Kayaker hopes to paddle rivers on all continents

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By Sandy Bond

Never one to idly watch life go by, Rod Wellington was blessed with a sense of wonder. The type of child, who asked, “Why?” he was never satisfied with the answer, “Just because.”
For hundreds of years, many have dreamed of exploring the “Mighty Mo.” From the headwaters of the Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico, traversing the currents in his 16-foot red kayak, he is making his dream a reality.
Only the first stage of a larger project called the Magnificent Seven Expedition, the quest is to paddle the longest river system on each continent from its source. Successive journeys will include exploring the Nile in Africa, the Amazon in South America, Yangtze in Asia, Darling-Murray in Australia, Volga in Europe and the Onyx in Antarctica. Compiling extensive journals and blogging along the way, he hopes to write a book about each adventure.
At 10 hours a day, on a good day he can make approximately 30 miles, and hopes to make the Gulf of Mexico by Christmas. Beset with occasional setbacks including driving rain and windstorms, it’s sometimes an arduous task. But the people he’s met have made his heart soar.
Traveling through Williston, N.D., during the height of the oil boom was an experience he won’t soon forget.  His quest for adventure, he said, was similar to the oil workers’ quest for a better life for their families back home.  He could identify with their sacrifices, and they, his. The irony was that his mode of transportation was totally “green.”
Indeed, part of the goal of his company, Zero Emissions Expeditions, is to show a method of travel that leaves no carbon footprints.
The idea came to Chris as he worked at his job for a landscaping firm, pushing a lawnmower that belched emissions.
Often sleeping under the stars, he camped briefly in a cabin at Bridge City Marina.
Carrying a 15-day supply of food in his kayak, he concedes, simplicity is key. Being a vegan, he eats no dairy or meat. Beans and rice and apples and oranges are his favorite staples.
Born to working-class parents, Rod and his two sisters grew up in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, located on the Thames River. His father had seen action during the Korean Conflict in the military. However, the family lived a rather mundane life, he said.
“We never hunted or even camped while I was growing up,” he said.
Rod and his friends formed a band, “Power,” which lip-synced to the heavy metal music of the 1980s, participating in local competitions.
Band members went their separate ways after high school. Reuniting with an old friend, quite by chance he entered Novak’s, one of British Columbia’s most well-known department stores. Nearly overwhelmed by the vast array of hunting, hiking and camping supplies, he left with a pair of hiking boots and all the essentials for spending a holiday in the wilderness. It changed his life.
Moving to Vancouver and cycling wherever he went, he embraced an alien concept: a low-emissions lifestyle.
A trip cycling across the wilds of western Australia was preparation for the solitude of the river.
“No fences and no violence,” he said. “It was intriguing!”
An aboriginal woman posed a question to him, simultaneously haunting him and pushing him forward.
“Where do you sleep?” she asked.
“In the bush,” he answered.
“Smart boy,” she replied, a confirmation of her approval, and validating his quest.

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