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Archive for February, 2012

The morning started out innocently enough – patches of blue, a spot of sunshine, a light breeze through the tussock grass and a bowl full of tasty granola/oatmeal mix with some soy milk powder, cinnamon and vanilla.  We packed everything up at a decent pace having a few problems here or there dividing up group gear, but overall it went ok.

Meeting up where we had the campfire the night before, we split into two groups as planned, Roger taking the two three-person tent groups which included Jonah, Ryan, Tracy, Haley, JD, and myself while Sean took the four person group to insure that if one group had to crash camp somewhere outside of our destination, everyone would have been self-sufficient and we wouldn’t miss tent poles or some miscellaneous essential item.  After acting completely as a large group almost the entire time during the sea kayaking section, this brought about a whole new change.

We traveled at a decent pace up the Cameron Valley on a trail, or “track” as they say in New Zealand.  They also call hiking, “tramping” among other words they’ve created, much to our amusement.  Sometimes the track went up a bit to avoid a steep section around the Cameron River which ran through the bottom all the way out to the lake where we got off the bus.  Other times, we walked right next to the river, or in the river itself.  Luckily, it was not very deep in most places, although it was damn cold glacial melt water from the Cameron Glacier located at the top of the valley.

Walking up the valley.

Beginning a semi-schedule of walking for an hour or so, then taking a ten minute break seemed to work fairly well which allowed everyone a drink of water, a snack, or a bathroom break and we didn’t have to keep stopping every time someone needed something or other.  It changed drastically from my normal walk around two, two and a half hours, then stop and take my boots off for a snack, or a revolutionary idea of “lunch” and not just repeated snacking.  That was one thing I had great difficulty with: the lack of “lunch.”

At one point, Roger decided we wanted to walk more through the gravel bars near the river instead of on the track higher up on the westside of the river.  Since the gravel made walking a bit easier than battling the unevenness of the tussock grass, we all agreed heartily.  That is, until we either had to wade through a fast-moving portion of the river or bushwhack (bushbash in Kiwi talk) back up to the track above.

By now, clouds rolled in and a light mist began on and off.  Enough that I wanted the rain shell on, but could only have a tank top underneath before overheating battling the New Zealand bush back to the track.  I had a nice bit of condensation going on for a bit which only made me a bit chilly later.  Through the bushbash, we learned much more thoroughly about the matagouri and spaniard plants which poked and pricked us up ridiculously and we could very quickly identify them.  Unfortunately, we could not always avoid them.  Once we had to get this nice spread eagle stance and actually grab hold of several chunks of another one and swing ourselves over a large patch of matagouri with a spaniard in the middle.

Once we got back to the track, we promptly took one of our ten minute breaks or so, but had to keep moving since the weather had begun to turn on us and the mist became constant.  We had left camp first in the morning, but due to our half hour bushbash, the other group caught up to us while we grabbed a quick snack, happy to have found something that resembled a path with trail markers in the form of poles with orange paint on the top.

Examining the map, we realized we only had about two and a half kilometers left, so we decided to stick together and walk as one big group.  What a difference!  We all clearly had different paces, but we tried to stay somewhat together and have an awareness of where everyone stood.

At a short break right after a large intersecting stream crossing, it began to snow.  Big, thick, heavy snow flakes began to fall rapidly, at about an inch per hour.  Moreover, it began to stick as well!  We hit all four seasons in one day, which became a very common theme in the mountains in both the mountaineering section and the hiking section later on.  We had fall in the morning, then summer heat, then spring rain, then winter snow — all before two o’clock in the afternoon!

We trudged on up toward the hut, but by this time many people began to get tired, cold, and hungry.  I was just hungry and my usual hiker appetite just kicked in automatically and I wanted to devour everything in sight.  When I get hungry hiking, I also tend to become a wee bit grouchy which began to happen quickly.

