Day 414...Patience Is To Be Calm, No Matter What Happens

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Tuesday, freshly-baked brownie in the camper-van before 7am lifted the spirits for me, followed by an early hot drink, then we were on the road to the pools for the morning swimming session. It was a little cool and, well before the 9.00am shutdown, I was under the hot shower trying to warm up a rather chilled body. Then I was smiling as I used a new, home-made creation; fresh lavender and coconut scented oil. I thought it might be a natural remedy to soothe the stress in me!! These outdoor pools remind me of the many hours spent in Parnell Baths in Auckland; which I never, ever braved without a wetsuit to swim my lengths. I’m rather quick at chilling when in cool water!

We get back to the campsite, had our breakfast in the sunshine (making the most of the morning and the sheltered location we were in). We also utilised the campsite oven for a fresh batch of seeded crackers and gave Bianca some pink hair highlights (pink!!). Then it was time to get moving because the “caged tiger” needed to sit and look at the ocean. We filled up with diesel, filled up the fridge with food and hit the road towards the tip of this island. Once again, I went back to look at the meeting of the seas to try and understand the feelings in my stomach and try to make a blueprint in my mind of the ocean and how it looked.

On the way, we stopped for bags of avocados and apple cucumbers and the most delicious sweetcorn I have tasted so early in the season. The sun was shining and it was a hot, windy Northland day. Unfortunately, we ended up following a very slow car today, all the way to Cape Reinga. At times, we wondered if they would make it safely round all the twisting roads. Bianca was having a nightmarish time following directly behind them but, at last, we managed to pass and the rest of the road trip to the Cape was far less tense.

Once there, we walked to a high viewing platform. As I sat, I shuddered, feeling the goose bumps appear while watching the big West Coast swell roll in from as far as the eyes could see. Way out at Cape Maria van Diemen, and also as far out as even the binoculars could take our eyes to, all we could see were white caps through the gap. For a very long time, we looked westwards and then switched our eyes to the other side which was calm and beautiful by comparison. Everything seems so easy when you are sat in the shelter of the lighthouse with your back to the West Coast waves and swells. But, eventually, I had to turn back and look at what I still have to get past. We lie on the hillside, sheltered as the wind blows up and over us. My decision was becoming a little easier and, looking out to sea, I was reminded of my promise to myself; to enjoy every paddle day on this West Coast, to be patient and enjoy. It’s a skill I know I will be practicing until I take my very last breath.

Again the ugly subject of the weather returns. I’m still like a stuck record, forever on the same track. Apologies to all my support people who have to listen. In the end, we make a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C, and wait for the weather to update.
Plan A: if it stays the same then it's a no go tomorrow.
Plan B: if it gets even a tad worse then it's a no go tomorrow.
Plan C: if it gets a little better then it’s a possible paddle day!

As we sit on the top of the hill, listening to the sound of Bianca’s music, the camper-van is also filled with the delicious aroma of her famous chai tea creation. I have to thank Ev for the introduction to this wondrous brew. Here we sit and wait. At this rate, I’ll get back on the East Coast one day before Christmas. Maybe even on Christmas Day itself!

My smiles today:
Bianca’s pink highlights!
Homemade creations.
Sitting on the top of this island. Easier than my next paddle.
Feeling calmer than yesterday.

My thoughts today: 
"Patience is not the ability to wait. Patience is to be calm - no matter what happens. Constantly take action to turn it to positive growth opportunities and have faith to believe that it will all work out in the end while you are waiting.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart (Thanks Franki!)

Until tomorrow, from Red and Pink (alias Lynn and Bianca). 

Ma Te Wa.


Sheltering from the wind.

Sheltering from the wind.

Cape Reinga today.

Cape Reinga today.

Day 413...Up, Up, Up, Down

Monday 12 December 2016

My mood was high to start with today. I had discovered an outdoor swimming pool open for lane-swimming from 6.00am until 9.00am. Kaitaia, you rockstars! We arrived just after 8.00am only to find that that they actually shut the gates at 9.00am and don’t re-open them until late in the afternoon, so very quickly, we jumped in and swam continuously for the next hour or so. The pool was refreshingly cool and it was a great feeling to be back in the water. By the time I actually clambered out of the water I was rather cold. Even trying to swim each lane faster than the one before hadn’t helped me keep warm. Quickly, we both jumped into the warm shower and were away from the pools and back in Cuzzie just after 9.00am.

Now another crazy thing to do: we go and locate the second-hand shops. They always have interesting goodies, as well as very entertaining staff and other shoppers and Kaitia didn’t disappoint us. Actually, the shoppers were the most entertaining but there were some equally entertaining moments as we discovered some brilliant items!! The final second-hand shop was the best. "This place is like having a huge wardrobe!" said the owner. She was even selling her home-collected honey in little glass containers, each in the shape of a bear. I just had to buy some, probably the most expensive thing in the entire shop! Shaz in the store was also hilarious and her blunt local humour had us both laughing as we left, me with my jar of honey and Bianca with her $3 dress.

Food was now at the front of our minds, so we quickly got back to our beach at Ahipara, sat in Cuzzie (being buffeted about by the wind), laughed at this morning’s events and then I bravely suggested sitting on the beach for a while, trying to keep away from the sandstorm blowing along it. It was nearly all good, until the wind sent a sandstorm into our last couple of mouthfuls of chocolate cake just as a huge rain cloud arrived overhead. Bianca saved the day by suggesting a quick retreat back to the dry camper-van and we made it just in time. The rainstorm came and went and then the sunshine returned.

Did we go hiking today? Em, no, our day ran away with us and we both decided to do that some other time. It seems as if we have been granted our wish to spend a few days in Ahipara! We got out the blanket, sat in the sunshine and planned my next paddle day in minute detail; timings, check-points, tides, etc. It felt so good to have got that done. We headed back to the beach where we marked out a sprint track on which we proceeded to expend any remaining energy we had.

Then it was time for the weather update, and that was when my day started turning to custard. Although, this time, I can’t really explain why such a great day just started to go downhill. Perhaps because I didn’t want to hear what the weather forecast was saying. But, to say that I was gutted, to describe my mood as despondent, is an understatement. There had been a glimmer of a weather window before but now, it was all but gone. I know, I have been doing this long enough to think it would get easier! Yes, I knew there was a real possibility that this would happen and that I shouldn’t have got my hopes up, but I never seem to learn. My head was saying “wait”, my heart was saying “not sure” and the crazy devil inside me was saying "gap it, others have!” I sat in total disbelief, staring at the bloody weather app. I still have no magic weather wand. Not even my tears of frustration worked, they didn’t change a damn thing and only served to make me feel bloody pathetic. I truly dislike marginal weather days, they are neither one thing nor the other and test my patience to the limit every time. Bianca sat looking a tad helpless. Oh, the poor support crew! Oh, my poor tormented team! They’ll all need a good night out once the journey is over, to get together and tell crazy nut-bar "Red" stories.

Once I had managed to convince myself to eat something, and stop moping about something I can’t change, we sat eating hot pumpkin soup and I actually enjoyed my dinner. Bianca then busied herself making choc brownies before discovering that the damn communal kitchen oven was being used. She’ll just have to wait as well, rather like me with the bloody weather!

I paused while writing tonight's blog, unsure whether or not to share my “lows”. Sometimes the waiting is tougher than the actual paddling, I reckon. But, at the same time, my “lows” sort of help me realign and stay grounded, so here I am grounded yet again. Along this journey I have had to wait time and time again and nothing has gone as originally planned. But I would just like to add that, whatever has happened, I have always tried to be really open and honest about each day, sharing both my “ups” and my “downs”. As I’ve said before, this is far more than just a kayaking adventure; it’s about me and my journey and, hopefully, it’s also for the benefit of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. As they say, every day the sun rises, so I will roll the weather again and set about playing this crazy waiting game again! As I wait, my mind wanders to the others who have paddled this coastline before me and we all know what a tough game this coastline plays.

My smiles today:
The outdoor swimming pool.
The wonderful Northland sunshine.
The banter of the friendly locals.
Sand sprinting.
Bloody weather highs and lows.
My support crew.
Second-hand shops. Most entertaining!

My thoughts today:
There’s no point in consistently worrying about everything. What will happen, will happen regardless; so breathe, look on the bright side, have some laughs, accept what you can't change, and carry on. To actually live is courageous; most people only exist, that’s all!

Be safe, and stay sane leading up to Christmas. Big hugs from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Smiling with my honey-bear!

Smiling with my honey-bear!

Day 412...Sunday Stuff

Sunday 11 December 2016

I could hear the howling of the wind when I woke this morning, so there seemed no reason even to look at my weather report, no need even to lift my head off the pillow. Instead, I just rolled over and lay dozing until 7am. Eventually, when I sat, up even Bianca was awake! Time for another day to start and time to try and shake off the heavy mood that has been with me for the past few days. 

As we made our way to the beach for our morning run, the wind was whipping up the sand and blasting it against our shins. The tide had only just turned so, to start with, we had to run in rather soft sand which made it a little bit harder. But, with the wind behind us, it felt pretty good, great even, until we turned and started heading back along the beach into the dreaded head wind that made every step tough going today. Eventually the morning torture on the beach was over. For a split second I was tempted to have a swim but, quickly, the idea faded and we opted to stay dry by continuing with some more training back at Cuzzie.

