|Posted by Tara Mulvany on December 22, 2013 at 9:10 PM|
After my paddle across the Cook Strait, I was lucky to spend a day staying with Anna and Logie - thanks heaps!! Then early in the morning of the 19th, Logie drove me back down to the waters edge at Titahi Bay. After a quick goodbye I paddled away, hoping to clock some good distance while the southerly wind blew.
Grey clouds filled the sky and a cool breeze pushed me quickly up the coast. The swell was small but it wasn't long before I started feeling sick. On the verge of throwing up I landed on a boulder beach, where I munched on a sea sick pill - my trusty Pihea Bombs. These tiny tablets are a secret remedy made by Pihea Pharmacy. They are my secret weapon. The only downside with them is that they cost $3.50 a pop. I continually have to remind myself it's a small price to pay for being able to paddle vomit free, and for $70, it should hopefully see me through to the top of the west coast. I chased my pills down with a whole punnet of strawberries, and half an hour later, feeling satisfied that I would survive the rest of the day, I slid back onto the water. I followed alongside the highway for a while, trying to zone out from the noise of the traffic - something I rarely encounter on the ocean.
With a consistent 20 knots of wind behind me I sped along, passing rows of houses along the beach at Paraparaumu and Waikanae. The coast was straight, featureless, and dare I say it, boring. But diving gannets, galloping horses and masses of blue bottle jellyfish kept my simple mind occupied. I paddled hard, eager to make some good miles while the conditions were good.
Max and I at Waikawa Beach
Late in the afternoon I landed through small surf at Waikawa Beach, where I was met by Max and Melz Grant of Q Kayaks. Max and Melz circumnavigated the South Island a few years before me, and ever since the beginning of my trip in winter 2012, they have been really supportive. Immediately it felt like we were old friends, even though this was the first time we'd actually met. They both insisted that they carry my kayak up the sandy beach, and soon I was able to paddle up a shallow stream towards the local domain. A couple of local kids in minnows admired my kayak, "wow! That's such a cool kayak!" One of them exclaimed. They'd hit the nail on the head.
On the roof of their car sat a shiny new lightweight Skua, the same type of boat I'd paddled around both Stewart and the South Island, but 5kgs lighter. Soon the grass was covered in all my stuff and we began changing over the boats. Max fitted my sliding footpegs from my old boat into the new one, and I untied and retied pieces of extra bungy cord on the deck.
It was a sad moment watching my old boat surf away on the roof of their car, bound for another life. We had come so far together. We had surfed waves, sped from storms, paddled into sunrises and sunsets, encountered dolphins, seals, sharks, penguins, angry sea lions and a whale, all the while watching thousands of kilometres of ever-changing ocean slip under our bow. We were a team, and i was filled with sadness as I watched her disappear. I hoped my new boat would treat me well. It wasn't until they had gone and I started packing my new kayak that I realised that Max had given me a boat with the serial number as 'slo'. I was worried, so I sent him a message. He replied informing me that 'slo' was actually short for 'speedy lines offshore'. It was a relief.
Early the next morning I paddled out through the small surf and aimed north, following close to the coast. It was fast going on a calm sea, and hour after hour the scenery remained the same. Beaches, pine forests, sand dunes. Broken by the occasional small river or scatter of houses. Then more beaches, pine forests and sand dunes.
Early afternoon I approached the mouth of the Rangitikei River. The surf broke heavily most of the way along, but at the perfect angle I could see a narrow channel that was most of the time surf-free. After watching for a couple of minutes I made my break for it and paddled as hard as I could. The tide was going out, and combined with a strong flow from the river, I struggled to make headway. After about 15 minutes I landed on the beach inside the mouth. I sat in amazement watching kids launching themselves into the river just upstream, and attempting a death swim across to the other side. I was convinced I was going to have to paddle back out there and save someone, but miraculously, after being swept right past the mouth, they managed to clamber out onto the shallow bar - the last piece of ground before the deep sea. Their parents did not seem phased by the whole thing. Seeing things like this it is no surprise to me why there are so many drownings in our country. But then again, who am I to judge?
Upriver I got lost in a maze of small channels that lead away from the main flow towards the small settlement of Tangimoana. All I could see was reeds and mud, and after a while I made my way back to the boat ramp near the mouth. I set up my camp over the fence from the carpark, hidden from the dangerous North Island bogans I had been warned about from those of the south.
The forecast for the following day was for strong north west winds, so I decided to stay put. With my tent flapping in the morning wind I got up and constructed a fort out of logs, an attempt at a windbreak. As high tide creeped closer I started to get nervous. I'd survived high tide the night before no worries but now that the sea was rough the waves were surging up the river mouth, lapping a little too close for comfort. I trusted my instincts and left my tent where it was. The water came within 10cm on three sides of my tent but I was sweet!!
Melz kindly came and took me back to her place in Ashurst for the night. On the way she took me on a tour of the Q Kayaks factory which was really cool. I have never seen so many boats in my life!
Life in luxury was short lived, and the next morning I was back on the sandy banks of the Rangitikei River, feeling a little daunted by the lines of surf in the river mouth. I was trying to be relaxed. Being stressed or nervous at times like this really doesn't help the situation, so I just got on with it, packed my boat, waved goodbye to Melz and paddled slowly towards the surf. Hitting the first line of surf I tried to keep up a steady speed, knowing I'd be pushing through line after line of surf. Minutes passed and I glanced behind me, trying to figure out if I was in the main channel. I had no idea so I just went for it, submarining through a couple of big waves. If this was a scary place to launch from, I'd hate to be faced with having to land there in those conditions! Finally free of the surf zone I had a nervous giggle and clipped my helmet on my deck behind me.
Photo by Melz, Rangitikei River Mouth
The sea behind the surf was rougher than I had antipicated and it took a while before I was far enough offshore that I could properly relax. The coast as much the same as the kilometres before - sand dunes, pine trees and beaches. Seven hours of paddling side on to a steep westerly swell was enough, and I was relieved to make my way in through the breakwaters of the Wanganui river late that afternoon. Melz was there to meet me again, and after finding a sneaky hobo camping spot down by the river near the town, we went in search of pizza. I got a little carried away and ordered three. It was awesome.
In many ways reaching Wanganui has been my first milestone of this trip. From here my next leg will take me around Cape Egmont to New Plymouth. The weather isn't ideal until at least Wednesday or Thursday, with strong westerlies. But that's cool, I'm happy with my progress so far. A week from Picton to Wanganui. I'm feeling strong and ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
Next update will be when I reach New Plymouth. Until then, Merry Christmas!!