Ever Wanted To Paddle A Kayak – Across The South Seas?
Idyllic, isn’t it? Well, if your “wanderlust” drives you to a kayak and the pacific ocean, you won’t be the first – because legendary travel writer Paul Theroux beat you to it!
The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific by Paul Theroux – published in 1993
Paul Theroux is a legendary travel writer as well as an Author of fiction – such as “The Mosquito Coast” – and I have posted about many of his great travel memoirs before. This one, however, may be his best, because he wrote about an amazing adventure here:
Welcome To Paradise – The South Seas!
Theroux spent 18 months in a one-man collapsible kayak exploring such exotic Pacific islands as New Zealand, Australia, the Soloman and Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Easter Island, and Hawaii. His adventure makes for an amazingly entertaining book.
As one review states:
“Never a kind-hearted chronicler of place, he sets out on this voyage in an especially dour mood, leaving behind a failed marriage and expecting to be diagnosed with cancer at any moment. Soon after he escapes the crowded towns of Australia, however, he starts to lose some of his harsh edge and enjoy his travels, which ultimately heal him. A brilliant storyteller with an eye for the absurd, Theroux takes the reader to little-known places where time seems to have stood still and people lead simple lives totally unrelated to 20th-century America.”
The pages of “Happy Isles” are lined with comedy, tragedy, politics and a touch of the mundane – because as you can imagine, it take a long time to get from one island to the next. The Author is a terrific writer, and you really feel you are there on the trip with him – and what a trip it is!
Another reviewer raved:
“Any perceptive reader with a sense of adventure couldn’t help but feel drawn to the islands as Theroux describes them – their idiosyncrasies, history, culture, beauty and repulsiveness in equal measure – which speckle the Pacific Ocean like stars in the night sky.”
The South Pacific is paradise for sure – but it’s also thousand and thousands of miles of ocean, sprinkled with small islands – and it’s one of the most isolated places on the planet – perfect for a brilliant writer like Theroux.
From the book:
“There were stars everywhere, above us, and reflected in the sea along with the sparkle of phosphorescence streaming from the bow wave. When I poked an oar in the ocean and stirred it, the sea glittered with twinkling sea-life. … It was as though we were in an old rickety rocket ship.
It was an image that afterwards often came to me when I was traveling in the Pacific, that this ocean was as vast as outer space, and being on this boat was like shooting from one star to another, the archipelagoes like galaxies, and the islands like isolated stars in an empty immensity of watery darkness, and this sailing was like going slowly from star to star, in vitreous night.”
– Paul Theroux, The Happy Isles of Oceania: Paddling the Pacific
I loved this book, and am about to read it again – perhaps it’s because I have always loved book about this region, like this one:
Writer Lucy Irvine wrote the incredible true story “Castaway”, about living on a deserted island for a year with a man she had never met. Her followup book, “Faraway” is an incredible true story as well – you can read all about it here:
I also shared the story of a young teacher who signed up to spend a year on a south seas island as well:
His memoir is also fascinating – this part of the world is so far removed from the rest of us, living there on a small island in the middle of nowhere is an eye-opening experience…you can read more here:
Let me know if you’ve read any of these memoirs, or have been to the remote South Seas!