By the time we reached the hut, a fresh blanket of snow-covered everything and it showed no sign of letting up any time soon.  As we set our packs down, I layered up super quick because I only had a tank top and a shell on to keep from overheating while hiking, but the temperature only registered about 30 degrees Fahrenheit on my mini backpack thermometer.

Everyone seemed to want to take over the hut since no one else had, but we decided to set up our tents anyway, so in case anyone came, we could move back out quickly.  We tried to divide up tasks, but mild to medium hypothermia began to set in for a few people and they couldn’t function very well.  They went inside and the rest of us set stuff up and meandered inside to get warm.

Hot drinks came first to warm up the blood and also when still too hot to drink, they made excellent hot water bottles to stash inside our jackets or in our heavy ass boots to dry them out.  Roger chuckled and began giving us drying tricks which at first we were very amenable, but by the end not so much.  Particularly the sock drying trick of putting them on our stomachs and then insulating them between our body heat and a puff coat.  While it functionally worked quite well, it smelled like shit — or rather super smelly hiker funk feet and made us smell even worse than we already did.  The hot water bottle rolling trick worked quite well and had less stench.

Sean and Roger thought it was apropos to give us a hypothermia lesson once everyone got decently comfortable and several people found they could pick out where they had reached on the hypothermia scale.  I knew I wasn’t because I can recognize the signs in myself fairly easily from caving for a while.

Eventually, all the hot drinks ran through us and we had to make trips to the long drop, or privy, or in Canada according to Roger,My genius idea. thunder hole.  This meant walking out in the billowing windy snowy mess about fifty feet.  Luckily, we formed a decent path through the snow from everyone having to go, but at first I regretted my decision to bring fake crocs full of holes!  I remedied the situation by putting each of my feet in large plastic bags, and then putting them in the shoes which ended up working decently well.

Another unforeseen problem that arose was the snow on top of the tents.  Apparently, the hilderberg tents did not really enjoy having more than an inch or inch and a half of snow resting on them and they would rebel by a tent pole, or multiple poles snapping under the extra weight.  In this, I found a several structural flaw and began to not like the tents more than before.  My previous issue was the amount of strings.  Anyway, we set up shifts to go out with the broom conveniently located in the front of the hut and brushed the snow off.  This continued through the night with someone actively removing the snow at two-hour intervals.

Still not wanting to stay out in the cold, we all decided to stay in the hut that night which had 9 bunks.  To accommodate all twelve of us, we had several people double bunk, not only for space, but it also gave a new element of warmth.

When we awoke in the morning, a little over a foot of fresh snow had fallen and gave the area a whole new look, especially in the sun instead of a partial whiteout in which we arrived.

In a quick moment of "clearness"

Our tents in a quick moment of "clearness"

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At the branch, we had a very quick switch where we had to unload the boats and boat bags to repack them into extremely large backpacks for the mountaineering section.  Getting in around 4pm, we had to move quickly to unpack and repack, managing to do laundry, de-issue things like hydroskins, and make sure we had everything for the mountains.  Imagine twelve people with nice, smelly gear and only two washing machines.  Not to mention, only two showers.

Running around like mad people, we managed to do all the switching, cleaning, washing, and showering in shifts fairly efficiently and sat down to dinner starving and wolfed it down with veracity.  With full stomachs, we went for a chat with Amy, the program supervisor who debriefed the section and took all of our feedback for an hour. After we finished all the chores, we got to sift through the internet, each taking about 15 minutes on the computer in the common room.  Then, I got to listen to my ipod for awhile, the long awaited epic goodness of music, oh yes.  I was in heaven.  Ipod.

In the morning, we all made sure we had our packs set, had breakfast and did the last of our chores before setting out on the bus with one of our previous instructors, Sean, and a new one: a crazy Korean-Canadian Roger.  The bus had this cute little trailer on it for all our packs which we stacked in, then made room for the trekking poles and ice axes.  This time, we were smarter and brought credit cards in case we could stop and buy extra food.

