Michael O'Shea InterviewPhotography and Text By Michael O'Shea © All rights reserved.
How he feels to be the first person to tackle the Mekong River?
I feel privileged and excited. There's not many of the worlds greatest geographical phenomena that have not been challenged yet.
What it would mean for him to complete the quest?
It will be further proof to me that anything is achievable in life. We are only limited by our imagination and our willingness to follow our dreams.
Memories of Kalgoorlie (just to localize the story a bit).
Kalgoorlie was a great place to grow up as a kid, I still have loads of good friends and family there. I was lucky to have parents who loved the bush and this provided me with a passion for the outdoors. My 3 years in the mines there taught me a lot about working as a team player and getting the job done in harsh conditions. Kalgoorlie will always be home.
I'm in the process of garnering support for an Eco-tourism project with the goal of saving the highly endangered Mekong Irrawaddy Dolphins in Cambodia and Laos. They are beautiful creatures that live about 700 kilometers upstream from the ocean. If we can secure the support we need for the project it will keep me busy for a while. Besides that I want to move back to Australia for a stint and catch up with old friends and family, so no doubt that will mean some time back in Kal fairly soon. As always I will focus on living life to the fullest.
Where he developed his interest of water sports, considering he hails from Kalgoorlie-Boulder?
My family always made regular trips to Esperance, Perth and the South West where my brothers and I surfed, boogie boarded and such from a young age. I was sponsored on a 5 day pack and paddle course through the south west of WA on the Blackwood river when I was 12 by the Legacy Foundation. On that trip I realized that rivers go where the roads don't and they provide efficient access to almost every type of environment imaginable. When I realized that whitewater could provide access to limitless natural and cultural environments with a good charge of adrenaline thrown in I found a new passion in life. I'm now a certified white water junky.
Any other comments about his journey....how it's going?
The trek to the source by horse was tough yet absolutely incredible. We encountered wolves at close range, antelope, wild horses, deer, bear and loads of bird life. We spent a whole night fighting to save a Tibetan man who was badly gored in the face by a Yak ( I'm pretty sure he made it) and staying with the nomads in yak hair tents for over a week is an experience I will never forget.
From the source I trekked 160 kilometers over the frozen river to where it defrosted enough to start paddling. My lips are still cracked and nose is peeling from the cold and snow storms and I lost 8 kilos in that two weeks, but it was a fantastic trip. I have now paddled a couple of hundred kilometers through massive gorges to the edge of the Tibetan plateau. Next step is to paddle off the edge and through the 3 parallel rivers world heritage site where the Mekong crashes off the edge of the plateau dropping over 3000 meters through gorges up to 3.2 kilometers deep. That's the most exciting section, I cant wait.
Will Mick succeed?
I'm very confident that I can technically complete this expedition but the problem is that one of our sponsors from America have not come through with the funds they pledged so we are at risk of having to call it all off after we hit Yunnan in 3 weeks unless they cough up or someone else steps in. Once we hit Thailand all ground support is sponsored to the South China Sea so its just a matter of getting myself and the production crew through Yunnan for about 4 weeks. Its very frustrating to have things threatened due to one sponsor as everything else has been going so well. Its also hard to sort a problem like this out from the middle of the Tibetan plateau!!
What does it take to pull this expedition off?
Passion for what I'm doing, trustworthy sponsors and about another 1.9 million paddle strokes!!
Read About The Complete Mekong Descent