The calm before the storm
Hello from windy Makara beach at the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand! We arrived here yesterday after 2 days and 215km of biking from Whanganui town. The biking was fairly easy as we had a tail wind most of the way! It rained like hell on the 1st day cycling, to a point where I got very cold. This coupled with the trucks thundering past – 1m away from our handlebars down State Highway 1, made it a unique experience. I had my first puncture after only 20km cycling and had a freezing wet and cold pit stop to change the inner tube on the side of the road.
Levin was a pleasant one night stop-off in the tent. The most exciting thing that happened was that I ate the hottest Indian Bryani dish I have ever tasted. I spent 30 minutes with ice held against my lips, then 30 minutes on the toilet before I could think straight. The waiter and chef were laughing at me, however I think I got the last laugh. As I left the restaurant he asked “was everything ok with your food?” to which I replied with a very straight face “no there was one problem…… it was not hot enough”.
The next day’s cycle from Levin to Makara near Wellington was also with a tail wind, and we blew along very quickly until we reached Porirua. The traffic was getting extremely heavy by this stage but still there was a decent road shoulder to ride on. We pulled off SH1 at Porirua and headed on smaller roads through the small town of Tawa and then up, up and over a HUGE hill followed by a nice roll down the other side to Makara. We stayed at the Makara B&B, which is run by host’s Christine and Pat. They cooked us a delicious BBQ dinner of fresh Paua, Steak and chicken, washed down with crisp NZ wine. A wonderful evening. If you ever pass through Wellington and want to stay in a beautiful, quiet and peaceful setting, only 20 minutes from the city with lovely hospitality stay here!
The next stage of our trip is one of the hardest and most dangerous. Sea kayaking across the Cook Strait. The Cook Strait is a notoriously rough, windy and fickle stretch of water with huge tidal streams (i.e currents). It is a serious stretch of water for motor vessels, let alone tiny kayaks. We always knew we needed a weather window of low wind speeds, a clear day and low swells to even contemplate this crossing. The weather changes so fast in the strait that even the weather forecasts are fickle and often proved wrong.
We are working with Tim Taylor from NZ Kayaking for this section. Tim has driven down from Tauranga and supplied the kayaks and will paddle across with us. He is very experienced and we feel in very capable hands with his support.
The weather window we are waiting for seems to be tomorrow (Tuesday) morning – around 4AM – 12PM. We need 6 – 8 hours to get across safely. The wind speeds pick up tomorrow lunch time. So we MUST be over and in the safety of the sounds before lunchtime. The other issue is what route do we take into the sounds? Plan A was to head north of Arapawa Island and head into Ship Cove for the night. Plan B is to head into Tory channel, where the ferries go, which has some horrific currents for kayaks to negotiate (7 – 8 knots). However with an incoming tide and the northerly winds pushing us in that direction it could be an option. You can follow our real-time SPOT GPS tracker to see our route: http://axeoneverest.followmyspot.com/peak-to-peak-2013
We will be carrying EPIRB emergency beacons, Marine VHF radio’s, Satellite Phone’s and the SPOT messenger tracking our progress every ten minutes. We will not have a support boat with us. So the plan is to punch hard as possible across the strait, starting at 4:30AM and try and get into the sounds before lunch. Wish us luck!
Today we also did a small presentation to the local Makara primary school, got interviewed and photographed by the DOMINION newspaper (thanks Paul!), tested the double kayak out, and will hand our bikes over this evening to my cousin Liz and her partner. They have very kindly offered to pop them on the BLUEBRIDGE ferry tomorrow to send them to Picton – thank you Bluebridge for your support! And thank you Liz and partner for your awesome support also!
That’s all for now – the next time we report in, we will either have crossed the Cook Strait…..or not!