Unfortunately, we did not stop in a town where we could have found chai lattes, coffee, extra peanut butter, or anything like that — we stopped on the side of a back ass road when the bus broke down and we had to wait there two hours until NOLS could drive another bus to get us the last half an hour to the trailhead.

In the meantime, we all sat in a circle, put our heavy, uncomfortably large mountaineering boots on with the gaiters.  We decided that it was a fantastic time for Roger to tell us his life story which he tried to get away with a skim story in about three minutes.  It didn’t work because then we just questioned him in the spotlight for another half an hour.

When he seemed tired of telling us about his life, he decided we had a perfect opportunity to sit and learn knots.  This ended up being super fun and passed the time quite quickly until Julie, the hilariously enthusiastic rations manager, and a new bus driver came to get us the rest of the way with a new bus.

At the trailhead, the bus driver pretty much gave us five minutes to get all our stuff, then he peaced out.  We missed Darrell, the other bus driver at that point.  Since we got there so late, we decided to only hike in for about an hour to the last decent campsite for at least 7 more kilometers.  Luckily, Roger had just hiked through these valleys in the last section with the other group and had scoped out many of the good climbs and campsites.

We had new tent groups for the new section.  The first ration was a long one: 11 days.  For the first time, I managed to get into a three person tent group and was with Haley and JD.  This meant that with JD, I had managed to be in a tent group with everyone. Woot.  So for his intro:

JD hails from Seattle, or rather, across the ferry from it, about a half hour drive from my mother’s house, so I found that super cool.  He’s also really into park skiing and managed to ski almost the whole summer with last year’s record snowfall.  He also loves naps and peanut butter.

That night, we had to pick our campsites carefully because some wind picked up forcing us to put the tent at a specific angle, aligning it to the valley and using some prickly matagouri for extra wind blocking shelter.  The other group warned us about two plants: the matagouri and the spaniard, both of which were rustic, spiny, and very pointy plants that managed to survive in the high, cold, and desolate environment.  They made wearing gaiters and pants necessary, otherwise our legs would have been torn to shreds quickly.

We made a small campfire that night, one of only two in the mountaineering section and enjoyed it greatly, sitting by the Cameron River that cut through the valley.  There, we planned out the next day in which we intended to hike 13 kilometers up the valley to the Cameron Hut.  Luckily, Sean and Roger wanted to split into two self sufficient groups to make it a bit easier.  Hiking in with all twelve of us was a little much and we had become fairly spread out in excitement for the new section.

So excited for the mountains, we had plenty of fresh enthusiasm, which we definitely needed for the next day which became more trying than we expected.

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Exhausted after our party, we managed to wake up and get moving again in the morning sad to leave the comforts of the four walled hut.  We decided since the weather patterns seemed iffy for the next few days, we had to plan our last moves decisively in order to not miss our pickup.  While we weren’t too far, we still had to get back through the Bermuda Triangle, and manage to have a day off to finish up the section, do some paper work and prepare mentally to see other people.

We had a bad weather forecast for the afternoon, but the morning seemed to hold out for us to leave the hut.  We would get to the Bermuda Triangle in the afternoon unless we left before the sun woke up, so we decided to head for Rams Head for the day and have the afternoon off to watch the wind make new willie waws which never lost their amusement factor.

Cruising along, we did not quite understand just how imminent the incoming weather would become and Tracy get fairly stressed out toward the end in a “just need to get there” mode.  Then we realized, if we didn’t “just get there” we could face 40 knot winds (decreased a bit for the sounds) and that did not seem like fun…total fun type 3, the fun that’s not really fun at all but it’s somehow still better than work or school.

Excited for Rams Head, we sailed on in and scoped out camp trying to find flat spots without too much cow dung and did not fall under giant widow makers.  After much ado, we all settled into our spots and chilled out until Sean gave us a “land management” discussion.

Right before we gathered, the wind picked up rapidly and a few anchors of our tent weren’t too strong.  All of a sudden we heard an “ahhhhh!” come from our tent and realized that the anchors popped, collapsing half the tent down onto Hidde and Jonah who were reading or dozing.  Ryan and I ran to help fix it so they could climb out and help us secure the lines better.

