Monday, 28 May 2012

Hi Everyone, Sim and I are in Haast at the moment waiting out some exciting weather. Here’s an update on our adventures so far..

On Saturday morning (the 19th of May) we said our goodbyes to KT who paddled out to Anita Bay with us and headed on our way towards Yates Point. 20 minutes later we turned around to see the Force 4 charging towards us. Rosco, Blake and Adam along with KT had come out to see us off- these guys are awesome! They looked freezing, kitted out with swandrys, ski goggles and gloves. We said our final goodbyes and they turned around and headed back in- this was it, we were finally on our way!

Our paddle north from Milford to Big Bay was relatively uneventful until we got further into Big Bay. There we sat 100m off the beach watching the back of 2m high breaking waves rolling in. We put on our helmets and Sim disappeared in, making his break for the beach. Just as he disappeared a big set came in, and he gave a couple of people on the beach a show with some wild surfing as well as a roll. With some luck I managed a dry head run, success!

The next morning we set off for Gorge River and as we approached we saw 3 people on the beach by the river mouth. There we met Chris and his parents, Catherine and Robert- a.k.a. Beansprout. Check out his book if you get a chance- ‘Life on Gorge River,’ an interesting read about their incredible life beside the wild west coast, 2 days walk from any road. 

The crew at Gorge River 

Having landed in such an amazing place with legendary company, we decided to stay the night. The Long’s cooked up a mean feed for dinner and made us feel so at home that we tossed up staying for another few days. But in the end we couldn’t waste the good weather and waved goodbye to the Longs, thanked them for their hospitality and headed north. We pushed on all the way into Jackson’s Bay that day, continuing on to Neil’s Beach. For the next 3 days we chilled out at a crib owned by Donald, a friend of Sim’s parents. We cranked the coal range, baked scones and had hot showers. Cheers Donald! 
Hitching West coast style
Nek Minute

A Neils Beach sunset

On Friday we set off from Neil’s Beach at first light, and had an ‘interesting’ sort of a day... I guess that’s what you get on the west coast! I got sea sick and had a wee chunder. Keen to land but no good landings in sight through the huge surf, we headed for Open Bay Islands which sit about 6km off the coast of Okuru. Apparently back in the day a bunch of sealers were stranded here. They finally built some sort of boat and arrived at the mainland only to find they couldn’t catch any fish. After some time they went back to the island which had once held them hostage, realising that now it was a refuge with an abundant supply of kai. Surely with a name like Open Bay and with a Hut marked on the map, it had to be a good place for us to be. But after another hour of paddling we found no ‘open bay’ in sight, and instead we found a ring of cliffs surrounding the island with no place to land. 

Neils Beach

We cruised on another 10km towards Haast Beach. The waves were only breaking close to the shore, but dumping hard, as a 3m swell met a steep gravel beach. Sim went in first and the next thing I saw was him standing on the beach throwing 2 pieces of his carbon paddle. He has this unique skill in breaking paddles, maybe it’s just because he’s so strong haha. So if anyone’s got a split paddle they want to donate to a good cause, we could definitely do with one (or 2).

His timing through the dumpers was as perfect as could be, the only problem being that by the time he got onto the beach, he was immediately sucked back out, dumped into the gravel with the front of his boat, which started to fold in half and was tossed upside down on the beach. He climbed out but the surf claimed his boat and sucked it back out again beyond reach.

For the next 10 minutes I watched Sim getting beaten, swimming out to his boat and trying to push it in, but every time it hit the beach, it was sucked out again. There was nothing I could do.. It really didn’t look like a good time!! With a huge wave and luck his boat finally washed up and he soon had it dragged up.. Guess you get that on the west coast!!

I gave him a few minutes before I paddled in. About 3m off the beach and thinking I had it dialed, I turned to see a dumper about to eat me.. My timing was as bad as it could have been. I threw all my weight into the wave sideways but before I knew what was happening I was thrown upside down on my head on the ground, I rolled up and Sim quickly grabbed the front of my boat and dragged it up the beach before I got delt to. I was very relieved I had not gone in first, Sim had taken the hit for the team big time.. guess its my turn next time! About 5 minutes later Sim pointed out my ankle was bleeding everywhere.. I hadn’t even noticed- at least I’ll have a sweet battle scar to show for our encounter with Haast Beach! What a day! 
Taras war wound

Demoralized and beaten, we stuffed our wet, sandy paddling gear into our boats, grabbed our tent and sleeping bags and started walking down the road towards the township of Haast, 5km away. After a feed of fish and chips and a hot shower and relieved we had survived the day, we fell asleep.

We cruised down to the boats the next morning just as KT randomly drove up. She had been on a sweet detective mission on the West Coast to find us, 2 days of searching in fact. After waiting at Bruce Bay and no sign of us she back tracked down to Neil’s Beach, door knocked the town and finally found Donald’s Place.. Where she then ‘conveniently’ bumped into the guys next door.. and ended up having dinner with them and discussing appropriate methods of killing mutton birds. She then left them with some eel from a tributary of the beautiful waters of lake Te Anau. As tempted as she was to spend the rest of her life with these fishermen, the next morning she set off again on the hunt, soon finding us on the side of the road.

Little did we know that our adventures of the week were not over, or that such an epic night could be had at a campground. In the middle of the night and in gale force winds and pouring rain, with our tent at the verge of tearing apart we got up and moved it. KT’s trusty A-frame miraculously survived the night, although she abandoned ship early in the game and slept in the kitchen. This morning the trampoline was in pieces, and with our tent turning into a kite we pulled it down and dragged all our wet gear into the kitchen. What a night.. gotta love the West Coast!

So now we have retreated to a backpackers in Haast, where we will wait out the storm until the wind and the seas die down before we even have any hope of getting off the beach.

ahh the west coast..

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