Jumping fish

Paddling Update 15 Jan – 24 Jan 2013 (day 51-58)

Paddle Day 51 (51-58)

Kob Inn to Mbashee 37km (3hrs 28min)

Last night we were fortunate to be looked after by the Kob Inn. We even had our own rooms. Many thanks to everyone for making us so welcome. The food and views are perfect.

All too soon we had to get up and to be at the river for a 05h30 launch to catch the tail end of the SW wind. Heading out the river mouth was fun and quick with the tide spitting me out. I had a moment when I took a short cut and a wave suddenly jacked up on the reef but I managed to get around it in time.

“I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hands wet on the wheel” was the first song of the day and was that song that gets stuck in your head all day. Radar Love by Golden Earring in 1973! Great stuff!

For the first ¾ of the day I hugged the shore line to avoid the main current but had to be careful not to get too close and get crunched by a rouge wave, especially at the headlands. There was a gentle offshore wind which changed to the South and then SE which is onshore. At stages it got up quite a bit so I chose to I cut straight across the last few bays to avoid having to paddle into the wind to get out of the bay and into the next.

I did see a big fish today. It dash around me but it was just a Dolrado showing off his colours.

The final part of the day was crossing the Mbashee river mouth. The rains from last nights thunderstorm had turned the water muddy brown. The only positive thing here was it was heading North. The reason I am not a fan of this type of water is the big fish, you know the ones I am referring too, can’t see what’s going past and may want to use their other senses to check it out.

I made it ashore at the beach just past Shark Point and had not even been there for a minute when Lyle Puttergill and a helper came out of the bushes to welcome me. His son David had been chatting to me and had let his folks know I was coming. I was whisked into the house and given dry clothes, coffee and then breakfast of bacon and eggs. How’s that for being taken care of?

Warren and Chris arrived about an hour and a half later after a long morning on the road. We then moved up to the Haven Hotel who have kindly offered us the royal treatment for the next few days while we wait for the NE wind to change.

Paddle Day 52

Mbashee (The Haven hotel) to Hole in the Wall 30km (3hrs 30min)

After two nights at The Haven Hotel I was well rested and chomping at the bit to keep moving. We were well looked after and must have doubled in weight from the three daily meals. Many thanks to the staff and management/Grant for looking after us so well.

Today’s forecast indicated a head wind but wanting to get moving we decided to check the conditions at 4am and then every hour if required. At 4 am it was rather more comfortable in bed so at 4:30am I check again and made a call. Let’s paddle. We were on the beach just after 5am.

Chris had to drive back to the hotel to get my video camera cause sleepy head forgot to pack it. This was one of those paddles that having the camera with me was a must to get that all important picture at the end of the paddle.

The surf had jack up quite a bit and I had to play the waiting game while popping over white water looking for my gap. “Ye, Yes” was Warrens call over the radio and I did a short sprint to the back line. Great – no issues.

The sea today was in a very strange mood. I am still trying to work it out but I think there were two layers of current. The top one moving against me and a lower one with me. The top one moving faster and slightly towards the shore line. The top of the swells would peak and crumble a little bit but along a long length of the swell. I remember reading in the sailing instructions for this part of the coast that occasionally after a NE wind there can be strong currents setting inshore. It was quite frustrating having waves breaking on my out of nowhere. A some of the points the current against me was so strong I could only do 6km/hr according to my GPS. It felt like less when checking my position against the shore.

Eventually I came up to the famous “Hole in the Wall”. Unfortunately the sea was too rough to get very close or as I wanted, to paddle through the hole. I did some videoing and then paddled past and around the corner to the main beach. Again I arrived before the Land Rover and not knowing the lay of the surf I was far to hesitant and managed to let the last wave of the set break on me while trying to paddle backwards!!! It was a quick goof – hop back on and rode the next one to the beach. “He who hesitates is lost”….

While doing a video on the beach and was saying that the support vehicle was not there yet but when I looked up I saw my crew driving down the hill. They spent the morning following my progress on the tracker and likened it to one of those “Top Gear” races/challenges. Only I dare not do the “Looser” sign on the forehead as Jeremy Clarkson enjoys showing.

