Archive for January, 2012

Neptune's Necklace

Not wanting to leave the epic-ness of Titirangi, we decided to take a day trip over to Alligator Head and see the open ocean and the North Island in the distance.  At least in theory, on a clear day, one could see the North Island from there.

We set out early with the equivalent of day packs, a day of food, full dromedaries, and tarps just in case we had to crash camp somewhere.  Luckily, the weather stayed on our side letting the sun warm all of us up after shivering in the morning cold.

A slight breeze blew in from the ocean, but did not make paddling harder, on the contrary, it relieved us from the hot sun.  Around the point, we ran into a current which rocked us around a bit, but we got through it and found the small beach where we planned to hang out for an hour or so.  For the first time we had to land in larger waves which we found a bit more difficult with the fiberglass doubles, but we made it fine.

On the beach, we looked across and could see the faintest outline across the water of the North Island.  We had made one goal: make it to see the ocean from the sounds. Meandering around the rocks, we hung out and soaked in the ocean while we ate some lunch.

When we headed back, we remembered the sticky current spot and prepared ourselves a bit more although many of us ended up surfing a bit.  It proved a nice, little rush.

After a break, we went back to the water since the sun warmed at least the top a bit and practiced flipping the kayaks and getting back in without help from another.  At least the air temperature seemed a bit warm.  My favorite maneuver was the “John Wayne” reentry method which included throwing a leg up and over to straddle the kayak and wiggle back into it.  This proved incredibly amusing to watch as we all played around in the water for a while.

Back at Titirangi, we enjoyed more sunshine, great weather, the sandy beach.  I went for a walk to both sides of the long beach and poked around the tide pools for a while (odd habits die hard, plus it reminds me of childhood).  On one side, I found tons of little creatures sprawled about along with some strange-looking seaweed.

I found Neptune’s Necklace the coolest seaweed of them all because it looked like endless strings of tacky costume jewelry mixed with those edible necklaces that kids wear at state fairs.  In fact, one can eat Neptune’s Necklace: it is that cool!  The beads at the ends of the strands which formed the latest taste much better than the older ones.  Once you get over the sea salt taste of it, you can eat it completely raw too.

Next, I found several blobs which appeared in the shape of a pinkish read brain.  I could not tell if it was the eggs of something or if it was it’s own being.  I located fourin various tide pools ranging from the size of my fist to the size of my foot (which has somehow grown almost two sizes since I started backpacking).  On the way back, I found a neat sun star with 11 legs that had made super

The blob

neat designs in the sand around it.

That evening, we listened to the weather report on the radio and became dismayed to know that weather would come in soon and we needed to peace out before we got stuck all the way out there and could not get back to our pick up point.  As always, we had to listen several times due to the very thick ascent of the radio lady.  We also had to walk around holding the radio over our heads until a signal came through which sometimes entailed walking around in circles until we found a spot that worked.  Sometimes, it would work with one person and not another.  Unsolved mystery.  According to her, gail force winds had begun to head our way and would prevent us from going anywhere.

For another night in a row, we watched the stars intently as almost no light competed with them.  Shooting stars became as common as black flies in may in the northeast United States.  Crazy!

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While watching the seals play around not more than twenty feet in front of us could amuse us for hours, we wanted to see the open coast.  Setting out to cross the same thing we had crossed twice two days ago due to a wedding (rich Americans according to the dude on the four-wheeler), we crossed with ease and came to a tricky area.  We planned on going through a narrow at the slack tide in hopes that the current would not pull is straight out into the open sea in one swoooooosh!

Stupidly, we started to ease up and chat amongst ourselves right before the narrow and began to get pulled into the current which still existed, just not as strong as other times.  Quickly we noticed the land around us moving which meant that we were not just rafting up and were, in fact, moving quite quickly despite not paddling.  Nick and Sean immediately let onto this fact and we all scrambled back into a pod formation and went through the narrow letting the current take us to a certain extent.

