January 2017...Returning To Normal Life!

Don't cry because it is over, SMILE because it happened. - Dr Seuss

Well this has to have been my motto for this month (January 2017). Thanks Dr. Seuss, I do not think any of us can read one of his books without smiling. How crazy, so very silly and a tad weird. In a strange, crazy Dr Seuss world, they become very beautiful words.

Anyway you all will be wondering how my return into my old world, my reintegration to my house, to my friends and to all the others, some not even realising that I had been gone and what I was attempting. Some days I have felt like the aliens have dropped me through a portal and landed me back to what we are meant to embrace as normal! Well you guessed, it the nomadic gypsy has had her moments.

For everyone who has asked me along the way, “what are you going to do when you finish?" Well that is most certainly a work in progress. All I can say is I am staying busy, focused and living day by day. Just like my mantra for the past 14 months.

We had made a plan to very quickly head south out of Auckland after my landing. I have to say I had a feeling of relief to be leaving the city behind, and as I got past the base of the Bombay Hills, I was headed to a holiday favourite of mine, Hahei. For as many years as I can remember we have gone to this wonderful NZ iconic treasure for a few weeks each year and the need to continue this tradition made me smile. Only one night of our booking was left of the summer vacation but that was okay. New Years Eve and everyone was partying around us; that was a total mind overload, but thankfully I was so tired that sleeping became my priority, so by 10pm I was happily in my sleeping bag, lights out in Cuzzie, with the neighbouring tent singing loudly. But to be honest that was no real problem as within minutes I was asleep and was not disturbed.

The first laugh of 2017 was my 3.30am alarm! Oops! I had forgotten to deactivate that! But also I woke with a huge start, the calmness and no sound of waves or wind, this meant I must have needed to paddle today! I seriously had to say out loud "Red take a chill pill, you have finished, seriously go back to sleep". Even Bianca and Jase where quietly muttering from their sleepy state.

The next 5 days I spent tiki-touring around the Coromandel, most days swimming and paddling then on the move to the next location. Whangamata, Waihi, Kuaotunu, Kennedy Bay. Eventually I had to have a serious silent chat to myself and finally convinced myself that I had to face the fact. I had to be brave and go home, I think the team were silently happy that it was not them who had to do the kidnapping and get me back to a sort of normal routine. So with a tad heavy heart I set about the next stage of me re-entering the old Auckland city world. As we got closer to Auckland, waves of over whelming sadness swept across me and I found myself sitting in the passenger’s seat with tears flowing down my face. I was at last starting to be honest and accept that the nomadic NZ Journey was at an end.

The next few days once home, as like any trip, was about the unpacking, cleaning and gear washing. Poor Cuzzie the camper-van; she was in a very dusty, dirty state and with swimming gear on we scrubbed and water blasted her back to her pre-trip glory. Thanks Cuzzie you were and are totally amazing.

Bianca sadly headed back to Germany on Monday the 9th of January to snow and a chilly –20 degrees. A Hot Air Balloon festival in Austria, I was envious of the event but one thing I was not envious of, the cold, I could not even comprehend that degree of coldness!

Slowly but surely I have re-entered a world and a lifestyle I came from, but I have had to make some subtle changes to each day, just so it feels different, so I can look at unfamiliar new sights in my old city, but changing them and going to new venues and locations keeps me far happier. I have been back on the ocean paddling just a little since returning home, I've re-introduced myself to Eskimo rolling and am happy to find that it was not a forgotten skill, nope they were not 10 out of 10 scores on the rolls but they were successful.

Sleeping in a bed, yes very weird, sleeping with no familiar sea and wave noises, now that was totally wrong! Having a cat jump on the bed in the middle of the night! That was a brief startling moment. The washing machine got a workout for the first few days and the household is now dreading the upcoming monthly water bill now I am home!

Looking around my home, all I continually do is wonder why do I own so many objects and things! And for what purpose do they have to me in my daily life? Actually the answer mostly is nothing and I am just daily walking past these things, and then I began placing these many items in a pile to give away. I am on a de-clutter mission which seems to be gathering momentum, the joke in the house is that “no one should sit still” or otherwise I will have them also in the un-wanted pile to give away!

Heading back out to my old haunts, the many Waitakere tracks, revisiting KareKare the Zion Track, now that is truly a tough uphill run. Yes it hurt, it was great to be in the bush and to see the West Coast ocean! Then stand in the waterfalls to cool off the aching legs.

I have visited the Vero White-Water Centre, twice now, to watch and ponder if I am even up to braving this new white-water experience. I was convinced that this experience would be a wet, upside down affair, and it did not disappoint. I was a tad miffed for a few minutes. Then that darn determined "must do" attitude arrived. So after a trip down the fast flowing waters, losing my tiny kayak halfway down (ah yes it was expected!) I knew, but thanks to Mike I was not put off for long. I spent the rest of the session in the many eddies and whirlpools at the base of the course! And wished that my kayaking world had begun in the world of white-water and rapids. I actually reckon everything else would feel easier. Anyway it was a tad hilarious for the spectators! And for me, yes you guessed it, another challenge.

I made a trip to Manukau Heads to locate James and Fiona as they continued up the West Coast on their kayaking adventure. What an amazing pair, respect to you both. I was happy to have located them both, and I smiled this morning when I read their post of their most recent days paddle: 22.5 hours paddling, a 135km day! WOW! That is truly EPIC! Congrats to them. I know what it feels like getting to Ahipara.

The rest of my weeks so far this year have been filled with me, my 2017 planning and the “what to do?", the “how to keep still?", the constant urge to hear the sound of the ocean, and any reason to leave my laptop and mobile behind to head anywhere, probably south. Each day I still remind myself, what this journey was about and what it became. Yes it was a life changing extraordinary adventure.

As I close my eyes each night I recite my smiles for each day and I am happy to say I continue to have the smile from the inside out.

My Smiles (there have been many, but the most memorable smiles this month):
Friends and the many catch-ups.
Having a surprise visit from the amazing fishermen friends, while they were in port recently. (Thanks guys, miss you!) From Predator and Tiger Zeye.
Support Crew gathering and BBQ. So many laughs.
My new fire-pit, there never seems enough wood to burn.
Re-discovering my old haunts and the fact there are many new.
Looking for another adventure.

My Tears:
I have a sad heart over the whale stranding at Farewell Spit. Bless these beautiful creatures, I look to the ocean and ask why?

Ma Te Wa. 

Red.
 

One Tree Hill. Where I go to look out towards the oceans.

One Tree Hill. Where I go to look out towards the oceans.

NZ Summer.

NZ Summer.

The best time of the day for paddling.

The best time of the day for paddling.

Te Ika-a-Maui (The Fish of Maui) -The North Island of New Zealand

Te Ika-a-Maui (The Fish of Maui) -The North Island of New Zealand

I needed to sit for a little while before I could settle and write about the North Island. Some of the East Coast I had forgotten and had to revisit; it had been rather a long time and holy heck, there had been so much coastline that I had paddled past since I had been there. I almost convinced myself that I had to drive Cuzzie (our camper-van) back along the roads on a memory jogging trip, to place myself by the ocean and just focus.

The North Island and my paddling. What did I feel along the way?

Well it was actually rather kind to me at the start. Auckland waters, for some strange reason which I still cannot fathom, made me wake up with an initial upside down moment. I still shake my head at this, and Mother Nature and I started the game of respect. This coastline has so many cool little bays, so many places you want to stop and pitch your tent, beautiful beaches and numerous back to back days of paddling. In fact, there was a stretch of sixteen days of paddling with not a day to rest my paddle.

My first day off the water I remember was at Tologa Bay. What a gorgeous enforced stopover with a couple of days to relax and watch the locals easily catching crayfish from the Tologa Bay old wharf. Then on I headed towards and past Gisbourne. I remember Mike saying to me “I have not paddled this section of the coastline.” Later, once I was past, Mike finished the sentence by saying there were good reasons not to paddle along that coast. Thanks Mike. There were many firsts on this East Coast, paddling sixteen days straight was just one of them.

I had so many fun days along the way, paddling with the BASK team out of Hahei, then with Andy Warner and Nathan Pettigrew for a few hours at the Mount. I got to enjoy spending many happy hours with fantastic pods of dolphins; one of the memorable days was at the tip of Mahia Peninsula. Then it was time for more lessons from Mother Nature as I headed towards Wairoa and onto nasty, dumping, steep stony beaches along this next section of the coast, which quickened my heart rate as I paddled. The beaches were covered in driftwood, actually entire trees were on the beach; a huge reminder of the strength of these waves. We had lots of fun in the local camping grounds of Wairoa with the coolest Christmas light display I have ever seen. In another first, Cuzzie and Regan encountered the first flat tyre problem, or more like a tyre blowout, but the locals came to the rescue because (oops) we had forgotten to actually have a tyre changing team lesson! Then it was onwards into Napier and around Cape Kidnappers, seeing an amazing, stunning sunrise, and meeting so many cool locals all along this crazy coastline (such fantastic kiwi souls). This time also saw my first whale sighting, my first blue shark (up close and personal wanting to share my mid morning snack), my first 1000km was achieved (when I landed at Porangahau Beach), my first glass of champagne and also my first meal of Paua on this journey (Nat and I still talk about this day).

We also had another first while staying around this area; a kayak tie-down mishap. Thelma (my original red kayak) came to a sad ending when she fell from the roof of Cuzzie and hit the tar seal road as we drove along at about 80km! We were shocked and stunned with disbelief all over our faces. Only thirty-one days into the trip, and there I was having to ring Star Kayaks and say what had happened. Thank goodness for Andy and his support. The Star kayak team built another little red kayak for me and I only spent a day or two paddling my lighter kayak (Louise). For me, this initial time with Louise was not a wonderful love affair. When we first hit the water together we connected for sure! But it was more a story of Louise and a big wave hitting me. One large bump on the head and then a beautiful black eye. This was when I attempted to depart from a Herbertville beach. It was a black moment for me. I glared at Louise, then at the ocean, and poor Nat kept checking me for signs of concussion! Louise and I had connected but not in a positive way. Luck was on my side as the weather held us up north of Castlepoint and in that time my replacement red kayak arrived. Thelma 2, she was quickly nicknamed T2 and it was an instant “I like you” feeling. So off I set with T2 from Flat Point, we said goodbye to some wonderful locals and onwards it was. We paddled towards Wellington, passing steep beaches with the cray-boats being launched (by bulldozers not tractors), cliffs being eroded by the ocean, and even a couple of abandoned houses about to topple into the ocean whenever the next storm arrived.

Tora Bay paddle was one to remember, I was stopped by some local divers and given crayfish (another first) for our dinner. Nat was so happy and to top this off we were able to have a fire on the beach at this little freedom campsite. The RedzNZ team were smiling and happy that night. We got held up again by the wind and swells for a couple of days further south at Palliser Bay. I had opted to wait on the corner of Palliser Bay until I could gap it across and into Wellington. So we were stuck in a dusty layby and had to just wait. Eventually we decided that the only good weather window was going to be an overnight paddle! So, feeling a tad nervous, I got ready and hit the water before sunset. It was a full moon evening for paddling across Cape Palliser but the departure was not smooth. Waves off the beach meant I had a swim and then had to clamber back into T2. Although, for some strange reason, the two-dollar-shop battery fairy lights on T2’s deck (care of Nat) did keep glowing and they kept me smiling through this night paddle, even after the dip in the ocean. They did begin to flicker on and off during the night, but at long last on the 18th of December 2015, I was landing at Owhiro Bay. At 4.00am, it was really cold and we both curled up for a well earned sleep. I had a day off the water before I got to paddle up and around to the West Coast of this island, past Makara and into Te Tahi Bay, ready and set to head South.