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We are staying with Sue and Woggie Abraham’s from Cape Town in their fantastic “shack” on the hill overlooking the two beaches. Such an amazing spot! We had been here for less that 20min when the skottel was fired up and we were treated to a lovely fry up.

off-to-swim-in-the-hole

Tomorrow the wind should be in my favour so time to get some distance in.

Paddle Day 53

Hole in the Wall to The Kraal Backpackers/Mpande 42km (4hrs 20min)

After a very humid night and not much sleep I was eventually ready to get on the water at 7am. The wind was a light offshore so no help there. A short while after leaving I came across what very few people know of. The second “hole in the wall”. A little smaller and less dramatic but still very cool.

I did not have a mentally good day! Not sure if it was from the restless night or having to listen to political rubbish on SAFM. I did manage to change to listen to my music which did help a bit. Most of the day was into a small current but the last 5km it was a thumping 4km/hr against me. I had to paddle right next to the cliffs. It was quite tricky but it kept my mind off things and I was soon at the back line of my overnight spot.

mpande-river-at-low-tide

It was a simple ride to the beach. Called the Land Rover crew and they were still a way off. I put my ski in the bushes and head up the hill to see if I could find The Kraal Backpackers. There it was at the top of the hill. Its a eco friendly place with no electricity. I like their set up very much. A simple system of rainwater/ growing their own veggies etc.

the-kraal-backpackers-an-eco-establishment-i-like-the-effort.png

Dinner tonight is rump and potatoes which is going on the fire as I type this.

Tomorrow the plan is to head to Mboyti at 5am.

Paddle Day 54

Mpande to Mboyti 48km (4hrs 20min)

I only managed to leave a little after 5am after a night of rain and wind. There was a little bit of a wind which I was thankful for. Getting out through the surf was a little tricky and took a few hits on the way out.

I was lucky to find the counter current which was with me all day and the push from the tail wind made for a good day. Just before half way was Cape Hermes and Port St Johns. My favourite brown water was being pushed up the coast with me but crossing the mouth it was very muddy. I paddled as like I was tiptoeing. Trying not to make a noise or too much splashing. Silently I passed the mouth and then settled into my normal rhythm again.

Here is an extract from the Sailing Direction -”Sharks (in bold) are numerous both inside and outside the river, and should a boat be swamped in the breakers it could be extremely dangerous for the crew”.

The rest of the way I stayed quite close to the shore line but cut across the bays. A few times I had to head away to avoid the bigger swells that were breaking on the reefs. The last hour the favourable current dropped off a bit and I was now wanting to be on the beach to stretch my legs. I was getting cramps in my right foot and hamstring.

The approach to the beach was easy at the river mouth and I arrived without any problems only Warren was not there yet. I called him up and asked how far they were only to be told they were already there! They had good roads to travel on for a change and had already had breakfast.

A few moment later he came down onto the beach with a number of other people from the lodge. The others were the members/owners who, lucky for them, were able to cut short their AGM and come down to the beach to meet me. Thanks everyone. It is lekker to meet people at the end of the day.

We are staying at the Mboyti river Lodge. Awesome place and such a friendly bunch. I am struggling to get any good cellular signal to do upload my post so sorry if this is delayed.

reception-at-mbotyi-nevilleleft-williamleft-mid

Tomorrow I head early to Mtentu River Lodge.

Paddle Day 55

Mbotyi to Mtentu 42km (4hrs 20min)

Spending only a few hours at each destination before hitting the sack is becoming very frustrating. We are staying at some amazing places and meeting so many wonderful people only to be gone before sunrise the next day!

Mbotyi River Lodge is a cracker spot. One of those must visit places. Last night we arranged that the security would unlock the gate to the beach at 4am for us. A short walk across the river and down the beach just left of the mouth. One of the morning rituals is to check that both our radios are working. Oh dear Warrens radio’s battery was flat! There was no need for it this morning anyway as the surf was small and I did not even get my hair wet.

view-from-my-balcony-at-mbotyi-river-lodge

mbotyi-river-lodge-lounge-dining-room.jpg

Around 8km I came across the first of three waterfalls that flow straight into the ocean. A little bit along I passed Cathedral Rocks. Bold chunks of cliff unattached to the main land with many arches erode through them. Quite a spectacular sight.

waterfall-bluff

typical-wild-coast-shore-line

The rest of the days events were fairly nondescript. A light head wind at times. A few downpours and thankfully a slack current for most of the paddle.

