Day 403...The Mighty Kaipara

Friday 2 December 2016

At last, my blog from yesterday and the brief for all the kayak followers:
South of Kaipara to Glinks Gully, total paddle: 73kms.
Head winds, an eleven-hour day and tough currents.
A shark sighting!
Swells and rippling currents.
Average 5.9 to 6kms per hour.
My toughest paddle yet in the North Island.

An early start for sure and I had already been awake on and off for the previous four hours. Fortunately, I had Bianca, Jason and our new friend Ev on the support team this morning. We all jumped in the ute and headed for the Woodhill sand tracks and back to the launching beach. To be honest, I was not looking forward to catching my first glimpse of this beach, knowing full well it was not going to be a cruisy departure.

I had a sick, cold feeling in the pit of my stomach as I loaded up Louise and got ready for a battle with the waves. Bianca placed herself high up on the sand dunes to take pictures, Ev stood aside just to observe while Jase stood in the water and watched the waves until it was time, as I screamed "Now? Can I go?” Then I was off, to have a one-on-one face-off with the rolling, foaming waves. The first few were okay, with enough time in between each wave to straighten up, aim and paddle with force at the next. But, as I got out the back and a long way from the beach and the crew, the ocean started her new game of throwing the last massive waves at me. The first sent me rocketing backwards, finding it hard to paddle. But we survived and got paddling again, until the next one, which I timed just ever so slightly badly and was over the side and being washed sideways.

As I emerged from the foaming water, I had enough time to grab hold of my kayak and hold on while the next wave washed over the top of us. Then Louise was free of me and I had to swim towards her, grab and upturn her, then hold on tight until then ocean calmed. Quickly, I clambered back into the water-filled cockpit and turned to face the next couple of waves, just managing to stay afloat and paddle out and over the back big swells that were now all safely behind me. I breathe, get myself sorted out and listen to the crew on my VHF. 

From there I headed towards the Kaipara Harbour, as I had anticipated, it was shaping up to be a tough old day! As I paddled, I knew I was going to be crossing the entrance on an incoming tide and that it was going to be tough going. On the really difficult sections, so tough in fact that, sometimes, I slowed to covering only 1km every 15 to 20 minutes, with waves, rips, rippling tidal waters and big swells from most directions making the first 42kms very tough and intense going indeed.

Originally, I had planned to go really wide on this section but the current was strong and, all too soon, I was in the midst of a flood (incoming) tide and it took all my strength and my experience gained from all my days on the water prior to this, that made me paddle like my life depended on getting past. Just as well it did, for no-one else was going to get me across. Inch by inch, I moved away from the dangerous spots and out round the back, knowing that the people who were tracking me would be wondering what the heck I was doing.

This was always going to be a day that was going to test me and it most certainly did. At one point, I dared to stop to check my GPS location, thinking I was past all the turbulent water. That was when I realised I still had the northern section to go, damn it was going to be a really slow day. Eventually (at the 40km mark) I looked to the skies and said “goodbye" to the Kaipara, thanking it for having let me pass this almighty endurance test.

As I sit on the rolling waters, I grab some food to eat as I paddle and, just as I lock down my deck bag, fortuitously I look up and a very large wave is heading my way. I grab my paddle and push up and over. Over the side went my chocolate brownie snack! As for me, I make a mental note to paddle another 10kms before stopping again. Then, and only then, did I feel okay about even trying to eat. Still with 23kms to go now, it’s about trying to stay focused for the last leg.

It is slow going and I reckoned that, at this pace, I will be about two hours later than I want to be. I also know that, the later I get to Glinks Gully, the more the wind will be blowing; way more than I want and, true to form, it increases over the last two hours. When, eventually, I spotted the little houses on the cliff top, it felt great and all I did was focus on getting there. But that was an issue in itself. It seemed to take forever to get along the last 10kms. At last I was in line with Bianca but, with the wind blowing, it was impossible for Bianca to hear much of what I was saying over the VHF.

However, the water and the waves were my first focus as, true to form, Mother Nature whipped up the sea for my attempted landing. All I needed to do was get onto the beach. For the moment, even the thoughts of the shark I had seen lurking up the coast a little were gone. I have pushed really hard today and am near the end of my energy levels. I turn and paddle with everything I have left, getting damn close to a dry landing but ending up standing knee-deep in the water. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Bianca, how happy I am to be back on dry land!

Bianca grabbed Louise and dragged her up the beach, well above the tide line. Quickly I grab my dry clothes and head to Cuzzie to get dry and warm, to eat sweet, oily popcorn and just sit still. As I sit, feeling absolutely exhausted and trying to get warm, suddenly my muscles and body get the shakes. Thankfully, Bianca rescued Louise from the beach and, as my shakes subside, so my energy returns and slowly, I get my gear packed away. With Louise safely on the roof racks and hot tea to drink, we just sit, recounting our respective stories of the day; including the shark sighting, and celebrate with high fives having successfully passed The Mighty Kaipara.

I was tired out and, by now, it was getting late so with a campsite only two minutes up the hill we drove there. Alas, with no cell phone or Internet coverage, my blog just had to wait and, instead, we gave up trying to focus on electronics and unloaded wet clothes, trying to empty Cuzzie of sand and make her look a little cleaner inside. Then, because the campsite showers needed tokens and it was too late in the day to get any from the office, we had a Cuzzie-style shower.

By then, it was after 8.30pm and I could quite happily have just curled up and slept. Bugger eating! But Bianca insisted and made a lovely dinner. Then with energy renewed, we sat with our friend Ev late into the night and talked and talked. Eventually, at midnight, I decided it would be a good idea to try to get some sleep. It was either that or fall asleep in mid-sentence!

Lying down in my bunk, I was happy knowing that Saturday was to be a rest day, especially as the Hokianga weather report was windier than what I wanted for a paddle and, in any case, I was needing to regroup. I lay in bed attempting to write my blog but, with a tired and very fried brain, I soon gave up, completing it quietly in the early hours of Saturday morning. Now, as I sit reflecting on my previous day’s paddle, my thoughts are still all about The Mighty Kaipara for which I have the utmost respect, but it’s one section I most certainly do not wish to paddle again.

My smiles today:
My wonderful Star kayak and the ease of a safe quick water re-entry, without which, I would have been back on the beach this morning!
My dig-deep drive and determination; it got me through today’s tougher moments.
My support crew, they will never know what a great feeling it is when I sight them on a beach at the end of my long days.
Honey-coated popcorn (yummy)! I have passed The Mighty Kaipara, if not with flying colours, then at least safe and sound. Amazing!

My thoughst today:
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Goodnight from a very tired but very ecstatic team; Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Goodnight from Glinks Gully.

Goodnight from Glinks Gully.