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Originally published January 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 13, 2008 at 7:50 AM

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Australian paddlers reach New Zealand

Two adventurers arrived in New Zealand today after paddling more than 2,000 miles from Australia in a kayak — the first such journey...

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Two adventurers arrived in New Zealand today after paddling more than 2,000 miles from Australia in a kayak — the first such journey by kayak to succeed.

Australians James Castrission, 25, and Justin Jones, 24, spent 62 days crossing the Tasman Sea in their custom-built fiberglass vessel and battled strong winds and tides that spun them in giant circles and forced them to change their original plans.

The two pulled in at Ngamotu Beach near the town of New Plymouth on New Zealand's west coast shortly after midday, were greeted by a clutch of traditional Maori canoes and welcomed as pioneers by a crowd of about 2,000 kayak enthusiasts.

"NZ, thank you, thank you, you guys rock. This is so cool," Jones said, as the two hugged family members and drank a beer they were each handed.

Castrission paid tribute to Andrew McAuley, an Australian kayaker who vanished in February last year after making a desperate mayday call while trying to make a solo crossing of the Tasman.

"We have only got a small, small idea of what Andrew went through out there," Castrission told reporters. "Some nights when we were out there, we had each other to hold through the difficult moments."

The pair, who left Australia on Nov. 13, had intended to make it to Auckland, the country's largest city, before Christmas but changed plans after being buffeted during the journey.

During the trip, strong ocean flows forced them to make huge circles to avoid being carried far off course, meaning their eventual journey was much farther than the 1,400 miles they had originally planned.

They were taken for medical checks amid fears their leg muscles may have deteriorated because of the long period of inactivity. They climbed out of their kayak, however, and appeared in good health.

Their trek is believed to be the first successful crossing from Australia and New Zealand by kayak.

McAuley vanished after reaching within sight of New Zealand's mountains. His kayak and equipment — including a camera with the last images he shot — were found later, but not his body.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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