Suddenly, looking up, straight in front of us, the water started circling back and the current made this funky slightly dangerous looking thing.  Nick suddenly surged ahead and blocked us from going into us yelling to paddle through and to the right where we could chill in an eddy.  Someone tried to ask what it was and all Nick replied was “PADDLE RIGHT!”  I.E. Just do it.  Ask questions later.

When everyone had gotten through fine with no rolls, we gathered near the eddy and took a small snack/pee break.  After passing the crux of the day, we got to relax more as we cruised over toward Titirangi.  The land along the coast prevented us from landing anywhere; covered with cliffs, crazy trees that had bent to the shape of the wind, birds perched precariously in little niches, the land amazed all of us and we enjoyed the slow pace in order to absorb the landscape.

As luck would have it, we came to the tunnel marked on the map.  We approached low tide, which allowed the people in singles to go through it.  Nick explored it first to see if it  was safe, then others followed.  The doubles went around the outside and met them at the other side.

From there, we easily made it over to the amphitheater of Titirangi.  Landing on the first white sand, long beach, we set unpacked and set everything thing up.  Boats tied together, food babies in a pyramid, large unwieldy boat bags drug up to the grassy field where we set up camp.  Tracy found herself in heaven with a shower and flush toilets nearby.

Immediately a few people ran out to play frisbee on the beach while others did some yoga.  That afternoon, we also had to deal with particularly annoying wekas.  I have not previously mentioned this rare, odd, cheeky little bastard of a bird yet because the ones here seemed a bit cheekier than the others.

Since New Zealand formed geologically recently, it has a super interesting evolutionary history.  For starters, no mammals existed on the islands when humans came.  Second, birds thrived and because no mammal predators threatened them, many could not fly and others didn’t hide their eggs which they just let chill on the ground in random spots.  The weka is one of those birds that can’t fly.  It also has learned to forage a bit on what campers leave unattended and unattached.  They cheekily come up and poke around, and try to steal your food right under your nose, then they run back into thick plants where humans can’t chase them easily.  At Titirangi, they tried to do this, but instead of protective thick plants, they had an open field.  Heather and I saw it steal some snack food in a plastic bag and take off.  Naturally, we bolted after it and went to try to cut it off before it could make it all the way across to the brush.  Eventually, when we would get close enough, the weka freaks out and drops it.  If they did not have a prominent place on the endangered species list in New Zealand, I’m sure they would become extinct from pissed off hungry people trying to get their food back.  Now, we “weka-proofed” by putting all the food in nylon bags and then placing them on a pile of loose stuff, but the wekas here seemed to find the one thing that had not been tied down.

In our free time before the evening meeting, while some played frisbee and others did yoga, James went for a little hike.  He told Nick and Sean he was hiking, then pointed and said up there somewhere.  No one seemed to think too much about it until we had to meet up at 7pm and James was nowhere to be found by 6:45pm.  In normal circumstances, a simple phone call or text might suffice, but of course, none of us had them.  We did the next best thing: gather together, count to three, then yell “JAMES!” and hope the echo of eight voices combined would hear us.  Repeat experiment several times.  Everyone stares in anticipation.

“I see him!” someone yelled pointing.  Following the outstretched arm, we saw James running full speed down the hill dodging the trees, fences, and sheep as he went.  A few minutes before 7pm, he arrived, slightly out of breath in front of us.

We laughed and then drug him hiking again.  We had decided to go up aways to having the meeting so we could get a higher view in the amphitheater and so Nick could explain the historical significance of the location, complete with pictures.  Once we scrambled up the steep hill, climbed two sheep fences, and managed not to slip all over the place in crocs or “holies” as they are called in New Zealand, we made a circle and enjoyed the magnificent view.  Nick showed us how they used this beach as a strategic spot to see if invaders were coming.  He also showed us how they terraced the landscape, much like in Peru, and how they stored the grains in large pits to keep it for the winter.