The South Island took some time, and shit we had some crazy adventures, but never in my wildest dreams had I imagined it would be the 30th of August 2016, before I would be standing on Te Tahi beach launching off with my new support person along with Nat. Was I looking forward to the West Coast of the North Island? Actually, to be totally honest, I was not! In all my days away I had only heard negative stories about this coastline and the lack of landings along this West Coast. But there was nothing I could do. Well, maybe there was an option: just not paddle this section! Or just suck it up and get on with it. I thought that maybe I could find a few smiles for this coastline, so I launched on a calm, still morning, paddling north. Te Tahi to Waikawa and then onwards. Day one was pleasant enough, the currents seemed to make it slow going, but the waves and swells on the horizon kept me looking over my left shoulder in the later part of the day. A textbook landing on these first two days helped my moral but my heart was feeling the strain. I even gave up coffee on this coastline as I could not cope with anymore adrenalin on each beach launch. The pre-paddling coffee was most certainly banned until I got to Spirits Bay.

The remaining West Coast beach landings were being counted. I totalled them up and there was going to be more bad landings, than nice landings, but me knowing how many thumpings I would get each day actually did help my mind. Some days at least. ”Day-by-day” remained my mantra and I tried to stick to that, not ever looking any further north than a couple of days. My countdown was on, and I focused on how to survive what Mother Nature was about to throw at me on this section of the coast. Daily I heard a bad story; it seemed someone would feel compelled to share a bad boating story, surfing misadventure, or (better still) to share a near death experience, or (worse still) a death story. Thanks, is all I could say. I promised to be really careful and I can share now that before hitting the West Coast section I had looked at and talked with all of my close team about the weather parameters I wanted to paddle in.  I would stare at the weather maps and the swell maps for many hours when I was off the water. I scanned for landings and we did many trips up along the coastline to get the landings correct. I was totally blessed and I stayed strong to my promise and we stuck true to this mantra.

I wanted so much to love this coastline and disperse the gut fears into smiles. And Mother Nature obliged. I had some stunning days on this coastline, so as I progressed up towards Cape Egmont, I was patient. I watched and waited and learned as much as I could. We travelled every road and tramped some amazing tracks around Mount Taranaki while the bad winds and rain battered the coastlines. I got to know what this coast was about and learnt lots from the locals; what they called rubbish, normal or exceptional weather days for this section of the coast. Then we got a break, and with Anna Caudle (my gorgeous support crew member from the USA) a new record distance of 83km was hit and I paddled into Opunake boat ramp smiling and happy. I was handed a huge bowl of salty, oily popcorn (Anna had not worked out how to make it sweet) which I promptly spilt on the floor of Cuzzie and had to eat most of it with a crunchy coating of fine, blackish sand! How feral can you get Red!? We slept happily, knowing I was about to get around to New Plymouth the first milestone I had set for myself on this coast.

A day later I “gapped it” to New Plymouth and it was not as easy as it sounds. The departure and the first few hours were wonderful, but the Cape was rough with rain, wind and a messy swell, but I had New Plymouth in my sights so I just kept pushing, slowly knocking off my kilometres and my checkpoints. To the delight of Anna and Jase I paddled into New Plymouth later in the day. I was happy to be around that Cape and there was a little moment when I let myself say “wow.” It had been a tough paddle and when I looked down at my hands I saw some of the best blisters of this entire trip. And I still had an even tougher coastline to conquer. Still the coastline stories kept coming from the well-wishing followers and what I heard made me quietly frown and ponder. But then it was head down and keep saying “Day-by-Day Red. Just Day-by-Day.”

It was yet another ten day stand down due to weather. Again I had plans for this next section and it was to keep continuing the longer days of paddling, wanting to minimise my crash landings as much as possible and actually try and limit the wave bashing at the start and end of each day.

The coastline sections were planned and we looked over them numerous times. Landings were decided on so when I did eventually head north my heart was feeling okay. Well, sort of okay. The swells were always there and you watched the rolling ocean approaching from the west. It rolled underneath you sometimes bigger than expected and then with a massive thunderous crash the waves hit onto the beaches. A constant reminder of what you had to deal with at the end of each day.

Eventually I got to Raglan. Seeing dolphins jumping, just before my final paddle into Raglan’s Manu Bay was a wonderful moment. Nat had returned as support person for this paddle, and being met at the Manu Bay boat ramp by Mike Scanlan was emotionally a huge spirit lifter. Later on we talked and went over my next section. I shared my thoughts and plans, and with his frank and honest talking, it set me totally focused for the next tough section. This was probably to be one of my biggest solo challenges yet. The plan was to go from Raglan onwards, and not lift my head until I actually rounded the tip into Ahipara. But there I sat for twenty-three days and I waited. I spent time alone. I spent time on the beaches at Port Waikato staring at the ocean and I went into a training phase. I went to my happy place of pool swimming and beach running, I drove up and down this next section south of the Manukau Harbour, and I was able to park up at a friends in Port Waikato and stay with them. I stayed on the West Coast and I stayed focused, waiting until Mother Nature let me go further, with one quick trip inland to collect with my newest support person, Bianca (from Germany).

Then we were off and after so many days off the water I wondered what this would feel like. 82kms later, with waves and a swell, crash landing at Hamiltons Gap, it was not too bad. I had the normal long sprint paddle from the back of the breakers and Louise was making me proud as I hung on to her stern and got a surf style ride onto the beach. I was feeling pretty chuffed, but also a little more nervous as I got closer to the Manukau Harbour.

Departure the next day could have gone either way but Mother Nature allowed me to escape. With a huge thwack we got over the last huge wave and I sat there on a slick, oily ocean at the back of those big West Coast waves. I was aware that this swell was dropping all day and it was a perfect West Coast day. The Manukau Harbour. All I needed to worry about was the amount of fizz boats racing out of the harbour to go fishing on this exceptional day. I escaped the harbour at full flood tide. There was a rolling swell but the Manukau Harbour, Piha and even Muriwai had me smiling. I have seen these beaches at their worst and so for me it was magic. Was my landing as magic as I ended my day and pulled in 15kms south of the Kaipara? It was not that painful. I got wet, Louise and I sprinted as hard as we could until Mother Nature got me with one of her waves, but a West Coast swim was not too bad. On the beach and damn happy with the day, the support crew had their own adventures. With the need to use a four-wheel drive vehicle for this beach access, we had Jase in action with his trusty Toyota ute on the beach. They had got themselves stuck a couple of times but by the time I arrived it was all sorted and the ute was safe and high on the dunes. Go Jase and Bianca. I am still disappointed that no pictures or videos were taken of the crew’s drama.

Seven days later it was time to escape this beach. I looked to the skies that morning and asked to be looked after by every spirit that had followed me on this journey. Kissing my pounamu and clambering into Louise with my heart in my mouth, did Mother Nature behave? No! She let me battle, survive and battle again. Then with 400m and two more sets to get over I got slammed. There was only one option that far out: a swim to Louise, then a gap in the waves leaving just enough time to clamber into a water filled cockpit, paddle a bloody heavy kayak out and over the last two huge waves while yelling at them “Don’t break. Please don’t break.” Then I was over and safe. The VHF crackled into life and I just asked the team to all talk to me. That was just the start of my day I still had what many had told me was to be my toughest part of the day. I still had the mighty Kaipara to get past. We did it. Closer than many wanted me to go, and as all watched my tracker over the hours it took me to pass and get clear, we all started to breathe a little deeper. Me the most as I used all my strength and mind calming skills to embrace, hug and then say thanks as I was able to pass into Glink Gully which blew up a storm as I arrived. I threw everything and more at this beach landing. I arrived with tears of joy. I was mentally and physically tired so I just sat in Cuzzie; eating and drinking while Bianca took control, and just sitting going “Holy crap. Wow. The Mighty Kaipara.”

There was not much time to wait as within a day I was on my way from Glink Gully to just south of Hokianga, to a river mouth called Waimamaku River. As planned, we knew it was to be a landing south of the river mouth as there were many rocks north at low tide. And with me, now fondly known as ”Crash Test”, we wanted to stay clear of wrecking a kayak on this coast. That was not a tale I wanted to tell. I landed with no trouble, but Bianca had the problem of swimming across the river to meet me and then, with a huge feed of very memorable fish and chips from the Hokianga small township, we went back to the river mouth to freedom camp. I now had my sights firmly on Ahipara. Mother Nature let me continue on, up and around into Shipwreck Bay the next day. She did let me out but nailed Bianca and her dry gear on the beach! However, the funniest moment was still me whizzing down the river mouth thinking I had the line correct to get out on the water and past the waves only to be foiled when I ground to a halt on a small sand bar. Which meant Bianca had to yet again wade out and drag me off the sand bar. I looked and felt like a stranded whale!

Ahipara was a place that both Bianca and I had longed to reach. My reasoning was that I would be able to see the top of this island and Bianca’s was because she could maybe get a couple more days of surfing in. But that was not to happen, as the next morning we were on the water. I was heading up and along the first stretch of Ninety Mile Beach towards The Bluff; the only little rocky out crop on the entire stretch of this very long beach! It was a day of trying to entertain myself on what was a tad repetitive paddle. Watching the slow walking hikers on the beach made me glad that I was on the water and not hiking, with a huge backpack to carry. But what I remember most about this day was me singing badly to myself. So badly, and on purpose, as it entertained me for a few hours, thinking the whole time: “If my singing teacher mother could hear me, it would have truly ruined her day.” Her daughter with such wasted talent. Oh well, we never seem to do what our parents dream we should!

65km later I at last see Bianca on the beach waiting and giving me a good line to land safe and dry on my last West Coast beach landing. Little did I know that Mother Nature had other ideas. Sadly, while on my VHF to Bianca, I had not realised I had drifted far too close to the breaking swell just north of the Bluff. Luckily I had time to lock down my VHF radio before turning to paddle up and over a huge breaking swell. Did I attempt to roll? No! I had reverted to full “survive and escape” mode over the past few months. So swim I did, over to the patiently waiting Louise, clambering in and then paddling down some more crazy waves until I was nailed and followed Louise to the shore! My last wet landing of the West Coast, and I actually thought for a moment it was to be an unexpected, easy landing. Mother Nature had the last laugh and I deserved to get wet. For just a split second I took my eye off the West Coast and dared to think it was all over. I had to wait on this section of New Zealand for twelve long days. Up and down we drove, meeting many cool Northland characters, watching the different tides around Maria van Diemen and Cape Reinga. A couple of times I did doubt my weather app and felt a tad miffed, but everything happens for a reason and on Monday 19th of December I was off, leaving the West Coast on a beautiful low swell day.

Cape Reinga here I come. Currents and rips did slow me as expected up towards Maria Van Diemen, but the trip went according to plan. I sat at the base of Cape Reinga on the slack tide, talking on my VHF and listening to the tourists and my support team cheer. I cried as the mist lifted and a magnificent circular rainbow surrounded the sun. It was a very magical, memorable moment. I thanked the spirits for letting me pass and then slowly paddled on. It was one of those days I will not ever forget, but it was also high time for me to keep pushing as I had a deadline to meet. I had to get to Spirits Bay in time so I could push towards North Cape. In the end I stopped for the night at Spirits Bay, thanks to timing and a possible wind building, along with the threat of nightfall arriving while I was still out by North Cape. That evening we sat on a blanket in the late afternoon sunshine with a glass of champagne. What a massive achievement. This is also where we discovered the meaning of “clouds” of mosquitoes. They arrived en-masse as soon as the sun disappeared! Northland has as many mosquitoes as the Fiordlands have sandflies. It was lockdown for the night and whenever someone dared to leave the camper-van you were sprayed with a cloud of fly spray and pushed out with no lights on, so you always stumbled in the darkness. I am so lucky as they loved Bianca. Sadly she was not that impressed with the itching and swollen bites they had left!

 I actually attempted a pre-dawn escape the next day onto the water before the wind and swell awoke. 5km into this journey I stopped, turned and said “bugger this.” It was the first time since the East Coast that I had got on the water and turned around! It was yuck, and Mother Nature and my gut were telling me to return back to Spirits Bay. I was a tad miffed, but I did settle and be content and happy to be nearly on the East Coast. The team were happy chappies when they saw my face at the window of Cuzzie, as they also had a bad feeling about my decision to get on the water, and were very glad I had turned back. Quickly I announced “let’s please leave the mosquitoes and head south to a few bays.” We had fun scoping out these new unseen locations. We also knew the weather and wind was not going to improve for a few days so we spent enjoyable times at Maitai Bay pre-Christmas. Then a weather window appeared so back up the coast Bianca and I sped on the night of the 21st of December. We stayed well clear of Spirits Bay, but alas we actually found a campsite that had thousands more mosquitoes. It was truly insane. Both of us were dreading the beach for my launch. But strangely when I launched the next morning from Spirits Bay the pesky flying insects had disappeared! Crazy Northland bugs.