The highlight of today must be my own special rainbow. I’ll take it as mother natures gesture of a good luck!

Making landfall at Mtentu River was, as always when coming ashore at a unknown place, a little nerve racking. The surf was dumping on the sand bar across the entrance. I took a while before I was happy with my wave choice and slipped into the river without a hitch.

I could see a few thatched structures on top of the North cliffs and guessed that must be the Mtentu River Lodge. I paddle a short distance up the river and took out next a bunch of old kayaks that I presumed must belong to the lodge. I followed a path till I eventually arrived at the lodge.

mtentu-river-lodge-shower

The lodge is a tented camp site with the tents on a wooden structure and under a thatched roof. Very cool. There was no one about so I started looking around and saw on the bar was a note saying “Dear guest, we are unfortunately closed till the 5th of Feb….” oh dear!

Never fear we had spoken to Bridgette, the owner, and soon I found the staff and was taken to our tent. I was a little worries about Warren and to get cell signal I had to head up “Signal hill” to call him. He eventually made it in almost 3hrs after me. His descriptions of the roads and mud from all the rain was the reason and boy was he glad to be driving in our Land Rover.

Tomorrow will be my last stretch of the Wild Coast as I head past Port Edward.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Richard has made it to the KZN South Coast. He beached at Glenmore. Unfortunatly he is not well and has been vomiting all day. He will update the paddle when feeling better!

A picture says a thousand words!

East Coast Radio – Radio Interview

Paddle Day 56

Mtentu to Glenmore 35km (3hrs 15min)

With the forecast for a SW wind that was going to build later in the morning I opted for a later start. After a night rest at the rustic Mtentu river lodge we started going through our normal routine around 06h00 and by 07h30 I was on the river ready to leave.

I had been feeling very lethargic this morning. I even went back to bed for an extra half hour which is not normal. Paddling out the river mouth I stayed in the fast exiting water and in no time I was past the surf and ready to head north but something was just not right. I hardly had any strength to paddle. I could not figure it out and then all of a sudden I started throwing up.

Oh boy! Was today going to be a messy day. Do I turn back? I decided to push through and was sure I would get passed it. Unfortunately it did not get much better. I felt like I was paddling with lead arms. I had stomach cramps and strangely my eyes felt very sensitive to the light. Putting on my glasses help with that but the rest did not go away. By now there was nothing more to bring up except after taking sips of my juice.

The only positive was for the first time in a very long while I had a strong current in my favour and I managed to average just under 10km/hr with the current and wind pushing me.

When I got to Glenmore Warren had just arrived in Port Edward after playing in the muddy paths called roads in the last bit of the wild coast. The day before he drove 200km to my 45km!

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He arrived a short while later and we headed to Umzumbe to stay in Justin Chadwick’s holiday home for the next few nights. Cheers Justin!

Paddle Day 57

Glenmore to Port Shepstone 38km (4hrs 20min)

The day before I took off to recover and to celebrate my birthday but knowing today was a paddle day we have left the celebrations to tonight as no paddling tomorrow.

It was back to our happy routine of 03h45 get up and get ready. We had to drive 45min to get back to Glenmore and were at the beach and ready by 05h30. I had neglected to charge my satellite tracker for a week so unfortunately the battery was flat! The forecast was for a light headwind and building. I was also hoping that the current from the last paddle would still be here but it was not and I could not find any favourable current at all. In fact for most of the day it must have been about 2km/hr against me!

The swell was just 2.1 m but with a 13 second period which translates to a rather sizeable wave that will hit the beach. I had to be careful today and was always watching for the big one that was breaking a little further out. I almost got collected by a nasty set about 30km into the paddle. A panic sprint back out to sea was all that I could do and it was JUST enough!!

A local paddle Mike Halliday came out and met me along the way. Great chatting Mike, thanks for the company. I do enjoy having company so if there are paddlers out there who perhaps don’t really enjoy WORK do come out for a chat.

