Sunday, 22 July 2012

Some 'time apart', adding spice to the lives of Fi & Brian & our survival of the West Coast

Hi Everyone!  More than two weeks have passed since leaving Westport and our last post.  It has taken us a while longer to conquer the remainder of the West Coast than we had expected, due to a little 'epic' down at the Heaphy River. At the moment we are staying at a crib in Stephens Bay near Kaiteriteri- thanks heaps Max Grant and co! a hot shower and bed with sheets is luxury!

On the 5th of July we camped in the red light district of Westport- just inside the breakwaters of the Buller River mouth under a huge red navigationl light.  It was awesome to catch up with Averil, an old friend of mine from school, and her two sweet kids.  The next morning we left in the dark, ready for a big push north while the weather was good.  Easterlies made progress slow as we were being constantly blown offshore.  We landed just past the Mokihinui River mouth that afternoon and Sim took his 3rd roll since leaving Milford.  Two days later we arrived at the Heaphy River and both managed a clean run in through moderate surf.  Sleeping in the hut was mean and we were feeling confident that we would make it up and around Farewell Spit and the end of the West Coast in the weather window we had.  Little did we know that this was not to be and that the West Coast was about to hand us our most 'exciting' epic yet.. Here goes..


On the morning of the 9th of July we paddled out the Heaphy River mouth and into the surf.  I went first and somehow managed a clean run out through huge breakers that went our for several hundred metres.  I got out the back and waited for Sim.   I waited and waited for Sim, but he was nowhere to be seen.  A stiff Easterly was blowing out the river mouth and it was freezing.  My view of the beach was pretty minimal as all I could see was the backs of huge waves.  After about half an hour and still no sign of Sim I figured he had probably gotten smashed and maybe taken a swim and was taking a while to sort himself out.  There was no way I wanted to run the surf back in again.

The sun slowly arrived, shining straight in my face making it even harder to watch the surf for Sim.  After an hour I put my helmet back on slowly edged closer into the surf zone.  Paddling frantically for a few minutes and being slammed a few times I arrived on the beach unscathed.  No sign of Sim.  No footprints.  No boat drag marks in the sand.  I went back to the hut and left a quick note "Sim I'm paddling north to Whanganui Inlet. Tara."  He must have missed me in the surf between the swells.  Maybe I was too far out the back.  He wasn't anywhere so he must have gone North without me.  He must have thought I'd gotten tired of waiting.

My last run out through the surf was sketchy.  I got most of the way out the back before a huge wave about to break slammed into me, pinning me on the back deck of my boat.  I made it though only to be slammed by the next one, again my helmet hitting the back of my boat.  I thought it was game over but the sea gods were kind to me.  I boosted north, paddling about 35km and landed that night alone near the Anaweka River.  Max and Melz told me about this hut they found on their South Island circumnavigation.  Some farmers told me where it was and I stayed there the night with a cranking fire going.  I had the tent and Sim had our big fly and a bivvy bag.  Sucks to be him! I figured we would meet in Whanganui Inlet.  The next morning I paddled away early and after arriving in the Inlet early afternoon I made my way to a farmhouse and called Fi.  Fi and Brian are brilliant at time like this and they really are awesome at what they do.  I didn't want anyone to over-react as it was most probably a case of 'misplacing' Sim.  He would turn up.  I didn't loose him on purpose! honest! Some valuable lessons were learnt. 

I paddled off and found a sweet hut where I spent my second night alone.  The next day I paddled back to use the phone.  Fi and Brian had managed to find out that a fishing boat had seen Sim and 3.30pm the day before about 10km south of the Inlet.  I waited all day but still no sign of Sim.  On the 4th morning since loosing Sim he made a call to Fi to say that he was paddling into Collingwood from the end of Farewell Spit.