Halfway through the discussion we heard several snaps.  Turning in the direction of our cleverly created double tarp, we realized a few of the lines had snapped despite reinforced anchors and we had to run and take them down until we could engineer something more stable.

Later in the afternoon, Nick and Sean finally let us explore the haunted house on the premises which had a considerable amount of dust covering absolutely everything.  It did not, however, seem that creepy and no ghosts appeared much to our dismay.

Since we couldn’t move early the next day, we did towing practice instead because a long spit blocked a considerable amount of wind coming from the west and southwest.  Nick introduced the practice with a long and hilarious anecdote about a towing incident that he had to do right there by the spit with another NOLS course.  It ended up with a kid who couldn’t stay upright in major waves getting held onto by the other instructor while Nick towed both of them.

After the wind died down and we finished towing each other in triangles, we moved through the Bermuda Triangle over to Lovely Bay.  I’m not sure the bay actually had a name since it didn’t appear to on the map, but Nick insisted that it was Lovely Bay…probably because it was lovely.

Getting through the Bermuda Triangle for the second time peacefully made us question the severity of the nickname that Nick attributed to it.  It gave us almost no resistance and only good views in all directions.  Since we had two large crossings to complete near it, we did not stop to climb to the top of a nearby hill this time, but we headed into our last beach home of the section where we spent the next day and a half.

At the tail end, we found a stray muscle buoy (which we imitated Nick’s kiwi accent to pronounce it boooy) and we towed it into the bay.  This provided endless amusement for the last few days on land and in the water.  They are actually quite large and unwieldy, even to tow.

Campsites at Lovely Bay were tight and sparse.  We had to use every available inch and have spaces overlap a bit, but we worked it out soon enough.  That night, several people slept out on the beach, so the tent space didn’t really matter anyway.

On our last day not near the road, we all played around, managed to squeeze in the paperwork, and had endless fun with the buoy.  Heather managed a handstand on it with a few spotters, while Jonah and JD managed to balance each other on each end of the buoy with Nick’s help by providing a stick.  The buoy even rolled back into the water at one point and no one wanted to swim out for it due to the cold water.  Instead, we used tons of the driftwood sticks lying around on the beach and threw them past the buoy creating small waves that sent it back to ankle-deep water where we grabbed it.

That night, we recapped the entire section by each remembering a day going around the campfire in a circle.

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The big weather bomb hit during the first night we spent in Tawa Bay.  We awoke the next morning to see scores of willie waws spontaneously forming on the points at either side of the bay.  Imagine a tornado of water rising up out of nowhere and spinning uncontrollably wherever the wind whipped through.

Sitting on the beach wrapped in our warm sleep clothing and some hot drinks, we all watched in awe.  Going out in the boats would not happen that day–or the next few that we found ourselves stuck there due to the wind, whitecaps, and willie waws.

Instead, we found other things to do.  We did the final re-ration for the sea kayaking section where we shuffled up the tent groups again to Tracy, Haley, and James; Heather, Kyle, and JD; and Jonah, Hidde, Ryan, and myself.  While sorting out the food, we realized we were short one food baby.  Only one culprit came to mind: Wilbur.  Damn you, pig!  All the bumper bars were in that particular food baby which didn’t bother me much, but everyone else missed their energy bars with the equivalent of a golf ball of butter in the mix.

With the new tent groups, I owe a few new introductions:

Jonah hails from Seattle, is super tall, and always energetic.  He enjoys making funny, slightly weird noises back and forth with JD in their own little language and he likes playing with buoys.  Plus, he talks in his sleep, to everyone else’s amusement.

Hidde was our only European, coming from Amsterdam and NOLS was the first time he slept in a tent, but he adapted extremely quickly.  He hates hydroskins and loves hot cocoa–to the extent he can drink a whole liter of it at a time.  Oh and he doesn’t like cinnamon.