As it got dark, the stars came out in full.  The stars where one can see the small ones that city light blocks out.  The stars that make one feel so small in the grand scheme of things.  The stars where one can tell the difference between the closer ones and the farther ones.  And so many shooting stars that night.

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Seal Town

After three days in Kauauroa Bay, we all felt antsy and wanted to go somewhere else.  Luckily, when that day to leave came, the sun shone brightly, the wind died, and the sunken valleys glowed with excitement.  We loaded the boats and that morning, we decided to change plans a bit.

Instead of doing a short hop over to Waiona Bay, we wanted to take full advantage of the weather opportunity; according to the radio, we should have decent weather for a few days and we wanted to reach the open coast and see the ocean.  We planned a push over to Pigeon Bay which would set us up to head out to the coast which would double the nautical miles previously planned.

The good weather egged us on and we set out crossing bay after bay with relative ease, just going with the water.  As we passed Tawhitinui Bay, we remembered getting blasted with strong winds and we enjoyed the easy pass.  We rounded the spit and headed north for aways looking over to the west at the bird sanctuary of Maud Island and trying to listen for the cockapoo.

After hearing nothing except other birds dive bombing their prey, we paddled on.  Eventually, we rounded the land and headed east, then south-east.  The water stayed calm and the seals came out to play with us.  Nick told us quickly that seals act super friendly in water, but they get extremely nervous and unfriendly on land or when their path to water becomes blocked.  A colony of them came off of their perch on the rocks to come say hi and swim in and out of our boats.  Naturally, we tried to get as close as possible.  They turned over and over playing in the water and flicking their little fins over toward us.

Eventually, we proceeded a little further south and played around with some of the rocks, letting the water push us through small squeezes several times.  Nick even found some spiny looking, edible sea urchin called a kina, which he promptly cut up and passed around for everyone to try.  I also learned that the green lettuce seaweed could be eaten as well, so I began collecting wads of it and putting it on the top of the boat to cook up later.

After a lot of fun goofing off, we decided to head over to Pigeon Bay.  As we cross, we see a four-wheeler winding along toward us on some small little road carved into the hillside.  Tracy has become super excited about the campsite because apparently they had a shower.

When we landed, the four-wheeler had just gotten down to the bay and Nick went over to chat with him a bit and told us not to unload yet.  Immediately, all four of us girls had to pee.  Heather and I managed to walk down the beach aways, but Tracy and Haley just jumped in the water and used the spray skirts to block anyone from looking.  The old man on the four-wheeler found that pretty amusing.

When Nick came back, he gathered us all up and said that we had to think over a few options.  The old man had said a wedding would begin at the bay the following day and it was fine to camp there as long as we left before noon.  Nick and Sean seemed reluctant to stay because some weather might come in tomorrow and we’d have to paddle in not great conditions just to camp somewhere else.

After a bit of discussion, we decided to cross back to the other side of the bay and camp over near the seal colony.  Bad news for Tracy though: no shower…or even a pit toilet!  Whoa, roughin’ it for real, HA.

We crossed over and set up camp on the beach which we named “Seal Town” appropriately for several situations involving the surrounding seals.  I have no idea what the actual name is.  Making due with campsites, we picked the tall wavy grass which would make some interesting lumps under the tent, but usually ended up as a good pillow.

Before we did anything else, Sean gave us a “poop” talk.  Since there was no toilet, he went over how to poop in the woods properly (like I haven’t done that before…)  He detailed how deep to dig, what to use as toilet paper, and left us with this: if its not soft on your cheek, it won’t feel great on your lower cheeks!

Before we knew it, Tracy had disappeared to take a shower over by the water source which conveniently came down the hill and down into a pit accessible from the beach.  When standing in the pit, the water would come right onto your head.  So, she got her shower, but at a price and I’m not talking about cold water.

