Paddling and Teaching CPR on the Mekong and Srepok Rivers
By Garrett Cooper
Last December and January, Matt Smith and I paddled a Pakboats PakCanoe 170 nearly 600 miles down the Srepok and Mekong Rivers through Cambodia and Vietnam. Along the way we stopped in several villages to teach CPR as well as abdominal thrusts to treat choking victims.
We spent 37 days of our 48 days in Southeast Asia living out of, and paddling my canoe. One obvious advantage of the PakCanoe is the ability to be packed up into a bag. Over the course of this expedition, my canoe was stuffed into planes, buses, tuk tuks, vans, mini buses, motor boats, a Range Rover, and a police vehicle. Anything that can transport people can transport a Pakboat which was extremely important when planning this expedition since we couldn’t have gotten any other boat to the places we went.
When properly bagged up the boats are quite durable, which is great because mine was dropped, sat on, walked on, and otherwise handled roughly several times by drivers and passengers trying to cram into crowded vehicles. If anything were to break on the boat, it’s almost all field repairable with a patch or a couple zip ties.
On the water the canoe handled well and we appreciated the added width of the 170 to accommodate our mountain of gear, including our CPR manikins and other teaching equipment. The size of the 170 also allowed us to float in shallower water which was almost required for us to make it through some of the shallow rapids of the Srepok.
This canoe allowed us to paddle places other people don’t go. We paddled to some amazing places like dark tributaries to the Mekong, flooded forests, floating villages and markets, and many other places. On an island in Vietnam, we met an American veteran of the Vietnam War, and he told us we were the only westerners besides him to set foot on the island since the war. This was the kind of place we stopped throughout the expedition; to places far off the beaten track, where we wouldn’t have been able to go without my PakCanoe.
Even when we were paddling in places that would get some tourists like floating villages on the Tonle’ Sap Lake, we got to see the village more intimately than all the others who just made their designated stops on a motor boat. We were able to paddle the back “streets” of these villages and interact more with the locals. The locals always got a kick out of seeing us in our strange boat, but even with all the differences, one woman told us that we were like them because we paddled our own boat.
With Pakboats you don’t have to limit you’re paddling locations to where you can get a boat, you just bring the boat with you anywhere in the world and paddle on your own terms.