Ryan plays rugby, into cross-fit, and loves rafting.  He cooks fantabulously, especially pancakes, biscuit/roll things, and basically anything he thinks up.  As one of the first risers, often without an alarm, he always had the water on for tea or coffee in the morning.

After searching everywhere for the missing bumper bars, we gave up and listen to Sean tell us about “Life, the Universe, and Everything” which explained just that from 4.5 billion years ago to today, complete with life-size examples, although not to scale.

When the weather did not let up enough to go paddling the next few days, we had to find other ways to amuse ourselves and keep from going stir crazy.  We went on a game frenzy which included Ninja, Yeehaw, Pterodactyl, Vegetable, Animal Sounds Elimination, and Hand Patting games.  We played quite a bit of Ninja which somehow always ended with JD in the top two if not winning completely.

Another day, we went on an adventure up the creek.  Since no exact tracks existed around the campsite, we simply walked up the creek until small rapids started and we’d jump to whichever side looked easier to bushwhack, or “bush bash” as they say in New Zealand.  Many times we hopped across to the other side when the brush got too thick.  The whole time we were not directly in the creek, we battled supplejack vines which sometimes would appear out of nowhere, seemingly simply to trip us to make us stumble.  We got back at them by eating the ends of a few which tastes just like asparagus.

Eventually, the grade went up more steeply, the brush became super thick, and the rapids got bigger.  There we stopped, some of us on large rocks in the middle of the creek and had a snack break to look around peacefully instead of getting whacked in the face by some branch or vine.

We followed the creek back as well, but somehow ran into a few new obstacles like a 10 foot mud bank which we managed to climb up by using a mixture of each others knees and pulling from above.  That little adventure was probably the best thing besides watching the willie waws in that few days.

When we could finally get back to paddling and the wind died down enough, we made a short move over to the Matai Hut where we set up camp and prepared for a party.  The preparations became so extensive, Jonah and Kyle formed a party committee and took it upon themselves to organize the events of the evening, which included dressing up, desserts, and of course, our new-found love: games!

After a few day trips, baking, and roll practice, we began to move in and plan.  Ryan and I embarked on cinnamon rolls which turned out pretty damn good.  He even made frosting based on tang which had a slightly weird tangy taste and color, but ultimately became the best imitation we could make out of the supplies we had.  Heather worked on carrot cake and got it cooked all the way around (which became a problem in the other attempts), Tracy made fudge, Nick and Sean made brownies.  Basically: sugar, sugar, sugar!

While it drizzled outside, we made lanterns out of light-colored nalgenes and headlamps to make ambient party light.  The events switched between desserts and games.  Limbo, which became a battle between the two gymnasts, Heather and Haley was highly amusing.  Merf Merf provided plenty of laughs and was a spin-off of charades.  One of the funniest hidden talents discovered that night was Nick’s ability to freestyle rap.  Maybe it had something to do with his dry suit on upside down as his costume.

In the end, we all succumbed to the crash of the huge sugar high that we ran on and fell asleep scattered about the bunks in the hut and the floor.  The next morning, still on the top bunk, JD asked for the pan of fudge to lick it clean and seemed like the only one who had any appetite for more sugar.

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Becoming stir crazy, wanting to escape the pig, and wanting a flat area to poo on, we decided it would take some pretty serious weather to stop us from leaving Fishing Bay.  All through the night, the wind howled and beat against our tents but settled down into some fairly steady rain with only a few obnoxious gusts by the time we all woke up and began packing.

For the first time, we had what Heather and I called “east coast rain,” the kind that drenches you no matter what kind of rain gear you have and goes sideways coupled with the wind to smack you in the face so you can’t see well.

A little uneasy, we set out watching the skies carefully to make sure the visibility did not deteriorate any further. We picked three points to head toward during the crossing to account for the wind and current. Before long the waves got bigger and bigger and began lapping over the tops of the kayaks as we watched our points carefully through squinted eyes and increased concentration.