I was pleased to get around and past North Cape. I thought it was going to cause me some pain but North Cape calmed and allowed me around and through numerous large fish boil ups and birds diving for their breakfast. It was wonderful as I paddled down towards Henderson Bay and then onto my final destination at Houhora Harbour. I was pleased and starting to smile, knowing I was officially on the East Coast, and it was apparently now downhill! But again, I was made to wait until the next settled period. This time the 26th of December. Then, as I had warned many, I was going to make the most of this next fine patch, enjoying the small swells and hoping to be blown by tailwinds and paddle as fast as possible towards my final destination (the Takapuna boat ramp). The coastline changed dramatically and I loved each beach and bay I went by. I also had my moments with head winds and trying to keep my head down and not think too much. Six full days of paddling, one being a new record of 85.25km. I paddled hard down this scenic section, mindful that Mother Nature was giving me a chance to finish. Once past the crazy Bay of Islands, dodging huge launches (gin palaces) and every possible size of boat, I rounded Cape Brett. I was a tad grumpy that day, for a few reasons: probably I was tired, probably I was sad this was going to soon be over, and as I sat on the beach at Bland Bay and cried, and yelled at the support crew. I then realised I was actually maybe going to finish this trip in 2016. Only one more crux day, around Bream Head and then to battle a head wind with off shore huge gusts that stopped me and my tiny Louise to a standstill all day as I edged closer towards Langs Beach. I cussed on my mobile to the team, choosing that as my mode of communication so others did not hear our conversation. Actually I am so glad the team have a good black humour, as it was needed. I reached Langs Beach at last, having an afternoon sleep and then one of the most fantastic roast lamb dinners I have ever had. Crispy roasted food, my dream dinner. Thanks Ev.

At last we all felt confident that Mother Nature was going to play nicely. It was time to head towards old paddling grounds, as I left Lang's Beach it was a nice change to have a paddling friend Ev with me for the first 20 km, then solo again onto  Goat Island, Kawau Island and Martins Beach. Seeing Mike Scanlan on the water to greet me was amazing and we paddled in together to Martins Beach. Another quick sleep and another fabulous dinner (Eye Fillet) at the Scanlan’s. Thanks Mike and Jan for the perfect dinner. Then too soon it was time for bed to rest for my final North Island paddle day. Only a half day, just 40kms. It would all be over by lunchtime!

Rangitoto brought tears to my eyes and then so did the team in the STAR kayaks that located me on the water. A blessing from Ev and a blessing from Mike made me truly glad I had sunglasses on that day. I was very tearful at these moments. I arrived onto that boat ramp with so many familiar smiling faces and some faces I did not know but they all knew me. Never could I get around to talk to them all, and so again I want to say thank you. You are the reason I am still smiling about that final day; not that I dared to let myself know it was my final day. I had convinced myself it was just another day. “Day-by-Day” had got me this far, so it had to continue.

The North Island. The East and West Coasts. So very different, but I have to say (and I will probably be the only West Coast paddler to say the following) I loved, enjoyed and was totally spoilt with my spectacular days on the West Coast of the North Island. Huge respect to this coastline. Yes, there are huge rolling swells to keep a very watchful eye for. Yes, they are the longest beach sprints in and out of the surf. Yes, there is enough pure adrenaline to make me give up coffee. But my secret? I kept my promise to Mother Nature. She has let me pass and also see some of the most incredible days. This coastline is not like anything else you will ever see and I am lucky to have such wonderful and beautiful stories. Mother Nature and I at last had come to be friends. She showed me this ocean and the calm waters on some very beautiful days, and they are some of my best days. I even had moments when I had to remind myself what coast I was on. Was it the West Coast? Or had I magically switched to an East Coast paddle! Every day I looked to the sky, clutched my pounamu and said a grateful thank you. I respected her power and strength. I thanked everybody who watched over me and provided me with such a magical, wonderful West Coast experience. There are some very memorable moments and some more firsts, many new friends, many life lessons and something only a very few have experienced over on the West Coast. I am one of the few. Yes, Paul Caffyn, I truly am one lucky lass!

MY SMILES:
For every day that MN gave me a new life lesson on and off the water.

The East & The West Coast ..the yin and yang of this North Island
The beautiful days on the West Coast.. & I was shown a few.
West Coast Swells, . as far as you can see, just rippling rolling waves on the horizon,.
The Kiwi friends I have meet.
Sunrises & amazing sunsets.
Cape Reinga.. this reduced me to tears..WOW..The Spirits came to play on the 19th Dec 2016.



My Thoughts:
If you listen with THE SPIRIT, you will find your heart softened, your faith strengthened & they will take the time to guide you...

 

Respect forever to Mother Nature.

Red.
Ma Te Wa.

Thelma & Red... ( oh how I adored this little Red kayak)..

Cape Reinga.. Top of this incredible North Island...

Cape Reinga.. Top of this incredible North Island...

The BEST sunrise the east coast showed me

The BEST sunrise the east coast showed me

Campfires, Crayfish on the East Coast -North Island

Campfires, Crayfish on the East Coast -North Island

Red & Louise ( fondly known as the "White Witch").

Red & Louise ( fondly known as the "White Witch").

Crazy winds & Crazy fun times with Nat- Castle Point

Crazy winds & Crazy fun times with Nat- Castle Point

Day 432...Is It The Finish

Saturday 31 December 2016

As like every other paddle day this one was no different. The early start, the hugs goodbye, the checking of gear; but there was a small difference, we all tried hard not to think about the fact that it was my last day of paddling. I was to see them all again 40km later at the Takapuna boat ramp, which I left 432 days ago. Wow! Really? I cannot quite believe it.

The final paddle was to be a perfect weather gift from Mother Nature, I could not have asked or dreamed of any better conditions for this day. Off I head, concentrating on my paddling and also mindful of my timings so as not to be late to my checkpoints, or my final destination. The rest of the time I spent just being blown away by the calm tranquil waters, the sunrise and the early morning boaties heading off to their early morning fish spots.

Then came the sight I was not ready for. Seeing Rangitoto, it brought me back to reality and the thoughts that I had been trying to push away. I could not pretend anymore that this was just another paddling day. My ability of trying not to think too much had stopped working and the reality of this exact moment will stay with me. It will take a few days for me to really try and fully explain the last few kilometers, but at the moment the best thing to say is that it was such a special way to spend this section of my paddle; with a group of special supportive people. It was so totally wonderful.

As I rounded the corner the entire boat ramp was covered with people, all to welcome me home. I am so happy to be at the end of this journey, but I am also sad. Sad not to be still seeing new places and people and also knowing things will have changed, just like me. I was asked how I felt, and the answer is: "truly fantastic" and I just have to smile. The best thing is that this smile comes from inside. I am asked how have I changed. I have learnt true patience(!) and that we live in, and are surrounded by, an amazing country and incredible people. Truly, I have fallen in love with this country's Kiwi Spirits.

On land I was not able to say hi and hug everyone, but I have to say a big thanks to you all for coming to welcome me. If I did not personally see you, then I now say it to you. Big hugs, huge thanks, and over the next few days I will get around to my thanks, as well as my final thoughts on the North Island and on this epic odyssey. Thank you all for your kind words, your support and for just believing in me. I cannot say that enough, and I truly mean it.

I am now in a small but very busy little campsite for New Year's Eve. No, I could not go directly home, I needed to just sit for awhile on the sand at a favourite beach and gradually unwind. Once I got loaded we jumped in Cuzzie and headed off to the beach. Right now as I sit I am struggling to stay awake and will never make it to midnight. Outside the fireworks have started in anticipation of 2017 arriving.

My smiles today:
Mother Nature and the wonderful day.
The special people in my life, their support has been incredible.
To all the new friends. You have made this odyssey.
All the messages and phone calls.
The start and end of today.
My special blessings on the water today.
Perfect picture book ending.

My thoughts today:
"In the end, she became more than what she expected. She became the journey, and like all journeys she did not end. She just simply changed directions and kept going." - Robert M. Drake (Thank you Margaret Ann.)

 I will continue to post for a little while longer so, until the next blog. Goodnight from Red. I am missing it already.

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

One last early morning launch.

One last early morning launch.

An amazing welcome.

An amazing welcome.

Day 431...Pinch Me

Friday 30 December 2016

What a wonderful evening last night. A home cooked dinner of roast lamb, crispy roasted kumara, onions, broccoli and lashings of the best tasting gravy with fantastic company. Thank you Ev, it was a shame that we were all tired and had yet again another early start. Langs Bay to Martins Bay. 

Today it was a novelty as Ev had offered to paddle the first 20km with me to Te Arai Point. It was an amazing calm morning and we both glided along chatting; Ev giving me a commentary along the coastline of good diving and fishing spots. We pass by a huge super yacht "Siri" and moored alongside it were all the other smaller motorboat toys and also a sea plane. Wow, we were so small!

To soon it was time to say goodbye to Ev and get on with the next section. Parkiri to Goat Island. This was when the wind and the chop decided to pickup and make this section the toughest. I was pleased to just be moving slowly along this long sandy stretch of the beach. Sometimes I reckon I was going as slowly as the horse trekking groups on the beach, and I can assure you they were going slowly!! Along the way a yacht motored by and then turned, I see them get as close as they could to me and then wave and cheer. Later on I discover that they had been sent to locate me! Thanks Brian for sending them, it truly helped me on this slow paddle section. The yacht then turned and headed back out to sea, aiming for The Barrier it seemed.

I was so pleased to get to the calmer waters of Goat Island, though a tad later than planned. I sat and rested for awhile to get some energy back before the next leg. Goat Island across the Omaha Bay, aiming for turning the corner and seeing Kawau. I was so pleased that Mother Nature had decided to give up on the wind torture and I was able to gap it across the bay and make really great time speeding along. I was again really enjoying my day. Boats were everywhere, but today they were taking care and keeping an eye on me.

As I got around the next point I just smiled; familiar islands and sights, and so many craft on the water. Holy crap, the bay was nuts. I get my bearings and aim across towards Martins Bay. Mother Nature gives a me a tailwind and an incoming tide, so off we go. I had a wonderful time in the hot afternoon sunshine and when one boat looked like it was about to run me over I turned to see them all waving. They had been sent to find me on these crazy waters to say "Hi!" Oh that damn tracker of mine, I can always be found. After a quick chat I get back to my paddling and adjust my direction skimming past the inside of the island. As I get past it I turn and see a familiar bright fluro top in a kayak. Mike Scanlan was on the water, waiting to paddle in with me to Martins Bay. What a wonderful way to end this beautiful day.

What can I say, the rest of the early evening slips by really quickly and before we know it bed is calling. Tomorrow is planned and I have another 40km to get past and back to the Takapuna boat ramp. "Am I excited" you ask? I think at the moment it is a mixed feeling. Yes I am excited, but also a tad sad. Tomorrow is an end to another year and the end of my epic odyssey. Wow. Although, you will have to laugh, as tomorrow afternoon when it is over, we are off camping!!

My smiles today:
Paddling buddies.
Kind boaties.
Goat Island beach, crazy busy.
Familiar sights. That is weird.
Nearly home. Pinch me, it cannot be true.

My thoughts today:
What feels like the end is often the beginning.

Goodnight from Red and the tired but happy team.

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Great friends.

Great friends.

Reunion.

Reunion.

Day 430...Repeat

Thursday 29 December 2016

3am alarm, and the snooze button is pressed twice before I could encourage myself to move and pull on my damp gear. Not the most wonderful or best way to start your day. Dressed in numerous layers and with my hat pulled on we all went about the norm, I have to say that Jase is the worst at these early mornings! Well middle of the night really! He is the most zombie out of us all.

