Thursday 24 November 2016
For the kayakers, yes I paddled today. 71km Hamiltons Gap - South Kaipara, 10 hours: 6am to 4pm, 7km approx per hour.
It is nearly to good to believe. I paddled again today. The ocean was not going to let me cruise out easily from this beach; it gave me a full on test of my strength and wave skills. Today I survived, it was typical; you see a calm patch you push off and then the waves and ocean turn nasty. It is like Mother Nature is playing with you like a cat with a mouse. As I had totally committed I had no turning back and I got face fulls of water at every wave that crashed towards me, at least 5 sets knocked me to a stand still, and then you have to gain momentum before the next wave. It's hard to win the game, breathing hard and not willing to give up I know I have maybe 2 big waves to get past and to safety out the back and on the calmer waters. I look up and, holy crap, in front of me the second to last wave was like a huge wall towering down on me. I paddled up and up, and as I paddled I was saying "don't break, please don't break over me!" With a massive thwack Louise and I landed with a thud over the wave!
With no time to catch my breath or even think I got over the next one and could see it getting easier. Did I stop then!! No damn way! I paddled for 100 or more strokes then had a laugh with Bianca over the VHF, got sorted, set my tracker going and was off towards more waves and the Manukau Harbour entrance. Oh how this place has haunted me. Like the Cook Strait there has only ever been bad stories. Even when I chatted with the Coast Guards about it the comment back was "it is one of the most dangerous bars in the Southern Hemisphere" and I was paddling towards it now, for enjoyment! (Shit Red are you crazy? I most certainly have proved that.)
I promised myself to go wide, not try to cut any corners, and to miss anything that looked like turning into a wall of foaming water, so even though I thought I could see a gap closer in I did not dare to go in that direction. But today the Manukau Harbour was having a rare calm and beautiful day. There where some big rolling swells but it was not a mess and I only have a nice story to say about this crossing. As I got halfway across my most difficult times where when I had to try and keep my eye out for all the small fishing craft also making the most of this wonderful day and heading out for some west coast fishing. About a dozen boats raced out in front of me as it neared high tide, so as Paul Caffyn would say "Red you are one blessed and damn lucky lass!" Today I truly was.
As I rechecked my navigation to aim back towards Piha I laughed as a small craft zipped out of the inner northern passage, the one I did not dare to take! I probably could have saved myself a few kilometres today, but best to be safe. Piha looked beautiful this morning and I was making good time today. My first VHF checkpoint and then off towards Muriwai. As I paddled I admired the ever changing scenery. Gone were the scared and eroded sand dunes, replaced with the green bush clad hills and rugged out-crops of rocks. Well it was like that until I arrived at Muriwai for my second checkpoint. Then the long beach paddle towards my final destination today about 10km before the Kaipara Harbour mouth.
This was more about watching the wave patterns, counting the kilometres and making sure I did not get to close to the beach and get hit by the bigger wave sets when they rolled in. As the out going tide turned the waves picked up and my heart sunk. Here we go, another big tough landing. The 30km ticked by, also the waves did settle and there was some calm moments in patches. I get a message to say the crew are parked on the beach in Jason's ute. Well I scan the beach. It is as if they have driven and moved my finishing point. Where the heck is the ute and the team? I do not want to paddle to a new mystery location. It may be hard to explain but when you know you have nearly finished, to not see the crew makes you wonder how far they have parked up the beach. Have they gone to the edge of the Kaipara Harbour? I hoped not!
At last I see a welcome sight, the pink shirts on the top of a sand dune. We chat over the VHF then I pack down my gear and get ready for a sprint finish, but it is about 500m to the shore and the big wave sets will catch me. I'm just hoping to get as close as possible before I end up dunking! They do catch me and I end up surfing down the face of the last wave, and yes I end up going for a swim on this landing. It was fine to be honest, my pride was not hurt, shit like this happens.
Both Bianca and Jase grab Louise and I enjoy the refreshing swim in with the last few waves. On the sand we laugh as I hear news that Jase got the ute stuck in the sand! I sit and eat popcorn as the crew load up Louise. Then we watch a local and his mates launch his large boat and negotiate the waves! Crazy stuff. I wish I had a motor. We drive to a little location to camp for the night by the Kaipara Harbour (Shelley Beach). It is calm, cute and very tranquil, I love it.
Dinner, a cold refreshing shower and then more fun killing bloody mosquitos that have invaded the camper-van! A note has been made to buy fly-spray tomorrow! My paddling for the week has been halted. The winds return and I go back to waiting, hopefully not for too long. Lastly, I have dreamed all along that I would paddle this exact section on a beautiful day and today my dreams came true. Yes, I was blessed.
My smiles today:
My break out paddle today. Epic.
Piha from my kayak.
Manukau Harbour crossing. Wow.
The ever changing scenery.
The Kaipara Harbour.
My thoughts today:
I still have a long way to go, but I'm already so far from where I used to be and I am proud of that.
Goodnight from Red, Bianca, Louise and Cuzzie.
Ma Te Wa.
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