Turns out Sim never left the Heaphy without me.  It also turns out that it was actually me that had abandoned him!! my bad!!  He had been only one wave behind me when we left the river mouth.  He'd gotten smashed, rolled, smashed, rolled, smashed, and ended up about 200m north of the river mouth around the point and pushed into rocks.  He managed to get onto a tiny beach surrounded by cliffs.  He had seen me go in through the surf and back out again.  He tried over and over to get out through the surf and off his beach, but every time he kept getting smashed.  His roll count went from 3 to about 10.  On his 5th attempt he got smashed and ended up swimming.  After two more attempts that afternoon he slept under a flax bush for the night.  The next morning on his second attempt he finally made it out and left the Heaphy behind.

Sims Heaphy Beach

That day he paddled to about 5km south of the Inlet- I had the maps so he had no idea how close he was.  Lucky we had worked out that all we we had to do was keep the land on our right and we should be sweet.  He was convinced I'd be making the most of the good weather and be boosting North.  So the next day he paddled all the way to the end of Farewell Spit, arriving in the dark, expecting me to be there.  But I wasn't haha.  At 4am near high tide and in darkness he set off again on the water and rounded the end of the spit and paddled into Collingwood, with the aid of Ben and his Ipad navigation.  He was joined by a pod of Orcas!! jealous!  The next day- day 5 of our 'separation', Sim got a lift back to the inlet and found me in my hut.  Thanks heaps Leslie and Brandon Sparrow and the girls for your help.

Calm seas on Sims first paddle around the spit
Orca in Golden Bay

We waited for a few days in bad weather before we made an attempt to head north on Sim's second trip around the spit.  But it turns out a 4m SW swell is not really ideal for getting out of the Inlet.  The surf was huge but we were eager to leave.  We pushed on probably further than we should have before I got back-surfed and rolled about 500m offshore.. not ideal!  Sim yelled at me "this is stupid!!" and we quickly turned around and frantically paddled back to the safety of the inlet.  We called Fi and Brian who had come up to see us and that afternoon we paddled over with a dinghy from my hut and picked them up with their new family member Max.  Max decided to launch himself out of the dinghy half way back, its always good to know he can now swim!  It was awesome hanging out and we ate heaps of good food and had some beers and enjoyed the sun for the next 2 days.  Love you guys!!

Tara, Fi, Max and Brian travelling in style

On the 19th we dodged huge surf and made our break from the Inlet and put in a big days paddle to the end of the spit where we camped under the lighthouse.  The next day we headed south down past Separation Point and into Abel Tasman National Park, stoked to be off the West Coast.  We camped at Totaranui and the next day we Freya'd it and paddled the whole of the Abel Tasman in an afternoon down to Stephens Bay, where we are now.

Tara landing at Farewell Spit and the end the West Coast

Farewell Spit camp

A Change from the West Coast- easy landing in the Abel Tasman

 Our plan from here is to skip Nelson and paddle across to Cable Bay on Tuesday before heading through French Pass and making our way down the East Coast.  Hopefully the weather gods are kinder to us on the East side!! Thanks heaps to everyone who's helped us get this far, its been really cool to have so many people interested in our adventures.  If you want to come for a paddle, get in touch.. we will try our best not to loose you!! haha

:) Tara & Sim


  1. That made very exciting reading and am very glad you have left the West Coast! Enjoy the rest of your journey!

  2. Wow what an epic story, really glad you guys are together again and yes definately an exciting read.
    Lets hope the rest of the trip isn't as scary as that. Considering the circumstances you both did very well. We are both very jelous, as we both wanted to see an Orca on our trip & never saw one. Awesome to see photos & hear about the places that we also went to.
    Keep up the great work & hopefully the Sea is nice to you

  3. Wow sounds like you two are having a grand ol' adventure. Glad to hear you are on speaking terms still (and speaking distance)! Hopefully the East Coast proves a little more relaxing, no mice have attacked your food yet though so all is still well for when you reach Dunedin!


  4. Hiya team, inspiring stuff! Loved the photos.

    Goodluck with the rest of your adventure, I have just missed you at the top of the south but already look forward to catching up over a beer when the opportunity next arizes.

    Enjoy the full moon on the 2nd, i hope it shines bright for you.

    Skertz ;)