I finally beached on the western side of the river at Ports Shepstone and paddle a little bit up the river to a take out spot. I sometime wonder about people! Here a chap was launching his ski boat and his car was up to its doors in the sea water. Maybe he is selling it tomorrow!
The South Coast Herald came down to take some pictures for the interview we did yesterday. Seems like we are getting a bit more exposure the closer we get to the end!

Paddle Day 58

Port Shepstone to Umzumbe 15km (1hr 35min)

OK so this was a very short one just to nip a little off tomorrows long paddle to Winklespruit which is now only 67km 🙂

It was also my first fun with the shore break. Oh I have still a lot to learn!
The worst bit was paddling with my booties full of coarse sea sand. Hey the wind has just turned to the SW so looking good for tomorrow!

Today I was thinking about the people behind the scenes that make a big difference to me and sometimes their recognition slips through the cracks. Take TourismZA. They have been behind this expedition since attempt #1. Mike, Andrea and Rory have spent countless hrs arranging accommodation, newsletters etc. Thanks team.

When ever I have required replacement goods or like now our passports, Send and Receive (www.sendreceive.co.za) have made sure I get it overnight wherever I am. Thumbs up Dion.

My personal assistant/driver/chef/butler/chief bottle washer Warren. How do you put up with me? Having spent time with my best mates father I now think I know him better than his sons do! “What goes on tour……..” 😉

My brother in law, Kevin and a few good mates, Ralph, Dale and Tallon for looking after my passion, the DownWind Dash. Undoubtedly the best Down Wind in Cape Town. Almost 100 Surfski and SUP paddlers line the start every Wednesday evening.

And the one person that keeps me going – my very understanding and wonderful best friend and wife Judy who has supported me at every turn. Not too many more sleep till we meet again xxx

richard kohler rainbow

Paddling Update: Day 46-49

Paddle Day 46

Port Alfred to Hamburg 68km (6hrs 10min)

We had a two day weather break in Port Alfred (PA) due to strong easterly winds and were lucky enough to be looked after by Rick and Jo-Anne Bretts. Yay, no more getting wet in our tents and it rained for most of the time while in PA. I was a bit of a hermit for the stay and relaxed at home and make good friends with the coffee machine which had a good workout. Warren and I stayed up late on New Years Eve but I didn’t make it and was in dream land before 21h00.

We managed to get in two newspaper interviews while in PA and hope to post the stories as soon as they are published, scanned and sent to us.

On Thursday morning at 04h30 we gathered at a little slipway at the Kowie River. It was quite a large gathering. Our hosts Rick and Jo-Anne came down to see us off. Reporter Dave was there to get some pics for the paper. A local doubles team who wanted to paddle the first 15km with me and then Craig Webster with whom I stayed with in Richards Bay a year ago while on my first attempt. Craig had just driven up the day before from Cape Town after completing the Cape Point Challenge and a short holiday on the West Coast.

Leaving the river mouth was different to when I arrived – not a wave in sight this time. The south westerly wind was already pushing us up the coast and the wind chop was building. As the conditions got better the singles started to pull away from the double ski. The wind chop was short and small making it difficult for the double to make much use of it. After a while I stopped for them to catch up and as they were only going a short distance thanked them for the company but we would keep going.

The conditions only got better but the forecast was for 5.5m swells to arrive by the afternoon and the winds to be gusting over 40 knots so we needed to be off the water before any of this happened. Every now and then a set of big swells would pass under us and pound the shore but for most of the time the conditions were fine. Some time into the paddle Craig had to hop off his craft for a call of nature.

Along the way Warren made contact a few times as he followed us up the coast and each time he had a visual as we were paddle close to the back line to stay out of the current. The downwind conditions just got better and better and it was almost sad to have to round the point at Hamburg and head to shore. The big swell and wind had not arrived yet so we no issue getting out at Hamburg.

The forecast shows big swell until Sunday morning so we have a 3 day weather rest before heading to East London. We are staying at a secret spot on the coast halfway between PA and Hamburg. Just a few houses. Friends have a holiday house here but it is full of people so could not offer us room but were telling their neighbours, Gus and Viv Laverge, about my trip. The Laverge’s were not going to be at home for this time and offered their house to us.

How amazing is that! Thank you Gus and Viv. Look forward to meeting you one day.

