Wednesday 28th September 2016
As usual I woke up in the early hours of the morning, even knowing my alarm was set! That’s because I worry I’m going to sleep in. Honestly, what chance is there of that? You only have to ask the poor support crew! The rest of the day goes like this:
At 5am I get up and ready for my day’s paddling. Yes, you read that right!! As yet, there’s not even a breath of wind, nor any sound of waves (incredible)! I get dressed, pack up the final bits of electronic gear from the charging stations, then sit and eat breakfast. Having given Anna a wake-up call, we are unloading Louise by 6am and, with head torches on, carry her down to the beach. Today I don’t even get wet on my launch! Although the connection was a bit dodgy, we manage to hook up by VHF and hopefully, it will improve.
Patea was the first checkpoint at 8.30am with 14kms done already. Then it was on to Waihi Beach. As I paddled along, the cliffs reminded me of driving along sections of the Desert Road, through Tongariro National Park. The incredibly varied earth colours make for great scenery, as do all the caves and tunnels that only a very few people have probably ever seen. This coastline not only has lots of pleasant surprises but some unpleasant ones as well, especially the waves I have to pass and navigate through at each landing point. I try not to take risks so, mostly, I paddle out the back of any white foaming waves, not wanting to have any “heart in mouth” moments. On the next section, the currents and tides are against me, so I slow down a little, with the result that I’m about 30 minutes late for checkpoint number 2. Then the fun starts with VHF issues!
I only hear Anna very faintly once and then nothing! Hoping she can hear me, I say “Let's talk at Ohawe” (only 6kms up the coast). I was hoping that, maybe, we could have mobile coverage there. But alas, no. Finally, I just talk, asking Anna to wave her pink top in the air if she can hear me, which she actually can and understands what to do, so I get a wave from her. Well, at least something worked!
Onwards to Kaupokonui, thinking that will be enough for today. As expected, the VHF still isn’t working and there’s no mobile connection to Vodafone but, fortunately, my Spark is working. The beach looks horrible! A very terse text to my helpers in Auckland to ask them to call or text Anna to let her know that plans have had to be changed and the destination is now the boat ramp at Opunake. I still have 23kms to paddle and I’m praying that I’m not going too slowly, otherwise it will be dark.
It started raining just on 4.30pm, so I pulled up my rain jacket hood and kept on paddling, dodging a few more big swells. As I got closer to my destination, thankfully the ocean flattened somewhat and I was able to enjoy myself again. To the extent that, over the last section, I even thanked Mother Nature for having let me nail this 83km paddle today. It’s been a very varied and a very lovely scenic day. But I only wish I could have explored the caves as well. Of course, there were a few ugly ocean waves and the occasional section with washing machine moments, but I have had it way worse. At last I was able to talk with Anna by mobile, telling her I’d only 2.6kms to go but she already knew that, as she had just checked my tracker. To be totally honest, I was just every bit as excited as her by now, because the longest paddle on this journey has been done today!
I land on a calm boat ramp and, as the rain falls, we unload the kayak and gradually pack up. Popcorn has been made and there are hand-picked flowers along with a lovely note for me from Anna to say congrats. What a lovely way to end my day! As always, this distance couldn’t have been achieved without having the support crew and Cuzzie waiting for me at the end of a huge day. We park up on a hillside above Opunake. I’m warm and tired but happy. Can I paddle again tomorrow? Guess what? Mother Nature thinks not! Jeez.
My smiles today:
A calm launch and a calm landing.
Who wouldn’t be smiling with 83kms done today?
Warm, salty popcorn with lashings of coconut oil.
Electrolytes do work!
Blister treatment. Meths threading!
My thoughts today:
Wake up with determination and go to bed with satisfaction.
Goodnight from Red, Anna, Louise and Cuzzie.
Ma Te Wa.
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