I have to say that, although my day started with rain, I had a wonderful “hum” in my mind. An inspiring message from my two very good friends (Janet Alexander and Chris Maund) who live in the USA was my initial smile. You guys rock! Thanks for every word you sent to me. Such a message from you two means so much. Big hugs. See you when this journey of mine is complete. “Happy Birthday” for tomorrow my friend Janet, you are one lady I’ll go shopping with when we meet up.
It would seem that all great plans have hiccups. At the back of my mind, today’s plan was to be paddling into Titahi Bay. Well, we can all laugh out loud about that!! (So much for day dreaming!) Here I am still in Cuzzie, still in the South Island and still waiting for a weather window. But there is no point in dwelling on things I cannot change. Instead, up I got, I drank my coffee and went walking on the beach with my camera, leaving my mobile phone behind in order to have some “me” time. Even though it was raining rather a lot, I kept on walking (but, I didn’t melt!). As I walked, I planned my day. It was my birthday, and many might be saying “I hope you rested” or “I hope you treated yourself to a huge cafe brekkie or lunch or maybe even dinner with a bunch of friends!!”. They may have hoped I wasn’t all on my own or wondered whether I had got lots of pressies. Might even have asked “Did you celebrate!?” or “Did you buy a new outfit to wear?” or “Did you have a massage?”.
Well, the truth of the matter is that it was actually none of the things that many others might wish for me. BUT, it was my day so this is what I did:
Firstly, I thought about why I was okay about me being solo on my birthday and secondly, whether I was still okay to attempt to kayak solo around this coastline.
I’m really okay about being solo on my birthday. In fact, in my opinion, it is certainly the only way to celebrate my birthday while on this journey! This is just another day in the life of Red, it just also happens to be my birthday. Now, you’d better sit down but, before doing so you’d better get yourself a drink, because you may need it after you’ve read the rest of the story of my long day!
I walked on the beach from 7.30am to 10.30am, until I could walk no further. As I walked, I wrote “Happy Birthday, Red” in the wet sand, the tide being on its way out. I was happy it was my birthday. I would have been happy to share the day with someone, but there was no-one else on the beach. But then, why would there have been, as it was raining really heavily. Having found I could go no further, I turned back, but not before trying to be a little more creative. I started writing the same message to myself in shells (well, it was an attempt at being creative!). As I stood there, taking a couple of pictures, two lovely ladies walked up. They smiled when I told them what I was doing. They had seen the other sand inscriptions further along the beach but thought it was for a local who, by strange coincidence, had also been called Red, but who had died recently! Anyway, if indeed it would have been his birthday today, I looked up into the sky and wished him all the best. I stayed and talked for a short while with the two women, then we went our separate ways. Before they left, they suggested another walk I could try, so now, it’s on my list for today as well. As I walked back, the tide had turned and was now nearly full so, there were sections of the beach where I was ankle, and then knee deep, but I didn’t care because it actually made it way more fun.
Eventually I got back, soaked through. I changed, then sculled a couple of cups of hot coffee, answered some text messages, and then threw all my gear into Cuzzie, unhooked the power and headed off again. This time to go tramping and see some waterfalls. By this time, the rain had nearly stopped, so I thought the falls would look amazing, and being in the bush next to overflowing creeks and rivers would make me feel extremely happy. It was off to Wainui Falls, Pohara. Just a short 40-minute return walk. On the way, there were a couple of small fords to cross but nothing that my crocs couldn’t cope with. I was perhaps a little concerned when I saw a couple ahead of me wearing day packs and hiking boots but I thought that, as I had managed to hike with only one shoe on for twelve kilometers along the Heaphy Track, then a mere 40-minute walk would be fine. As I hiked, I saw a small, wild goat in the native bush on the other side of the river. It didn’t seem to care at all about me but just carried on eating. The fantails fluttered back and forth as I walked along. They are always so pretty and so friendly to have about.
