South America

Freya's blog. Screenshot: FreyaHoffmeister.com

The patchwork of multi-colored, multi-sized sponsor logos; the bold orange, yellow, and incredibly small, white text littered against a black background; and the tiny photo thumbnails on Freya Hoffmeister's blog offer all of the appeal of a used car dealership homepage circa 1998. The headlines are little more than dates. The fact-packed location readings are heavy on the numbers. And the time estimates on how long it will take you to read, say, Hoffmeister's 929-word dispatch that leads with a cat eating her garbage (3:43) or the story behind a picture of a kitten poking its head out of a Christmas tree (0:28) aren’t so click-inducing either. But you should still go to her site and tap on the headlines.

"Trailing seals at Punta Lobos" —Freya Hoffmeister. Photo: FreyaHoffmeister.com

They will lead you to bigger pictures and posts that take you inside a school of giant red jellyfish, the homes of coastal Chilean families, and onto remote beaches with decaying cannons and sheer cliffs where Hoffmeister calculates whether a mutant wave crashing in during the middle of the night could sweep her away. It’s a sometimes weary, often jovial sea log filled with plenty of photos and a tough German’s deadpan musings on the exploratory life. Even her friends aren’t spared from her camera and honest spillings. Take, for example, her journal entries on Peter Unold, the companion from Denmark who joined her on the paddle from Valparaiso, Chile, to the middle of Peru.

We were conveniently launching off the sheltered beach, and were soon again on our way. After the last weeks being “plug in free,” Peter decided this morning to use his MP3 player again, which locks me out of communication. Can’t say I like it, paddling next to a deaf person ... and I decided to paddle as close to the rocks as Peter never dares to do any way.... —October 4, Day 288

She may have regretted writing that last bit, given what happened to Peter’s boat on October 11, Day 295.

"Peter's boxer nose kayak :-)" —Freya Hoffmeister. Photo: FreyaHoffmeister.com

Long story short, Peter caught a small swell wave paddling just through the gap entrance, and couldn’t help getting a bit turned and was hitting his bow quite ugly on a rock ... bad enough, but he also got turned sideways on this small swell wave, fully 90 degrees in the only about 4m-wide entrance, and was lifted up with the damaged bow and stern on the rocks on both ends ... he was now sitting high and dry and quite helplessly locked in! If it hadn’t been so serious, I would have almost been laughing....

Peter was OK, but he put a huge hole in his kayak, which Hoffmeister had to spend a lot of time repairing. Instead of grumbling Peter's name over the next few days, she used the occasion to have some fun on her blog—ribbing him in the caption of her next photo.

"On the next rock gap landing, Peter will pad his kayak nose like this! :-)" — Freya Hoffmeister. Photo: FreyaHoffmeister.com

Maybe she offered the same sort of ribbing while paddling? If so, it's not hard to imagine why Peter brought those headphones.

Hoffmeister emailed us from Iquique, Chile, to share additional information about her expedition. Find out more below, and then spend some time on her blog.

WHO: Freya Hoffmeister is a 48-year-old former skydiver and competitive bodybuilder who was in the middle of a 332-day, 8,000-mile-long circumnavigation of Australia in 2009 when she first thought of setting out on a three-year-long, 15,000-mile-long circumnavigation of South America.

WHAT AND WHEN: If she completes her three-leg circumnavigation of South America, the German will be the first person to paddle around the continent. Each leg covers roughly 5,000 miles and will take eight or nine months. The breaks in between will allow Hoffmeister to rest and go for ice cream with her teenage son. She completed the first leg, a 5,000-mile epic that included a trip around Cape Horn—the most difficult part of her journey, through 60 knot winds and over 12-foot surf—in May 2012. The second leg began in Valparaiso, Chile, at the end of August, and ends in May 2013 in Georgetown, Guyana. The toughest part of that leg, so far, has been navigating her sea kayak onto beaches with breaking 12-foot surf. In September of 2013, she will leave Guyana and paddle toward Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the goal of landing before her 50th birthday in May 2014.

WHY: “Because it's there. Other people climb mountains.”

SPONSORS: Thule, Haglöfs, Point 65 North, Hilleberg, and more

FOLLOW ALONGFreyaHoffmeister.com

—Joe Spring

Filed To: Adventure / Paddling
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