Sonja is no ordinary chick. She has recently battled one of lifes many surprises. Just a year ago her life dramatically changed, when she got diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis (MS). A disease which attacks your nervous system creating havoc on your bodies ability to function normally.
Inspiration comes from her motivation
Life is short, and Sonja's diagnosis was a big reminder of that. Having a chance to look at life with fresh eyes, was the start of a new chapter. Kayaking would be just one element of Sonja's rehabilitation, but she needed to channel her energy into getting her strength and stamina back on track. She got directed towards Chris Brain an amazing kayak coach, who helped her blossom into the kayaking world.
Paddle High 5 is Sonja's alter-ego and blog. A place where she talks openly about her struggles with MS, love for kayaking and her new found passion for adventure. Her infectious enthusiasm had me smiling even on a grey, cold and blustery day in Wales. She told me all about her goal of paddling from Coast to Coast through Scotland. A water-way that cuts directly through the Great Glen, connecting Fort William to Inverness, via giant lochs and man made canals. This 60 mile journey was set by Chris and Sonja as a ultimate goal to mark her successful rehabilitation.
This goal allowed her to focus, train and learn new kayaking skills over a period of six months. When I heard about Sonja's story I wanted to be involved. I wanted the world to know how hard she had worked and how anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. I want people to have the chance to catch her infectious enthusiasm and enjoy the contagious motivation that surrounds her.
All I could offer to the party was my amateur film making skills and a keen desire to make her a movie.
In return I would have an amazing 3 days paddling, meet great new friends, and home my dodge camera skills.
So the journey began, with an extra tag along (that's me). Setting off from Fort William we navigated the calm waters of our first canal (actually my first ever canal) heading strait into the heart of Scotland. The gang were buzzing with excitement and even the sun was shining.
In order to cover the 60 mile distance in our three allocated days (most people do it in 5) we needed to cover 30 miles a day. No mean feat even for a seasoned sea dog like myself, let alone a team of jolly beginners and a ever enthusiastic Sonja. I was nervous, I hoped this challenge was achievable.
Scotland ensured delivery of traditional weather for the crew to enjoy. Huge chop pushed our kayaks forwards and nervous faces surrounded me. That is apart from Sonja who suddenly came whizzing past unable to hold that child like "weeeeeee" sound in. You know, the one that slips out when your having to much fun and usually moving with a gleeful amount of speed.
Thank goodness the wind was pushing us forward! We made good time and enjoyed our surroundings even if there was a good level of concentration needed to ride the ever growing chop. Our journey would be full of the usual Scottish squalls, blustery winds and heavy rain showers. Not once did it dampen our spirits tho. If anything the following wind was a huge helping hand and certainly kept us on our toes.
Wild camping is always a giggle. Tough for the city folk but always fun if you let go and embrace it. We enjoyed warm camp fires and toasted marshmallows as the oystercatchers gossiped noisily down the beach. I didn't realise how magical inland kayaking could be, this trip was opening up my eyes too.
I can now say I have paddled Coast to Coast across Scotland, including the whole length of Loch Ness, and that I enjoy kayaking along canals (who'd have thought). I can also definitely say that I strongly dislike (hate is a strong word) portages and loch gates! I also know that I love making films and get inspired just knowing I have a small opertunity to show people, what I love so much about the outdoors and adventures.
So without further a-do hear is Sonja's Story 'A Journey to Freedom'
Outdoor Girl and Adventurer. Enjoy stories from her coaching, talking and exploring.