We hit the road back to the beach for yet another mill pond, calm launch. I was underway before 5am today making sure I had activated my tracker. Not like yesterday where it took us at least 20km to realise it was not tracking me! (Oops. Thanks, Andy for the text.) On the water and all I could do was hope the wind that was predicted gave me a few hours to get along to Bream Head before it awoke.

I did get comfortably to the end of ocean beach and then around to Bushy Head, and before I knew it, just around the corner I could see the water had changed and that it was waiting to blow me backwards at every gust. I talked with the team and said I would push across to Ruakaka and then try and hug as close to the beach as possible, hoping I would get some protection from the big gusts and the South West wind which was picking up pace all the time.

I knew today was going to need all my strength; both a mind game and a physical challenge, and I was not happy at times that the forecast was correct as the gusts where often and for long periods. I felt like I was at a stand still when it blew, all I could do was curse, and when Jase suggested we talk via VHF not mobile I abruptly told him why I did not think it was a great idea for all to hear my cussing comments about the conditions. All I could do was wish I could straight-line directly across Bream Bay, but not even the fishing boats were going wide. Everyone was tucked in by the shoreline. We did a checkpoint where we could, and I got through my moments of "holy crap", my moments of "what" and "why am I trying to battle against this!" I even told the crew it was painful and slow but other than that the conditions where not life threatening, just a tough slog all the way. 

As I got closer and closer to Waipu Cove I was briefly given a reprieve in this corner of the bay and was only too happy to head towards Langs, my final destination for today. As I approached the beach, Jase waded out to help me land, a tad concerned I may not pass the small swell on the beach. Or maybe he thought I would actually just run over a small child on their boogie board in the waves. I got to him and then just caught the back of the wave and safely landed on the beach; no one hurt or injured.

We got everything up to the vehicles in between dodging tractors and boats, we managed to sort out all the gear, load it and then sit in the calmness of Cuzzie munching on chips. Me being forced to drink all of my fluids and then a huge cup of chai tea. After that I headed to the ute with no arguments to have a sleep for a few hours, I was half listening to the tractors and chaos around me in the car park, but most of me was so pleased to be mostly asleep.

While I slept Bianca and Jason did a training session on the beach. To my amusement, and also to any of Jase's clients that read this blog, he managed to stop halfway through the training to go and chat to a local who had been snorkeling for Kina, eat some with him, and then returned to his training! Only could it be a Jase story; "Mr Have A Chat". A very late snack lunch for myself and Bianca, then we kindly woke Jase from his sleep to join us. I could have easily eaten his portion.

After I caught up with the happenings of today and with everyone, we hit the road to go and park on a friends lawn for the night and then tomorrow it is ESPR! Only two more paddle days to go. If anyone is keen it looks like I may be paddling into Takapuna on Saturday, pre-lunch, so I would love to paddle with others. I look forward to seeing you on the water or on the beach. Watch my tracker and my Facebook page for updates on approx arrival.

Until tomorrow, when I will be aiming for Snells beach.

My smiles today:
No swells!
The damn wind. I have to smile at the torture.
Sleeping in the ute after a tough paddle.
We are all smiling. I am at Langs.
Looking forward to 2017.

My thoughts today:
"It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves, and in finding themselves." - Andre Gide

Goodnight from Red, Bianca and Jase.

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Support crew coffee break.

Support crew coffee break.

Day 429...ESPR (Eat, Sleep, Paddle, Repeat)

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Well, my grumpy mood escalated last night and, after taking it out on everyone in the camper-van, I put myself into the backseat of the ute to sleep it off, leaving the support crew to Cuzzie. I’m not sure who breathed the biggest sigh of relief, them or me, as I slammed the ute door and curled up in my sleeping bag! I checked that my alarm was set for another early morning wake up, hoping that my grumpy mood would go away.

This morning was altogether cooler and there was a heavy dew on the ground. One way to make one’s morning a little tense is to be pulling on damp salty kayaking gear that has already been worn for two full days on the water! I even thought about putting them in front of the heater to warm them up but, in the end, just pulled on layer upon layer, hoping that soon my body would warm up the damp gear. We had breakfast and a drink, during which the team were still a little bit wary of me, so each of us just got on with the morning in our own individual way.

Nevertheless, we were at the beach pre 5.00am. Wayne, from the campsite, joined us for this morning’s launch. As I went to launch, I gave both of them a big hug and said “Thanks, let's have a great day and let's see how far I can get before Mother Nature blows me off the water!” I was reminded by them not to turn off my VHF while they are trying to talk to me! (In my grumpy mood yesterday, I may well have done a sort of VHF hang up!) I nodded and promised. Honestly, after last night, I’m surprised that they didn’t just drive off and leave me to launch and paddle alone and unsupported today, by way of a lesson in how not to behave!! But let’s try to forget about that and get on with today. 

How to be happy? How could I not be? It was so calm and beautiful on the water, with an amazingly clear sky and a sunrise that just got more intense every minute, morphing from orange into red. I had frequent check points today, something that was really nice. We also knew that, if necessary, we could pull out at each location, at every single check point. As only could be expected, today was beautiful, the polar opposite to yesterday! Well, mostly, that is. Boats, small, large, and huge were on the water, all going at top speed. But today, I was mostly able to keep next to the rocks and away from them. Well, almost mostly. A couple of times I had to turn and paddle backwards and let them charge past, and once or twice, I was thankful not to have had some sort of weapon on me; maybe a waterproof paintball gun! Now, that could have been fun, as I think I may have used it on a few of the rude boaties.

Today, I felt like a cyclist sometimes does on the Auckland roads; dicing with death, there were some moments when I was really wishing I was back on more remote coastlines. But, despite the pesky boats, I did have lots of wonderful moments, paddling in and round big rock outcrops and islands, and looking at caves and tunnels. But I stayed well away from doing any solo adventuring, reminding myself of a tunnel paddling story I had been told, one that I most certainly don’t want to add to.

There are some amazing bays along this coastline, a lot on private land, but a few that just appeared and you would never know they even existed! The coastline down to Tutakaka Harbour is lovely, at the entrance to which I paused and dodged more fast-moving boats. I’m actually almost tempted to take up Mike Scanlan’s kind offer to spray paint my beautiful paddles fluro green!! Then, quickly, I gap it across and round into the Ngunguru Bay check point. The wind was still not fully blowing, so we all decided that I should keep pushing on and paddle this Bay towards Taiharuru Heads.

But, as I got going, so did the wind. To take my mind off the chip and the gust, I pulled my red hat over my ears so I couldn’t hear the tormenting whistling winds and aimed Louise’s nose towards Taiharuru Heads. I also started to sing loudly, the only two songs I seem to remember, and that’s just the chorus!! Thank goodness no one can hear me! To entertain myself, I actually try hard to make them sound really bad. Honestly, I think this ocean is making me a little crazier by the minute if, indeed, that’s at all possible!

With about 3kms to go, Mother Nature turns up the wind and the gusts start making me go backwards as I reach the Heads. I contact the team briefly to say I am very nearly with them and, in the end, I just said I would paddle until I could see them. That took me quite some time and not a little effort but, once I got a visual on the pink shirts on the beach, I paddled into a small gap on the rocks to get a break from the wind for a few minutes, to regroup and regain some strength in my arms. Then I pushed back into the wind and towards the beach with renewed energy. I knew for sure that there was no way I’d be pushing further north, this would be the end of my day. A total of 50kms, amounting to nine hours on the water. Then forward and into Taiharuru Bay.

A great beach landing! In fact, Bianca apparently said she missed the excitement of the West Coast beach launches and landings! Honestly, at the moment, I’m not thinking quite the same way. However, we sit and chat and we also wait to talk with the Whangarei reporter, to spread the word about my journey and, hopefully, gain some more donations to MHFNZ. In many ways, a wonderful time was had by us all. Kristin and Mike, it was a true pleasure to chat. Thank you for finding my trip so interesting. Kristin, I hope to see you when I try to paddle the Poor Knights event later in 2017. 

We needed to find a campsite for the night and, as we drove round more winding roads, I was again amazed at this fantastic part of New Zealand. Northland has some beautiful bays that I never even knew existed. Others obviously do know about them and, as we arrive at the campsite, the office is jammed with check-ins. Luckily, however, they do have a space for us for one night (phew!). A shower, then I tuck myself into the corner of Cuzzie, write my blog and keep out of the team’s way!! I try not to think about what it’ll be like once I finish, the first morning when I don’t rise and paddle for the day. Again, I just pause for a moment and think “What next?” I’m happy to say that my mood is so much more improved. 

The final thing that made me laugh today was the fact that, as always, Cuzzie the camper-van decided to have a tantrum and join in the Redz NZ Journey game!! For some reason, Cuzzie managed to fling open the small glass oven door as she rattled along the dirt roads today and also managed to SMASH the oven door! Thanks for your tantrum, Cuzzie. I think you managed to have the final word!!

Tonight we are on one of the busiest family campsites I have seen for some time and it takes a little while to get used to it!! But now, with dinner on and both of us showered and clean, we are finally settled in.

My smiles today:
A great 50kms!
A great day.
A happy team(?!).
A little closer to the finish.
A wonderfully happy part of New Zealand.
A need for a waterproof paintball gun.

My thoughts today:
My goal is to create a life that I don’t need to have a vacation from!
Maybe I’d best just keep paddling.

From a happy Redz team; Goodnight!

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Pre sun-up in Bland Bay.

Pre sun-up in Bland Bay.

My morning sunrise.

My morning sunrise.

Day 428...When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Grumpy!

Tuesday 27 December 2016

I was launched and on the water just after 5am. We all felt a little tired and, most certainly, I was glad I could just sit in my kayak and push off, with no waves to fight against; just my rudder!! For some reason this morning, it just didn’t want to lower easily into the water. But, after a couple of grumpy, stern words from me and a small wave in my lap, eventually I was underway. This seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day, with every single kilometre out of the 67.35 paddled being a real battle. There was too much wind at the start of the day and the ocean itself seemed against me. The currents, the winds, the swells; it was like paddling in mud! Each and every hour I hoped it would get easier but today, nothing did.

I feel sorry for the team today as my grumpy, cross mood seems to have affected everybody, sorry guys! I got to the Bay of Islands and looked to try and cross from Purerua Peninsula to Urupukapuka but, holy heck, I now know what a possum must feel like when trying to cross the motorway! There were boats going in every direction, each at a very rapid pace. How the hell was I going to get across? I did actually think of stopping there and then!! Not only was I grumpy at the weather but also at anything else that got in my way today!

Eventually, when there a lull in the boat traffic, I decided to gap it. I took aim and started to paddle. Half way across and only having had to detour twice, I dared to think it was going to be okay but, as I got closer to the Cape Brett side, the number of boats large and small heading back in around midday was absolutely crazy; a veritable highway of boats that I had to try and dodge! After a very long time spent crossing, I managed to get to safety close to the rocks and cliffs where I remained close. At the Hole in the Rock at least five or six boats watched and seemed to be waiting for a chance to go through. I didn’t bother waiting but went past and continued my battle with the currents and the wind blowing off the cliffs. I dodged a couple more boats, then got on with aiming at the next checkpoint where I wanted to end my grumpy, tough day!!

Well, that turned out only to be a dream as the support team had nothing but bad news. There was no beach access, so I had to keep paddling for another 13kms; not at all what I wanted, but paddle I did towards Home Point and then into Bland Bay. The entire process was irritating and extremely slow-going but eventually, I managed to land. Then just sat on the beach for a while, hugging my knees, saddened that today I had fallen short of my larger target.

Slowly I unravel the day and my feelings, then wander up the beach with the team to get showered and eat copious amounts of food, to chat to Wayne at the cool little campsite and then, at last, to realise that I was lucky to have landed at this gem of a location or it might have stayed a secret to me as well!

Tonight the wind has at last dropped, leaving us with a beautifully still summer’s evening. The stars will look cool once it gets dark and, who knows, maybe the wind will blow so hard tonight that I will need to stay here for a while; or maybe not, as the case may be. Best I go and get ready to sleep and also check the weather and the plans for tomorrow.