It was a great feeling once we sat down for breakfast in the sunshine. What a nice vibe this Sunday was sending my way! It was so nice to be warm and dry and just able to sit outside. In fact, that’s more or less what we have done all day today. A sunny Sunday has made me feel amazingly happy, with a good amount of vitamin D most certainly making a tonne of difference; just what the doctor ordered! Neither Bianca nor myself could cope with driving anywhere today and Cuzzie probably appreciated having a rest day as well. Instead we just did Sunday stuff. I smiled as I spied my red nail varnish, it had been way too long between painted toe nails so I spent an afternoon doing TLC stuff. A late walk on the beach is also planned to watch another wonderful West Coast sunset, after which we will consume a yummy BBQ salmon dinner.

I take a very deep breath today, forced to move the goal post of my dream, as yet another week in my world is due to start. Oh, how hard I have tried to take my focus off the time ticking by! Oh, how hard I try to return to the day-by-day mantra that has helped me get this far. Oh, how tough it is becoming to count each passing day. But surely I can tough out yet another hitch in my progress put in place by Mother Nature. Although I have to say it’s probably my poor support crew who suffer most when I’m not paddling. Again a great big “thanks” to them for putting up with my highs and my lows; without them my dream would never, ever have got this far. But there have been some small successes along the way. For example, today we created a stunning home-blend of spicy chai tea. Although, actually, I can take no credit for this creation as it was all Bianca’s work! All I did was consume a few cups, so I was just the chief tester! However, the chocolate cake tasted even better today and we quickly had to put it away, otherwise we would have devoured the whole lot.

As the afternoon draws to the end, Bianca is attempting some baking of her own. Some crispy, seeded biscuits, I’ll give you an update on their “yummyness” tomorrow. An early blog for me this evening (for a change) so with that, this is me signing out until tomorrow.

My smiles today:
Running with the wind at my back.
Sunshine warms my soul.
Red nail varnish.
No shopping mall chaos in my world.
Friends who understand my dislike of keeping still.
New food creations.

My thoughts today:
There’s sunshine in my soul today.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Bianca and Red.

Bianca and Red.

Day 411...Another Day In Paradise (Apart From The Mozzies)

Saturday 10 December 2016

Plans for today started rather well. We are up and on the beach, we run for about 6kms, then it’s warm enough, albeit overcast, to have a swim in the ocean. Before breakfast, we peel off a couple of layers and dive into the waves; what a nice way to end a hot run! Cooled off and drying ourselves with T-shirts, I have a sudden, horrible thought. The camper-van remote was in the zip pocket of the shorts I have just been swimming in!! My heart sinks. Water and a remote control, these two things really don’t mix all that well. Buggar, we’re now going to have to force entry into Cuzzie, not something at which I’m skilled unless I throw a brick through one of Cuzzie’s windows!

As we walk back to the campsite, I’m half hopeful that the remote might just work at least once to let us in. Today, for once, luck was on our side and the remote worked, thank goodness! We quickly opened up Cuzzie, then opened up the remote. Luckily, it’s water-proofed, so we just dried it and left it in with some of the many silica beads we carry in Cuzzie. We had planned to hit the local pools today, but when we check again, lane swimming is only from Monday to Friday, so this will have to be postponed until another day. By now, the rain has arrived, so I decide to bake a chocolate cake (made with avocados). This I had been threatening to do for a few weeks but, at last, I have an oven at this campsite.

Bianca worked a little more on the laptop keyboard with some success. But I’m needing to order a replacement as this piece of electrical equipment did not like me trying to drown it with a cup of tea. Then we had to do some boring general chores that we always leave until a wet day; washing and the use of a big clothes dryer. With this all done and the cake cooked, it’s time to head quickly to the shops to top up with food supplies. I’m also beginning to like the taste of homemade chai tea (an Ev creation) so we have decided to try to recreate this. With some help from Miss Google, we get a list of ingredients and hope that we’ve got it right. Quickly, the shopping is done. How I dislike supermarkets! Then we detour to Okahu, a local winery, for some tastings (way too many, so I was relieved that they had a large spittoon for me to use). We enjoyed the banter and the tastings with Monty, the wine-maker, but in the end we weren’t tempted to purchase anything.

At long last, the rain had stopped and about time, too! We get back to the beach, sit and brew a cuppa and have chocolate cake covered in lashings of chocolate soft icing, also made with a ripe avocado!! Trust me, it’s absolutely delicious! Bianca has asked me to hide the spare icing as, otherwise, she’ll eat spoonfuls of it!! We watch newbie surfers catch small baby waves, something even the boogie boarders are having trouble surfing as they are so small. Then I had to walk in the warm wind along the beach for a while. It was pretty awesome, not only walking with a warm wind but also taking time to sit on a bench seat just staring at the ocean. This helped to keep my mind happy as my mind is grumbling and, for whatever reason, all over the place at the moment. To prevent frustration and help me stay focused until the next paddle, I have even put my annoying no coverage cell phones in the lock box. I reckon they’ll stay there until I manage to get past Cape Reinga. Because they are so downright irritatingly unreliable at present, I only drag them out at the end of each day to write my blog. The only time they seem to work is if you sit perfectly still when you locate coverage, so it’s much easier to switch them off altogether and keep them locked up! Oops, that was beginning to sound like a rant, sorry!

Back to the beach before the rain returns and gets us both wet. We head back to our favourite little space at the local campsite. We would both much rather be parked up at the beach for the night, but signs everywhere state “No camping” and “No motor homes overnight”. This still makes me frown but I move on from the thought, it’s really not worth dwelling on. A night at the campsite, among the trees, listening to all the birds as they settle for the night. We have the doors flung wide open and a new creation (a mosquito net) over the back door. It’s a work in progress but Bianca’s first attempt is really rather good. The only problem is that now we can’t close the doors!! But, with girl power, doubtless we’ll get it sorted out. To be honest, I would rather have sand flies any day instead of horrible, buzzing mosquitos! On which note, it’s time to sign out from us both. We have hiking planned for tomorrow, new adventures and muddy trails.

My smiles today:
Running on the beach.
Waterproof remote!
Chocolate avocado cake with icing.
Our creation: the mosquito net!
Sitting and looking out at the evening ocean.
My growing irritation with cell phones!

My thoughts today:
Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace. (Me and my cell phones!!)

Goodnight from Red and Bianca.

Ma Te Wa.


Watching the ocean.

Watching the ocean.

NZ Christmas tree.

NZ Christmas tree.

Day 410...What's Another Day

Friday 9 December 2016

I was curled up this morning, wishing the day outside was everything it was not. You may wonder what it was like outside; heavy mist and just a little wind (mostly, we are sheltered from it). I watch the rain falling and try to be only positive. I had woken and checked the weather which was tough, as I don’t have that magic weather wand. I continue to wait and continue to frown. After all, I’m the one who has set the weather parameters for this coast, but it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.

However, I was determined not to dwell on it, so we made many jokes this morning while we cooked breakfast. We are still eating our way through the kilo of bacon that Ev had gifted me and I just have to laugh at the fact we have eaten bacon three times a day for an entire week and still have more to go!! Then we got stuck into the planning of the last few paddling days once I am eventually round Cape Reinga. That made us both feel better and more productive. I sometimes feel exhausted just thinking about the huge challenges I have set myself. But I also feel somewhat positive for, when I get the chance to gap it, I have told Bianca that she will have a job trying to get me out of my kayak! I’ve also made her promise not to share our plans with other people.

The next hiccough is my laptop. It obviously didn’t enjoy the small drink of Chai tea I gave it yesterday and now the keyboard is playing up!! Should I laugh or cry? I have to laugh, using some dark humour to try and get through this problem. To be honest, I’m hoping it will be able to work okay until my return home and Bianca is positive she’ll be able to fix it. I give her the "go for it" look, saying "it’s all yours!”

As it is such a damp, dull, humid day, we head away from the Houhora campsite and aim for Ninety Mile Beach, planning to stay there for a few days. But, when we get there, it wasn’t anywhere near the beach. We look at each other and decide it’s not the ideal campsite for us, so back down the road we go, stopping to eat lunch to lighten our mood and make a few decisions about the next few days, including where to base ourselves. It seems we have two options, move on to the East Coast to check out more landing locations or stay on the West Coast. In the end, the latter seems to be the best option. I feel happier here at the moment and feeling as though I belong, so Ahipara is the unanimous decision. We had both already said that we wanted to stay in this little calm neck of NZ for longer, so back we go via a couple of shops in Kaitaia. As we drive, the heavy skies start to lift.

This road seems to be one on which we are going to have to travel on a lot as a team over the next few days/weeks until I can eventually escape. In the meantime, we reassure each other that we could be in way worse locations. We plan and plot what to get up to, including surf practice for Bianca, for sure. Our moods are lifting and, for the rest of our day, we talk about finding new hiking trails and seeking out a local swimming pool. We also have a damn long beach on which to run; an entire Ninety Mile Beach to discover, in fact. Now that, to me, is rather funny, especially after some of the really small beaches on which I’ve been stuck before now so, run Forest (Gump), run!