When she tried to walk around the rocks to get back to our beach, a seal trapped her in the water as she waded.  Oh shit.  She stayed trapped there until someone kayaked over to pick her up and bring her back.  She wasn’t too thrilled.

The next day, just as Nick had predicted, the wind shot whitecaps all across the bay.  Other than the wind, the weather turned out pretty good.  We decided to stay there that day, explore, learn some first aid, and chill out.

After a rousing round of first aid, we went on a walk to explore over toward the seal colony through the super sweet tide pools.  The seals stopped us from coming too close, but we poked around all the tide pools for a while.  It was just like being out on Puget Sound when I was little poking around at the creatures with a stick.  Then I saw something new.  I couldn’t identify it other than it was big and looked like something cool.  It was a dark red gooey moving lump.  I called everyone over and then we all realized what it was when it moved: an octopus!  That’s one thing I had not seen before!  We watched it squeeze in, over, and around all kinds of small obstacles moving from one tide pool to anther with its long feeler-like legs testing before the body went.  It was crazy cool.

The rest of the afternoon, we chilled out on the beach and watched the seals play in the water in front of us.

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We came to know Kauwaroa Bay super well since a small weather bomb kept us penned up waiting for the wind to pass.  We planned on taking one “zero day” because we had to re-ration and switch tent groups, but that got extended an extra day.

Dinner the night we got into the Bay was an interesting experiment between Tracy and I once we discovered we had started to cook orzo which both of us thought was long grain rice.  After wondering why the water wouldn’t cook out like it does with rice, we added flour and coconut milk powder to make it thicker which made dinner into some kind of thick pasta substance.  It somehow tasted good though.

The pancakes in the morning were the best invention.  Spearheaded by Tracy, carrot cake pancakes came into existence in the most delicious way and made our last breakfast very satisfying for once.

Our first re-ration, like our first packing of the boats day took a considerable amount of time.  We split into smaller groups all tasked with different parts of the process: the people splitting up the food into a four person group, two three person groups, and a two person group for the instructors, two people cleaning all the pots and pans with actual soap (instead of just swishing some pebbles and salt water around), people filling all the spice kits and people separating trash, recycling, and compost into three food babies.

It took quite a long time and Sean stood over us laughing, “you guys will have to get really good at this so we can do it in ten minutes with the helicopter re-rations in the mountaineering section next!”  Hmmm, just under an hour to ten minutes?  Thanks Sean…

When we finally finished, Nick and Sean gave us new tent groups since they didn’t trust us to make our own yet.  They went as follows: an all girls group of Heather, Haley, Tracy, and myself; James, Ryan, and JD; and Jonah, Hidde, and Kyle.

As introductions come with my tent mates, here goes two more (you’ve already met Tracy):

Heather comes from upstate New York and we instantly bonded over a love for the High Peaks in the Adirondacks, even talking about specific trails up various mountains.  She also is a crazy gymnast doing hand stands everywhere with a view and now dives for college.

Haley is super into trapeze and gymnastics currently based in Chicago.  She’s super bouncy and enthusiastic about everything, especially various kinds of rocks and geological formation.  She also makes crazy awesome apple cinnamon peanut butter pancakes.

Eager to start with new tent groups, we all broke off and organized the food bags into something like “breakfast,” “lunch/snack,” “dinner,” and “powders” to make finding items easier.  At dinner, we all decided to cook together under the double tarp because the weather looked pretty iffy, like it wanted to start raining.

Gathering together, we decided to all cook together for the first night, then set up a rotation afterwards.

“You guys are not going to get along after this meal,” Hidde joked.  “All four of you have too many opinions about what gets cooked, you’ll never make it through the week!”

Ignoring him we started cooking and immediately we all had a different opinion: rice or pasta?  Cayenne pepper or no cayenne?  Coconut milk and curry flavor or Italian seasoning?  Canned tomatoes or canned green beans?  The debates were endless.  We finally did end up with something to eat, but as soon as dinner ended, we set up a rotation where one person cooked and they could have an assistant if they wanted.  Hidde just laughed as he made Naan from Nick’s recipe.  He was right, but none of us would admit it until much later.

