Spirits were high after yesterday’s dream paddle around the tip of the Mahia Peninsula and the forecast for today was looking good as well. The road more or less followed the coast for the next 25km, however after that point there was a 35km gap until the next spot with definite access. 25km wasn’t really doing the day justice and 60km was a bit too far for one day without tail winds. I had a good look at the satellite images and saw one spot about half way between the two access points that looked like it had a road going down to the coast. It wasn’t shown as a road on the map so Dad went ahead to check it out. I meet him at the first spot 25km up the coast. Unfortunately the road I had spotted on the satellite image wasn’t really a road. He had a good look around that whole stretch and there was nothing. The conditions weren’t good enough to do 35km after already doing 25km so I would have to do it tomorrow. This was a little concerning as the forecast for tomorrow was for fairly strong north westerlies which would make the trip pretty hard and if I didn’t make it the whole way I couldn’t bail out half way. I would have to come all the way back to where I started. It meant all or nothing.
I was up particular early as I knew I had a fair way to go and that the wind was only going to get stronger. I had only gone a few km’s before the north westerly picked up very suddenly. I was cutting across a bay at the time so quickly aimed straight for the shore. I could turn around now any only waste a couple of km’s or carry on knowing that it would be a battle and that I might have to turn around and waste even more km’s if the wing got too bad. I decided to bash on. I managed to tuck in close to the shore to find some shelter from the wind for most of the way however, after I rounded each headland I would cop the winds full force. After a tough 20km I came across a nice little bay where I pulled in for lunch and a quick power nap. I woke up to a swarm of midgies tucking into my legs. Time to set off again. A few more headlands passed by and I was at the Young Nicks Head. This headland sticks out about 3km so the northern side was very exposed to the wind. I tied up to a cray pot on the southern side to catch my breath before the 3km slog that was ahead. Dad got ahold of me on the VFH and said that my Brother, Mum and good friend had come down to surprise me and we’re waiting on the beach. Just the motivation I needed!
Day 23. Guest Bog by Tom Ralph (my big bro)
I had the privilege of joining my brother Pete today paddling along the amazing coastline north of Gisborne. I set out at 8am on The Refreshers kayak from Wainui beach to intercept Pete and his good friend Marius who was also on a kayak. They had already been paddling for 2 hours and had 16km under their belts, and I thought I was up early! So we were a convoy of 3 and we set off at a good pace. Of course we had to have a little sprint race to test our speeds and it was definitely the kayaks on top which made me realise actually how hard Pete is working each day. After a couple of hours we rounded a point inside the reef and cruzed into Tatapouri bay where we had lunch. We were joined by the number 1 Refresher Dad and also Mum who had driven from Auckland with me the day before. Pete certainly had his lunch sorted with good healthy fats to sustain his high fat endurance diet. Right after we got going from lunch we came across a fun little wave breaking over the outer reef so we thought seeing as we are in Gisborne it would be rude not to catch a wave or two. The stretch of coast from there on up was absolutely stunning! We passed a number of small sandy bays with rocky reefy points and crystal clear waters where you could see red moki mooching around at least 40 feet deep. To add to this we had a pod of common dolphins swim by right underneath us. At this point I thought to myself that this is a world class experience and no doubt it’s like this all around our coastline. What Pete is trying to achieve is a solid step (or stroke) in the right direction and I’m very proud of what he is doing. We finished the days paddle by shooting the gap between the headland of Whangara and Whangara Island where we found mum and dad waiting at the Marae after they were welcomed on by a friendly elder. A fun 40km day for Pete. A magical day for Marius and I! And ending up where the movie The Whale Rider was made it just that extra bit special.
The high of having some extra company had warm off and although I was relatively close to finishing, the realisation that I still had a week of paddling left was starting to sink in. My alarm clock went of at the usual time of 5:15am but it felt like 3am. I could have easily snoozed for another couple of hours. “Come on Pete. You knew this wasn’t going to be easy. You know the wind is only going to get stronger. Get your lazy arse out of bed.” A quick motivational word with myself and I flopped out of the van. I forced some food in my mouth and sluggishly got ready. Canned salmon doesn’t smell great at the best of times and today, at 5:30 in the morning, it really didn’t smell good. A westerly was already blowing. There were a lot of little reefs close to the shore on this stretch of coastline so hugging the shore meant that I was at risk of being hit by I wave. Feeling sluggish and really not wanting to battle with a strong side wind, I took my chances and stayed close to shore. I got my phone out and put on a Spanish for beginners Podcast. Just as I put my phone back in it’s water proof case I looked up to see a wave about to take me out. It hit me side on and knocked me off. I scrambled back on fuming. Great, just what I needed when I was already feeling shitty. Luckily I had got my phone back in its case before the wave hit. The Spanish podcast was quickly substituted with some heavy metal. It then started to rain. The music got turned up. I wasn’t in the mood to stop so skipped lunch and pulled in 35km later.
It was still raining. Living out of a van in the rain isn’t very fun. I got to the beach and the wind was actually pretty good. It was from the south east so would push me along nicely. It was forecast to be easterly so I wanted to try and make the most of it and told Dad that I was going to skip the first check point and aim straight for the next headland. I was about half way when the wind swung from the south to the east. It was really blowing and I could no longer point for the headland. I was quite far off shore but could make out what looked like the first check point. I pulled in there and tried to radio Dad. No luck. Wet and starting to get cold I knew I had to get dry and out of the wind. I spotted an old dingy down the beach, perfect. I carried the board up to the the road and made an arrow with my paddle and flippers pointing towards the dingy. The grass under the dingy was nice and dry and there wasn’t any wind under it. I got changed into my dry cloths, put my blue bag outside, propped up one side of the dingy slightly so I could see the road, slipped under it and put the emergency blanket on. Snug as a bug in a rug. After a few hours Dad showed up, saw the board and the arrow and found me tucked up, fast asleep under the dingy. I didn’t mind being woken up.