But one thing is still creating a frown on both our faces; the lack of cell phone and Internet coverage. At the moment that’s more than a tad frustrating. In fact, we have now got the skill of doing everything we can out of coverage down to a fine art and then, if and when we actually locate coverage, we send out the emails, etc. We will just have to get used to having our phones in silent mode. Apart from having to use them to send my blog each day, I just shut them down, otherwise it’s far too damn frustrating for me. After all, we lived without them once, so we’ll just have to learn to enjoy life without them and learn to live without them again.

We decide to take out some of our frustrations on Cuzzie! She’s a total dust bucket by now, everything we touch is coated in the stuff! We decide to remove everything and clean inside. It’s nuts I know, but neither of us can stand it any longer. I manage to knock over the bucket of water, so that helps with the washing of the floor. Eventually all the dust has gone and we pack some food for a late picnic dinner on the beach in order to watch the sunset from the sand dunes. We also watch a carload of teenagers attempting to dig their car out of the sand. In fact, they fail in their efforts, eventually getting rescued by another vehicle, managing to get a tow out of the sand trap. Apart from commiserating with their misfortune, it’s the best part of the day, sitting high on the dunes, wave-watching, people-watching and eating out of doors, a day of going a little stir crazy.

We have also enjoyed the challenges, although it has taken me a while to redirect my thoughts and obsessive mind but, at last, I have. Now, we will wait, enjoy life while we wait and be sure to be utterly thankful that we are enjoying every moment of our lives. I am so incredibly lucky, something I just have to remind myself on these few off-days.

Thanks to Google instructions, back in Cuzzie Bianca is happy, having managed to remove the laptop keyboard and also having managed to locate a replacement to purchase, how cool! As for me, I’m just happy to be in Ahipara, back by the West Coast waves.

My smiles today:
Bacon for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Having returned to the West Coast ocean.
Crazy, but true, cleaning out Cuzzie.
Fresh season sweet corn, yum!
Ahipara beach picnic dinner.
Grumpy when I have to sit still!
Our campsite. We have Dyson hand dryers.

My thoughts today:
In life, you can absolutely count on one thing: everything can turn around in one day, even in one minute, sometimes!

Goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Day 409...Some Days Are Just Tough

Thursday 8 December 2016

It tried to rain last night but never did it actually bucket down, just a light drip, drip, drip, on Cuzzie’s rooftop. A little bit like water torture. First thing this morning, I wandered over to the bathrooms, only to be greeted by a sadly cold shower. No power for anyone up north meant no hot water!! Well, that was just the start of what would turn out to be a frustrating day for me.

We needed a few things, so a trip into Kaikohe was called for. But that turned out to be less than entertaining, as 95% of the shops were closed. We had hoped that the power cut would have been over by the time we arrived there but, alas, no chance. The only place for petrol/food and a working Eftpos machine was Pak ‘n’ Save and it was jammed! Queues for everything! My dislike for crowded places returned, so we bought only the bare necessities, then made a quick escape back out of town, having discovered en route that Mitre 10 was also open, which enabled us to grab the other things we needed, except for a replacement pair of jandals for me! Mine have finally fallen to bits, unable to last the distance, so sadly, I had to leave them in the campsite rubbish.

Next chore was to try to find a location with good internet coverage, a simple enough task, you may all think. As I drive, Bianca has all three of our mobile phones sitting in her lap, watching to see when they all have good coverage. Constantly, I keep asking her “Do they have coverage yet?” But the only answer I keep getting is “No!” Before we both go completely mad, we pull in by a little lake to eat another really late lunch and, you’ve guessed it, still no coverage! Usually I can cope with this kind of frustration and, occasionally, actually even enjoy the lack of connection. But today, it was a tad more important.

Eventually, we decide to check out a few landing spots over on the East Coast section of this narrow section of the North Island and there, at last, we found some internet coverage. We sat and completed every Internet job we had on the list, loaded images and generally got on with the various tasks that had to be done. After that, we went for a short walk down the hill onto the sandy beach of Henderson Bay, a possible landing point for me when I eventually get around the top end. But that was not a good subject to think about either, as even daring to be on this side of the coast was and is a tough issue for me, mainly as it’s way calmer. Here I am, stuck in yet another part of New Zealand, just waiting and having to watch the weather patterns roll in; calmer winds but big swells. Jeez, at this rate, I reckon there won’t be a home-coming until sometime in 2017!!

We make hot, sweet chai tea and I sit and stare at the weather forecast, getting more grumpy and irritated by the minute. It’s sheer torture watching the next few days’ forecast roll through on the computer screen; not one of my happier moments! Then I manage to spill tea over my laptop and that was just about the worst red-head moment of this section of the trip. I felt like hurling my laptop out of Cuzzie’s doors into the ocean!! However, Bianca comes to the rescue, saving the laptop, both from the tea and also from me. Then I just sit, trying to rationalise why I am getting this impatient. Slowly, I digest my mood, trying to calm my urge to just keep paddling, not now wanting to stop. I try to put it all back into perspective, and I can tell you that is not an easy thing to do; reminding myself of what I am not missing out on by having to wait. For example, I most certainly am not unhappy about missing out on the craziness of pre-Xmas in the big city, that's not something I want to be part of at all. I’ll just have to take a chill pill and, in the oft-repeated words of a very good friend, “Settle Petal”! But, believe me, that’s easier said than done!

Eventually, Bianca convinces me to drive to the campsite, park up, get some food and crawl into bed, sleep may make everything seem better tomorrow. But, as I sit in the calm of the campsite with the fine, misty rain falling, I still feel cheated by Mother Nature for not just giving me just one more, measly day to get round the top and onto the somewhat calmer, East Coast waters; that’s all I need just one more day!

Tonight, despite Bianca’s best efforts and my own self-recrimination, I’m still wearing a great big frown. I’m still struggling to come to terms with the weather and the lack of bloody Internet and cell phone coverage. To add discomfort to frustration, we now have the arrival of mosquitoes in Cuzzie. But, trying to look on the bright side, we do at least now have power and hot showers!

My smiles today:
Rain-washed Cuzzie.
Rain having removed the dust from the gravel roads.
Grumpy, crosspatch moments. I have to smile at myself!
My bed tonight.
The bloody weather torture.
Fun shopping in the supermarket, not.
A new game; guessing what date I will finally manage to paddle back into Takapuna!

My thoughts today:
Some days are just tough, but there’s always hope for tomorrow.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Day 408...Looked Up Ahead

Wednesday 7 December 2016

It was just so amazing to eventually curl up in bed last night; sleep was most certainly needed and, damn, I had been up a long time! In fact, I was too tired even to wash the salt water off. But at least I knew I would feel better the following day, and I most certainly did! What a difference! I lay still, located some internet coverage and caught up with the outside news, replied to others and then Bianca awoke.

We threw on our togs and went on to Ninety Mile Beach for a morning swim. After my wet beach landing yesterday evening, we had driven south a little to the Utea Campsite, a really lovely location, even with the local wild horses wandering through pre-dawn! A swim at low tide most certainly woke us both up, followed by a hot shower and clean clothes.

Now this is funny; Bianca decides it’s a day to wear a dress and, for the first time in a very long time, I agree to remove my leggings! Alas, no dress could be located for me, I think it got returned home in one of my bag clean outs!! So black leggings it was again for the 400th plus day. We had a great pancake breakfast, then talked to Paul at the campsite about this coast and a great chance to chat to some of the hikers who were heading off south on their epic adventure, wondering silently if their sand hiking blisters would ever heal!

Today, we had time to catch up on eating and a bit of sightseeing ourselves. North we drove. I wanted to see Cape Reinga for myself, preferably from above, seen from a bird’s eye view, before I get to paddle past. A view we undertook with all the other tourists. We found a patch up on the hill where we could just sit and study the ocean, away from the northerly wind blasting up and over the hills. We sat for near on two hours until I just had to eat, so back up the hill we climbed and headed off to a little campsite and beach where we could sit in the sun, eat, and dream that on the next paddle, I would be past this point and heading back to the East Coast.

Even when I was sitting up on that hill, looking out to sea at the Cape, I had to pinch myself and remind myself where I am; on the very northern tip of New Zealand. Wow! Incredible! Well, nearly incredible, as I am not there just yet, so hold on any congrats or celebrations. After all, I’m seriously superstitious. Bianca hinted at maybe doing some sand-dune board surfing. But, to be honest, the urge to get covered in even more sand just wasn’t there today. Maybe another day or another year.

As the clouds roll in, backed up by a strong wind, the sunshine disappears and I wonder if we will get some rain. That would be a pleasant change, for sure. We sit on top of a hill, looking out to nearly both coastlines. To my right is Great Exhibition Bay and, over the tree-clad hills, is the last section of Ninety Mile Beach. Wow, only 17.4kms from one coast to the other! How cool to be so close to each different ocean! I had never thought about it like that before.

As we head to the DOC campsite, both still tired from our previous days, I take time to just look around at this part of our country. The incredible Northland that I have never visited before. I have to thank my crazy journey for this life-changing experience. Another “wow” day! I have to thank every local we have met along these dusty roads for being so helpful, so friendly and just so damn happy.

