Day 407...And Again

Tuesday 6 December 2016

For the kayakers:
60km day.
9.5 hours approx.
Ahipara to The Bluff/90 Mile Beach.
Beautiful sunny day.
1.2m swell.
Successful departure.
Wet landing.

Away we go with another crazy morning launch. Bianca and our backpacking friend Simon were both a great help this morning. As I got into Louise, I looked to the sky, clasping my pounamu, and asked for a great and blessed day (please). Bianca gives me the morning push-off into the waves and quickly I’m reminded that the ocean this morning is cold! It’s another West Coast wake-up call with ocean surf in my face as I get my paddle underway!

It’s a stunningly beautiful day and, as the sun begins to appear, the calm ocean and the skies turn pale blue and pink. There are some ripples as the morning wind blows, but then it calms down and for the rest of the day the ocean is mostly smooth and flash as. I am only reminded that I’m on the West Coast by the ever present big swells that push under me then crash heavily on their way into the beach.

I tried not to think too much about my landing. This worked most of the time, but I still counted the sets of waves to practice for my final landing on the West Coast. I’m not sure whether I’m happy or sad about this thought but, after this long paddling on West Coast beaches, it has become a bit of a habit. I tried to zone out, watching the gannets, looking for dolphin fins and starting to count the hikers on Ninety Mile Beach. Their challenge of walking "Te Araroa" (the long pathway) has really only just begun; from Cape Reinga to The Bluff. Someone once suggested I did this hike; maybe not, is my thought as I watch from my kayak today.

To pass the sometimes-boring sections of the paddle today, when the going was slow, funnily enough I actually sang out loud! Knowing only a couple of lines to a song meant that I sang it over and over again, which at least helped me get the kilometres done. At times, I felt like I was going backwards and the speed and tempo was hard to keep up today. I was longing for some rocks and something more than sand dunes to look at. As I paddled along this beach, I remembered that the last time I was here was when I was a child and I have never visited this Northland area since.

At long last, I see The Bluff but I still have 17kms to cover. It took a little longer than I had hoped and, of course, the high tide had just turned and the ocean was about to give me a final West Coast lesson! I contact Bianca by VHF as I’m nearly ready to turn about and aim for the beach, which actually looks okay. Then I hear the sound, the one we all hate, the sound of a huge wave breaking and foaming towards me. The current had shifted me in towards some breakers, damn! I paddle with all my remaining energy towards that wave but, today, it won the battle! It was strong and powerful and I got well and truly nailed! I have also become separated from Louise so, now I have to swim quickly towards her and clamber aboard. Luckily, the venturi is down so, as I get the kayak moving again, the water slowly drains out. No time to put on my skirt, so we go flying down a couple of big waves, managing to stay upright, then broadside in on another big one as it pushes me sideways towards the beach. Then I just keep bailing until I get close enough to swim. Bianca is in the water waist-deep, grabs my kayak as I give her the "I’m okay" signal and together we wade into the shore. We both just have to laugh, as we always knew that this landing was going to be a battle between Mother Nature and myself. As always, she had to have the last laugh! But that’s okay.

I had managed to scrape my hand on something, so the first-aid kit was needed. Then the remaining fun began, we had a long portage to Cuzzie on soft sand in the afternoon heat. Jeez, it was a tough end to a long day. As we unpacked, we chatted to some locals and learned lots before staggering back to the beach; hot, dusty and dirty, for a refreshing swim. By the end of the day, we were both exhausted. Everything in Cuzzie is covered in dust from all the gravel-road driving and the floor seems to have gained a layer of sand! The locals we met on the beach had suggested that we just drove Cuzzie along the beach, but neither of us were at all keen to drive that Ninety Miles Beach, imagine if we got stuck (a nightmarish thought!). We head out on some long and very rutted gravel roads to the campground and, as it turns out, lots of the trampers I saw today have stopped here for the night as well.

By this time, it’s 7 pm and I’m "hangry"; tired and grumpy, in need of food and bed quickly!! But it takes a while, what with all the chatting to others, then eating dinner. I know it’s an off-the-water day tomorrow due to wind, but I’m not complaining. Luckily it will give me the chance to talk to locals about the next paddle, possibly in a few days time.

My day has been brilliant; challenging as well, from the moment we awoke today, but it was successful and we are both smiling from ear to ear. Bianca has headed for the campfire to be with the others but, as for me, I crawl into bed.

My smiles today:
The stunning sunrise.
Mother Nature having the final word with a huge wave slap!
Being so close to the top of the North Island.
The gorgeous campsite owners, Paul and Tania.
Being gifted Manuka honey.

My thoughts today:
“It's impossible”, said your pride.
“It's risky”, said experience.
“It's pointless”, said reason.
“Give it a try”, whispered your heart!

Goodnight from the far north from a tired Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.