Their spot is stunning and has a cracker view of the river mouth and sea. The forecast buster came as predicted and boy did it get messy. The ocean turned itself on its head and the wind whipped up the sand which got into everything. After just a few hours there were mini sand dunes inside the house as the wind pushed the sand through any gaps under the doors.

Yesterday we spent some time on the beach at low tide looking for oysters that have been washed up from the big waves. We only found two. Our time here had been very relaxing going from one meal to the next. Sian’s and her mom, Lindy, have been keeping out bellies full and making sure I get all the healthy leafy stuff into my system. Yay. Unfortunately Lloyd has been down with some sort of flu which I hope does not jump host.

Our stay here has been wonderful.

The next paddling day is Sunday mid morning from Hamburg towards East London.

ACTS OF KINDNESS

A school friend, Kevin Weaving, made contact with me after hearing about my trip. I had not seen him since school days. He has now become one of our biggest fan/supporter offering help and advice at every turn. He is also the provider of my “Multitrack” tracking device. (www.multitrack.co.za User = smile pass =1234 ) We made arrangements to connect when I got into Plettenberg Bay as his family would be camping at the Keurbooms River for the holidays. He was also going to lend us his camping 80l fridge for the rest of our trip.

I met him and his wife at the beach when he came to see me in and after chatting for awhile, almost off handedly, said that their tent/camp site had burnt down last night and everything went up in smoke in seconds. Fridge and all! How devastating! Dodgy Christmas lights were the cause.

A few days later called to say that their fellow campers had done a collection so that they could at least replace the tent and handed him an envelope full of money.

He then said to me he would rather have this money go to our cause and would we please note it as a “Donation from the Keurboom campers”

How amazing is that?

Thank you to all the campers and to you Kevin.

7 January 2013

PADDLING FOR SMILES ON HOLD????

Yesterday Richard managed to paddle from Hamburg to East London although suffering from his recurring back injury.

Today’s reports indicate that he is mobile but struggling and will be receiving medical treatment later.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Today’s Daily Despatch

Daily Dispatch Richard Kohler

Paddle Day 47

Hamburg to East London 54km (4hrs 10min)

I knew there was a problem when I could not bend enough to put my booties on!

The conditions leaving Hamburg were good. A very light tail wind which started to increase. The following sea started to increase in size and I was starting to enjoy the paddle although I still had some pain from the lower back. I had taken a smartie pill before leaving and it must have kicked in.

About two hours later the wind and sea suddenly stood on its head. Making matters worse was the strong head current which pushed the swell up and was causing two out of three crests to break. As Everywhere the sea was looking nasty and more so the further out. I stayed close to the shore as I dared.

At Kidds beach, Warren told me that two single ski’s had gone out to meet me and paddle the rest of the way. I waited for a bit trying to find them but with the sea the way it was I did not want to wallow around for too long. I never did see them on the water.

The next land mark was Cove Rock. At this point in the PE to EL Challenge you know its almost over but still a bit to go. As I passed the rock the sea changed instantly. No longer were the swells steep and breaking but had become fun again. I suspect it is all due to the currents. As I got a glimpse of the harbour breakwater I saw a whole bunch of paddlers heading out to meet me. It’s always a fine sight. From there it was a quick dash around the breakwater and onto Orient beach.

A photographer for the Daily Dispatch was there so we had the photo shoot thing. The following day it was the front page picture. That evening there was a braai with a question and answer session at Border Canoe Club. What a lekker bunch of paddlers

The next morning my lower back was not happy! I struggled to get out of bed and movement was difficult so I had to take some time for physio treatment and rest.

We stayed with the Thompson’s family for the two nights and thanks to their son’s who gave up their rooms for us. It was refreshing to see how these youngsters spend their days. Lifesaving – surfing- fishing – paddling – skateboarding etc and everything within 5 minutes of their home. Brendon had arranged our breakfasts with their Wimpy up the road so this was where we spend our mornings. Breakfast, cappuccino and wifi. What more did we need besides a new lower back!

Paddle Day 48

East London to Cinsta East 31km (2hrs 30min)

Regarding my lower back the consensus is inflammation from spending so much time paddling and especially in the bigger downwind conditions as you tend to steer a lot by leaning the ski one way or another and put extra pressure on the joints. I had a few physio sessions with Gerda and I was soon mobile and ready to have a test paddle.

