At 4am I am awake, listening to the gentle lapping of the ocean against the golden sands of this beach. French Pass, this little DOC campsite is a true gem and we are the only ones in this little place. Today is a paddling day so I have butterflies. Tonight is going to be a solo night in my tent as we cannot see how I can make it all the way to where I touched down and then into Picton. It is far too big a distance from French Pass to Picton in one day, so I had loaded my kayak last night with most of my gear. After having my broken rudder cable fixed, we ate dinner. I was tense and anxious about distances for this next section, also a little concerned the wind was going to ruin my chances of a big day. It was set that I was to paddle just on 60km, but this is always weather dependent.
At 6.15am I hit the water. Big hugs to Jase. A couple of nervous tears, not actually sure why, but they arrived. As I started to paddle it was still dark so had my GPS on deck just in case, but the skies were clear and it was easy to navigate this morning. Along the way there was the hum of a small outboard motor, and then as I got to the first point a large fishing vessel had motored along and out past me. The waters were mostly calm and they did not really cut up rough until I got to Pelorus Sound. Tough tide and white caps for most of this crossing. Typical of the mouth of the sounds. Either heaps of water rushing in or out. I have never hit them when they are calm.
Once past this rougher patch I began my regular routine. Check in every 2 hours by my Satellite Phone. Eat and drink, at least when I stopped or more often if possible. It was going okay, today's paddling. A few large fishing boats and a couple of smaller pleasure boats as well out in the water. Lots of birds and little penguins but no dolphins. At the 4 hour mark I seemed to be tracking well, time wise, but did not dare hope that it would continue. I had lots of bays to cross yet and that whistling wind was sure to arrive.
Past Forsyth Island and Alligator Point, the day was clear and bright I could see the outline of the North Island. I was really keen to get past and around Cape Jackson and then see how the winds had picked up in the Queen Charlotte Sound. I managed a brief call on my mobile and discussed that I was tracking well and what were the thoughts on me going on the outside of Arapawa Island. "No you do not have time!" "Okay" I said. I was pleased that we had decided this as when I rounded the corner the tide was racing and I could make little headway into the sounds, what with an outgoing tide it seemed, and a strong wind. I had slowed considerably. Bugger, my dream in the back of my mind to maybe nail the South Island today has just slipped away with each paddle stroke.
Queen Charlotte Sound just kept pushing me out and making it tough going to try and enter and cross on a diagonal. I gave up and got better speed going directly across. Not fast, but way better than my attempts to gap it into the sounds. As I got closer to Cape Koamaru I slowed again, making me think I might as well stop at the closest beach now and try push to Tory Channel tomorrow. All the time though I was looking at the horizon and being blown away by how calm Cook Strait seemed. That is a rare sight. I could see the wind turbines on the hills of Makara. No white caps and the view was as far as the eyes could see. There were small pleasure craft out on the water. It must be calm. Maybe I could make it. I discussed this with a very doubtful Jase. "You don't have enough daylight hours left!" I was gutted but suggested I just go and see what it looked like around the point. If it was windy I would turn and setup camp. Or maybe I could make it.
I then had no one else to blame for this next decision. I wanted to nail the South Island TODAY. I did not care if I was on the water at sunset. I put my head down, hugged the coastline and oh boy did I paddle. I had the tide against me, and lots of rips and eddies along the way but I was like a dog with a bone. Even when I passed a small little boat, who said "you left your run a bit late lass!" Nothing was going to stop me now. Too much liquid drunk again today, this was a nuisance with my timing. But I am an expert now with emptying my bladder on the water. But I have to stop briefly! (That is another story!)
Back into the paddling. No stopping until you see something you remember from your crossing so many months ago. When I see Perano Head I was surprised and doubted my memory. Was I sure? No way! I had made it by just after 5pm. I still had about 45 minutes before sunset but I still had about 5km to paddle and my campsite to setup. I did not care. I had nailed it. I was one very happy kayaker. Actually slightly in disbelief to be honest.
The inter-islander ferry passed by on a perfect, calm evening into the channel. I watched it pass by before I glided between the gap in the rocks into Tory Channel. Then I admired the view. Beautiful moonlight, pink and pale blue sunset behind me, and over the silhouette of the snow-capped mountains to my left, the ocean reflecting the sunset and a perfect Cook Strait. Thank-you Mother Nature. It was a perfect end to a beautiful day around this totally inspiring island. It is everything and far more than I ever imagined. I understand why people adore the South Island. It is so very special a place that wins your heart, or maybe I am one of the few that she (MN) wants to return. As if my day could not get any better, I paddle towards buildings and a beach. I decide that I better go and ask permission to camp on this beach and I was told no way are you camping, we have a house! A heater and hot water, and please come for dinner! 😀
I was blessed today. Thanks to this wonderful household for welcoming me into their beautiful slice of paradise. I will remember this night forever. Seafood Gumbo, rice and a fresh green salad, and lots of cups of tea. Thanks is never going to be enough. You guys have made this day complete. You all know what I am about to say; I am returning to this special location. To help with the farming of the very beautiful paua pearls, and to go diving. The gypsy kayaker will maybe never want to leave!
My smiles today:
EVERTHING ABOUT TODAY MAKES ME SMILE! It is a day I will always remember.
My thoughts today:
I love Aotearoa.
Goodnight from Red and Louise.
Ma Te Wa.