My smiles today:
Me in a bad mood and jeez, it seemed to be catching.
Successfully a little further south.
Cold turkey for dinner.
Beautiful Cape Brett!
The beautiful Bay of islands!
Crazy people steering boats in all sorts of different directions.

My thoughts today:
Inhale confidence.
Exhale doubt.

Goodnight from Red and the team.

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Watching and waiting for Red.

Watching and waiting for Red.

Day 427...Boxing Day Special!

Monday 26 December 2016

When Mother Nature gives the green light to paddle, I sure as heck take the opportunity, so getting on the water before light, was a necessity in order to try and have as much time on the water as possible. Today the wind came from every direction at some stage during the day; briefly it was on my back, then it blew to each side and also often into my face. It took a long time for the sun to break through the clouds and it was after 10.00am before I felt warm enough, as I had left a few layers of clothing off this morning.

During the first two hours, I nearly regretted this decision, paddling across Rangaunu and then Doubtless Bay seemed to take a very long time. Once past them, I enjoyed the beautiful coastline, also the regular checkpoints were helping. Every 2.5 hours seemed to be the pattern today, and there were a few planned. I was on time and tracking well to plan so, when I got to Taupo Bay, the only thing I could do was push on and try hard just to focus on small 6km sections, and tell the crew I just had to see how the headwind was going to affect me at the end of a long day. The wind was actually pleasant. Although it did slow me down, I was coping mentally. Gradually it got easier and I was now glad I had not listened to the lazy part of my brain when it tried to convince me to stop at Taupo Bay. It took a lot of inner chatting to push on furthe but, by gosh, I‘m happy I did. The closer I got, the more determined I became to nail this complete and successful day. When, eventually, I landed on this sandy beach of Matauri, we were all smiling.

Today, the funniest thing was trying to dodge the numerous boats on the water. I probably saw more boats today than on the entire west coastline! It has been an amazing day and most boaties were out making the most of the sunshine and the calming waters, with the ocean getting calmer as the day progressed. There were also lots of other kayakers on the water in the many bays I paddled past and everybody seemed to be doing some kind of outdoor activity on this beautiful Boxing Day.

Gannets, fish jumping and cute blue penguins, shags and also the dainty little birds that seem to just about walk on water, they were all out today. I’m certainly in a very beautiful part of New Zealand and it’s wonderful to be able to skim among rocks and through small gaps, something that made today's paddling so much more enjoyable than going parallel to a long straight sandy beach. Today was about achieving and it was a personal distance record: 85.24kms and we’re all happy about that. We load up everything and head for the campsite. I now have to force food down my throat, grab a shower and get ready for another day. “Eat, sleep, paddle, repeat” I chant to myself.

My smiles today:
Setting a goal and achieving it.
Boats everywhere!
A calm, still night.
A hot shower!
Further down this coastline.

My thoughts today:
Today reminds me of the saying "How do you eat an elephant? One small bite at a time!"

Goodnight from Red and the team. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLESE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

East Beach.

East Beach.

Christmas in Taupo Bay.

Christmas in Taupo Bay.

Day 426...A Christmas To Remember

Sunday 25 December 2016

Late to bed and a typically early rise. To be able to watch another beautiful sunrise is just the start to another wonderful day. This home was filled with the aroma of Bianca’s fresh baked brioche and freshly brewed coffee; what a way to start the day! But, before eating the food, we headed out to do a joint circuit workout. During the gym session, I think we all had a moan about something as the sweat poured off us, then it was a stretching session on the lawn in the sun before rewarding ourselves with time to sit and enjoy the warm brioche, homemade strawberry jam and more coffee, as well as chatting to family and friends who called to say "Merry Christmas".

I convinced Jase we should go for a swim, so we walked down the path to the beach and both gasped at the cooler-than-expected water temperature. Then a lovely wander back up the bush track to the house to sit in the afternoon sun, eat some lunch, and make a green smoothie with all the fresh produce and ingredients we have. Then it was off for a very casual play paddle round the rocks nearby. We played in the water, wanting to get wet, swim and generally lark about, and from the pictures, you’ll see we were having fun. Bianca and Jase on a sit-on-top kayak and myself in Louise. This bay was calm and we paddled even without our personal floating devices, it was like being on a motorbike with no helmet, renegade behaviour!

What can I say about the next few hours? We laughed so much, it’s a wonder someone didn’t fall in the water! We had a glorious few hours, with Santa hats on our heads and a set of crazy fun antlers, we looked a crazy bunch on the water. Back on the beach we played around in the waves, swimming and jumping off Jase’s shoulders, and we all declared this was a Chirstmas day to remember.

Back at the lodge, we rinse off in an outdoor warm shower (total bliss) cook a small turkey dinner (with the works) and sit outside enjoying a celebratory glass of champagne. Then, sadly, it was time to pack Cuzzie to head north to return to what this journey is about and (hopefully) getting ready to paddle. Let's see how we go.

My smiles today:
A NZ beach Christmas is the best.
The entire day. Thanks Santa!
Taupo Bay Lodge warm outdoor shower. Bliss!

My thoughts today:
Fill your life with experiences, not things.
Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.

Goodnight from Red and the team. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Day 425...Christmas Eve In Taupo Bay Lodge

Saturday 24 December 2016

I just had to be up for the sunrise. I just had to be curled up on the beanbag in prime position for the best vantage point for this morning’s start to the day. Outdoors, it was a tad too calm for my liking, but as I sat I watched the weather forecast roll and the sun come up over the huge cliffs on the far side of this bay. A beautiful East Coast morning. Once the sun was up, the keen surfers were out behind the breaking waves, sitting on their boards, just waiting for a great ride on the perfect wave.

For me, the morning was already near perfect; a great sunrise, sitting in this fantastic lodge, feeling 99% happy, but there is always that 1% that nags at me to check and re-check the weather as, just maybe, it could be wrong. Somehow, I don't think this will ever change!

Bianca and I are happy that we don’t have to brave the shops or travel anywhere today, so we get stuck into making some Christmas treats. Bianca is keen to make us all a gluten-free "Stollen" (a German Christmas fruit bread), and by the look and smell of things, it’s going to be fantastic! We are making the most of the big kitchen, grabbing ingredients out of the back of Cuzzie so we can get our Christmas Eve chores over and done with in order to get outside to sit in the sun and just enjoy the calmness of being up on this hill.

From the wide open kitchen windows, we can watch the surfers enjoy their day while we survey the coast way up ahead. The wind is blowing down and over the hills behind us and funnelling over the ocean today. Many big gusts serve to silence the 1% of my nagging brain, reminding me that it’s worse further north and I still have to get around Cape Karikari.

With everything made and the list nearly completed, we both needed and wanted a workout, so we get into our sweaty training gear and crank out a circuit, followed by some yoga exercises led by Bianca who is doing even better than me at the dreaded head stands! One yoga exercise on my stomach made me feel positively ill which had Bianca in fits of laughter! Luckily, I hadn’t eaten much food, otherwise I reckon I could easily have vomited! I laughed with her, telling her I knew yoga was no good for me!!

A late lunch, then time to head for an outdoor bench to soak up the sun, watch the ocean from way up high and just relax. A beautiful Christmas Eve day for both of us. We have sent a text or two to Jase who is still trying to escape the madness of Auckland city and a couple of our last-minute “wants” have ended up on his shopping list. Oops! I’m still laughing at our request for him to grab some more pink hair dye! Go for it, Bianca!! For some reason, she seems to have become more than a tad a addicted to pink hair! Why is it that I just can’t seem to convince her that Red is best?

Well, that has been our day. Such an enjoyable way to spend Christmas Eve in this wonderful location. Father Christmas’ gift of this accommodation is truly the best and Christmas 2015 and 2016 will forever both remain very special and memorable times. Redz NZ Journey never stops amazing me. I’m still loving every moment of it and, crazy though it may sound, now that the end is getting close, I’m kind of dreading it.

My smiles today:
Watching the sunrise.
Feeling damn happy.
Laughing at my lucky, crazy life.
Bikini and sarong. Yippee, summer is here!
Yoga. I either have to laugh or be ill!
Christmas Eve. Well, I was supposed to be home and dry by now, but this is actually far better.
All I can say is “everything happens for a reason!”

My thoughts today:
People should seriously stop expecting normal from me. After all, we all know it's never going to happen!

The biggest Christmas hugs to all my friends and all those I have been privileged to meet along this journey. I’m loving every minute of it, together with all my memories, and still more to come.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca, high on the hillside at Taupo Bay, waiting to see Father Christmas and his reindeer flying overhead tonight.

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Good Morning Taupo Bay.

Good Morning Taupo Bay.

Christmas Eve with Red.

Christmas Eve with Red.

Day 424...Let's Drive

Friday 23 December 2016

For the kayakers, sadly no paddling today.

As the rain and the wind arrived overnight, it was actually nice listening to it throughout the night. I had pushed hard yesterday during my day on the water and my muscles were enjoying some well-deserved rest. These past few off-the-water days we’ve been sleeping with a couple of the curtains open, enjoying the early morning sun light as our wake-up alarm. Gradually we got up and enjoyed breakfast. I passed on coffee this morning, not wanting to push my luck on too much of a caffeine hit, and instead drinking a ginger and turmeric tea concoction of mine, telling myself it was far better for me.

We spend the morning in this little Houhora campsite, staying in the calm, away from the Chirstmas chaos everywhere else but eventually we too, need to make a bit of a road trip ourselves. A trip along the coast. As we drive through Cable Bay, we are spotted by our new friend, Paul, who quickly calls my cell phone saying: “Where are you both going off to?” As we still have things to get done today, we promise to call in tomorrow. We stop for a quick detour towards the stone house near Keri Keri for some well-deserved lunch and a quick wander about, and that was the fun part of our day; enjoying time out of Cuzzie.

But we still needed to get into the city, so we sped towards Whangarei. The traffic slowed and, the closer we got to the city and the shops, the more my calm mood disappeared. I had to remind myself to take a "chill pill" and deal with it. Along the way, we decided to be nice and stop for a hitch-hiker. That very nearly turned into a disaster as I needed to turn and clearly didn’t look correctly, just about crashing into another car. I just about had a damn car accident! Thank goodness for their quick reaction and driving skills! To be honest, I had to stop for a moment and regroup after that close call. To make it even more entertaining, by the time we actually got back to pick up the hitch-hiker, someone else had already stopped for them!! To be honest, they were probably safer with the other person.

Eventually, in the city of Whangarei, we head towards the essential shops, finishing at Pak ‘n’ Save. I was dreading the Christmas rush but, to be fair, it wasn’t all that bad and we managed to locate everything we needed before finally escaping. Then it was time for a quick catch-up, hugs and a gossip with the gorgeous Nat before she headed home for Christmas and then on a plane to play with more fireworks in Melbourne for the New Year’s Eve city party. Before we leave Whangarei, we fill up with diesel and each time, we thank Gull for their kind support in helping out with fuel on this journey of mine. Then it was back on the road towards our final destination for tonight and our home for the next couple of nights; Taupo Bay, just north of the entrance to Whangaroa Harbour, where we are very kindly being allowed to spend a few days at the gorgeous Taupo Bay Lodge. (www.taupobaylodge.co.nz). I’m not sure how I can ever say the biggest THANK YOU to Todd, this place looks awesome! As we drive up the drive and stop at the front door, neither of us can stop grinning. What a stunning location! The house is amazing and we are both feeling so happy and so very lucky. We stand on the deck and all I can say is “Wow, look at that coastline!” I can't wait to paddle on the waters below but, until then, I’m happy just to enjoy the view.

Now, I’m sitting listening to the ocean as we are way up high on the cliff. It really is magnificent. In the end, I’m very late to bed, tonight it is like a wonderful dream. The most crazy thing of the past few days is that I‘ve been waiting to see the sun set for the last couple of nights!! But guess what? I’m on the East Coast, so sunrises are what I now need to look for! With that in mind, I’d best get to bed so I can enjoy the start to a morning’s amazing sunrise. I remember that, this time last year (yes, one year ago) I was getting ready to get on the water and paddle across the Cook Strait. How time flies when you are having such incredible fun!

