The Final Day

What an amazing experience and finish! The previous day’s scenery was the best of my whole trip, one lovely remote sandy beach besides the next, between rocks shaped in an endless row of caves and arches. I was able to paddle through three of the biggest arches on New Years day, which I suppose brings luck to me! The swell was low that day, and I could have landed anywhere without much trouble in the surf!

I knew especially this last stretch of coastline could be very difficult and would have proved to be the last challenge of the trip with no sheltered landing since Little Wanganui River (Karamea), but I felt lucky to paddle on a sunny day with quiet waters to fully enjoy this last leg of the trip. Just some moderate headwinds to deal with on the start – nothing to complain much about!

Fighting tiredness was the downside of a long push. In Iceland, Greg Stamer and I had paddled through one night for 22 hours. I was interested to see how my body could cope with a longer session without landing in New Zealand.

From dusk, I paddled without my headlight switched on until about 1am, navigating for 1.5 hours along the breaking surf off Farewell Spit by sound only. Mostly between 1am and 5am, I regularly had to collapse on to the front deck, taking 30 second powernaps.

Or I stretched out on the rear deck, using my helmet stuck under a net on the deck as a pillow and closed my eyes for some seconds. For some minutes, I just paddled like that, lying on the rear deck and having my favourite star combination in the sky for navigating, perfectly in view! And it was good to occasionally lift my backside off the seat sometimes, as it started to feel quite sore after so many hours paddling. I would always then take care to slowly raise my body back into the paddling position, to avoid damage to my spine.

Occasionally I drew too close to the surf zone, got caught by breakers, and I had to brace into them. Most breakers washed my PFD off the front deck but it remained clipped with a carabiner to my spray skirt loop. The waves were sensual to move with, up, down and sideways. Nothing seriously breaking or being violent that night! Warm waters anyway, a flat beach with no obstacles threatening. Just in case I would have been washed up and stranded on the beach, I would not have cared!

What helped me paddling through the night was I really enjoy paddling with closed eyes for long distances, being able to dance blind with the waves, and if necessary navigate by sound despite any wave conditions! One hour after I passed the Farewell Spit lighthouse, I could no longer hear the sound of waves breaking on the sand, and heard only silence. I knew I had reached the end of that very long spit. Now the open waters of Tasman Bay lay ahead and the start of a long 85km crossing.

It was the best decision I could have made, just to keep going through the night! It was such a lovely tranquil night after an already calm day without much swell – millpond seas, a clear sky with attractive new southern star pictures for me to look at and to navigate with, and some fascinating bioluminescence effects in the water!

This natural phenomena of bioluminescence while paddling through the night was like a one day delayed personal New Year’s eve fireworks, endless entertainment almost all night.

On each paddle stroke, tiny waves created by the kayak bow stirred lines of glowing sparkles. Droplets splashed over my kayak, sticking to my paddle and gear, and glowing for some seconds until the next splash of glowing water.

And then the dolphins – three times for about 10 minutes, four to six dolphins played with my boat, leaving glowing traces of water behind them! I could always follow exactly where they were, by their glowing white trails in the sea beneath the sparkling starlight.

Once I felt I had to fight tiredness more than being distracted and kept alert by the bioluminescent entertainment, I switched my headlight on, trying to keep my body and mind awake- more or less successfully.

The rising sun at 5am gave my body some relief as it marked my usual waking up time. I was able to paddle temporarily a bit more strongly after a few breakfast cereal bars.

I was successfully fighting my usually early morning need for a ‘big’ toilet walk. In case I had to go, I had planned to jump into the warmish water and strip off my pants. Peeing was no problem anyway with my funnel and hose female urinating device.

I began noticing sore rub spots on my backside after sitting in the cockpit seat for so long. I was wearing a warm combination of fuzzy rubber pants over fleece pants, which gave me a kind of a slight nappy rash.

While approaching my final destination, I entertained myself with cell phone calls to family and friends, and was very happy to be in range and touch again.

I had called Paul at 9pm the previous night to let him know my estimated arrival time and to inform him about my planned night paddling. It took him a while, and about three times, asking, “So, where are you staying tonight?” to realize I would keep paddling after reaching the tip of Farewell Spit.

I would arrive in a decent time, by doing a night crossing, rather than sleeping for some hours and ending the crossing at 11pm or even midnight. Paul was happy to organize a ‘welcome party’ with plenty of friends paddling with me for the last kilometre. Thanks to all of you coming out to greet me!

Fiona and Martin Fraser prepared a Pavlova, with sliced kiwifruit, chocolate flakes and lashings of whipped cream on top. Luckily it was decided not to throw it in my face, but rather to allow me to eat it and share it around- the champagne sprayed by Paul was messy enough already! Thanks for the hot shower at David Oldham’s house; he also provided the launch for the press and TV reporters, too!

The TV3 crew flew in by helicopter at 2pm, but couldn’t spot me on the water. They landed and joined the motorboat crew to film me on my last kilometre, together with the press reporters. JKA from the Christchurch Press was not kayaking but was in the boat with cameras. So good to have a paddling photo reporter amongst the kayaking friends!

But a big thanks to Paul Caffyn organizing the welcome party! He was my great public relations manager and local trip organizer throughout the whole trip, driving me around, supporting me with local knowledge and hosting me for quite a while!
I ended up (so far) with 8 different newspaper articles during the trip, some published in various papers all over New Zealand. Two times the trip got reported on the TV3 news, and a radio interview followed today. Without his contacts I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

A big thanks to Karel Vissel, who supported me with reliable, regular weather text messages on my Sat-phone and provided some blog updates.

A big thanks to Greg Stamer, who updated my blog regularly.

A big thanks to all my sponsors who supported me with generously with great gear for that trip and beyond! I’ll write a gear list soon.

A big thanks to my partner Werner organizing things at home and with my shops, and to be patient waiting for me at home, together with our loved son Helge.

A big thanks to my shop managers Ilona Sierks and Andrea Hoehn who kept my shops running smoothly with the great support of all my about 30 loyal lovely girls working for me!

A big thanks again to all people I’ve met on my trip, who supported me mentally and practically with offering their homes and hospitality to me, encouraging me with supportive e-mails and comments!

And a big thanks to all people following this blog and supporting me with lovely comments! I still owe you a trip report of the days from Riverton on the south coast to the finish! So much writing in one rush can’t be done that fast, sorry. Actually I always felt pretty impolite when I got into people’s houses, being hosted for a night or two, and I ‘urgently’ had to jump on the computer, to update this blog rather than talking to my hosts – sorry about that!