It's been a pretty huge week but I have finally managed to have a day on land while some strong NE winds blow through. I have made it down to the Taieri Mouth, south of Otago Peninsula. Here's and update on my latest adventures,
After a few weeks off from paddling I finally headed back to Akaroa last Friday, ready for a big push south. I approached this next leg of my journey with caution, as this part of the coast deserves a lot of respect with its reputation for lack of landings, dumping surf and steep gravel beaches. Paul Caffyn had said to me that this part of the coast is home to some of the most violent bumper dumpers he's ever come across. 'Boat and body breaking violent dumpers' were his words. Going solo, without a land crew to help me launch and land along this part of the coast was not going to be easy. However, I was confident in my ability to land through the dumpers, and my main concern was more the possibility of not being able to launch again off the steep beaches. It was looking like I'd have the weather window I needed to get down to Timaru, so I went for it.
I set off on a grey rainy day, paddling about 50km from Akaroa before landing somewhere along from Birdling's Flat on the sand spit that separates Lake Ellesmere from the sea. As it turned out my first landing went as perfect as could be and I got off the water just before dark and in the rain set up my tent in the dunes. This had got to be one of the most bleak places I have ever camped in NZ, with nothing but gravel, sand and ocean as far as you can see.
The next morning I set off early and had a brutal day paddling into a strong current flowing up the coast, as well as a head wind. I was crawling, paddling about 2km an hour. Approaching the channel of the Rakaia River I timed it between the sets and paddled into the mouth. The only problem being that as soon as I got into the channel, the current was too strong to make headway. Luckily I managed to tred-mill until the next set came through and I surfed a small wave in. The forecast for the following way was for a 35K SW front to come through late morning so I decided to stay put for the day. I had an entertaining afternoon as I sat inside my tent holding the poles as huge gusts and pounding rain tried to rip the tent to pieces. Fun times.
From the Rakaia I paddled about 50km down the coast and managed to pull off a dicey landing late in the day, right on high tide- not ideal for steep gravel beaches! I made a break through the dumpers and aimed for a tiny stream that cut at a 40 degree angle to the beach.. with a 2m high vertical gravel bank on one side. Luckily it worked, and I didn't get slammed into the bank.. it was sketchy but I didn't have any other options. I pitched my tent inside a mai mai and went to sleep contemplating how I was going to get off the beach! I survived the break out early the next day without any drama, and put in another big days paddle all the way to Timaru. Sim's sister came and found me and I stayed at her place for the night, thanks Naomi :) I ate a footlong subway and two large pizzas in the space of an hour, it was awesome.
From Timaru I paddled about 50km south with a SW headwind for most of the day. About 2 hours before dark I started looking for somewhere decent to land- there was nowhere, only nearly vertical gravel beaches with huge dumpers.. again high tide making them even worse. I sprinted for the next few hours hoping to make it to the Waiho River where I was sure I could paddle into. Right on dark I arrived only to discover the mouth wasn't open so my only option was to attempt a landing. It went surprisingly sweet as, and I managed to ride up on the back of a big dumper and dig my paddle into the gravel before getting sucked back out again. I called Sim's parents Paul and Gael, and they took me back to Waimate for the night for a feed and hot shower.
As tempted as I was to spend a rest day there the forecast was good.. so I had to keep moving. Paul helped me launch early the next morning and with a NE wind behind me I put in a huge 80km day all the way to Moeraki that day. I was nearly dead by this stage but again the forecast was good!! So I pushed on, putting in another 65?km to the entrance of Otago Harbour. I caught up with some friends Mike and Rosie who had my food stash, and declined their offer to head into town for a bed. Unfortunately the forecast was again good, so I had to keep moving!! So another early start and another huge day saw me arriving at the Taieri Mouth after another 65?km paddle. Thankfully the forecast for today and tomorrow is not good!! I'm staying with Eddy and his legendary parents which is awesome.
Not sure when I will make a move from here, but if anyone wants to come for a paddle, get in touch! for some reason I haven't had any takers so far.. not sure why!? Will get a post up when I decide to leave, its looking okay in a few days time.