My smiles today:
The East Coast. I am actually (officially) now paddling downhill!
Smiling as I drive along this new coastline.
Seeing Nat and friends.
A huge house and bed tonight.
Sitting on top of this hill with an amazing view.
Memories.

My thoughts today:
A good life is when you smile often, dream big, laugh a lot and realise how blessed you are for what you have.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca.

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Our wonderful view.

Our wonderful view.

Day 423...East Coast

Thursday 22 December 2016

The mosquitoes tried all night to get inside Cuzzie; they were actually buzzing around the roof air vent, trying to gain access. By morning, there were about forty dead on the mesh screen. Thank goodness they didn’t manage to get in! The amount of spray we used last night was insane, I honestly thought one of us may end up with some bad side effects from breathing in so much of it! We survived, but the mozzies weren’t so lucky; hundreds dead!! The crazy thing is that we are staying at this new campsite site because we didn’t want to return to Spirits Bay for the night due to all the mozzies there!!

This morning was an early start and I was the one sent outside to unplug the power (and to try to deal with the clouds of bugs!) We hit the road towards Spirits Bay so I could get out on the water and start paddling towards North Cape. We arrived, dreading the thought of getting out of Cuzzie. While Bianca made a hot drink, I braved the outdoors and got Louise ready for the day's paddle. The crazy thing was that I didn’t have one single mozzie bothering me, random bugs.

Soon it was time to paddle down the little stream and then to carry Louise over the sand to the calm ocean and out onto the water. Believe it or not, there were no waves in my face and no heart-racing moments getting out and onto the water. It was almost a tad too easy. As soon it was light I was on my way, feeling good about today, and it was a good day. The first couple of kilometers zapped along and then the pattern of the day began; currents, tides and a steady light wind in my face. All causing me to slow from my normal pace. It actually felt like I was paddling in porridge (firstly, because of the pace and secondly, because a lot of the time at Roth Cape, there were hundreds of jellyfish to kayak through!!). At North Cape itself, the roughest patch was the Bluff, just after Tom Bowling Bay. It was a like a commercial washing machine and I had to slowly weave my way through the swells and the rough backwash from the cliffs.

Today was all about getting onto and down the East Coast. I tried hard to push further but, due to my slower pace most of the day, at last I just had to stop and pull in at Hohora Harbour. But I was content with my day and had to laugh, as the end of my paddling day was just every bit as tough as the rest of it. A nice calm harbour but with an out-going tide!! I had to battle all the way to the boat ramp as the waters raced against me. Thankfully, eventually I managed to win the battle but only because all day I’d had to be strong both mentally and physically; a hard-won 76kms.

I sat with Bianca for a while on the warm grass, eating my popcorn and drinking a cup of hot tea. I had even managed to drink all my fluids today and that’s very nearly a first! But only because I’d been nagged by so many people today, so I had to behave!! I moaned out load every time I had to stop to relieve my exploding bladder on the water today. I hope they all heard (not the explosions, just the moaning!!). Maybe I can blame everyone else for my slow pace today and say it wasn’t the weather conditions but rather, the necessity to stop far too often for a “you know what”!

At last, we are now back in the comfort of Cuzzie, with hardly any insects (yay!). Tired but happy. Now I’m off the water again for a few days while the winds return, but on a positive note, that will give us some time to go touring the coastline.

My smiles today:
It's official! I am on the East Coast, heading for home!
All quiet outside. No mosquitoes!
Physically tired and ready for sleep.
Everyone's wonderfully encouraging comments, thank-you.
Christmas in Northland.

My thoughts today:
I have fallen, I’ve cried, I’ve been angry and afraid, but even when I was hurting, I always found a way to keep going. A strong woman never gives up!

Until tomorrow, goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Goodbye from Spirits Bay.

Goodbye from Spirits Bay.

Aoteoroa. The land of the long white cloud.

Aoteoroa. The land of the long white cloud.

Day 422...M and M's (Maitai and Mosquitoes)

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Fishing until sunset last night meant that, as we arrived back to the beach and were carrying our kayaks and fish to our vehicles, we became mosquito fodder!! As soon as we started to remove our kayaking clothes they attacked! Damn it, yet again even more mosquitoes. Perhaps not as bad as Spirits Bay, but still bad!! It was a quick change, followed by slammed doors. Phew, now safely inside, to sit in Cuzzie!! It took us a good while to spray and kill all those that had flown in with the door opening, and Bianca is at the ready with the spray each time anyone comes or goes! All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have an allergic reaction to them, but sadly, others in the camper-van are not quite so lucky. We decided it was easier to rid one vehicle of the nasty insects, so Ev got the mattress on the floor of Cuzzie, while we had the main bed!

All too soon it seemed, I woke when it became light outside. As the others still slept, I checked all the normal morning stuff on my phone (weather, news, etc.). Soon enough, we all needed a morning brew of homemade chai tea and then we had to brace ourselves for the long-drop toilets which also seem to be a haven for the pesky mozzies! After breakfast we got Bianca out for a paddle in Louise with Ev. In the meantime, I stayed sitting in the sun, responding to some messages, relieved that the pesky bugs don’t like sunshine; they prefer lurking around in the shade of the bush and landing on you as soon as you step into the shade!

Bianca and Ev had a great time out on the water, even jumping in and out of the kayaks a few times. The water is much warmer here. We made the most of today, enjoying each other's company, laughing, joking and talking about New Zealand, creating lunch, then sitting in the shade of Cuzzie’s awning, eating lunch on the blanket, getting to know our neighbours and discussing the next few days. 

Maitai Bay is extremely pretty, the Pohutukawas are flowering, the beach has beautiful white sand and the water is a beautiful blue. At the moment there are rather a lot of both small and large jellyfish in the water. In some places, the small ones make the water feel like a jelly bath! It seems that they have been blown into these bays due to the easterly winds. All too soon, it was time to pack up and head on up the road. Although, by the time we actually got going, it was well after 5.30pm. Big hugs to Ev, thanks for the fishing tips, you are a real professional when it comes to this art! I’m looking forward to seeing you on the water further down the east coast to paddle for a few kilometres with me. I'll keep watch while you go diving for the crays!

Bianca and I head north, thinking we should have made a stop at a supermarket to grab fresh veggies (I dislike supermarkets immensely!). But luck was with us and we saw a small sign for fresh veggies, so we stopped. There was a huge range of home-grown fresh veggies (amazing!) and the very generous, wonderful owner gave us a few extra goodies as well; fresh, sun-ripened strawberries for Bianca and fresh sweet corn for me, so we drove away smiling.

Up State Highway 1 we head again, hoping to leave the biting insects behind. Well, that was wishful thinking!! We arrive at the last campsite before Spirits Bay as neither of us wish to be terrorised by the mozzies there during the night. We pull into this great little place and chat to these amazingly cool women who run this site. THANK YOU! You have both just made my day, friendly, beautiful women! I have to say, we have adopted your name for us "The Wahine Tour" for the remainder of our trip, go the women! Northland people, you are so generous and have been so great.

Well, Bianca gets out to do a quick boot camp routine that only lasted ten minutes as (you’ve guessed it) the mozzies arrived! Now, as we sit inside Cuzzie, they are trying to enter via the mosquito net we have erected on the back of the camper-van. Fly spray in hand, we aim, yelling "Look out mozzies! We have Raid!" then slam the doors shut!!! I have to laugh, sand flies in the deep south and mozzies in the far north.

My smiles today:
Watching Bianca paddle my white kayak Louise.
A beautiful day, with two equally beautiful people.
Chatting with my dearest and dedicated support crew person, Nat.
A thick cloud of mosquitoes at our door. I’m not sure that even a full can of Raid is going to win this insect war.

My thoughts today:
How to be happy: decide every morning that you are in a good mood. It works!!

Goodnight from The Wahine Tour, way up north, killing mozzies. Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Bianca and Louise.

Bianca and Louise.

Day 421...A False Start

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Firstly, I have to say that the thing I will remember Spirits Bay for is not its beautiful beach but, sadly, for the insane amount of mosquitoes. Now normally I don’t mind them too much but, honestly, as the sun set they arrived in their hordes. They were at every mesh window and, as soon as we opened the sliding door of the camper-van, in they zoomed in a cloud of glee!! There they stayed until well after the sun rose the following morning! We were very happy to own a can of fly spray and used nearly half of it last night to try and keep them at bay so we wouldn’t be eaten alive as we slept. Believe me, it was like a TV commercial for Raid!! Our friend Ev was not quite so lucky, as he had no fly spray and spent most of the night awake, swatting them. 

However, the other issue was far more important, would I be able to get another paddle day squeezed in? After yesterday’s great paddle day, I was itching to get on the water again as all I want to do now is keep moving. In order to try and beat the wind, I tried my utmost to be out and off as early as possible this morning.

4.00 am, as I got ready, the wind was also awake. But I ignored it, hoping it was because we were in a valley and that, once I got beside the cliffs, I would be okay. All I wanted to do was get another 60kms or so paddled down the east side of this northern tip of New Zealand. The team got up too. The poor support crew. Blurry-eyed, they tried to help but today, I wasn’t keen to force down any breakfast, not even a hot drink. I just needed to get underway. Pretty soon, I’m on the water and paddling.

It was okay, a clear sky and a bright moon made visibility easy. As I cruised along, I felt okay about the day. Then, the further along I went, the wind gusts picked up, falling off the cliffs and over the top of me. The swell and the white caps arrived, then finally, my friendly "wind whistle" radar (that noise you get as the wind funnels past your ears). Wind alert! Was I keen to listen? No, not really! But I was also very much aware that it could get an awful lot worse and if I was feeling uncomfortable now, it would be another 60kms before I could meet up with the team again to conclude my day.

For once I listened, and although I continued to paddle, at my 5km mark, I made the decision to turn back! This has not happened since an afternoon paddle when I was on the coast off Stewart Island. Was I disappointed? Yes, of course! Did I doubt my decision? Again, yes! But, having listened to my gut and my inner voice, it was the correct decision. I landed, dragged myself and Louise back up the sandbank and slowly paddled back down the small river. I then turned and looked back out to sea and just had to smile. Mother Nature had won the day yet again! Or, maybe, there was another way to look at it; Mother Nature had saved me from a horrible paddle, so I thanked her.

Back at Cuzzie, even before the sun was up, I opened the door, startling both the crew awake from a deep sleep. But, somewhat surprisingly, they were both happy with my decision! Once showered and safely away from the mosquitoes, I made another decision; to leave these blood-sucking monsters and head south, wait for the weather to clear and then return and gap it then. We got on the road and have come to Karikari and the little bay of Maitai on the East Coast. Once parked up in a little DOC campsite, we settle down to enjoy lunch and then I head to the beach to walk and sit in the sun while the other two catch up on their disturbed sleep.

Late this afternoon, the cloud cleared at last and the sky became blue. I may even be brave and follow along with Ev for a bit of sunset fishing and to do some gently paddling round some rocks away from the wind. A sleep-in is on the cards for tomorrow morning and another day of discovering a part of the coastline on which I have never been before. I also plan to keep smiling as, soon, I may be paddling past it, although maybe not before Father Christmas passes by!!

My smiles today:
A false start.
Mother Nature’s gentle reminder that she knows best!
"Raid" insect spray. The best!
Cold showers pre-sunrise. An acquired taste!
Driving to a location I have never before seen.
My first coffee of the day, a treat for having made it to Spirits Bay.

My thoughts today:
It’s often the end of the road that makes the drive really worth while.

As our day draws to a close, we all say “goodnight” from a sunny bay in Northland. From Red and the team. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Fishing in the evening swell.

Fishing in the evening swell.

Waikato Bay relaxing.

Waikato Bay relaxing.

Day 420...I Love The West Coast!