My smiles today:
My gift of a tub of Manuka Honey. Thanks, Tania.
The local knowledge. Thanks, Paul.
Looking at my possible landings. They made me smile; soft waves.
Pancake breakfast, always good!
The tip of NZ. Totally unforgettable!
No internet or cell phone coverage. We have to smile, or throw a tantrum!
Henderson’s bacon pack. A 1 kg pack. Thanks, Ev.
Looking for a dress to wear!! Blame Bianca!

My thoughts today:
What you think, you become.
What you feel, you attract.
What you imagine, you create.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


View towards Cape Maria van Diemen.

View towards Cape Maria van Diemen.

View towards Sandy Bay.

View towards Sandy Bay.

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.


Day 406...Perfect Out On the West Coast

Monday 5 December 2016

For the kayakers:
Waimamakau River to Ahipara.
0.8m swell.
Light winds, hot and sunny.
Incredible coastline vista.

As I sat in the early morning dark, I wished out loud that the day's paddling could be over and done with. For such a long time, I have so much wanted to round and pass Tauroa Point and paddle into Ahipara (Shipwreck Bay) but, wish as much as I like, I still have to do the hard yards and paddle the 67kms.

I sit and force-feed myself, drink my tea and step outside to a cool wind and a still, cold, dark morning. I climb into my kayak and gradually drift down the river towards the ocean, chatting to Bianca as she walks along the shoreline. We pass a man in the river, fishing with his net. But he didn’t seem to notice us, for he was deep in concentration on what he was doing. As I got to just before the river mouth, a small hiccough occurred, as I had selected the shallow channel and ground to a halt on a sand bank! Oops! Luckily Bianca was there. Quickly she removed her warm clothes, ran across the deeper channel and dragged me out to the edge of the ocean!! Thank goodness for support crew.

There wasn’t much time to waste as, instantly, we saw a calm moment and I was off and out the back with not even a wet face. Poor Bianca wasn’t quite so lucky, as a large swell came smashing in just after I had departed and it raced up the beach to saturate her sweatshirt and the rest of her dry gear on the beach. I think I got off way too lightly today as, out the back, I paddled over six or more huge swells that rolled into the beach just after I left. They certainly wouldn’t have been fun to meet as they broke. Oh well, some days luck has to be with me.

I headed towards Hokianga Harbour entrance. As I was already out wide, I stayed wide for most of the day, aiming at Ahipara Point. The sun broke through the clouds and, from then on, it was hot and sunny; a beautiful day. So much so, I even forgot about looking over my shoulder for big swells as there were none! Today again, the West Coast was amazing. I haven’t got a single negative thing to say, it was like paddling anywhere on the beautiful East Coast. I did look to the sky and thank Mother Nature for treating me to such an enjoyable day on the water. I also wished for some dolphins but, alas, I was not going to be that lucky and no dolphins came my way.

The blue ocean next to the sand dunes and green hills made for another beautiful vista. The other two harbours I passed by looked inviting and maybe some other day I’ll be able to duck into them and explore. But, for the moment, my mind is on reaching the point up ahead. Now, I can clearly see the cresting waves up ahead. I take a wide, wide berth of these large swells that are rolling in, all around and past the point, before I talk with my support crew. I’m told that, out of the three beach options, Shipwreck Bay is the best (great!). I have a strong, outgoing tide and a tough head wind, so the 5kms I still have left to do take quite a while. But Bianca is correct, the landing is a breeze, surfing in on a soft wave to be greeted by her and our new backpacking friend Simon, who is also from Germany.

Afterwards, we loaded, chatted and all decided that, as it was still really hot, we would quickly check into the campsite, get through a couple of chores and then go for a swim. We had a refreshing dip, some fun in the waves, dinner duties and then checked the final weather reports and it looks like maybe another day of paddling tomorrow!

My smiles today:
Stranded on a small section of sand in the river mouth!
An incredible and unbelievable West Coast day.
A swim after a big day's paddling. Summer has certainly arrived in Northland.
An alfresco dinner whilst sitting outdoors on a rug.
Ahipara campsite. Just lovely.
The fruit cake from Elaine. Thank you, even though it’s nearly all eaten already!
Clear blue, late evening skies.
Thank you for the generous donations, they make it possible for me to complete my dream. I am humbled.

My thoughts today:
Another day, another blessing.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca.

Ma Te Wa.


On the water.

On the water.

Day 405...What Coast Am I On?

Sunday 4 December 2016

For the kayakers:
68kms paddled today.
10 hours paddled.
Under a 1m swell.
Small head wind.

Sleeping is hard for me when I know that I have a day of paddling ahead of me. I was awake far too early and then dozed until the alarm went off. Then I was up and out to get on the water as early as possible. Between them, Bianca and Ev had cooked a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon with lashings of maple syrup ready for me, as well as steaming hot cups of tea; thank you both!

Far too soon, I’m by the water at 5.40am. As we stood on the beach, staring at the ocean and watching the waves, I was conscious that I had an audience for the launch. Yikes, that’s when things tend to turn bad, but maybe not today! I felt good, the water seemed to be okay and, as it got lighter, we started to make my exit plan. It was a good plan in theory but, in practice, a little bit poor, as I paddle out and throw a couple of waves. Of course, I got hit by a couple of waves; my morning wake-up call!!

Once out the back of all the waves, I sit and say “thanks” to the team for a great launch and apologise to Ev for having hit his head with my paddle as I set off today. Oops, he kind of got in the way! I was wet, but why would that be a surprise? After all, I’m on a West Coast beach and it was never going to be a calm, dry launch.

The start of my paddle was a little windy and the ocean was a bit unsettled but I was hoping it was going to settle down and become a beautiful day as promised by the forecast. Today, once the sun was up and high in the sky, I was treated to a glorious day on the water; sunny, with a small breeze and some new scenery. Hills covered in bush, rock cliffs and it’s really nice to have a bit of a change from the long, sandy beaches and the huge sand dunes that I have had for the past few days.

A few fish leapt out in front of me during the day and the checkpoints went well. I actually made it to Bayleys Beach before Bianca, but she was getting a gas matter sorted out in Cuzzie, so it was no problem. I got reminded to drink all my fluids and eat. I listened, acted accordingly, and every time my bladder felt like it was going to burst, I cursed the support crew! I did have to try and remind myself that I was still on the West Coast, as the day was like a pristine, hot East Coast day. Even the beaches along the way just had small, soft waves and I kept thinking “This can’t be possible!”. But it was and it stayed like that all the way. As I neared the Waimamaku river mouth, I stopped to talk to Bianca about the lowdown on the best spot to land. In the event, after I had negotiated the waves to the beach on landing, Bianca actually swam across the river to come and meet me. My landing was a success today; absolutely perfect! We carried Louise to the river mouth then, with Bianca floating behind, I tried to paddle her across to the other side. Not that successfully, as we discovered it was easier for her to walk because it was so shallow!

I glided up to the boat and beach ramp, while Bianca walked along the river edge. The beach and the river had a number of local characters out enjoying the sun today and, of course, we chatted to a few of them but then got busy loading up Cuzzie and heading into The Opononi fish and chip shop for an easy dinner. We sit in the sunshine at a beach table and look out at the harbour entrance. My word to describe the vista tonight is “divine”; what a slice of paradise! Thank you Mother Nature for arranging such an amazing weather day, so far, the West Coast is treating me really well. So, from our slice of paradise, we say "goodnight” as we sit and wait for a glorious sunset.

My smiles today:
Is this really the West Coast?
The soft murmur of small waves on the beach.
A hearty breakfast cooked by Ev and Bianca.
The local characters at the beach.
Bianca swimming in the river to help with kayak portage.
A wonderful day on the water. Just beautiful.

My thoughts today:
No matter what happens, some memories can never be replaced. Today is one of those days.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Day 404...Life Is Pretty Good

Saturday 3 December 2016

The sound of the wind and the ocean early this morning was like a pleasant dream. After only a few hours rest, I lay in bed listening to the morning awaking, with other campers moving quietly about. I’m relieved to have no painful parts to my body after yesterday's exertions; except for a numb arm and fingers. But this is not as a result of my paddling, more of a normal feeling whenever I sleep in Cuzzie, as the mattress is a tad hard, cutting off my circulation most nights. But, if that’s all I have to complain about, life is pretty good!

The other thing was that my stomach was nagging for food yet again, but how could I get something to eat without waking up Bianca? Luckily, she doesn’t seem to mind the early mornings and, after a little bit of wriggling about, soon she was awake as well. We could see Ev moving about in his van, so we brewed up tea and coffee and cooked up a hearty breakfast in the outdoor campsite kitchen. Thanks for everything Glinks Gully campsite guys! I have to say that my favourite place in any campsite is the camp kitchen and today we met such a cool bunch of people. A large group of camper-van friends had also come for the weekend, so much laughter and banter was had as we each cooked up our feast; me on savoury pancakes, Ev on bacon and Bianca on all the other stuff.

Then it was time for a long walk on a beautiful, wild beach, to climb sand dunes, to fly my kite, to look at the ocean, and to talk about the waves and beach-launching techniques. It’s really cool to listen to other people’s advice and ideas. By now, it’s a hot sunny day and we sat in the little playground by the ocean; funnily enough, this is the only place in this little beach town with a small amount of cell phone and internet coverage.

