Tara mulvany


72km to Opunake

Posted by Tara Mulvany on December 29, 2013 at 7:25 PM

In Patea I was welcomed into the motor camp like a celebrity, and the lovely owners gave me a cabin for the night for my $10 camping fee. Awesome. And my stay was made even more awesome by the family staying next to me who treated like a queen. They asked me a million questions whilst feeding me cookies, brandy snaps filled with cream and steaming cappuccinos. For dinner they cranked up their deep fryer and I feasted on some greasy goodness. They had set the standards high for Taranaki locals.


They promised that they would watch me leave in the morning, even though I was planning on an early departure. 12hours later, with the rain belting down, I was certain they would have changed their minds. But true to their word, at 6am, while the rest of the world was still tucked up in bed, the entire family came out to see me off. Grandma, grandad, mum and the two kids. Trudy even paddled on their sit on top kayak with me towards the mouth. It was a humbling feeling as I paddled out over the bar and turned north, watching the waving figures of my farewell party growing tinier. Then five minutes later I spotted them, watching from a cliff top lookout further along the coast. I waved one last time and then paddled on. It's a rare occasion that anyone makes the effort to wake early to see me off. I had been touched by their kindness.


Ahead of me was a committing 72km long stretch of coast. Crumbling cliffs streaked with iron sand dropped off into the sea for as far as I could see with very few options for landings. The occasional silhouette of a cow was my only spectator, apart from the gannets and white fronted turns that sped above me. Everything was grey and Mt Taranaki lay hidden behind thick cloud. I paddled on.


Hours ticked by, and early afternoon at about the 45km mark a nice south easterly wind kicked in. It made for some very fast, and very fun surfing, as I sped downwind. The cliffs and headlands all melted together and somewhere along the way I messed up my navigation. It was a disheartening discovery when I realised I still had about 16km to go, not 8km like I had thought. Gutted. Maybe there is a reason people paddle with a GPS. I kicked myself for my old school ways.


After 11hours on the water I paddled wide around some huge breakers and made my way into the small bay at Opunake. I sat behind the breakers for a while, trying to figure out the best place to head towards land. There were surfers and swimmers everywhere. And no one looked like they'd move out of the way for me. So figuring that the surfers would be in the biggest waves, I decided to aim for the small children instead!! I surfed into the beach on a nice unbroken wave, hopefully looking classy infront of the audience on the beach. It would have been a shame to end up upside down with that many people watching!


I dragged my boat up through the black sand, and then struggled to lift it up a metre high bank onto the grass. People watched. But no one offered to help. I struggled on, and then lay down on the soft grass, stoked to be on land. I had seen this stretch as the crux of the voyage to New Plymouth and it was a relief to have it behind me.


Blooming pohutukawa trees covered in bright red flowers hung above an array of colourful tents. Salty, sandy and dripping kids trudged barefoot back to their camp while their parents sat around in the sun drinking beer. The place was alive. It didn't have the same 'out of the way' charm as Patea, but it was a pretty place none the less.


After a much needed shower I walked into Opunake town. The town of champions. Okay so I'm pretty sure it's not called that, but it should be. How could it not be with a giant statue of Peter Snell on the main street. In the 1960's Peter won three Olympic gold medals and a handful of golds from the commonwealth games. He was labeled as one of the greatest kiwi sporting hero's of the 20th century. And he was from tiny Opunake. It just goes to show that if you want something enough, you can make it happen. Dream big.


My friend Emma sent me this quote the other day. I think it's really awesome.  'Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow' Ronald Osborn. So far I'm growing. Well my arms and shoulders are at least.  

Today I'm having a day off as theres westerly winds out on the coast. It feels good to be lazy. I think I've eared it. My next jump up the coast from here is hopefully Oakura or New Plymouth. Maybe tomorrow!!




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Reply Matt
5:40 AM on January 4, 2014 
Heard about your adventures viathe local news while on holiday in NP. Was at Patea river mouth just today, marvelled at the size of the surf coming in. In awe of anyone who crosses the bar, unpowered, and many others like it no doubt. Good luck !
Reply Weirdo s
1:42 PM on January 3, 2014 
U go the time we got to the lookout u were a little speck on my I pad so... We saw u bobbing up and down thru the swell...I ll send u what I got after carnival...lovely day for it...hope all went well x
Reply Lou
1:20 AM on January 2, 2014 
Stumbled across your story in the local paper... inspiring mission!
If you need a place to stay/recharge while your in the Taranaki sing out
All the best from a fellow ex aoraki
Reply barry shaw
7:05 AM on January 1, 2014 
Hey Tara, happy new year from North Wales. It seems like you're doing well again in the North Island. Good luck for a great trip in 2014. Barry
Reply Caroline Symmans
4:38 PM on December 31, 2013 
What an inspiration you are!! Lots of tales to tell your future grandkids. You go girl, we must be all proud to call you kiwi!! Enjoyed reading your adventures. Good Luck with the surf. Caroline from New Plymouth!!
Reply Jason
11:29 AM on December 31, 2013 
Awesome blog Tara, well done. I hope the rest of Taranaki treats you well. May see you on the beach in New Plymouth.
Reply Melz & Max
8:16 AM on December 30, 2013 
Tara your amazing, great to read your posts & hear you are in Opunake. Hope you had a great rest day & hope you have a great day tomorrow & further on.
Reply Christel
4:04 AM on December 30, 2013 
"...I decided to aim for the small children instead!!" Favourite line. Smart move. Also LOVE the quote at the end. Awesome blog post. Hope you enjoyed your day off! Definitely deserve it.