|Posted by Tara Mulvany on March 15, 2014 at 5:50 PM|
The next morning I packed up and paddled away just as the light had begun to appear. I paddled into steaming clouds of fog, a thick mist swept out to sea with a light breeze and the rising sun. I had never seem anything like it. On a bright sea with a dull blue sky, it was more like a katabatic wind over an ice cap. As the day grew warmer the mist disappeared and I paddled along on a calm ocean with waves lapping at the shore. One giant beach stretched for as far as I could see into the distance. It was long, straight and boring. I paddled for 12 hours and slowly the faint outline of the beginning of East Cape grew bolder as the kilometres ticked by.
Part of me was a little nervous - everywhere I had been in the North Island people had warned me about their neighbours. In Taranaki the locals had warned me about the people of Northland. In Northland I felt perfectly safe. But the locals there had told me to watch out for the people of East Cape. Was I going to get booted from their land? I had enough water with me that I could camp anywhere, so I picked a nice looking sand dune and landed. I saw no one. And my 'you can't camp here' trip tally still stood at zero.
The next morning I set off, aiming for the headlands in the distance. Mentally it was a much easier day than the two before - I knew exactly where I was, and I had landmarks and headlands to check off progress, all perfectly spaced within 5 or 10 k's.
The forested hills of East Cape were just like I had imagined, rugged and wild. A few houses and the occasional marae were positioned just behind the beach in sweeping sandy bays. Later in the afternoon I spied some public toilets beside a school, so I stopped to fill my water bottles. I was waiting for someone to tell me, "you can't drink that water!" But no one did.
Something that I have found really strange everywhere I have been in the North Island is people's attitudes towards water. There is no tap that I wouldn't drink from in the South Island. Up here, on countless occasions I have been given looks of horror as people have watched me fill my bottles from taps. Taps on the side of buildings, taps in public toilets, even taps inside houses. "You can't drink that! You need to boil it!". Just for the record North Island, and I will whisper this very quietly, I HAVE DRUNK FROM ALL YOUR TAPS.. AND IVE BEEN FINE!
That night I camped on a stony beach in a tiny cove surrounded by cliffs. I was completely hidden under a woven canopy of giant pohutukawa trees. I cooked a feed of rice, a welcome change from my cheesy pasta staple and then crashed into a deep sleep.
By the time the sun began to rise the next morning I was already on my way, ticking off the headlands as I paddled. Eventually Cape Runaway was reached, and I snuck in between some reefs and landed onto a kayak width rocky beach for lunch. I munched tuna and crackers. Delicious.
I paddled until it was nearly dark before I chose a small beach in the lee of a headland and landed for the night. For the third night in a row, I was alone and no one knew I was there. That is, apart from anyone following my spot tracker. Or the resident family of goats that I chased away, or the lonely shag that waddled up right next to my kayak. It was Thursday night. I had one more day before the cyclone.
In the morning I waved goodbye to my horned goat family and made my way towards Hicks Bay. I would not make It around the cape before the cyclone hit so it was time to find some shelter. The only campground on my map was at Te Araroa Beach, and the landing looked okay in the corner of the bay. I paddled towards it, with the north east swell slowly increasing behind me. A couple of dolphins popped up in front of me and swam around my kayak a couple of times before disappearing.
At Te Araroa I dragged my kayak way up the beach and into a shallow stream. Then I hauled it for 500m up the muddy ditch, under a small bridge and across a paddock to the campground. So that's where I am, waiting for the weather to clear and the seas to ease for the next run to Gisborne. It should take me three days. And as for the cyclone? What a let down!!