It’s fair to say that Justin Jones has a repertoire of adventures that will keep his future grandchildren rather impressed during story-time. He and his exploring compadre James Castrission have a tendency to come up with ideas that are enormously ambitious and completely crazy in equal measure, but actually, put their money where their mouths are. I caught up with Jonesy last month to find out about his expeditions and his favourite spots in NSW.
Firstly, can you give us a quick summary of your biggest adventures to date?
Me and Cas (James Castrission) paddled a kayak from Australia to New Zealand (Crossing the Ditch). This expedition was completely unsupported and took us 62 days. We paddled 3318km and battled 10m waves, storms, adverse winds and currents, as well as food and sleep deprivation. We became the first people to ever kayak across the Tasman and set a record for the longest trans-oceanic double kayak expedition.
Cas and I skied from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back unsupported and unassisted (Crossing the Ice). The journey took 89days, and we skied 2275km. At the start of the journey we dragged sleds that weighed 160kg each and over the course of the expedition lost 56kg of weight between the two of us. I have never ever felt that hungry in my life. We became the first to have ever done this feat and set a record for the longest unsupported, unassisted team polar ski expedition.
RESPECT. Is there one memory from your trips that really stands out?
Arriving in NZ. 25,000 people on Ngamotu beach (New Plymouth) waiting to see us come in. Jumping off that kayak, feeling the sand come up between my toes and staggering between all those people. Absolutely unforgettable.
…and the most terrifying, heart-stopping moment?
Facing a storm in the middle of the Tasman sea, with 10m waves and having to jump into the water and free the para anchor line from around the rudder. Not something I’d want to do ever again.
Is there one item you’d never travel without?
A headtorch, and my North Face Verto 26 (ultra light weight back pack that scrunches down to nothing). That said I definitely didn’t bring the head torch to Antarctica…24hr daylight.
What’s your favourite part of NSW?
Hmmm that’s a tough one, depends on what you want to get up to! I couldn’t decide so here’s a couple:
- The Blueys: Canyoning, hiking, trail running, climbing, need I say more and all within 2.5hrs from Sydney.
- The Coastline all around Sydney. Sydney is blessed to have one of the most beautiful harbours and the beaches around her are pretty hard to beat…especially if you can go for a spearfish, sail or kayak!
- Aussie Alps Backcountry: Nothing like skiing between Snow gums in one of the most iconic alpine regions of the world. Sure we don’t have steep mountains, but we have a feel that is distinctly Australian.
If you had to recommend one weekend microadventure in NSW, where and what would it be?
A multi-day canyon or multiple canyons in a weekend, up in the Blue Mountains. Pound for pound best outdoor experience you can have!
What’s the most alternative weekend adventure you’ve ever experienced?
Did a “getting ugly” weekend that involved me, Cas and two other mates jumping into the Wollemi River in the middle of winter with our wetties and very minimalistic gear. We then swam, walked and waded over the next two days to the Wolgan Valley. Freaking freezing but so much fun.
You’re madder than a bag of frogs. Yes – that definitely counts! Ok, so you’ve got a week to play with. Where would you head on a road trip?
This answer would definitely depend on the mood I was in…but since you asked me right now, I reckon it would be a road trip up or down the coast with the missus and a couple of mates. Pack the spearfishing gear, tent, stove (if I was coordinated enough to surf, I’d say bring the board…but lets face it, I’m horribly uncoordinated!) and cruise along the coastline. Pulling in, snorkelling, spearing lunch and dinner each day enjoying the sunrises and sunsets just living with the tides and moods of the ocean and outdoors. I’m honestly about to walk out the door and head off now, that sounds like too much fun.
I’ll join you if there’s space! Favourite place to camp?
That’s way too hard to pick. Anywhere there isn’t a road or another group of people camping near by. I especially love it if it’s winter. I’m also loving my Hennesey Hammock at the moment if I’m hitting the trails solo!
So if you want to take just your missus away for the weekend from Sydney – where would you take her?
She’d probably want to head to Byron or Bellingen but I’d be inclined to head to the Blue Mountains or Morton National Park down south. Bush walk and camping out in the middle of nowhere. Perfect.
What do you love most about NSW?
The coastline, the Aussie bush, the sounds of the birds as you wake in the morning. You’ve got your pick of some many activities to do in a wide variety of environments.
Can you remember your very first adventure?
I think my first real exposure to the outdoors and camping came from Duke of Edinburgh and Cadets but the first couple of adventures were probably bushwalking Katoomba to Mittagong, The Three Peaks Challenge in the Blue Mountains and Paddling the length of the Murray River over 49days (2560km) – That was probably the first big one.
So what’s next for you Jonesy?
Working on two desert trips – one for September in the Pilbara and the other even bigger in the Aussie outback….I’m being coy on the details because I haven’t officially launched the trips yet!
Check out more interviews from this bunch of legends