This story is Terry Bolland’s write up in his own Canoeing Down Under newsletter from 08.10.2009. If you are interested to get this newsletter, please send Alaine an e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be happy to add you to the e-mail list!
Thanks again to Terry assisting me with his support on several stages on my trip! I can hear a bit of sadness on this “Good Bye”, but it won’t be forever, Terry! See you latest again in Melbourne! You are a great friend.
It’s Good Bye to Freya
Over the last three months I have done more driving (about 8,000 kms) than paddling and seen quite a lot of the state, to Broome, to Kalbarri and to Augusta and Windy Harbour. It has been an interesting time as I have followed and helped Freya achieve her ultimate goal. As Freya heads towards Esperance and the Great Australian Bight, Greg, her partner has arrived to be her support crew, so it seems that there will be no more outings for me. See my last story below.
Freya about about to leave the sand dunes between Warren and Meerup River
Now Heading East
Freya had another difficult 100 kilometre paddle to do from Augusta to Windy Harbour, so just to make sure she got there safely I headed south to Augusta to meet up with her. This has been West Australia’s worst winter for many years and storms had been delaying her since leaving Kalbarri. Near Cape Leeuwin Freya had to wait four days before the ocean was calm enough to allow her to paddle around the Cape and then on to Windy harbour. From Augusta to Windy Harbour is roughly 100 kilometres and the whole coast line has a pretty high surf break but the worst thing is that there are usually five or six lines of big surf, so landing can be dangerous. With this in mind she planned to paddle the 100 kilometres in one go.
Freya was lucky enough to meet Lorna at Hamelin Bay, so she had a beautiful home to relax at for her four days. I met Freya there late Friday afternoon. The plan was for Freya to take off from the Augusta boat ramp at 1.30am in the hope that she would reach Windy Harbour just before dark, fifteen to sixteen hours later. At 8.30pm we decided to sleep and be ready to for an early start.
As we left the house and were driving down the main highway towards Augusta at 1.10am the moon was just setting. It was a beautiful sight but it did mean that Freya wouldn’t have any moon to help her see. Reaching the deserted town of Augusta, the only life to be seen were dozens of rabbits that seemingly had taken over the town.
When we left the house there was no wind, but to our surprise down at the boat ramp there was a stiff, cool breeze blowing. Freya packed her electronics and fruit for the journey in her cockpit and on her deck. Apart from our torch lights it was pitch black and the stars were absolutely stunning. I took photos whilst Freya prepared to take off. Fifty metres or so from the ramp there were waves breaking over the reef, Freya cleared them and apart from seeing the reflective tape on her Kokatat jacket in our torchlight for a few more moments, she was soon gone, engulfed by the black of a moonless night.
Lorna and I waited for a few moments just to make sure she didn’t come back for something, but she didn’t. We could see nothing through the darkness only the white of the breaking wave, so we left to go back to the house for a little more sleep.
At 7.00am Freya rang me to say that she was okay, but the SE winds were slowing her down and hadn’t done as many kilometres as she would have liked. I could hear a little bit of disappointment in her voice.
I had breakfast with Lorna in her beautiful country garden and when I left, I returned to Augusta to check out the ocean conditions and to get some fresh bread. The conditions looked quite good but nevertheless the wind wasn’t in Freya’s favour. In town I saw a group of people erecting bunting along the roadside. It wasn’t your usual bunting, it was a huge chain of women’s bras. Apparently it was Breast Cancer Awareness Day and the goal was to stake out the bras from the town centre to the lighthouse which was about 7 kilometres.
The drive to Windy Harbour was quite beautiful, the wild flowers were out, the heath lands were stunning and the karri trees stood tall and proud . I stopped at the sleepy but picturesque, green and hilly town of Pemberton to shop and wait for a midday call from Freya. It was sunny as I sat on a bench in a park next to the war memorial waiting for the call on one of the warmest days we have had for some time. Freya was still being slowed by the wind, but she was hoping to make better time in the afternoon as she expected the wind to ease.
