Hey everyone, I thought you might all enjoy another update on my travels as I’ve headed down the country in my colourful piece of plastic.
Just before I get into the details, please excuse me as I sent my diary off to home yesterday (part of my plans for the book). Consequently I don’t have all the dates, names, and exact places in front of me so if I get a few things wrong you will have to let them slide.
I headed out from the Ashburton River on Friday the 14th. I had spent a relaxing couple of days with the Gundry’s (thanks heaps Harley, Alison, and maybe Laura a wee bit haha) while a little southerly blew through, so I was anxious to get back on the water and chewing out some miles again. The first obstacle that I had to face was the shore dump. For those of you who aren’t familiar with one of these, imagine a single line of surf that break directly onto the shore. These aren’t just a soft little breaking wave either. They are a solid wall of water that rears up, then smashes down onto a typically steep beach. To get in and out safely through these, I have to carefully time the ‘sets’ and make a run for it between the breaks; if I screw it up I will be pulverised onto shore and then typically dragged back out into it for another round as they have strong undertows…not nice. On this day I made it narrowly through and made good time down to the Waitaki River where I camped up for the night. A massive thanks to the family from the Waitaki River Campground for giving me a how shower and dinner (sorry I’m really bad with names and I just can’t remember yours).
Saturday the 15th I got down to Timaru. This section down what is called the Canterbury Bight, is extremely barren, hence my lack of detail about the paddling. If you can imagine an endless line of cliffs (only around 20m high) that drop vertically down onto a short shingle beach, then that’s pretty much what I saw all the way from Birdlings flat to Timaru. It was more of a mental game that’s for sure as I often struggled to stay concentrated on my paddling while my mind wandered off. On paddling into Timaru, I was blown away by the golden sandy Caroline Bay…it really was beautiful and would be comparable to any sandy North Island beach. Unfortunately there was a lack of places to camp here, so I tucked myself into a small beach just a bit further down the coast.
Sunday the 16th I was aiming for Karitane but another southerly stopped me in my tracks just out from Oamaru. One minute I was gliding along in oily calm seas, but without warning, a light switch was flicked and in an instant I was battling a 20 knot headwind and rapidly growing waves. Recognising the trouble that was sure to come, I ran quickly to shore. Within a few minutes I had been offered 2 separate rides to get me ‘where-ever’ but none we keen to go as far as Tauranga haha. I was amazed at the generosity that people just open offered me so good on you Oamaru (this view hasn’t been changed even after what was to happen overnight). After a lunch break it felt like the wind had eased, so I jumped back on. I got maybe another 10 kilometres further south, when it stepped up another notch to become really dangerous so I decided to call it quits for the day. While I battled my way in a really special thing happened, something that I will never forget. I was struggling to make shore because of the wind when suddenly 3 Hectors dolphins appeared. These little guys are always fun but they never normally stay very long. However today they stayed with me right to shore, almost a full hour of paddling. It really felt like they were watching out for me and guiding me in safely because they would often be only an arms distance away, and they stayed until it got to within only a metre or so deep. This was super spiritual sort of stuff and while it might sound corny, I openly thanked Tangaroa (god of the sea) for sending his mates, the dolphins, to look after me.
Monday the 17th I woke up to find I had been robbed overnight. I was packing the last of my stuff when I noticed my SPOT wasn’t in its usual place. Then I found my wet paddling clothes were gone, and finally I saw that my helmet with the GoPro camera was missing. Time to call the police. I was worried that someone could activate a false search if they set off the EPIRB function on the SPOT, and having witnessed searches, I know they can waste a lot of time and money…something I was keen to avoid. The attending officer was really nice and seemed generally apologetic that such a thing happened in ‘his town’. After getting things sorted I jumped on the water, all be it a bit late. The weather got really rough today, but luckily it was going in my direction and I made really quick time down to Karitane. All the way down the coast was a beautiful mix of golden beaches and rocky cliffs. It reminded me of the Coromandle back up in the North Island. Unfortunately it was so rough that I couldn’t enjoy much of it as I had to really concentrate on my paddling. Once in Karitane I was met by Bill who has been a keen supporter of my trip, and a TV 1 camera man…apparently news of my robbery had already spread (thanks Grant for putting out the press release).
After a relaxing night in Palmerston with Bill and his family (another massive thanks to you for looking after me), I was back on the water at 7 on Tuesday morning. Today the fog was right down to sea level and visibility was almost zero. I had to get to St. Clair in Dunedin asap as another southerly front was due to blow through in the evening. The trouble was that with no visibility I had to literally “kayak by brail” i.e. when I hit something, I knew to turn. I would be following the shore line when all of a sudden a big wall of whitewater would explode in front of me as a swell hit a rock. This was seriously dangerous as I couldn’t plan anything and I expected to get smashed by a rouge wave at any time. Even getting across the Otago Harbour entrance was nerve wracking as I expected a containership to loom up at moment. After lunch I continued around the coast but by now I had lost my nerve…it was just to dangerous and unpredictable. I turned back, ran for cover, and ended the day having a big bowl of nachos in at Port Chalmers.
I would like to say a big thanks to all of the people that I have met along the way, and who have helped me in some way…even just someone to talk to is often a great boost to my moral so it really means a lot to meet you all. Secondly I would like to thank my sponsors for helping me sort out my stolen gear. In particular Gary Batey from SPOT who has now supplied me with my third SPOT unit…I think we all know how important this technology is to my expedition. Also the team at Waimarino, and Gareth from Hydraulics who have supplied me with the extra items. Then the has been the overwhelming support from everyone who has heard about the stolen items. I have been extremely humbled by the generosity of individuals, businesses and clubs who have come out to support me. In particular the Canoe and Kayak club from Dunedin who made a very generous donation of gear and cash…thanks heaps Josh for your help and also to R & R Sport in Dunedin for the gears. Finally just a quick word to the people of Oamaru. I want to stress that in no way did that incident have any reflection on my impression of your town. Theft is a petty crime and can happen anywhere so it was just unfortunate to have happened here. I will always remember the image of those dolphins riding in with me into One Day Bay and the generous offers of transport from complete strangers. And while I'm at it I just want to do an old fassioned shout-out to my boys who are all around NZ and the world, your messages and calls really help me when times are a bit low. Thanks heaps to Nick for getting off his slack ass and giving me a call for once...it meant heaps bud and no doubt will keep me going for awhile.
Well that’s about it from me everyone. Ahead of me I have about 9 days of hard paddling to get down past the Catlins, around Stewart Island, and into Invercargill. From now on the coastline is stepping up a degree in seriousness so I have a real mix of fear and excitement. Like the lyrics of a Flight of the Concords song “its business, its business time”.
Paddle Hard Everyone. Tim.