Monday 19 December 2016

For the kayakers:
I paddled!
But only 60 kms.
Headwind of 10 to 12 knots to the Cape.
Flood tide for 5 hours to the Cape.
I gave myself 1.5 hours spare to make the slack tide at the Cape.
I needed just about all of that spare time; the current was tough.
Great timing for 1 hour pre-full flood tide at Cape Maria van Diemen.
It was beautifully calm at Cape Reinga.
The lighthouse was covered in mist.
I cried as I stopped to say “Hi!” to Cape Reinga and the many spirits.
It’s a magical place and she let me pass by today.
I wanted to paddle further, but decided to keep boxing clever!

My day:
I knew I was going to paddle in the morning, my instinct told me. Did I dare mention it to others? Well, a very select few knew! I have become so superstitious about this trip, that I don’t ever presume I’ll be on the water paddling until I actually get out the back of the waves, and that is when I send out the satellite message that I’m paddling from my in-reach unit. Today, I wouldn’t even allow the support crew to let anyone know what I was up to until I was safely underway.

Awake too damn early, at 6am, we were all sitting with hot drinks. I was way ahead of schedule this morning. Oh well, let's get this paddle underway. This was going to be one of my last "water in the face" launches on the West Coast. Now (and this is the funny part) we wander to the beach and I knew the swell was going to be 1.4 metres but, truly, I didn’t believe it would look so amazing. Really, was today's launch going to be this easy? Honestly, I was stunned! Mother Nature was being extremely nice. I even stopped and was okay about a few photos being taken before I left; my stomach felt calm and at ease.

By 7am, I was launched and paddling out over a couple of small waves that broke gently over the front of Louise. I actually paddled rather a long way out before I felt sure I was safe to stop and do my VHF checking and send out my satellite message saying I was on the water and paddling. At long last, I was finally on my way to Cape Maria van Diemen and round Cape Reinga. Off I set and, as planned, I had the tide helping me for the first 2.5 hours, then I knew it was going to be tough going from then on until I got to Cape Maria. The flood tide was getting stronger and, with a steady 10 to 12 knot headwind all the way, I was not disappointed. In places, I slowed to a crawl but it was still okay. I knew I had time and also knew exactly where and when my major and important checkpoints were. Timing was everything today, and time it to perfection we did!

Cape Maria let me go through between the island and the mainland and then out towards the lighthouse and the team on the cliff top. It was calm and beautiful, the lighthouse coming in and out of the mist and, when I stopped to chat to the team on VHF, all the tourists let out an almighty cheer. I could hear it on the water way down beneath them. It was pretty emotional sitting there in the calm of the slack tide. But I was mindful that I needed to push on toward Spirits Bay.

As I turned and started paddling, the slack tide made the first 5kms feel like I was paddling in thick treacle, which was slower than I wanted, but I kept waiting for the turn of the tide and the current to push me faster. Eventually, it did and I picked up a good pace and was soon up to speed again. I talked with the team on VHF and we had both a plan A and a plan B in place. I was on time to keep going but we were all a little unsure of the weather for the following day and, keen as I was to keep paddling past the North Cape, finally I decided to call it a day. Better to wait, roll the weather and re-plan for a possible tomorrow. Strangely enough, I was not mentally keen to get stuck on a beach and also, our local contacts were not able to get the team out to me tonight, so it was a shorter paddle day than normal, the B plan having won the team vote.

Once dry, once lots of hugs and high fives had been given, and all my stuff sorted out (oh, and a telling-off for not drinking enough of my fluids) I was made to stand and drink it all and also a huge cup of tea!! All they do now is laugh as I complain about having a constantly-full bladder and having to wander back and forth to the toilet for the rest of this evening!! Then out came the favourite rug and the celebration bottle of champagne. Thanks, Jase, it was really appreciated! We ate chips and drank a glass of the bubbles to celebrate this milestone and we are all so very happy with how the day panned out. Thank you, Mother Nature!

Bianca has headed for a late evening swim, unable to convince me to get wet again. Our wonderful friend Ev has been out spear-fishing, so we have fresh fish for dinner and Jase gave us all big hugs before jumping into his car to head back to Auckland to work for the remainder of this week. And me? Well, yes, I’m smiling, but have to look at the map to remind myself exactly where I am. I’m about to turn the corner and be back on the East Coast. Wow!

That is me and my day. It’ll take me a few more paddling days to totally absorb this great day. At the moment, all I can say is “thank you” to Mother Nature for another beautiful, incredible West Coast day. Perhaps because I asked nicely, Mother Nature obliged and, for that, I’m truly thankful. I have utter respect for this coastline and I also have to say that the West Coast has captured part of me.

My smiles today:
The top of New Zealand. Wow, I can’t stop grinning!

My thoughts today:
Today has been a very special day. “Thank you” to the universe!

Red and the Redz NZ Team. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga.

Arrival at Spirits Bay.

Arrival at Spirits Bay.

Celebration!

Celebration!

Day 419...Only One Week Until Christmas

Sunday 18 December 2016

I was up and out onto the beach early this morning, though not as early as some. I watch the locals heading along the expansive, low tide beachfront and then the routine exercising begins. Once the beach sprints are done, it’s back to Cuzzie and a small boot camp for Bianca and myself begins. We are tucked away in the corner of our site, so not too many people have to watch us. 

A late but satisfying breakfast during which we are joined by a family of pretty cute little sparrows and then it is just another very chilly day. The campsite is so very quiet. Considering there’s only one week to Christmas Day, it’s really quite surprising! The wind has picked up and, as it blows through the big trees, it seems disturbingly stronger than what was forecast. This makes me frown a little, as the seas are meant to be calming but, with this strong wind, I can’t imagine that they could possibly have done so. I’m just hoping that this is all blowing through earlier than predicted and that, tomorrow, I can possibly escape. Anyway, enough about me and the weather, I’m every bit as confused as it is at present.

We have made more seeded crackers and I’m hoping that we get a successful batch. It took three trips to the camp kitchen even to gain access to the oven! "Kitchen closed for cleaning" at 1pm. Really, that is lunchtime! Well, while I’m having fun and games trying to get into the kitchen, Bianca has come across similar issues with the shower block! We both just had to sit and wait, have some patience, take a chill pill and just settle petal!

Sunday glides along and we seem to be just in the mood to glide along with it. Not stressing but rather, just relaxing and waiting, relishing the fact that, for a second year running, I’m missing the craziness of the pre-Christmas rush; no big gatherings, no festive work functions, no need for a hangover cure and no need to wish for a second fridge for all the extra food we have had to buy! With a little bit of luck, come the day itself, I may even be on the water paddling. 

This afternoon, we headed back up the coast to watch the ocean, to feel the wind and see if the swell will have dropped enough for tomorrow morning. But small swell, bigger head winds and vice versa, big swell and lighter winds! Oh, please can I have that magical wand for Christmas? Well, somehow the day has slipped by. The sun is heading towards the ocean and a stunning sunset is hoped for. Bianca has gone for the all-over pink hair colour now and, by comparison, I look a tad dull!

My smiles today:
A lazy sunny Sunday afternoon.
The wind has dropped a tad.
More and more flowering pohutukawas on a daily basis.
To my next paddle day.
As I head that way, the irony of approaching bad East Coast stormy weather.

My thoughts today:
Go outside and get some sunshine!

Remembering that, this time next week, most of us will feel exhausted, full of Christmas food and watching Christmas TV programmes, we say “goodnight” to all. Red and Bianca (now Miss Pink).

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

My heart loves these West Coast sunsets.

My heart loves these West Coast sunsets.

Day 418...The Waves Are Huge

Saturday 17 December 2016

I got up before the sun today, determined to check out my launching beach. A calm still day had been forecast, so then why not paddle? Yes, a high is hanging over my part of the world, how brilliant is that!? The issue was the forecasted 3m swells. Really? Honestly? It can not be right!

At 5.30am we are on the road driving to the Bluff on Ninety Mile Beach to check it out. To actually dare to think I may just be able to glide out and over these waves. The forecast could be wrong! Oh well, what a nice thought at least. The forecast was of course right. How big do the 3m swells look when they hit the beach! Bone crushingly large! They where big thick waves. Five sets just waiting to have fun with anyone that dared to try and join them. Not even I felt the urge to "gap it".

As it was low tide we walked out onto the island that juts out and sat looking at the waves, the foam and the sea spray. I had to take a video of the scene in front of me as it was unreal to be stuck here with a beautiful day and a crazy ocean. It felt a little like Charleston/Nike river beach in the South Island. We turn back towards Cuzzie, sad but pleased to have physically come to the beach and seen the conditions first hand. Then I would not continue to have a "what if" day!

The rest of my day has been a chill out day. Shopping, back down to Ahipara to hook up to power, get a few things sorted and oiled on Cuzzie, and then find a sheltered sunny patch on the campsite lawn and work on chillaxing! We chatted to a couple of local people we have got to know during our stay in this area and I had a wonderful afternoon in the sun. We also sat and chatted to Tina (a lovely German tourist) and helped her with some tour guiding info for some other fab spots around this amazing country of ours. It has been a day of amazing Northland sunshine and friendly smiling people. Thanks for making us feel so welcome.

We did also hear a very tragic story today of a young tourist who drowned on 90 Mile Beach a couple of days ago. This was hard to listen to and a reminder how unkind this ocean can quickly be.

We got a batch of seeded biscuits made and in the oven, but left them a tad to long to cook so they are rather brown and very crispy. Only I think they are edible! Another batch will need to be made tomorrow for Bianca.

But I do have a few success stories from today. There is stuff only half working on Cuzzie that has been quietly annoying me that I have managed to solve. I managed to sort out the very squeaky sliding door, covered in far to much dirt and dust to work properly. I ended up with grease and dirt up to my elbows cleaning the rollers and sliders. Then onto a sliding window that we have never been able to open the entire trip. With a heap of silicone it is now unstuck and sliding beautifully. I am impressed with my Tim-the-tool-girl skills!

Bianca went for a run on the beach, while I just enjoyed the last of the sunshine. I wandered down to meet her for a swim and, as it was low tide, the normal scenario was happening on the beach! Cars were getting stuck in the soft sand as I sat totally entertained. I just watched, the sand digging, the other car that arrived to tow them out and then the rope breaks and they are both stuck! I was just very thankful it was not us stuck in the sand in Cuzzie. We both looked at the ocean and today shook our heads. We were not even tempted to get wet and cold! Tomorrow, I promised myself after my morning run.

Tonight there is no wind and the sea swell has dropped a little more. 2.5m tomorrow, another clear blue sky and another day off the water! Looking like Father Christmas will beat me home.

Until tomorrow, from a very calm and peaceful Ahipara. Looks like it may be my summer holiday location!

My smiles today:
Our early morning drive to the Bluff
Huge bags of Avocados for $2
Enjoying the locals' company.
Watching the car antics on the beach.
Listening to the birds and the ocean go to sleep.
The huge rolling ocean.
Just the entire day has been at last a smiling day.

My thoughts today:
We can truly accomplish anything if we use our time wisely. Focus on what truly matters and life will have a way to be that much brighter and fulfilling.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca.

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

The Bluff. 90 Mile Beach.

The Bluff. 90 Mile Beach.

Day 417...Lay Your Bets!

Friday 16 December 2016

It blew so hard last night, Bianca was convinced my kayak and Cuzzie were going to be blown sideways!! For me, the wind has sometimes been way worse, so I didn’t actually notice the gusts too much during the night. Waking with the sun, I sat and read some up-to-date news and remained still enough to let Bianca sleep a little longer. For me, it was a morning to go and watch the Cape at both high and low tide, to watch and learn a little bit more about what I can expect once I actually get back to some more paddling!

Once we had watched a high tide and a slack tide pass by, I was sufficiently satisfied to head off and discover beautiful Spirits Bay. We hit the road for the 20 minute drive along the dusty, gravel road, parked up and went walking up and over the small sand dunes onto the beach. Wow! What a beautiful, pinky golden beach; even on a very blustery day that was a tad overcast. While we watched, a keen fishermen hiked up and over the hills carrying all his gear, leaving his partner to carry the lunch backpack. Pretty soon, they had disappeared out of our sight to go to their secret fishing spot. I was content just to find a small, sheltered corner and to sit looking out across the beach to the ocean that I, hopefully, will soon be on; and, maybe just maybe, even get a little further past. Both Tapotupotu Bay and Spirits Bay are gems of campsites. I’m so lucky to have experienced both of them pre-holiday season and can’t wait to be landing on some East Coast sand soon. 