At last, we manage to make contact with others and catch up on weather reports and life outside our little bubble. Thank you all for your lovely texts and emails about my Kaipara crossing. As I chat, the other two sit and swing. This always makes me smile because, as adults, we still all love to sit on the kids’ swings and this playground has such a beautiful vista out onto the beach and the blue ocean, and it’s a beautiful sunny day. We seem to have taken over the little park, and with Bianca's directions, I tried to practice my head and hand stands but they are still so pathetic. In fact, a local lady passed by as I fell onto the grass again in a crumpled heap. She actually joined in with all of us laughing. I’m obviously going to have to practice a bit more and try to remove that "I can't" negative mind set.

By now the sun was blazing, so we strolled back to the campsite, sat under Cuzzie’s awning and had an amazing late lunch. Bianca is keen to go Geocaching, so off to Dargaville we drive. Three of the four were located and then I had a quick catch up with Elaine and Don whom I had met in the South Island, at Karamea. Time was slipping away, so back out to Glinks Gully we went. We took Louise off the roof for some quick repairs and maintenance and then had a big camp kitchen dinner and gathering. I have to say “thank you” to everyone in the fun group for the cash donation towards the charity bucket and the yummy dinner. We so enjoyed chatting. I even met a lady whose son learned singing from my Mum. What a crazy, small world!

Now it was getting dark, so a final, quick climb up to the top of the cliffs to be amazed by this stunning, very special view. Then we did some last-minute preparation and planning for tomorrow's paddle, so that we can keep heading further north. We had cups of kawakawa tea and listened to the sound of Bianca playing the guitar and singing while I write my blog, a lovely way to end this Saturday night. In anticipation of my Sunday on the water, I head to bed with butterflies in my stomach.

My smiles today:
Waking to the sound of the ocean.
Campsite kitchens.
Wonderful, generous Northland people.
New and very beautiful friends.
Sitting in the sun, eating wonderful food.
Climbing to the top of hills to watch sunsets.

My thoughts today:
Do better, be better, keep on growing, keep on motivating yourself, and keep on living.

Goodnight from Red, Bianca and Ev. 

Ma Te Wa.


Day 403...The Mighty Kaipara

Friday 2 December 2016

At last, my blog from yesterday and the brief for all the kayak followers:
South of Kaipara to Glinks Gully, total paddle: 73kms.
Head winds, an eleven-hour day and tough currents.
A shark sighting!
Swells and rippling currents.
Average 5.9 to 6kms per hour.
My toughest paddle yet in the North Island.

An early start for sure and I had already been awake on and off for the previous four hours. Fortunately, I had Bianca, Jason and our new friend Ev on the support team this morning. We all jumped in the ute and headed for the Woodhill sand tracks and back to the launching beach. To be honest, I was not looking forward to catching my first glimpse of this beach, knowing full well it was not going to be a cruisy departure.

I had a sick, cold feeling in the pit of my stomach as I loaded up Louise and got ready for a battle with the waves. Bianca placed herself high up on the sand dunes to take pictures, Ev stood aside just to observe while Jase stood in the water and watched the waves until it was time, as I screamed "Now? Can I go?” Then I was off, to have a one-on-one face-off with the rolling, foaming waves. The first few were okay, with enough time in between each wave to straighten up, aim and paddle with force at the next. But, as I got out the back and a long way from the beach and the crew, the ocean started her new game of throwing the last massive waves at me. The first sent me rocketing backwards, finding it hard to paddle. But we survived and got paddling again, until the next one, which I timed just ever so slightly badly and was over the side and being washed sideways.

As I emerged from the foaming water, I had enough time to grab hold of my kayak and hold on while the next wave washed over the top of us. Then Louise was free of me and I had to swim towards her, grab and upturn her, then hold on tight until then ocean calmed. Quickly, I clambered back into the water-filled cockpit and turned to face the next couple of waves, just managing to stay afloat and paddle out and over the back big swells that were now all safely behind me. I breathe, get myself sorted out and listen to the crew on my VHF. 

From there I headed towards the Kaipara Harbour, as I had anticipated, it was shaping up to be a tough old day! As I paddled, I knew I was going to be crossing the entrance on an incoming tide and that it was going to be tough going. On the really difficult sections, so tough in fact that, sometimes, I slowed to covering only 1km every 15 to 20 minutes, with waves, rips, rippling tidal waters and big swells from most directions making the first 42kms very tough and intense going indeed.

Originally, I had planned to go really wide on this section but the current was strong and, all too soon, I was in the midst of a flood (incoming) tide and it took all my strength and my experience gained from all my days on the water prior to this, that made me paddle like my life depended on getting past. Just as well it did, for no-one else was going to get me across. Inch by inch, I moved away from the dangerous spots and out round the back, knowing that the people who were tracking me would be wondering what the heck I was doing.

This was always going to be a day that was going to test me and it most certainly did. At one point, I dared to stop to check my GPS location, thinking I was past all the turbulent water. That was when I realised I still had the northern section to go, damn it was going to be a really slow day. Eventually (at the 40km mark) I looked to the skies and said “goodbye" to the Kaipara, thanking it for having let me pass this almighty endurance test.

As I sit on the rolling waters, I grab some food to eat as I paddle and, just as I lock down my deck bag, fortuitously I look up and a very large wave is heading my way. I grab my paddle and push up and over. Over the side went my chocolate brownie snack! As for me, I make a mental note to paddle another 10kms before stopping again. Then, and only then, did I feel okay about even trying to eat. Still with 23kms to go now, it’s about trying to stay focused for the last leg.

It is slow going and I reckoned that, at this pace, I will be about two hours later than I want to be. I also know that, the later I get to Glinks Gully, the more the wind will be blowing; way more than I want and, true to form, it increases over the last two hours. When, eventually, I spotted the little houses on the cliff top, it felt great and all I did was focus on getting there. But that was an issue in itself. It seemed to take forever to get along the last 10kms. At last I was in line with Bianca but, with the wind blowing, it was impossible for Bianca to hear much of what I was saying over the VHF.

However, the water and the waves were my first focus as, true to form, Mother Nature whipped up the sea for my attempted landing. All I needed to do was get onto the beach. For the moment, even the thoughts of the shark I had seen lurking up the coast a little were gone. I have pushed really hard today and am near the end of my energy levels. I turn and paddle with everything I have left, getting damn close to a dry landing but ending up standing knee-deep in the water. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Bianca, how happy I am to be back on dry land!

Bianca grabbed Louise and dragged her up the beach, well above the tide line. Quickly I grab my dry clothes and head to Cuzzie to get dry and warm, to eat sweet, oily popcorn and just sit still. As I sit, feeling absolutely exhausted and trying to get warm, suddenly my muscles and body get the shakes. Thankfully, Bianca rescued Louise from the beach and, as my shakes subside, so my energy returns and slowly, I get my gear packed away. With Louise safely on the roof racks and hot tea to drink, we just sit, recounting our respective stories of the day; including the shark sighting, and celebrate with high fives having successfully passed The Mighty Kaipara.

I was tired out and, by now, it was getting late so with a campsite only two minutes up the hill we drove there. Alas, with no cell phone or Internet coverage, my blog just had to wait and, instead, we gave up trying to focus on electronics and unloaded wet clothes, trying to empty Cuzzie of sand and make her look a little cleaner inside. Then, because the campsite showers needed tokens and it was too late in the day to get any from the office, we had a Cuzzie-style shower.

By then, it was after 8.30pm and I could quite happily have just curled up and slept. Bugger eating! But Bianca insisted and made a lovely dinner. Then with energy renewed, we sat with our friend Ev late into the night and talked and talked. Eventually, at midnight, I decided it would be a good idea to try to get some sleep. It was either that or fall asleep in mid-sentence!

Lying down in my bunk, I was happy knowing that Saturday was to be a rest day, especially as the Hokianga weather report was windier than what I wanted for a paddle and, in any case, I was needing to regroup. I lay in bed attempting to write my blog but, with a tired and very fried brain, I soon gave up, completing it quietly in the early hours of Saturday morning. Now, as I sit reflecting on my previous day’s paddle, my thoughts are still all about The Mighty Kaipara for which I have the utmost respect, but it’s one section I most certainly do not wish to paddle again.

My smiles today:
My wonderful Star kayak and the ease of a safe quick water re-entry, without which, I would have been back on the beach this morning!
My dig-deep drive and determination; it got me through today’s tougher moments.
My support crew, they will never know what a great feeling it is when I sight them on a beach at the end of my long days.
Honey-coated popcorn (yummy)! I have passed The Mighty Kaipara, if not with flying colours, then at least safe and sound. Amazing!

My thoughst today:
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Goodnight from a very tired but very ecstatic team; Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Goodnight from Glinks Gully.

Goodnight from Glinks Gully.

Day 402...Summer Time

Thursday 1 December 2016

We opened up the back doors of Cuzzie pre-6am to watch the sun rise up over the lake. Now this is the only way to start your day; lying in a sleeping bag, looking out at the beautiful Kai Iwi lakes morning and drinking a cup of tea! Then it’s time for some breakfast.

