Australian Sandy Robson sees potential in the marine resources

Sandy Robson, the 45-year-old Australian, who is kayaking from Germany to Australia, found the Gulf of Mannar region ideal for “Kayak tourism”.

Ms Robson, who began her solo journey from Ulm in Germany in May 2011 and took a break to resume her journey from Gujarat, paddled her way in the western coasts to enter the Gulf of Manner region early this week. She is touched by the beauty of the rich marine resources.

“The region dotted with 20 odd islets is world class. I have stayed in many places during the expedition and my stays for six days in some of these islets-Nallathani theevu, Upputhanni theevu and Appatheevu turned out to be unforgettable”, she said.

She stayed in a small make-shift tent and cooked food, which took the local fishermen by surprise.

The fishermen frequented the islets for collecting sea weeds and fishing. Personnel from the Mandapam station of the Indian Coast Guard came in a hovercraft and offered her cool drinks during her stay on an islet, she says.

“This region, rich with coral reefs and fishery resources could be an ideal place for kayak tourism and the local fishermen could be trained in kayaking. Promotion of the eco friendly kayak tourism could be an alternative livelihood for the local fishermen”, she suggests.

The reporter met her when she was relaxing flipping through a book on birds on the first floor of the palatial Bison Bungalow off Mandapam coast, near the Coast Guard Station.

She happily posed for pictures with her kayak, which was covered with a brand new cotton sari outside the bungalow and close to the shore. “Saris are good cover for Kayaks and I am going to buy more saris for my friends,’ she says laughing.

She seeks to downplay her adventure, stating “I am just retracing German canoeist Oskar Speck’s journey in a kayak along the same stretch from Ulm (Germany) to Australia from 1932 to 1939.

Just as her mentor did, she proposed to paddle around Sri Lanka. She would become the first woman to paddle along the Indian coast from Gujarat to West Bengal and reach Australia via Bangladesh.

She would take a break, probably for about ten months after reaching Puducherry in the next couple of weeks before accomplishing the journey in 2016. She would go back to Australia to join her company Capricorn Sea Kayaking and resume her job as kayaking guide and trainer to raise funds for the rest of the journey.

Three Tamil Nadu motor sports persons sponsored her journey from Kanyakumari to Chennai, but there were not many sponsors for her expedition, she says. She took her first break and went to Australia on reaching Cyprus.

She came back to Turkey, but was denied entry into the Persian Gulf in Iran and Syria. As she was also denied permission in Pakistan , she had to begin her journey from Gujarat.

In Kanyakumari, she was “accosted” by a posse of Tamil Nadu police in the hotel lobby. They fired a volley of questions to find out whether she had any link with the then ongoing anti-nuclear agitation in Koodankulam.

Before the police could deny her permission, she changed her plan and reached Manapadu by road, avoiding the Koodankulam nuclear power plant.

“I am against nuclear power. It is not clean energy and India should harness power from solar and wind energy...but my expedition has nothing to do with this,” she says.

Ms Robson was not happy with the Indian coast, filled with garbage and plastic wastes.

“Before I leave any place, I make it a point to collect all the garbage and dispose them off in an environment friendly manner,” she says.

Carrying a sleek lap top, Robson, a spinster, is regularly in touch with her mom, dad and sister. She was born in England and moved to Australia when she was three years old with her parents.

“More than achieving anything, I want to inspire people to realise their dreams while working.” People keep working, putting off their dreams till their retirement. “My philosophy is realise your dream now and work later,” she laughs.