The next day we planned to make a small move over to Waiona Bay.  Since we knew from the radio that we had some weather coming in, we weren’t sure we would make it far.  We would pass right near Maude Island on which we could not land because it was a bird sanctuary.  It did house a “cockatoo” bird, native to New Zealand which made a giant, loud noise like “aaaaboooooooooooooom” which can be heard for up to two kilometers.  JD found this so amusing, for the rest of the trip he would randomly say “aaaabooooooooooooom!”

In the morning, Tracy and JD who were the LOD’s for the day had us all go back to sleep for another hour because when they got up the wind howled and whipped across the water much too fast for us to paddle.  When they got up to check at 7am, they decided we should give it a go and if the wind became too bad, we would just turn around and set up camp again.  Fail safe: return!

We all pushed ourselves and actually managed to scramble ourselves together to pack boats in just over an hour–a record for us.  After packing up, we got out on the water and listened to the wind smashing through the trees farther out where we planned on going.  Whitecaps covered the Bermuda Triangle and I remember thinking how glad I felt that we wanted to go somewhere else.  That happy feeling proved short-lived as we got to our first small crossing of a bay by the name of Tawhitinui, named after the Maori god of wind.

Paddling hard, we went straight into the wind and we didn’t seem to go anywhere.  A few times I could have sworn we actually went backwards a bit.  The waves kept getting bigger and bigger as well.  After about fifteen minutes of battling and seeing that ahead it got worse, we turned around and high tailed it back to Kauwaroa Bay and set everything back up.

Maybe it was a futile effort in trying when we all thought in the back of our minds that we would turn around.  But, riding the current and the wind back to camp made everyone super happy as it barely took any effort at all.

Plus, that meant another night to explore the area around camp.  An excellent evening endeavor proved an amazing experience that night.  After eating and the night fell, we all walked back to the waterfall where we got water; the rock walls surrounding it had glowworms covering it making an unreal atmosphere.  Like natural christmas lights, they spread out all around the falls taking in the water dripping over and through the rocks that surrounded it.

But wait, there’s more!  In the ocean, the jellyfish glowed!  Nick showed a few people about throwing a rock in the water to create vibrations which alarmed the jellyfish to light up!  The whole night glowed, even the stars which came out in full force showing us Scorpio, Ursula major, and a few other constellations.  Getting stuck for an extra day proved super fun.

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We pitched it to the group that night: Haley and I had planned our longest day yet and with a large crossing at the tail end which Nick laughed and referred to as “the Bermuda Triangle.”  Areas at sea with mythical proportions and tall tales awaited us at the end of our day which did not surprise me because of New Zealand’s exotic landscape and evolutionary peculiarities.

Blank stares.  Fantastic.  No one wants to do it.  Questions come at us faster than the sandflies bite, which is pretty hard if you get my drift.  Finally, with a little help from Nick and Sean, we convince everyone to give it a go provided that we have three contingency plans if the current, wind, or waves become too great for our burgeoning skills of about a week.

Six A.M. comes sooner than expected since I stayed up making fry bread with James until 11 p.m. but excitement pulled me out of my warm, cozy, comfortable sleeping bag with a toasty fleece wrapped around my feet at the bottom.  While packing up, we watched a glorious sunrise with the weather seeming to have chosen our side.  Slathering on sun screen and lip balm, we drag the boat bags, food babies, large carton of fuel, and the library to the boats and pack up.  Remarkably, we packed up in about 35-40 minutes, setting a new record for us.