I get Louise off the roof racks. No, not for me to paddle, but for Bianca to go out on the calm lake and experience a little of what I do out on the ocean. Off she headed and soon I had lost sight of them both. I sit and, in between emails and phone calls, I look out to the lake, trying to spot the little kayak and hoping that Louise (my little white witch) will paddle nicely for Bianca. I did have a few phone calls and messages to make, sitting on a rug. My office vista is totally stunning, lots of quail scuttle past and they are always so much fun to watch. 

Bianca was gone for about an hour and, as she paddled back in, I got off my backside and waded out to greet her. She had found everything amazing and really enjoyed her kayaking time, having discovered numerous quaint spots around the lake. Then it was then time for a morning swim in the fresh water and we waded out until we got into the deeper turquoise water, floating around and seeing who could descend and try to touch the bottom of the lake; not with a lot of success it must be said! Then it was out with my old beach blanket for a spot of morning sunbathing until the small bugs and flies got way too annoying and it was time to pack up and get on the road to drive south.

We had a few hours driving to do and I wanted to get back to Shelley Beach well before nightfall so as to enjoy some more sunshine hours. Stop-offs for food supplies and also for some diesel and, as we stop, we are spotted by Nat who happens to be driving north to Whangarei! A quick chat in a local cafe, then we’re on our way again. Not having seen the ocean all day, it couldn’t torment me at all. But soon, we see glimpses of the Kaipara as we wind up and along the back roads.

It was nice to arrive at Shelley Beach eventually, to get out of Cuzzie and quickly cook a really late lunch. I have now perfected the art of cooking flat-bread, so I whip up a warm batch smothered in avocado (yum!). Now this little patch at Shelley Beach is still just every bit as beautiful as it was on my last visit. I love the feel of it, small and quaint, and I’ll be escaping and returning here in Cuzzie once this journey has ended; along with a few other lovely locations I have stumbled upon.

An early blog as I sit in the early evening sun, watching the water retreat quickly from this beach, as well as trying hard not to check the weather reports for a few more hours yet. But Mother Nature knows she has me hooked!

My smiles today:
December 1st, the first day of summer.
The sunrise, just beautiful!
Sending Bianca out kayaking.
Swimming in the Kai Iwi lakes.
My quick and yummy flatbread.
Cute little campsites.
Evening sunshine.
Flowering Pohutakawa.

My thoughts today:
Happiness is a choice, your choice.

Goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Good Morning Kai Iwi.

Good Morning Kai Iwi.

A morning swim.

A morning swim.

Day 401...The Return of The Caged Tiger

Wednesday 30 November 2016

I have tried hard from the start of today to keep busy and occupied. There hasn’t been a day like this for a while; a high sweeping across my part of New Zealand and an almost two-metre swell predicted all day tomorrow. I look to the sky and ask for the swells, please, to drop by tonight. Then Bianca and I go onto the beach for a run. We get sand in our shoes and try to dodge a small, rambling stream in an effort to keep our shoes dry. Well, that didn’t happen, so we had to run with wet, sandy shoes this morning.

Back beside Cuzzie, we did a few weight-bearing exercises, then made the most of this little campsite, eating breakfast outside on a picnic table. Then it was time to head off towards some very winding and extremely dusty roads; the type on which Cuzzie loves to inhale dust so that it seeps into the camper-van and you can feel it in your mouth and at the back of your throat. We checked out a possible landing spot, one at which Paul Caffyn had landed in Mitimiti.

We had to laugh at the state of Cuzzie’s insides and also at the horses and cows sunbathing on this beach; a very funny scene! We stopped to talk to a local, then headed to catch a car ferry to make this journey a little shorter. We ate lunch as we crossed over from Kohukohu to Rawene, then wound along the Hokianga coast again for a little while, ducking down a farmer’s bumpy track but only getting a little way before finding a large gate with a notice saying “Private Property”.

By this stage we are very dusty inside and out so we decide to stop at about 4.30pm and take a short walk to stretch our legs. We stop and stare up at Tane Mahuta, the largest and oldest Kauri in the Waipoua Forest, the so-called "Lord of the Forest". It is absolutely spectacular and a feeling of total calmness sweeps over me. The impression of peace around this amazing tree is wonderful, I could have stayed there all night but I didn't! Then it was down another dusty road to Aranga Beach, another beauty on a blue-sky day and this always makes a huge difference.

Now, as the end of the day nears, we drive towards Dargaville but decide to turn into Kai Iwi lakes for a few hours to cook dinner and roll the darn weather report. Then we have to decide whether to stay or go south to get ready to paddle just in case Mother Nature happens to be kind. But, unfortunately, she decides otherwise!! The swells are still much too big for a safe Kaipara crossing and I must wait another day. Perhaps understandably, I become a tad grumpy but what else can I do? Cook dinner,? Look and re-look at the weather report? I’m on the receiving end of some wonderful, commonsense comments from Bianca which do help a little. Then I sit out on my favourite old picnic rug and eat dinner. I continue to cuss and frown but, as we all know, especially in light of the recent boating tragedy, Kaipara Harbour mouth is not one with which to play games, so I suck it up. After all, in the grand scheme of things, what is one more day?

Bianca goes for a late swim in the lake to wash off all the day's dust while I sit and watch from a safe distance, promising myself that I will have a morning swim before breakfast tomorrow. The day’s adventures have been epic. The sunshine has made our day. We have seen so much and driven so many back roads that I’m probably never going to see again in this lifetime. The scenery is way more spectacular; the best-looking forests so far. There are so many places I can hardly wait to get to and spend time in and around. Hokianga is one of those places and, as we passed by today, it looked even more gorgeous than ever. We had a glorious pink sky tonight and the Kai Iwi lakes are calm. I was able to chat to an equally calming friend who helped me get over my caged tiger moment, letting me offload my thoughts and helping me become more rational (well, sort of!) about the next section and my next couple of days of paddling. Plenty of time to be reckless on the east coast where, hopefully, I’ll be able to let the caged tiger out; perhaps even let it escape!

My smiles today:
A sunny coastline with some very beautiful beaches.
Running on Ahipara beach. I really wanted to stay.
Crossing on the car ferry.
Cows and horses sunbathing on the Mitimiti Beach. How that made us both laugh!
The peace I felt at the base of Tane Matua, the majestic Kauri.
Redz caged-tiger attitude today.
Cuzzie on the gravel roads. We love her continuing stamina and reliability, with 200kms on the clock today, she is a true rock star!

My thoughts today:
Look in the mirror. You are now looking at the person responsible for your happiness.

Goodnight from Red, Bianca and a very dusty Cuzzie. 

Ma Te Wa.


Sunbathing animals. Mitimiti Beach.

Lord of the Forest.

Lord of the Forest.

Day 400...Ahipara Here I Come!

Tuesday 29 November 2016

A lovely early morning start at Kai Iwi lakes. I think we were the first to rise today at the campsite; both drinking cups of tea before 7am. It wasn’t as sunny or warm as we had hoped but, nevertheless, there was no rain and we were a little sheltered from the wind.

Before we hit the road, both of us had things to get done. Personal emails, some map-planning of the east coast and general girl RM (the pink box was needing to be dragged out from under the seat and given a dust-off). For those of you who perhaps haven’t heard about the pink box and its contents, it was packed at the start of the journey as a promise to myself not to become totally feral while away from home and living in a camper-van, so the RM began. Also needing done was stuff on my damn whiteboard list that I keep putting off, like cleaning the neat little BBQ we’ve used this entire trip and which was certainly in need of some TLC as well.

Bianca got out a new addition to Cuzzie, a guitar (thanks to a great friend of mine Vaughn for the loan). It’s a really nice feeling listening to her playing and quietly singing for a little while. As for me, well I had to keep my redhead image up so for all of you who don’t already know, I was putting dye on my hair in my camper-van. But, really and truly, I should know by now that nothing is private when you are camper-van living. I had the side door open, Bianca had gone for a quick stroll and, while walking past our neighbours, she got talking about Redz NZ Journey. I overheard a little of the conversation and had to laugh to myself as she explained I was busy dying my hair! But, soon, she was back to grab a card and share the story with others, while I ended up outside in all my glory, standing chatting to David. Honestly Red, hair dye on your head in the middle of the campsite, is there nothing now that can embarrass you?!

One hour later, we are swapping tips about sunscreen, lip balm lotions and talking about the best toothpastes to use. David was a NuSkin convert and is also very keen to convert us both to these products as well. The samples he shared are fantastic. My sunburnt lips feel way better and the initial shame of standing talking to a total stranger with dye all over my head has now nearly been forgotten by me, if not by him! Eventually, his daughter and her mates (the young group he was with) dragged him off to steer his boat in order to take them all wake-boarding and have fun on the water biscuit. Bianca and I decided to jump into the lake for a quick, refreshing swim. White sands covered by clear fresh waters made a very pleasant change. Midday arrived and we had an early lunch, watching with entertainment their water activities from the comfort of Cuzzie. Then we got ready to hit the road. We could happily have stayed another day but the recce of the coastline further north was calling us, so we declined an offer to try out our wake-boarding skills and got on the road.

Our afternoon comprised looking at wild west coast beaches with a very unpleasant swell of some 3.6m smashing onto each beach we looked at (yuk!). Hokianga Harbour entrance looked okay, but that was looking out from way up high on a viewing platform. We both agreed that it looked gorgeous today and wished we could have stopped for longer than just to refuel, grab some fresh, succulent, smoked fish and then push on.