About two thirds of the way through we realize Ryan having a little trouble due to the rudder breaking and the waves jolting his steering helter skelter. We slow a bit so he can battle without it.

Once we finally make it across and the rain refuses to let up, Tracy switches with Ryan confident that she can stear the beast (our nickname for that kayak) without a rudder.

Everything looked different shrouded in clouds and rain, truely like a flooded valley. Few birds called out in the mist, but we could locate almost none in the erie avatar-esque environment. After that first initial crossing, we got to follow the coastline over to Waiona Bay, our short destination which eased our minds because all we had to do was keep the coastline close to our right and we didn’t have to worry about the visibility dropping.

For the last two nautical miles or so, the wind died and the rain returned to falling straight instead of sideways. The water went placid and the air freshened with the smell of spring. Although we could now hear each other we followed Haley’s suggestion to fall silent and just listen as we paddles along to the steady beat of the rain. We passed Maud Island, the large bird sanctuary, on the way which signaled that we closed in on Waiona Bay.

Happy to pull in out of the rain, we moved quickly to set up camp so we wouldn’t get cold from not moving. Nick spattered ancedotes about having been stuck there for days unable to move from such strong winds. Thanks Nick. That’s what we needed to hear.

The flattest spot to camp of course had two proment drainages flowing into it and had begun to hold standing water so we had to venture up a bit into the trees and find areas with the least amount of roots. Heather and I set up the tent while Haley and Tracy set up the tarp to divide our duties and then we did our favorite thing: get dry and make hot drinks to warm us up from the inside.

We gathered all twelve of us under one tarp to talk through the day and enjoy each others company which had turned into three people leaning against a tree and everyone else leaning into the in a giant cuddle puddle. We had to stay close to hear each other because the tarp amplified the sound of the rain.

The discussion ended in a decision to try to continue the next day despite the rain forecasted to beat the incoming gail force winds for the day after. We wanted to get to one of Nick’s favorite beaches in Tawa Bay.

Heather and I listened impatiently to to weather forecast on the radio which she got reception on while holding it over her head and standing in an ankle deep puddle while I scribbled in down quickly on some scrap paper. If we wanted to go, we had to get up and get moving quickly in the morning.

After a gusty night, we waivered about moving in the morning because the winds did not die quite enough at 6am yet. We let everyone sleep a bit more and then shoved everyone out of bed at 7am to get ready fast and catch the window to move.

Hiking all the stuff out to low tide seemed quite long after arriving at high tide the day before. The extra distance amounted to over 50ft because of the shallowness of the bay.

Then right as we kicked off the shore, a huuuge rumple of thunder crashed from behind us, which is highly unusual for the region to get thunderstorms. I was super leery after being chased off ridges every afternoon in Colorado that summer, but only one more clap of thunder reached our ears until the rain hit.
We lucked out the rest of the day in that the wind decided not to pick up and just steady, light rain fell blanketing the same eerie atmosphere which drained the world of its color. I felt like I was in an Ansel Adams photo. The sea became that mystical being, an entity all its own.

The coastline lead us almost the whole way until we island hopped over to Tawa Bay; this time we felt no resistance in current between the islands like the last time and we cut through the water peacefully.

Arriving at Tawa, we picked our campsites carefully since the weather bomb would hit soon and we expected to spend a few days there. Luckily, this beach had both a tap and a pit toilet…heaven!

And then the willy waw stories began to flow from Nick since he guessed we would see them in the strong winds that the radio predicted.

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After feeling dead tired, we managed to survey our new campsite for a little bit.  Camping was rustic at best without even a flat spot.  We trampled down some grass which came up to our thighs and plopped the tent down on top of it waiting to see the bumps under us for when we would sleep that night.

It also lacked trees which prove instrumental in setting up the tarps.  After some jury-rigging, we managed to learn the clove hitch and put the tarp up with two long pieces of driftwood and various large rocks.