Setting out, we cruised easily up the western coastline in the same channel that had us paddling for life just the day before.  Such a difference in wind made the day so much better.  Before we knew it, we reached our first contingency plan area, Jacob’s Bay where we all got out to eat a snack and use the pit toilet.  We had not yet mastered the pee-over-the-boat number and the hot drinks that warmed us up in the morning had quickly served their purpose and ran through us.

Getting back into the boats, we paddled north still and came up to the edge of the Bermuda triangle which Nick had so thoroughly warned us about in such a way that his eyes seemed to flicker with excitement for the unknown conditions it would throw at us–as if the area was its own being.

Our timing had to be accurate.  For the best currents, we had to cross at slack tide which fell around 2 p.m.  Having great conditions until then, we had arrived early and decided to pull off at a sandy beach, grab some grub and hike up to the top of the hill so we could see the Bermuda Triangle from higher ground.

Starving for bread, I ate some of the good fry bread from the night before with a bit of peanut butter, then caught up with a few others who had hiked up.  Typical of New Zealand, the grade could be called gradual if google ceased to be a verb as well as a noun.  It went up.  And up.  The ultimate stair stepper, we climbed through the grasses and sheep shit for longer than expected, then came to the top and had magnificent, sweeping, 360 degree views.  So beautiful my mouth gaped open threatening to lose a precious chunk of peanut buttered bread that I had just added to make up for the climb.  The sun made the calm water glitter in contrast to the green hills of the flooded valleys.  We continued down the spit until the last high point, trying unsuccessfully to step around the sheep shit and the dead baby lamb we saw off to the side with a few flies having a feast.

We saw the only ripples in the water whipping around the point below–the rest of the dreaded triangle looked tame, inviting, and vast.  We took a few pictures, Heather did a handstand, and we eventually headed down to where Nick guarded the boats to make sure they didn’t float away while we gazed in wonder at our surroundings like kids in a candy store.

Slipping and sliding down, we managed to get back to the boats and cruise toward the Bermuda Triangle at about 2 p.m., our target time.  Checking the conditions from sea level, we maneuvered through the little bit of current we had noticed near the point of the spit and set off toward Kauauroa Bay.  Just as predicted, the slack tide made the large crossing relatively easy and we chatted peacefully.  No headwinds slammed into us, the waves were minimal, and we went right on through.

Nick pointed us to the beach which would have our campsite at it; one of his favorites apparently, and we would soon know why.  We found it equipped with a few great campsites, a few back trails, a waterfall, and you guessed it: a pit toilet!  We went to work setting up tents and tarps, two of which we set up together a little ways back in the woods to create a communal cooking area and place to gather in case some weather came in.  The radio had predicted a bit of weather coming our way and we assumed we might take two days there.  We ended up taking three nights there due to wind, the adventures of which to come.

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The last afternoon at Double Beach, Nick and Sean introduced what seemed to be a favorite topic of theirs: the “leader of the day” concept.  By this, they meant that each day two of us would volunteer (or sometime be voluntold) to lead the group for the day from the morning packing through the paddle day and find times for the day’s debrief and an evening get together.

Kyle and James jumped at this opportunity and began plotting our course with Nick on the map for a longer move than our first one, but not too long.  A long paddle along a protected coastline in the small bay out to a bigger channel with a relatively small crossing, then follow that coastline north to Pipi Beach.  Simple enough, right?

To get everything ready on time to begin packing the boats, we pretty much needed two hours–one and a half at minimum.  It surprised me how much longer it took to get twelve people woken up, fed, packed, and somewhat alert.  Waking up in the dark without even a hint of the sun coming up happened quite frequently due to the winter season and it gave our headlamps an extra work out having to light our activities both at night and in the wee hours of the morning.  Although, seeing so many sunrises totally made it worth it–at least most of the time.  Our group did not have the best punctuality though.  Ten to fifteen minutes late to everything became a bit of norm.  I felt like I had gone back to South America again, telling people to meet fifteen minutes before you actually need them.