We saw the huge Kauri trees on the side of the wonderful, lush New Zealand native bush, small little towns that just had a couple of ramshackle houses, then there was sea spray mist in the air as we got closer to our final destination; the last checkpoint before I would hit the 90-mile beach stretch (when I eventually make it this far to Ahipara). Oh my goodness, the colour of the beaches is so beautiful!! How often I had to say it out loud as we drove along! How often I had to remind myself of how damn close I am to the top of the North Island! This is where we stop in the meantime. This is as far as we will go on our reconnaissance. Silently, I thank my camper-van Cuzzie for the continuing loyal and reliable ride. We look out at the waves, then we head towards the campsite we have found for tonight, perhaps just a tad disappointed that, yet again, we can’t sleep next to the beach parked in Cuzzie. Yet again, it seems that camper-vans are not welcome to overnight park in the beachfront car parks of this little resort; probably like most beach-side towns these days, with numerous signs saying the same thing "No Camping".

Never mind, we had a nice picnic dinner of all the snack food from the fridge, then I wrote a very late blog to complete the day. As I sit here, I can hear the waves and the ocean. The wind is calming down and now, I have to watch and wait for the swells to drop as well so I can safely get past the next two harbour mouths. If I’m to be honest, yes, my patience is beginning to wear just a little bit thin.

My smiles today:
RM gear located from within the pink box.
Is there nothing that causes me to blush anymore?
Hokianga Harbour. A true gem.
Ahipara has a very cute camping ground.
Freshly-smoked local fish.
The huge Kauri trees.
Blog 400, that really is a record!

My thoughts today:
Don't ever let anyone dull your sparkle.

Until tomorrow, goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Bianca on Waimamaku Beach.

Bianca on Waimamaku Beach.

Our views today.

Our views today.

Day 399...More Wind, More Cake, and Morepork

Monday 28 November 2016

Going to bed late doesn’t seem to make any difference to me and even after all the visitors have gone, and I had sat for a long time looking out at the beach in darkness, waking as the sun is rising seems to be my ritual and I have long since given up fighting it. Quietly, I get up and head back to my favourite location in this house. As it is situated way up high, the view is like that of a soaring eagle. Still quietly, I make a cup of fresh mint tea and wait on the others to stir.

Bianca was first up and we decide to go for a walk down to the Murawai beach (to Flat Rock) to catch the waves exploding and crashing as high tide is reached. The wind was still really howling, cold and relentless in our faces, even with sweatshirt hoods pulled tightly up over our heads. We stood in safety, far enough away to miss getting wet or washed off the rocks. Then we were both blown back home again along the street. Nat was up and we all began to cook a breakfast feast and to talk about our forthcoming day.

Then it was time to load up Cuzzie. Bianca and I were heading north for beach reconnaissance and Nat was heading back into the city for work this afternoon. Big hugs all around. Hoping to see her further north later this week. Then more huge hugs, this time for our host Craig, giving him our “thanks” and leaving his house to return to being the peaceful beach retreat it usually is; not full of crazy people coming and going all the time!

The rest of our day has been spent going up and down so many roads, heading round Kaipara Harbour into Dargaville, out to Glinks Gully, then along to Baylys Beach. Along the way, we were spotted by locals who we had met in Karamea (Elaine and Doig). In some ways New Zealand really is a very small place. I promised them that I would catch up with them properly when I eventually paddle into the beach near town.

Along the way today, we also located four Geocaches, the smallest church in New Zealand and a cute little fun park that a local had built by hand on a corner of his farm land. We later chatted to a wonderful lady called Jane as she headed to the beach for a walk. Her work is to monitor the Toheroa beds on this stretch of beach, writing reports on actual locations and amounts and to summarise if they are returning or still decreasing each year.

After all this was done, I wanted to get inland a little, so we drove to the Kai Iwi lakes. Would you believe that, once again, Google Maps got us lost, taking us on a forest road; so an extra 20kms at least was covered today. Just not what we needed after a long day’s driving! It was with a great big sigh of relief that we finally arrived and got settled in for the evening. Night was falling and we still had dinner to cook. I also had my blog to write and weather reports to check and recheck.

Right now, it’s all about waiting for the swells and the winds to drop. It always surprises me how tranquil and beautiful Kai Iwi lakes are and it will be nice to spend a morning in the sun, away from the sand and sea, before we head a little further north. Today has been very difficult for me. Trying to head north without going near the east coast was my challenge, as was seeing inland places I have visited before. For example, when we drove through Warkworth, it was a bit of a mind-bending exercise. I was happier when we turned towards Dargaville. Now pumpkin and ginger soup awaits us for dinner, together with the remains of my yummy, wonderful chocolate cake.

My smiles today:
A miniature church.
Being spotted in Dargaville.
Bloody Google maps. Brain fry!
Warm chocolate cake for dessert.
A new species of bird life for us, a morepork.

My thoughts today:
Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.

As we listen to a morepork sing in the evening sky, we bid you goodnight! Red and Bianca.

Ma Te Wa.


New Zealand's smallest church!

New Zealand's smallest church!

Beautiful views.

Beautiful views.

Ocean waves.

Ocean waves.

Day 398...Many Friends

Sunday 27 November 2016

A wet and windy Sunday lends itself to sitting at the breakfast bar this morning, looking out over the ocean. The storms come and go; rain, wind, then a patch of sunshine and, as we watch, the ocean gets more intense with every hour.

What do you do when the rain stops? Well, we decided to head to the inner roads of the beach and walk. You’ve got it, we went and located some more Geocaches. Bianca was lucky on the first and, typically, Jason located the second. We then sat in a sunny location and met up with a friend to say “Hi!” and wander under the many trees while he continued his hike and walk with his gorgeous greyhound. Our planned quick thirty-minute walk ended up being more like an hour or two, after which I needed lunch. With Jason’s help we created a lovely cauliflower savoury risotto that was incredibly tasty.

As we ate lunch, friends started arriving throughout the rest of the afternoon. It seems like only yesterday since I last saw them. It was so great to spend the rest of the day chatting and hearing stories. Vaughn, Natalie, Lance, Mel and the kids; I feel pretty special to have you all as friends and especially for the Sunday visit. We baked gingernut biscuits, laughed lots and enjoyed a relaxed afternoon. In fact, at one stage, I seemed to take over the entire house and can once again only say “thank you” to Craig as he gets the Sunday lamb roast underway. What a lovely day, a lovely bunch of great people and wonderful friends, old and new, all mixing together!

Roast dinner, then time to say “goodbye” as people head home to get ready for another Monday and another week of work, while Bianca and I get ready to plan a reconnaissance a little way up the coast until this crazy weather sorts itself out. With my head spinning a little from seeing so many faces and doing so much talking, I now sit alone quietly in the lounge trying to keep my focus on the task still ahead of me. It’s going to be hard to step off this amazing ride when it eventually comes to an end, hard in so many different ways, but I only think about this momentarily as I still have many more kilometres to go.

My smiles today:
30 minute walks. Yeah, right!
A stream of friends this afternoon.
My new level of patience.
Nat and her gift of coconut ice-cream
A wonderful bunch of friends.
The wind, rain and stormy oceans. But that’s okay.
Sunday roast dinners.

My thoughts today:
Good times and crazy friends make the best memories.

Until tomorrow, goodnight from Red and the crew. 

Ma Te Wa.


Baking ginger biscuits with Nat and Bianca.

Baking ginger biscuits with Nat and Bianca.

Muriwai Gannets.

Muriwai Gannets.

Day 397...Happy and Sad

Saturday 26 November 2016

Honestly, last night I slept in the biggest bed. Actually, probably the biggest bed I have ever slept in! What a privilege to be able to be in this wonderful and truly amazing home. I woke early and wandered out to the kitchen, looked at the view and watched Saturday morning awake in the peace and quiet. Soon, the others were up and making cups of tea and also kindly cooked up a rather scrumptious breakfast. We also had some lovely items arrive with Jason from Auckland. The favourites were the homemade chocolate cake (thank you, Michelle), champagne (to celebrate my 5,000kms achieved) and other supplies.

Then off the three of us head to go for a quick, short hike on the Goldie Bush Walkway. Well, 10.5kms later, feet covered in mud and also two Geocaches located, we emerge needing food and drinks. That really wasn’t the expected quick thirty-minute stroll, how typical of us! Back to Craig's home to organise lunch, eat more cake and, to our amazement, lunch was already made for us, waiting on the bench. Jeez, we could get used to this kind of lifestyle!

Before the end of this lovely day, we went to look out over the gannet colony and the ocean before the sunset, standing watching the gannets skillfully landing and taking off from the windy cliff tops. Many images were taken and the funniest moment happened when a gannet flew over the top and pooped on me! Really! Now I smell like a walking gannet colony. Quickly, I take off my now smelly jumper and rush back to the ute in order to head home. On the way, we make a quick detour to grab curry for dinner and then locate another Geocache before the end of the day. But this one took us rather a long time and Jason was the one to successfully find it. In fact, he found all three today! But I reckon it was the girls’ guidance to the exact location which made his life easy.