More importantly, since it had no pit toilet, we had to go dig a cat hole.  Usually, not a problem.  Except for the fact that the only areas far enough away from the water source  lay high above and one had to climb about 300 feet in a tenth of a mile or so, hack through more knee to thigh length grass, then dig the hole if the ground was soft enough in that area.  Unless we found ourselves desperate, we tried not to make that climb over slick grass.

James spots a pig.  No one else sees it.  Why would a pig be at this isolated beach?

To make us feel better, we made a campfire near the tide line so that during the night, the water would come up and take away the remnants of the fire.  There’s nothing like sitting around a good campfire at night with some hot chocolate.  It has a very soothing effect.

That night, the weather bomb part 1 came through, incredibly loud.  So loud, in fact, that the wind woke almost everyone up.  I woke up to Haley asking if the tent would blow over.  I had a few very comfortable grass clumps in just the right spots, so I rolled into them and went back to sleep after a discussion between myself, Haley, Heather, and Tracy of whether or not out tarp still existed in its jury-rigged state.  The answer came several minutes into the discussion when two headlamps appeared outside the tent and seemed to ratchet the tarp down securely and pass around the rest of camp.

The next morning, we planned to take a day off due to the windy weather.  Kyle and Hidde had gotten out in the pouring rain and blistering wind to fix our tarp for us, which we all greatly appreciated.  More people had to make the trek up to the poop area now and others tried desperately to avoid it.

We had a fun-filled mid-morning of first aid and a few entertaining scenarios to figure out until someone spotted the pig.  Coming down the steep slope, a light pink and brown splotched pig came oinking down toward us slowly, cautiously.

Jonah, Hidde, Kyle, and Haley went to explore.  They creeped up closer.  The pig creeped closer. They creeped closer and paused, sitting.  The pig held his ground for a while until he came down, apparently deciding they were ok.  Then all of a sudden, the pig was in Jonah’s lap while he petted it and then jumping on Hidde’s back to get a few pieces of dried papaya that they tried to bribe the pig with.

Quickly, the debate over the pig’s name began.  One faction, led by J.D. wanted to call it Little Cory or an unexplainable reason and the other wanted to call it Wilbur as in Charlotte’s Web.  The pig came and went the rest of the day, getting more and more daring.  It clearly desired human attention and liked us petting him which brought us to the conclusion that he had probably escaped from a domestic farm and wandered about scrounging.

His scrounging began to find our food wherever we left any uncovered.  Not only did we have to begin weka and storm proofing the food, we now had to pig proof it and that pig was nosy!  It also did not go away to “shoo!” or “scat!” or any conventional means of scaring it away.  Before long, it discovered our food babies, unbeknownst to us for a few hours and had sneaked a few of them into the creek behind camp for safe keeping.  Kyle found them a few hours later which prompted a quick count of the food babies.  This proved somewhat useless because we couldn’t remember the exact number we should have and we guessed we got them all.

Fishing Bay

That evening while cooking dinner, instead of having a designated chef and sous chef, we had a chef and pig watcher for each tent group to make sure the pig didn’t sneak up behind us and snag something.  About halfway through the cooking, two wekas appeared as well so the pig watcher had to prevent the slightly cheekier wekas as well.  Quite the process!

We had another campfire the second night at the edge of the tide to gather for the evening.  After only about half an hour, we had company: Wilbur/Little Cory had joined us for the evening selectively picking people to pet him for a time until he came to Heather.  Wilbur/Little Cory laid right down next to her and lifted a leg as if he wanted a belly rub like a dog!  All of us burst out laughing and watched the pig-dog with caution as he passed around us and then between us and the fire to keep warm.

For the carnivores of the group, this seemed incredibly difficult as the pig put himself between them and the fire and they wanted bacon baaaadly.  Sean and Nick liked the idea, but put the fist down saying no to a pig roast.  After going over the plan for tomorrow, we all went to bed on our large grass clumps knowing that the weather would probably end up against us tomorrow.  The next day gave us a whole new experience in weather.