As we all managed to squeeze everything back in the boats, a call came to gather together in a circle and make sure everyone was on the same page.  This gathering became fairly ritualistic and it seemed to grow spontaneously with new bits added every few days.  At the beginning, it sufficed that we looked over our route with the map, ran through some stretches (usually led by our gymnastics/trapeze experts Heather and Haley), take a moment by the water, then circle back up and Sean would read us a quote meant to inspire in some way from this epic stash of quotes he brought.  No, not complicated.  This process also took at least twenty minutes, but usually by this time, the sun had bridged whatever hill blocked it’s direct path to us, so we wouldn’t shiver too much.

Setting off, the sun beamed brightly allowing us to use our sun glasses for the first time.  We cruised along at a steady pace watching the hills play games with the wind as it swept off the ocean and down shoots to hit us at predictable times.

We passed our first mussel farm where we paddled between row after row after row of large black buoys (pronounced more like “boy” with the “o” drawn out a bit in a New Zealand accent, thanks Nick…).  The buoys had large ropes connecting them and shooting down into the depths for the muscles to grow and latch onto.  Slimy and covered in barnacles, we gazed in amazement.

We took a small break before our biggest crossing that we’d done yet (which was not that big, but it seemed like it at the time).  Grabbing a few “hot snacks” we filled some of our appetite.  The US should import those “hot snacks”–it would totally sell.  Imagine those play-do toys that made the play-do into spaghetti-like shoots then deep-fried in some oil and spices that gave them a good kick.

Facing the crossing, we made sure we had pod formation, then we entered the channel only to get blasted by some of the worst headwinds that we saw the whole 25 days of paddling.  It felt like we went nowhere.  We had trouble communicating.  Screaming to the person not more than ten feet away.  Wind lashing the words far away from our ears.  The boats edged forward slowly despite our struggle.

If we stayed pointing toward the landmark on the other side of the channel, the wind would change our angle to get there far south of where we needed to head.  Through a mess of bad communication, I heard “follow the leader of the pod”,  as we changed the angle steeply pointing directly at our target.  Nick paddled to the front, seeming to explain what to do to the front boat.

In what seemed like forever, we finally made it to the other side, but still a little too far south and we couldn’t stop paddling or we would go backwards with the wind or get pushed into the rocks along the shoreline.  Changing to two lines, we continued battling the wind in sort of a long arm wrestle type struggle until we finally saw Pipi beach ahead and we cheered for joy.

Complete with a wrap-around beach, grassy flat spots for tents, and another pit toilet, Pipi beach gave spectacular panoramic views.  Sitting on the beach and looking at our struggle of a crossing, it didn’t seem like that much, but all of us felt it.

Tracy and I decided we were going to make bread that afternoon, since we had time for it to rise and we needed to do something with the massive amount of flour we lugged around.  While we carried around dough babies again for a while, Haley and I volunteered for LODs for the next day and we went with Sean to plan the route out.

The bread ended up becoming fry bread that I did up starting at 10pm because meetings and whatnot got in the way.  James kept me company tying decorative knots into a spice of rope he found while we made bread for the next two days.

For the first few large crossings, we had this mental image of them all involving enormous headwinds.  It took awhile for that association to dissipate.

Pipi Beach

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Double beach had much to offer: great camping, a pit toilet, a few marked trails around the hills, and even a spigot!  Who knew camping could be so luxurious?

But the luxury did not end there.  That evening, we got our first baking lesson.  Yes, baking on a whisper lite.  Skeptical, we all gathered around in a circle while Nick and Sean taught us how to make yeast dough to make calzones.  Having made bread before, I found this a curious operation since I had no idea how the dough would rise.

But fear not!  They had an answer to this as well!  Divide the dough in two, putting each ball into a plastic bag, create an air pocket, then carry it against your skin under a puff jacket.  We had created dough babies, which gave us all a great deal of amusement and the pregnant-with-dough-babies began without an end.

