I am solo and about to continue going round in circles while the support team leave me by myself. The paddling regime kicked in today in earnest. I know I’m obsessive but it's out of necessity! I get up before the sun and turn on the heater, make my coffee, fold up my bedding, unplug Cuzzie from the campsite power source, and then frown as we get buffeted by massive wind gusts. I had been promised this was going to disappear by 7am, so I headed down to my usual beach to unload Louise from the roof and get out and onto the water as planned. You will doubtless all have seen pictures of the STAR kayaks on top of Cuzzie and we had always thought it would be a two-man job to get the kayaks on and off the roof. This perception had never really altered until yesterday (during a practice run, under the watchful eye of Jase) with me doing it all on my own. For all you camper-van owners, yes, it can be done solo!
Little old me was a bit nervous to start with, but this morning it really went like clockwork. Slowly, I winched Louise down and got ready to get out on the water. It wasn’t quite as cold as previous mornings. Nelson is showing me what lovely winters they seem to have. I walked down to the beach. It was a low tide as I left and it continued going out for a few more hours. I (nearly) thought the wheels might have been a good idea. I carried my kayak all the way to the water’s edge, headed out and, as promised, took my VHF and cell-phone and sent regular location “pings” to the team up in Auckland. This was telling them how long my paddle was and, every hour, I sent a location text to them. As previously discussed, I kept to a very well-known location and route. There was a wee bit of wind and swell out past all of the buoys and markers, and then a small wind and swell to surf back on and around the island. I repeated this route three times, then paddled over to the long section of the sand-spit. I could see people walking on this section today, just as a beautiful sky appeared in the horizon. This is a great winter’s day in Nelson and I’m enjoying the (mostly) calm ocean paddling. It’s wonderful to be getting into a good rhythm and getting to know and like Louise, as the last time we spent any time in the water together was way back on the East Coast (by Castlepoint, my initial black eye moment pre-Wellington!).
Out on the ocean water today, I spot a couple of familiar locals on SUPs. We wave and say “hi” and then continue on our way. I see a gorgeous red yacht heading out to the open ocean and this always makes me feel a little anxious and doubtful but, on such a lovely day, it’s actually really good just to be paddling. Anyone would have enjoyed themselves today. As I finish, I head toward the beach and get ready to immerse myself in the cold waters. I need to try out my leg braces and need to roll. I always feel a bit weird doing this when people are on the beach as they must think I’m a little crazy, purposely getting wet in the middle of winter, turning my kayak upside down. But I have promised myself (and others!). It is to be part of the practice session each day as I return from a paddle (simple and quick) two rolls to my A side, and then two rolls to my B side. Done and dusted and with a cold head added into the bargain! But at least I’ve proved that the new braces work, thanks to Jase, Mike and Andy.
As I pull up to the beach and start the long walk with Louise up to the camper-van, a friendly local (Ross) arrives and offers to help me carry my kayak some of the way up the beach. I accept, then once back at my camper-van, go about my usual routine of getting warm before hauling Louise back up on top of Cuzzie. Having done that, I head to a peaceful location to eat some lunch. I look out over the ocean and dream for a little that, one day, I will make it around this coast! The dream is tinged with a glimpse of a nightmare, a tinge of “will it ever happen?” and a couple of “what if‘s”, but I try not to dwell on these thoughts. It’s always the same when I return to being solo. There’s no-one to bounce ideas off, no-one to share thoughts with or grab energy from. It’s all my own effort and it takes a day or two to re-focus, to get used to being by myself again. But after all my days of solo training before this journey (so many hours of doing solo water time) I am okay with “me” time and I start planning for the remainder of the day. E-mails read and answered, then a slow drive back to my camping location. This Tahuna Campsite has great facilities and I don’t even seem to mind the aircraft flying overhead. In fact, the first one in the morning (just after 6am) is almost like a pleasant alarm clock.
Tonight Nelson is calm and getting ready for nightfall. I am making a large pot of soup in the camp kitchen. Once it has finished cooking, I’ll settle into my camper bed to read some informative emails and also watch a Ted talk that has been recommended to me. Thanks to all of you for your continuing suggestions. I shall get to see as much as possible but I also have to try and keep up my paddling. I have a strange feeling that this is not going to be my only visit to the South Island. I can see myself returning and doing even more. To the many all-weather paddlers, I have a funny feeling that it’ll take another few days yet before I have any new, salty ocean stories for you to read.
My smiles today:
A large bag of fresh mandarins from a local. Thanks Ross.
My home-made soup. Yumbo.
Tahuna Campsite. Thanks guys.
Meeting people who come past and ask about my journey.
Sharing my Brownie recipe with others.
Camper-van Gypsy life.
How little we actually need.
Rawleigh's Medicated Ointment (an old but good remedy). Who remembers having a tin in the medicine cupboard?
My thoughts today:
Be honest with everyone (especially yourself!).
Be happy towards everyone.
Speak to others the way you would like to be spoken to. If nothing else, truly listen. Everyone has an interesting story to tell.
Be open and share your thoughts with others.
Don’t be afraid to say if someone upsets you.
Focus on that ray of sunshine even (or perhaps, particularly) on a really cold winter’s day. It’ll make you smile. Well, at least it makes me smile!
Goodnight from a solo Red. Ma te Wa.