I arrived at Windy Harbour in full sunshine, something they hadn’t seen down here for a long time. The water was calm at the boat ramp with an easy approach. I walked around the coast and it was absolutely beautiful. I could see why there were so many holiday shacks here. I drove up the hill and visited the Tookalup Lookout which was particularly striking with impressive cliffs and then motored to the highest point, Point D’Entrecasteaux.
Once I reached the highest point I received a message from Freya on my mobile. She indicated that she might decide to land near Meerup River. I sat and waited on a bench overlooking the ocean to where Freya was coming. Hours passed, several tourists came by and then I called Freya on the VHF radio and she answered. She said, she was going in at Meerup River for a rest. I was hoping that she wouldn’t decide to stop there as she didn’t have her tent or any gear. The sun was setting when she called me back to tell me she had landed safely and she was too tired and sore to go on. Freya was 35 kilometres away in a straight line but to get to her I had to drive about 60 kilometres with about 18 kilometres on a narrow track and several kilometres on a 4WD track before hitting the big sand dunes and a mass of tracks and all this in the dark.
When I left Perth I wasn’t planning to do any 4WD on this trip, but fortunately I had brought all my gear needed to go off-road just in case. As Freya sat in her kayak as rugged up as she could be, I drove to Northcliffe and then took the back roads towards Warren Beach. In the dark I met a young cow running towards me down a track and then a kangaroo crossed my path. I was just hoping I wasn’t going to hit any thing or get lost.
The track narrowed the closer I got to the beach. Eventually I arrived at an information board and a sign telling me to lower my tyre pressure to 10psi. Freya called me on my satellite phone asking me how far I was away, she was getting colder. The track was now 4WD and within a few kilometres I arrived at the sand dunes. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything but I knew I had to follow the dune in a down hill direction. I followed my nose and the maze of tracks down the first big wide sand dune. I expected to come out near the ocean, but the track started to go parallel to another dune and I had no idea where the track was heading. The darkness really made distances and directions difficult to follow, but I just kept going hoping the track would lead me to the beach. I came to a high steep sand dune. It looked difficult, so I increased my speed and had a good run up but the vehicle struggled and stopped. It was just too soft and too steep. I reversed down the hill, took a good run up, revved the engine high and went for it again, but failed. Unlike most 4WDs that do sand driving, I only had the narrow tyres and even with them let down to 10psi they didn’t give as much traction as I needed.
After two more failed attempts I thought I better turn around and try to find a different route. I followed another track leading west but it took me to a group of campers. I asked them if there was another way, but they said not and told me I had to take the steepest sand dune to have any chance of getting across it. Just put it in first high gear and go for it, they said!
I left them to carry on drinking and went for another try. I put it in first high and took off trying to get good momentum but although I got a little closer to the top, it still stopped. The young campers then drove up. They were reeking of beer. Can we help? Jack drives the same vehicle as yours so let him have a go? I knew he would be a lot more experienced than me, as they are used to yahooing in the sand dunes but with his breath smelling alcohol, could I trust him! I thought of my vehicle lying on it’s side crashed and also of Freya who was out there cold. I had to trust him and get over the hill.
Jack (that wasn’t his real name but I didn’t know what it was) jumped in my vehicle, reversed way back and revved up and took off. The vehicle snaked around following the sandy wheel ruts at high speed, like a wild ride at Disneyland, but as it neared the top, the vehicle stopped. He then reversed back down the dune for another high speed run and again he went like a rocket but it still stopped short of the top. I felt a little better about myself now, I was no more useless than he was.
First high gear wasn’t working so he changed down to 3rd or 4th low. With another big run up we gained high speed, the engine was revving extremely high and we were snaking around and ready to take off or go off the track. I was pleased to have my seat belt on as I had never experienced such a wild ride, but the momentum was good and he managed to get it over the top without it stopping. We made it and I was certainly relieved. I could now have my car back.