Tonight, we sit in the comfort of the lounge, our dinners on our laps and a celebration drink of bubbles for my 5000km mark. Wow, the number of kilometres I’ve achieved even amaze and astound me! But there is also a tinge of sadness for me tonight, as I hear of the boating accident this afternoon at Kaipara. My thoughts are with everybody involved. As I look out at the big seas, this again reminds me of the respect I have for the ever-changing ocean, and that Mother Nature is not to be messed with.

My smiles today:
The chocolate cake.
The champagne.
The muddy hike with laughter along the way.
Me and my grumpy moments when I’m hungry!
The crazy nesting gannets.
Another amazing sunset.
My first week with Bianca, she's fab!

My thoughts today:
I love people who are open-minded, people who just vibe with whatever you talk about, with whom you can talk about anything and everything. 

Goodnight from Red and the team. 

Ma Te Wa.


Yummy cake. (Thank you Michelle.)

Yummy cake. (Thank you Michelle.)

Time to celebrate.

Time to celebrate.

Day 396...Home Is Where The Heart Is

Friday 25 November 2016

Well, after last night‘s mosquito-killing spree, morning seemed to arrive rather quickly, especially seeing as how we didn’t manage to get to sleep until just on midnight. This morning I tried to lie still, quietly reading stuff on my mobile, so that Bianca could have a well-deserved sleep because early morning starts and driving stints can be just as tiring for the support person as paddling is for me.

I was dreaming idly of pancakes for breakfast so, after a quick, cold morning shower, it was my turn on breakfast duty and I decided to turn that dream into reality. After Bianca had braved a cold shower as well, she returned just in time to sample a successful batch of warm pancakes and she suggested a very cool idea, grating some chocolate over them! Chocolate-covered pancakes it was! Together with some with honey, coconut oil and a squeeze of lemon, after which we both sat smiling at such a successful breakfast.

It started to rain, so we shut the doors and, waiting for the rain to stop, got through various laptop chores. Then we were off to walk the shoreline in a successful attempt to locate a Geocaching box of treasures. First we walked across the beach in very soft sand and some sticky mud as the Kaipara Harbour tide disappeared, then we headed up into the hills and through some housing areas; both of us with very muddy feet, slipping about in jandals (will I never learn?). But it was still nice to be out walking and enjoying a warm windy day now that the rain had stopped.

Back at Cuzzie, we packed up and headed out with our shopping list to the nearest supermarket and then off towards Muriwai to spend the next night or two in a wonderful setting up on the hills looking out over the ocean. By that time, the rain had returned, together with some mist so, for a little while, there was no view at all and we couldn’t even see the ocean until late afternoon. To pass the time, I had a glorious hot bath, while Bianca went for a beach run. Then we loaded up the washing machine a few times, sat and chatted the early evening away, had a wonderful dinner cooked for us, finishing with strawberries and ice cream for dessert. How spoiled can one be? To top off the evening, we were treated to a glorious sunset at the end of the day; just perfect!

The weird thing for me now, is seeing the names of places I know so well and being on the outskirts of Auckland. You are all probably wondering if I’ll go home while waiting on the next fine weather window. The answer is a resounding “No!” I’m more than okay with waiting until the finish of my journey; it just wouldn’t feel right for me otherwise. Tomorrow the weather is due to clear up, so a trip is planned to show Bianca the beautiful bush and other locations in and around this area. There is also a chance to catch up with friends out this way and then we’ll gap it, back towards Kaipara, to view some more hitherto unknown stretches of coastline. But in the meantime, there’s a big comfy bed waiting for me tonight, which in itself will feel weird, not being in my sleeping bag in my cosy little camper-van.

My smiles today:
Pancakes. Total bliss, especially with all the added extras!
Nasturtiums for our salads.
Even closer to my hometown.
Geo caching.
A wonderful friends home, we are made to feel so welcome, thanks Craig.
A big hot bath.
Kaipara so very untouched and unspoiled.

My thoughts today:
Home is where the heart is, and my heart is still most definitely set on completing this journey of mine. 

Goodnight from Red and Bianca. 

Ma Te Wa.


Goodnight from Murawai. Where we are staying tonight.

Goodnight from Murawai. Where we are staying tonight.

Day 395...Dreamt It, Lived It

Thursday 24 November 2016

For the kayakers, yes I paddled today. 71km Hamiltons Gap - South Kaipara, 10 hours: 6am to 4pm, 7km approx per hour.

It is nearly to good to believe. I paddled again today. The ocean was not going to let me cruise out easily from this beach; it gave me a full on test of my strength and wave skills. Today I survived, it was typical; you see a calm patch you push off and then the waves and ocean turn nasty. It is like Mother Nature is playing with you like a cat with a mouse. As I had totally committed I had no turning back and I got face fulls of water at every wave that crashed towards me, at least 5 sets knocked me to a stand still, and then you have to gain momentum before the next wave. It's hard to win the game, breathing hard and not willing to give up I know I have maybe 2 big waves to get past and to safety out the back and on the calmer waters. I look up and, holy crap, in front of me the second to last wave was like a huge wall towering down on me. I paddled up and up, and as I paddled I was saying "don't break, please don't break over me!" With a massive thwack Louise and I landed with a thud over the wave!

With no time to catch my breath or even think I got over the next one and could see it getting easier. Did I stop then!! No damn way! I paddled for 100 or more strokes then had a laugh with Bianca over the VHF, got sorted, set my tracker going and was off towards more waves and the Manukau Harbour entrance. Oh how this place has haunted me. Like the Cook Strait there has only ever been bad stories. Even when I chatted with the Coast Guards about it the comment back was "it is one of the most dangerous bars in the Southern Hemisphere" and I was paddling towards it now, for enjoyment! (Shit Red are you crazy? I most certainly have proved that.)

I promised myself to go wide, not try to cut any corners, and to miss anything that looked like turning into a wall of foaming water, so even though I thought I could see a gap closer in I did not dare to go in that direction. But today the Manukau Harbour was having a rare calm and beautiful day. There where some big rolling swells but it was not a mess and I only have a nice story to say about this crossing. As I got halfway across my most difficult times where when I had to try and keep my eye out for all the small fishing craft also making the most of this wonderful day and heading out for some west coast fishing. About a dozen boats raced out in front of me as it neared high tide, so as Paul Caffyn would say "Red you are one blessed and damn lucky lass!" Today I truly was.

As I rechecked my navigation to aim back towards Piha I laughed as a small craft zipped out of the inner northern passage, the one I did not dare to take! I probably could have saved myself a few kilometres today, but best to be safe. Piha looked beautiful this morning and I was making good time today. My first VHF checkpoint and then off towards Muriwai. As I paddled I admired the ever changing scenery. Gone were the scared and eroded sand dunes, replaced with the green bush clad hills and rugged out-crops of rocks. Well it was like that until I arrived at Muriwai for my second checkpoint. Then the long beach paddle towards my final destination today about 10km before the Kaipara Harbour mouth.

This was more about watching the wave patterns, counting the kilometres and making sure I did not get to close to the beach and get hit by the bigger wave sets when they rolled in. As the out going tide turned the waves picked up and my heart sunk. Here we go, another big tough landing. The 30km ticked by, also the waves did settle and there was some calm moments in patches. I get a message to say the crew are parked on the beach in Jason's ute. Well I scan the beach. It is as if they have driven and moved my finishing point. Where the heck is the ute and the team? I do not want to paddle to a new mystery location. It may be hard to explain but when you know you have nearly finished, to not see the crew makes you wonder how far they have parked up the beach. Have they gone to the edge of the Kaipara Harbour? I hoped not!

At last I see a welcome sight, the pink shirts on the top of a sand dune. We chat over the VHF then I pack down my gear and get ready for a sprint finish, but it is about 500m to the shore and the big wave sets will catch me. I'm just hoping to get as close as possible before I end up dunking! They do catch me and I end up surfing down the face of the last wave, and yes I end up going for a swim on this landing. It was fine to be honest, my pride was not hurt, shit like this happens.

Both Bianca and Jase grab Louise and I enjoy the refreshing swim in with the last few waves. On the sand we laugh as I hear news that Jase got the ute stuck in the sand! I sit and eat popcorn as the crew load up Louise. Then we watch a local and his mates launch his large boat and negotiate the waves! Crazy stuff. I wish I had a motor. We drive to a little location to camp for the night by the Kaipara Harbour (Shelley Beach). It is calm, cute and very tranquil, I love it.

Dinner, a cold refreshing shower and then more fun killing bloody mosquitos that have invaded the camper-van! A note has been made to buy fly-spray tomorrow! My paddling for the week has been halted. The winds return and I go back to waiting, hopefully not for too long. Lastly, I have dreamed all along that I would paddle this exact section on a beautiful day and today my dreams came true. Yes, I was blessed.

My smiles today:
My break out paddle today. Epic.
Piha from my kayak.
Manukau Harbour crossing. Wow.
The ever changing scenery.
Dead mosquitoes!!
The Kaipara Harbour.

My thoughts today:
I still have a long way to go, but I'm already so far from where I used to be and I am proud of that.

Goodnight from Red, Bianca, Louise and Cuzzie.

Ma Te Wa.


End of another successful day.

End of another successful day.

Bianca on checkpoint duty.

Bianca on checkpoint duty.

Red eating her yummy popcorn!

Red eating her yummy popcorn!