|Posted by Tara Mulvany on January 22, 2014 at 3:45 AM|
Well I have made it to Manakau Harbour after an 'interesting' week. When I was working in the Whitsundays I happened to meet a kiwi couple, Christine and Nicol, who invited me to stay when I paddled past Raglan. Unfortunately Christine was away, but Nicol kindly came and collected me from Manu Bay, and I spent three days staying at his family's Bach with his brother Pete and partner Mel. Nicol is the first beekeeper I've ever met. And the only other beekeeper I've heard of was Sir Edmund Hillary - one of our nations greatest heros. How could he not be a legend?
Nicol took me on a bee keeping tour and we dressed up like astronauts. He casually opened the lid and pulled out the trays covered in hundreds of bees busy making honey. It didn't phase him that they were all crawling over his hands..and he had no gloves on. Classic. Just as hard core as Sir Ed!! Nicol told me how when he first started, he used to collect runaway swarms of bees in Hamilton City. 17 years on he has quite the bee keeping operation, with millions of bees. One bee produces half a teaspoon of honey in a lifetime. Inside his shed he had huge drums stacked up filled with honey. Tonnes of honey, literally! That's a lot of bees!
I was treated to dinner with Nicol, Pete and Mel, and the next night by Shelly and Steve, a friends parents who'd driven over from Hamilton. Thanks heaps! A guy at a local surf shop called Rockit heard about my trip and gave me a free hat. A much needed new hat! Awesome! Thanks to everyone in Raglan who made my stay an enjoyable and relaxing one
I paddled away from Raglan at 6am on the 16th, exactly one month since the day that my journey began at Anakiwa. A full moon shone brightly, marking the milestone of a day. It felt like I had come so far in the time that the moon had slowly grown smaller, disappeared and then grew to fill size again. I felt happy. There was nowhere else I'd rather have been. The forecast was good - SW 15K and a 2m SW swell, easing. The sky was overcast and a light wind blew from the west, nothing to be concerned about as I only had a 50km paddle to Port Waikato planned that day. After a couple of hours the wind slowly built, and the swell began picking up. Energetic birds swooped over the messy grey sea, and I pushed on, bouncing along with a 15-20 knot westerly wind.
The conditions worsened as time went on. The shore breakers began to get huge, and the surf broke way offshore, forcing me further away from the steep, farmland covered coast. About 12km shy of Port Waikato I knew I needed to land. If I didn't do it then, it would only get worse later on. The strong westerly meant that I was paddling slowly, so it would have taken me at least another 3hrs to reach my planned landing. I knew the sea could get much worse in 3 hours. So I flicked up my rudder, clipped my helmet on and charged through line after line of huge surf. My timing had been good, and I managed to get most of the way in by riding on the backs of some decent sized waves, letting them dump and break just infront of my bow. I hit the sand feeling very relieved!
For the next two and a half days I sat on the hill behind the black sand beach watching the surf. It broke heavily for a long way offshore, and I knew any exit would be impossible until the sea died down. I was prepared for being there for a long time. The beach was scattered with rubbish, mostly of the floating plastic type - bottles, buckets and buoys. But there was usefull stuff to be found as well, a toothbrush, a TV, a scrubbing brush and weathered planks of wood. The things that keep me amazed when I'm trapped in the middle of nowhere and alone. I built a fort around my tent to create a bit of shelter from the strong winds that hammered the coast. Gales that caused havoc on the ocean, despite the clear blue sky and blazing sun above.
It was early in the morning on my third day stuck on this beach that I packed up and gave it a crack at getting through the surf. It had died a lot since the day that I had landed, but still I was nervous and slowly inched towards the first couple of lines of surf. It was a tricky exit, with two big lines of steep dumping waves that were very close together. Timing it so that I made it through them, and didn't get smashed by the occasional giant breaking wave a lot further out to sea proved to quite an undertaking. I paddled into wave after wave, holding my position just close enough to the first dumping waves to wait and watch the horizon. On my first attempt to get through them I got smashed by a wall of water and rolled. I rolled partway up and realised that something was wrong. The piece of cord tied between my paddle and me had somehow flicked over my head and was wrapped behind me. I dropped back upside down, sorted myself out and then rolled up before the next set came through. And then, without thinking too much I just went for it, cleared the dumpers and paddled as fast as I could out to sea. It had taken me nearly an hour to get off the beach.
The sky was clear and the sea was surprisingly calm behind the surf as I paddled slowly north. A few hours later I rounded the point and paddled into Sunset Beach at Port Waikato. There were surfers, stand up paddle boarders and boats everywhere. The surf broke heavily on the main beach but I managed to get in without any drama to a small beach right in the corner. I went for a swim in the surf and then had a cold shower outside the public toilets. It felt good. That night I went to bed convinced that I wouldn't paddle the next day, but not entirely at peace with my decision. The forecast wasn't great, with strong easterly winds picking up in the afternoon, but I knew if I got away super early then I had a chance of making it into Manakau Harbour while the sea was small, the tides were good, and before the wind hit. But there was a cyclone somewhere north west of me, and it was coming straight for NZ. It wasn't predicted to pass until Tuesday, but part of me wanted to be prepared for it arriving earlier than predicted.
At 2am I woke up and stuck my head out the tent door. Everything was still, and the hazy moon shone from behind a thin layer of cloud. I made a snap decision. This was my chance. So I packed up, dragged my loaded kayak 500m down the beach to the corner where I had arrived and paddled into the darkness at 3am. It wasn't totally glassy, and there was a light easterly wind, but I felt good as I paddled north, following the faint outline of the hills. For three hours I paddled in darkness, my only reference being the hills and a couple of lights along the way, probably farm houses. By the time it got light I realised that the easterly had blown me about 2km offshore, so I paddled back in under the hills. The wind had flattened off the swell, so it was possible to paddle relatively close to the crumbling cliffs and hills that backed the occasional black sand beach.
7 hours after setting off I paddled into Manakau Harbour, over a surprisingly idyllic bar. A rare occurrence for this wild, shallow and tidal piece of water. It was raining and the sky was grey as I made my towards some houses in the distance. I paddled off the edge of my map so I didn't really know where I was headed. A while later I pulled up at a small beach and dragged my boat up. The place looked sleepy. There was no one around, and no cell reception. Where was I?
After a few minutes standing in the rain contemplating what to do I met a guy named Joe. Apparently I had landed at a place called Huia. Before long I was showered and drinking a hot cup of tea with Joe and his wife Rach and their kids. They were lovely, hospitible and friendly people and offered me a place to stay if I needed it. As I hadn't really planned to paddle to Manakau that day I hadn't let anyone know I was arriving. But with the help of Paul Caffyn, he had rounded up some legendary paddlers from Auckland named Su and Peter to come and get me. So here I am, in Auckland City waiting for the seas and the wind to drop. The weather really hasn't been making my life very easy, but given that it's nearly February maybe things will begin to settle soon. Until then, I can only hope!