The walk was very beautiful indeed and I was happy, even in the light rainfall. As I got closer to the falls, the sound was incredible, there being so much water heaving itself over. As I got closer, I got soaking wet just standing there, admiring. It was hard work trying to keep my camera lenses dry while attempting to take some pictures. But, thanks to Sony, the camera is totally waterproof. As I turned to go back, there were a couple of things I still needed to do to make this day even more fun, so I ran! I had decided that the best thing about bush tracks is running on them, so much better than on the road and so much more fun. I had half-wanted to put on my running shoes but, as I wasn’t sure the track would enable me to run, I hadn’t bothered. I ran in my crocs (!!) and, actually that was okay. I may have got a little hot as I was wearing my rain jacket, but it surely was fun. When I run downhill, I always feel way fitter and faster. I can almost hear you all going “Holy heck, why on earth?”, but I say “why not?”. I like trail running. As I was running down the track, do you know what really made me laugh? Someone’s underpants were hanging in a tree!! I couldn’t help wondering whose they were and why and how they had got there? Obviously, I don’t have the answer, I just left them, blowing in the breeze.
By now, it was mid-afternoon and I really had to hoof it in Cuzzie to get to my next location. Pupu Hydro Track, near the Pupu Springs, and the 1hr 50min trek that the lovely ladies on the beach had told me about. Past Takaka and I was whizzing along. It was 3.30pm by the time I pulled on my running shoes and my small backpack, taking my rain jacket and a couple of chocolate bars, just in case (and my tracker! You never know when something might happen and with no cellphone coverage). I had planned for this to be a fast trek as I wanted to be back at the camper-van before it started to get dark, so I jogged or rather, ran. This is one beautiful walk, everyone should do it. There was water running along by the footpaths and the board walks. I saw incredible moss and lichen and tall trees that look like they’d come out of Dr Seuss, massive palms, as I zigzagged upwards.
My happy middle part of my day, a rainbow appeared as I got to the top of this track. Then, I was so pleased to be running freely on the downhill section. It felt great to be out in the trees and the bush and on these tracks, enjoying myself. Fifty-five minutes later, I was back in Cuzzie. Phew! But that was actually fun. A quick chocolate bar and some cold coffee. I was one happy birthday girl! Driving back along the wet, muddy roads through Takaka, which is a little town I want to come back to and have a wander around because I like the feel of the place a lot. But no time tonight, because I wanted to get out and onto the beach for a birthday sunset and a walk to finish this near perfect day. Out to the water’s edge at very low tide. I did just that and it made my day absolutely, totally complete. I stood there for a while, with the water lapping my bare feet and ankles, turning around in slow circles, and just taking in what has been an incredible day in this beautiful part of New Zealand. A 54th birthday I will never, ever forget - not even when I’m a little old lady with a zimmer frame, trying to find a treadmill on which to run!!!!
My day ended with a beautiful sunset and a great message from the girlfriend with whom I traveled with on my initial OE, way back when I was eighteen. It’s her birthday today, as well. “Happy Birthday” to Maree Wheeler. Now, I’m sitting in Cuzzie, enjoying the feeling of the day, enjoying life and, in a way, understanding why I’m still waiting on a weather window. Perhaps you’ll be wondering about the answer to the second question I asked myself - whether I’m still okay to attempt to kayak solo around this coastline. Despite all the trials and tribulations, despite all the shit that Mother Nature has thrown (and is still throwing) at me, I have not the slightest doubt. In the meantime, here at the top of the South Island, there is still lots more for me to see and do, so bring on tomorrow!! Louise and I are hoping to get on the water for a gentle paddle around some more islands and bays!! Let’s just wait and see what happens.
My smiles today:
Actually, everything about today has made me smile.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!
My thoughts today:
There have been so many today. Some so crazy, some wacky, some that I am totally unable to share. But what seemed most important, very simply, was my "me" time. Nothing and no-one will ever take that away.
Goodnight from one very tired but extremely happy Red (now officially 54). Ma te Wa.
P.S.: Thanks to everyone who called or sent a message on my birthday.