The beach was right there but the guys said it was too soft to drive on and the harder beach below the soft spot was being washed up by the waves. They said if I had difficulty in the morning getting back over the dune, I knew where they were camped. I was appreciative of their help but because they were full of beer I was happy to see them leave. They were probably really nice guys, they certainly helped me out, but unfortunately young guys full of beer make me feel a little uneasy.
There was a light along the beach, I called Freya on the VHF radio and it was her walking towards us. She got too cold sitting in her boat, so she decided to walk towards a light which was given out by a fisherman who was fishing off the beach. The paddle had tired Freya and her wrists were a little sore, so instead of making them worse, she decided to stop. The tents were erected and Freya was soon warm and comfortable. In Pemberton I had bought a cooked chicken, olives, cheeses, tomatoes, avocado, bread, strawberries and yogurt for a good evening feed but Freya was happy with her own dried food and just wanted to get in her tent and rest.
The surf noise was constant throughout the night. We had breakfast and walked back along the beach for three kilometres to Freya’s boat. The surf was raging but where Freya was putting in, there was a section where the surf was lower. I took photos as Freya fought through the first waves. She waited beyond them and let bigger waves go by as they were increasing in height. A current was pushing her west along the beach and away from the best and lowest area of waves, but when the waves calmed a little she crashed through three lines of surf and out beyond the rough stuff. She waved and paddled out to sea.
I trotted along the beach towards my vehicle wasting no time as I had to get back over the sand dunes and back to Windy Harbour before Freya would get there. I puffed and huffed showing my age and lack of physical fitness. God I must do more exercise if I’m going to reach 95. Three fishermen were fishing near my car when I returned. I was away in minutes driving towards the big sand hill. I got a long run up and sped off up the hill on the right track. The vehicle came to a halt before the top so I reversed down and tackled the left track at higher speed and managed to get over it. I felt quite proud, but I still had a longer sand hill to conquer before getting on a firmer track.
I started the climb along the narrow track and out onto the wide sandy expanse when two other vehicles came down the sand dune out of no where and rocketed in front of me and sped up another sand hill and out of sight. I continued my climb keeping the revs up and minutes later I was free and on my way to a better track.
Some kilometres later I stopped in the sun at the entry information booth and started inflating my tyres with a compressor. Ten minutes later three other four wheel drives pulled up. It just happened to be three people I knew who come on our Moonlight social paddles.
I was soon back at Windy Harbour where I checked the bay where Freya would come in. Although the ocean was a bit ruffled it was calm near the boat ramp. Back up on top of Point D’Entrecasteaux I waited on my bench overlooking the ocean to the west. It was a magnificent view and I soon had several tourists looking out for Freya as well. Eventually one of the tourists spotted her in his binoculars. The people without binoculars had no chance. She was lost for several minutes at a time as she hid amongst the swells and the swell didn’t even look that high. She would come into our view and then lost from our view for a long time. Even when she was below us we still couldn’t see her all the time. Her white boat and her all black clothing did nothing to make her visible. You can see why emergency services have a hard job spotting someone lost at sea.
The tourists were excited to see her but they eventually moved off leaving me to keep an eye out for her. I moved positions and completely lost her, although I was high on a cliff and she was only a few hundred metres away. I strained my eyes and couldn’t believe she could go missing and then minutes later I saw a flash of white and she had some how gone well beyond where I was looking. I took a few photos and then jumped into the vehicle and made my way to the boat ramp.
There were a few tourists on the beach and when I told them there was a lady paddling around the corner they could hardly believe it. Freya stayed well out and avoided a few reefs that were occasionally breaking. She hit the beach applauded by a few well wishers. Although it was a shorter day, Freya looked a bit tired and was eager to rest and have a shower. We carried her kayak over to the camping ground, and after I had erected her tent, she had showered I left her to rest up and I began my 4.5 hour trip home. With her partner Greg due to meet her in three days time it would be the last time that Freya would need any help from me.