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The morning we left Titirangi, the clear night left a chilly morning to pack up.  We had just one day to escape a possible weather bomb according to the woman on the radio who had a very thick kiwi accent.  The high hills that made the amphitheater surrounding the beach prevented the sun from hitting us until about 8:30 a.m. after we already packed up and were jogging in place with our hands stuffed in our armpits or cupping what we had left of a hot drink to keep our hands from freezing.

We said goodbye to one of our favorite spots with the white sand beach, the flush toilets, and the beautiful scenery and set off on one of our longest days with a few challenging crossings.  Our destination: Fishing Bay, some sixteen or eighteen nautical miles away without even a pit toilet.

Not far in, JD stops paddling in front of me or puts a stroke in every fourth stroke.  His head begins to bow down.

“Yo, JD, you ok?” I yell from behind.  If you’ve ever paddled a double with someone else in it by yourself, it’s not exactly a piece of cake.  I gave Tracy, Jonah, and Ryan props for having done it several times before.

“I feel like I’m gonna puke,” came the response in the middle of the first large crossing, which luckily gave almost no resistance and I pushed through to the other side mostly on my own.

On the other side, we flipped people around a bit and took our pee breaks.  I switched into a double with Tracy and Jonah switched into the one with JD to paddle him until he felt better.  During the switch JD leaned over and breakfast spewed into the water.  Then again.  Good thing I’m not squeamish.  Unfortunately, it did not suppress my ever-growing appetite and I ate a snack while breakfast and leftover dinner reappeared and floated, failing to sink into the depths of the ocean.

The sun blazed ever hotter and we all reapplied sunscreen and kept our heads covered.  Despite drinking fair amounts of water and staying hydrated, the heat exhaustion began to sink in for several people and our efforts slowed as we continued.  The pod became almost like a line for lack of care.  We tried to just get there.

The four girls have now mastered peeing off the side of the boats and none of the guys care to because “they have control of their bladders” according to them.  Ha.  Sure.  I believe only Ryan has managed that effort as of yet.

As we pass along closer to our destination, we find the best route across the large channel with some kind of a current no matter what time we hit it would be further down right after the last island.  We have to island hop between four or five small islands functioning as small bird sanctuaries then jut out across the water to the other side.

Of course, saying that seems so easy.  But wait.  There’s more.  (There is always more.)  The islands have their own currents that we have to jump through carefully one at a time paddling hard into them to keep up our speed and not get thrown onto the rocky islands.  We play follow the leader and pause to make sure everyone got through in the small eddy near each island, then repeat until we make the final crossing.

This crossing seems to take forever: the sun bears down heavily in the direct afternoon heat, tired, exhausted, and of course, having to pee at the most inconvenient time.

Songs break out despite the long arduous day.  Sing alongs from old movies.  Any kind of old camp-like song to bring motivation.  It brought some level of distraction for a bit, but we didn’t make progress quickly as the current pushed us around.

From behind me, I head Tracy cursing.  She has to pee so bad it hurts her.  She’s not sure if she can make it and singing makes it hurt worse.  There’s no place to even pause or we’d be pushed far out-of-the-way by the current.

The singing peters out as the energy drains from us.  Then in a last attempt to motivate everyone to keep going I hear Tracy yell, “We’re getting…closer!”

Everyone busts out laughing and a new joke begins for anytime when it seems as though we have not made any progress but in fact we make very slow, steady progress.

As soon as we cut into the first part of the bay, Tracy’s out of the boat peeing.  She made it, luckily.  We plug along into Fishing Bay past a few hundred mussel buoys (pronounced “boooooys” in kiwi.  The last stretch went on forever despite the calm water of the bay.

JD managed to help paddle about half-way through the last crossing and could semi-think straight.

Landing, we managed to pull one leg out at a time, not having gotten out of the boats since 8:30 am and pulling in at 4pm.   Our legs didn’t work.  It took a few moments to shake the feeling back into them and make them pull us out of the boats and unpack to set up camp for the wonderful surprises in store for us at Fishing Bay.

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