Back up the dusty roads we head, as we were keen to get back to Tapotupotu and our little sheltered corner, although we did make a detour to get some more eggs. This time, I stashed them safely on the floor; no more damn egg accidents, we hope! North again we headed, back to rest and to lie in the sun. When we first arrived, there wasn’t another soul about, but this soon changed as families arrived to play in the waves that were beginning to build up on this normally calm little beach. Surfboarders and SUP boarders played in the increasingly big waves. We also braced ourselves for our daily swim. It's never for very long, I have to say, but enjoyable all the same. The best part is actually warming up in the sun after the swim.

From a distance, we watched a couple getting ready for a hike, hoping against hope for their sakes that it was only for a few days, as their backpacks were jam-packed full of gear! Certainly, I’m not sure I would have wanted to carry either of their backpacks. In fact, I got a fit of the giggles when the last thing jammed into the top of their backpacks was their pillows! I’m damn sure that I, for one, would be foregoing a pillow for a bit more food!! By 4pm they had finally headed off for a late afternoon hike. We both hoped they would enjoy themselves and that they had packed plenty of insect repellent! Even being exceptionally careful, Bianca is still being feasted upon each night by the local insects.

As the late afternoon sun cools, I sit solo on a blanket outside, wondering when Mother Nature will let me continue my journey. At last, I’m a little more relaxed about it, enjoying each single moment, knowing full well that all too soon my journey and this odyssey of mine will be over and a New Year and a new direction for 2017 will become apparent. But for the moment, I’m actually thinking that it would be nice just to stay here until the Pohutakawa trees stop flowering.

Bianca and I have talked long and hard about when I think I may eventually arrive back in Takapuna and take my last paddle stroke. Both of us have a possible date stored on our minds but, at the same time, we also know that, as ever, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. For the kayakers who know this coastline, big swells are heading my way. I have to laugh; 3 metres forecast for tomorrow on Ninety Mile Beach but a calm day wind-wise, enough to make me shudder. If you would like to hazard a guess about my arrival date, please leave a message on Facebook or on my blog, laying your bets!

My smiles today:
Watching another magical sunrise and sunset.
The beautiful bays at the top of New Zealand.
Families enjoying the summer’s day.
Wind gusts that covered us in sand.
Yet another cold swim and yet another cold shower.
Watching more Pohutakawa trees bursting into flower each day.

My thoughts today:
Life is way too short.

With another blessed day in the sunny North nearly at an end, Red and Bianca say “bye bye” until tomorrow. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Spirits Bay.

Spirits Bay.

Dreaming at Spirits Bay.

Dreaming at Spirits Bay.

Day 416...A Better Day

Thursday 15 December 2016

Last night we were treated to a really stunning display; a majestic sunset over the West Coast and a magical full moon rising on the East Coast. It was truly very special to be at the tip of New Zealand last night. We spent a long time on the cold, windy cliffs taking images. As the sun set, the sky just got more and more colourful and then the calming, huge moon lit up the night sky and continued to glow all night.

A wonderful sleep for us both then, first thing this morning, a run to and from Cape Reinga, followed by a Redz NZ circuit workout to start of our day. With sweat dripping off us, we sat smiling at the satisfaction of having completed it all before the day got too hot. Then it was time for breakfast, with not a little banter as, due to yesterday’s unfortunate mishap, there were no eggs for us to cook. I’m now onto my next challenge, to eat all the sponsored cans of tuna, even for breakfast! But, if they happen to fall on the floor, at least these tins won’t smash! I’m not sure I’m going to be able to recommend tuna as my number one breakfast option but the challenge is on!! The other day, I read about someone who has been eating only potatoes for an entire year, so a few weeks of canned tuna shouldn’t be too difficult!

We headed off for a hike down the hill and along Te Wehari Beach towards Cape Maria Van Deimen. Of course, it wasn’t at all straightforward. Before we got to the beach, we had to do rather a long detour, hiking up a bush-covered hill as the tide was still too high to walk over the rocks. There was a sort of track, probably used by wild pigs but not too many humans! We had to clamber up and over the hill and then clamber down the other side. Bianca commented that she was certainly not intending to return the same way! Back onto the soft sand we walked, looking at the ocean and the gap between Cape Maria van Diemen through which I am hoping to gap it. The ocean in this bay was really annoying as it wasn’t at all as the forecast had predicted. Thank goodness I didn’t walk along it yesterday on my "what if" day! I did cuss and I did question it, and then at last, I was able to let it go!!

We enjoyed the rest of the walk to the end of the beach and paddled in the small stream, cooling off our hot, sandy feet. I entertained myself for a short while, chasing small crabs and, then, we both looked at another high hill and some big sand dunes. But, having checked the time, today we were not tempted to go any further, content instead to turn and walk back. By now, the tide had thankfully retreated far enough for us to walk over the rocks and even if it hadn’t been I would have waded waist deep in the ocean rather than having to return and bush walk up that blooming hill! At any rate, there was more than enough uphill for us. Bianca counted 185 uphill steps from the beach back to the Cape Reinga track. By a stroke of good fortune, halfway up the climb, Bianca came across a familiar, friendly face on the track: a fellow tourist she had met a couple of weeks earlier, so we had the perfect excuse to stop, catch our breath and chat for a while. Then we were off again this time at a faster pace as we hit the main pathway on which we had run earlier. But now it was crowded with numerous tourists, all heading to see the meeting of the two seas. What had started out as a tranquil early morning location was now more like Piccadilly Circus! I hate to think what it must be like during peak holiday season, “utterly dreadful” is the first thought that springs to mind!

We picked up the pace even more and quickly got back to Cuzzie. We enjoyed an amazing lunch and, while munching away, we are joined by the young guys we had met on the track earlier, so we sat and chatted some more. They ate their peanut butter and jam sandwiches, as well as eating some of our famous brownie. We both tried to help them with the car issues they are having. It’s a real shame as they have only owned the car for five days, the best description of it being that they have been sold a $3k "lemon". We also talked about where to visit as they head back down the North Island, hopefully to get their money back from the car dealer in order to buy a cheaper, more reliable model!

Time has again raced past today and we still have the dreaded washing to get done, so down the hill to windy but sunny Tapotupotu Bay we go. Clothes washed and hanging out to be blown dry. We have a really cold swim, then head for the fresh, cold water showers, dodging mosquitos en route, then retreating to the sanctuary of Cuzzie with her improvised mosquito net. On a side note, I reckon it may take me a long time to readjust to the shower in my bathroom at home after so many months of quick, cold, outdoor ones! As our washing struggles to stay pegged to the clothesline, we sit and enjoy chai tea and our homemade healthy truffles. Another yummy creation made of avocado and chocolate, totally delicious, so much so, in fact, that we actually have to restrict each other from scoffing the entire batch!! We may decide to be nice and share the recipe.

The storm seems to be blowing our way. It took a little longer than expected to arrive this morning, but the winds did arrive ahead of it and that was a blessing because it blew the “What ifs” away! We grab our washing before it gets blown away and head back up the dusty hill to our vantage point, to sit and wait for another sunset at the end of a better day.

My smiles today:
Circuit training in the car park.
Off the trail hill-hiking!
Enjoying being in the great outdoors.
Chocolate avocado truffles. Yum!
The Cape is a very special place.

My thoughts today:
Go outside and relax. The world we live in is indeed a beautiful place, at least in this neck of the woods.

Until tomorrow, goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Our day.

Our day.

My night.

My night.

Day 415...What If?

Wednesday 14 December 2016

For the kayakers; no paddling today.

My day has just been a mish-mash of "What ifs?”
What if I had just ignored the weather forecast?
What if I had ignored other people’s thoughts?
What if I hadn’t asked others for their opinions?
What if... 
Well, they just kept haunting me all day long.

Life is about the “What ifs?” Getting over them and just looking forward. Well, apparently I’m not good at this right at the moment; no good at all at the far too many, bloody “What ifs?” this day has thrown at me. I reckon I should have gapped it today, but I didn’t! Instead, I’m practicing the patience skills to the bitter end!

I sat and looked out over the ocean for most of the day, firstly from our overnight vantage point high on the hills. Secondly, I walked to the top of Cape Reinga again. Then I drove back to my launching beach, along the dusty pot-holed roads and walked out to face the West Coast. The last, damn West Coast launch; maybe it would have been good or maybe it would have been bad. I’m pleased to say that it was and is not going to be the worst beach to leave from when I eventually do get underway again. But it’s still going to get me wet and it’s still going to get my heart racing!

I sat in the sand just looking and watching, feeling the wind gusts and constantly reminding myself of my promise not to “gap it”, recalling what “gapping it” has done to me before. In fact, even when I did start counting the tides and the hours, Bianca looked at me and said firmly “I’m not helping you to launch today!” But, in any case, it was already too late by then, so the “What if?” sort of stuck in my throat!

We headed back to sit on the other coast and enjoy the sunshine and the shelter of the little beach at Tapotupotu. It’s cute and very welcoming in the calmer weather. But, holy shit, did Mother Nature torment me today. All day, and all the “What ifs?” came flooding back. I sat in the sunshine most of the day and just tried to numb my brain. But that didn’t work. Doubts and more doubts and “What ifs?” kept dancing about inside my brain. At times it would be nice to be able to remove my head and just sit in numbed silence with my head tucked inside a bag. Well, it’s a thought at least, if not an option.

I had to remove myself from poor Bianca and Cuzzie, as I made them both suffer a lot today. Frustrated and grumpy, I sat alone on the beach for a few hours to lessen everyone's pain. Bianca got out her pink hair dye and played her guitar; far nicer than having me for company! I blame the proximity of Christmas, it seems to be bothering me, even way up here in Northland. To make matters worse, an army of small ants arrived and enjoyed annoying me by biting me. Even the waves washing onto the beach just laughed at me. I did go for a swim in an effort to cool off (in more ways than one) but jeepers, it was cold. Refreshing, but cold.

Anyway enough of this feeling sorry for myself shit. I wandered back to try and explain my mood and apologise. We talked with a fellow camper-van owner for a little while, then it was time to brace the cold again in the outdoor DOC showers!! Strangely enough, they lifted my mood somewhat, the cold reminding me that life is actually really good and that I should stop this brain-frying game!! By this time, the mosquitos have started to arrive and neither of us wants to find out what they are truly like once the sun starts setting, so we high-tail it back up the dusty hill towards our beautiful “high in the sky” camper-van site. This is when the last “What if?” happened!! Driving up the steep hill towards the main road, suddenly there was a loud smash crash in the back of Cuzzie.

What on earth was that? Oh, shit! A tray of fifteen eggs had just fallen off the shelf onto the floor, with every single egg smashed to smithereens and raw egg running down the aisle. We had to stop on the hill in order to clean up the hideous mess!!! Yuck! I was just about to say to Bianca “What if we’d put them away properly?” But, fortunately, I started to laugh. For, if I hadn’t managed to laugh, I’d probably have started crying. Which just about sums up my day; laugh or cry!

My smiles today:
All the “What ifs?” I just have to smile!
My obsession is driving me nuts.
Being in such a beautiful location.
Blessed to have got this far.
This tough, bloody corner I’m on.
At least being able to sunbathe.
The egg story. Eggshausting, eggspensive and not at all eggshilarating!!! (It’s meant to be a yolk!)

My thoughts today:
What if we knew what tomorrow would bring? Would we fix it? Could we fix it? Should we fix it?

From our vantage point high on the hill, goodnight from Red (and all her “What ifs?”), and not forgetting Bianca!

Ma Te Wa.

PLEASE TXT REDZ TO 2446 TO DONATE $3 TO MHFNZ.

Goodnight from the West Coast.

Goodnight from the West Coast.

"Hi" to the moon from the East Coast.

"Hi" to the moon from the East Coast.