While the dough rose inside our puff jackets, we took a hike over to the second beach.  Luckily, the path had few obstacles and we could relatively easily walk with dough babies and crocs.  On the way, Nick taught us about various plants along the way.  My favorite was kawa kawa, a heart shaped leafy plant which made absolutely delicious tea.  The best leaves had holes in them from bugs eating the leaves.  Apparently, the bugs wont eat the bad leaves.  Another tasty edible plant we soon began to identify easily was the supplejack which tasted and looked like asparagus if asparagus was a huge jungle looking vine.

Hitting the second beach, almost immediately, James began climbing a giant tree.  I wished it was a peach tree to play off his name, but it was not.  The first of many trees he would climb, Kyle and JD joined him climbing super high up.

Instead of taking the trail back, we climbed around a small bluff to jump over to the beach where we camped.  Luckily, the green slimy seaweed stayed lower so none of us slipped.  Crocs don’t get great grip on that kind of thing, but it worked out and our dough babies survived the journey just fine and they even rose!

Next we made the insides of the calzones: red sauce and fake meat product for me while the others had red sauce with cheese and pepperoni flavored salami.  By doing calzones instead of pizza, we could cook two at a time and eat faster since all of us were pretty hungry at that time.  A little oil on the bottom of the fry bake pan, a calzone on each side, we were ready for the next step.

To bake, Sean and Nick explained, we had to depressurize the stove so very little fuel was actually coming out.  Occasionally we would need to pump it a few times to keep the stove lit.  We prepared ourselves and all gathered round while we played the waiting game.  It took about 15 minutes to cook the first side.  It took two people to actually flip them without breaking them open: one person holding the fry bake in place and the other doing the actual flipping.  The second side took less time and we ate the scrumptiousness up quickly as soon as we could.

That night we gathered around again for a “deep intro” with our dimmed lighting we made from a headlamp strapped around longways on a nalgene.  Piled together for warmth, we listened and watched the stars pop out in such depth it made everyone smile to not have city lights blocking out the night sky.

In the morning, we gathered at 8:30 or so and split into two groups of five.  One group would paddle over to a shipwreck not to far away in the next cove while the other group learned more paddle skills like edging, back paddling, and general steering skills.  I went with the group heading to the shipwreck first which allowed us some great time to paddle around and enjoy going slowly.

Before we knew it, we saw dolphins about fifty feet away and we paddled toward them since time was on our side as we meandered in the direction of the shipwreck.  Within two minutes or so, we had paddled so close to them they swam within ten feet of us for a bit, seemingly playing around our kayaks, until they continued onward.

When the dolphins went further out, we went back to the coastline and went to the shipwreck, which we found in no time.  Half in the water, half out, a giant ship lay damaged against the shore.  All kinds of stuff grew on it in some kind of a symbiotic relationship: sea urchins, clams, hermit crabs etc.  We got out, read the sign which I cannot remember anything of what it said, but gazed out on the rusting hunks of metal which once formed a large ship.

Getting back to double beach, we switched with the other group and paddled all around with Nick, backwards, forwards, sideways and anyway we could around the little cove.  As my first time in a single kayak, I thought it was super cool, but much less stable.

We broke for lunch and grabbed hot food and drinks gripping our mugs tightly in hopes it would warm up our fingers.  We might have made two hot drinks just to keep hot fluids running through us for warmth.  Winter and the sea make for cold conditions!

The afternoon was a fun-filled event of learning how to flip the kayaks, escape, and get back into them in the water.  We had to learn for both the single and the double, getting completely soaked.  Nick made this super dramatic, sometime standing on the kayak and completely exaggerating to make us laugh, which helped because the temperature of the water sure wasn’t getting anyone excited to fully submerge themselves.

When we finished drenching ourselves in freezing water, we had the rest of the afternoon off to warm up and cook dinner.  That was pretty helpful because all of us shivered to the bone after twenty minutes in the water with hydroskins on.

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