The forecast indicated that at 11am the wind was going to change to a SW and increase to 20 knots.

At 11am I put in at Orient Beach and met up with Ian Boyd who had paddled from Nahoon to join me for the leg back to Nahoon. We made our way out to sea a bit and soon started catching some lovely runs. In the words of a good mate, Ralph, they were “lollies or taxis”. Easy to catch and can ride them for a long time without much cost in effort. Right up my ally!

From Nahoon it was passed Three Sisters and to Gonubie. I had a chat with Warren here. Well it was a one sided chat. He could not make out what I was saying. Something wrong with his VHF radio. More on that later.

A little while later as I was passing Glen Gariff I saw a snake on the water. I paddled a little closer to get a better look but as I did so it tried to swim closer to me. Oh no! I could see the Daily despatch headline. Solo paddler taken by Puffadder – At SEA. I am not sure if it was a puffadder but I am sure it was a land snake. Must had been washed out to sea down one of the rivers.

Coming into Cinsta East looked more difficult than it was. I called Warren to get his advise but he had not made it to the beach in time. I paddled along the back line looking for the best place to get in through the surf and eventually found it on the West side of the river mouth. As I came ashore Warren made it to the beach and was trying to spot me on the water. He kept on telling me he could not see me and he could not understand me when I tried to say I was already ashore. We were at opposite ends of the beach! Quite funny now!

My lower back stood up well to the paddle which is a great relief.

We are lucky enough to be staying in Shane and Joy Roach’s holiday house in Cinsta East. We feel like kings here. The house is on the top of the dune tucked away amongst the trees. The views are spectacular especially from the hot tub 😉

I am planning to get to the Kei mouth tomorrow morning early before the predicted swell builds to 3m plus. After that there is unfortunately a nasty Easterly forecast to blow hard for five days so we may be stuck for a while. We may travel back to Cinsta East and wait it out here. Could think of worse places to be!

 

arriving in Eastern Cape

 

Paddle Day 49

Cinsta East to Kei Mouth 31km (2hrs 36min)

It was lekker to be back on the water before sunrise again. Even though it was overcast and I never saw the sun until later in the day there was enough light to get through the surf without issues. Just behind the breakers I was greeted by a few dolphins. Good start for the day don’t you think. The visibility was very good today and I could see the light of the Kei River lighthouse from the start.

Oh, by the way, how was the traffic for you today! 😉

The first place of interest to me was Haga Haga 15km along. The last time I was here was 1985 for a family Christmas holiday . I remember this date because it was when I first heard “Walk of Life” by Dire Straights on the wireless. Great memories I tell you!

A short while after Haga Haga the wind and seas got up. I headed closer to the shore to get out of any current hoping the sea would be more forgiving. It was a good call. I saw a rather big splash ten metres or so on my right side which made me turn left and start my sprint training again.

Approaching Morgan Bay there are some stunning cliffs reminding me why the next 10 days are along the “Wild Coast”. The surf at Morgan Bay was as I only know it – big and messy. Passing the Kei Light house at the next point I stayed close to the rocks and managed to get some great waves to ride around the corner and to the river mouth. The plan was to beach at the north side of the river but as I approached all I could see was lots of big surf so I opted to take out on a tiny beach before the mouth. I had to paddle up and down a bit to get my timing of the waves correct before heading in. Got it right so no issues.

Friday is going to be big swell and strong S to SE winds turning to very strong East winds till Sunday evening and the dropping off. So we have to sit tight for a while and then attempt it on Monday morning.

As in the classic movie Top Gun – Today was “Hop 50”!

Kei Mouth to Kob Inn 40km (3hrs 30min)

For the next few day up to Port St Johns we have been joined by Chris Bordeaux from East London. He is going to be our “guide” and is a mine of information on the Wild Coast having spent much of his spare time up and down this coast line.

Today was a late start due to the drive from Cinsta East and also the wind was only going to change later in the morning. The wind did change early and only really got going much later in the day. Leaving was a quick paddle out through virtually no surf and then headed left and passed inside the rocks just off the mouth. Here the water was muddy brown and just after low tide. I am not very comfortable paddling in this type of water but there is not much I can do and there are so many river from now on that I must just get used to it.

For the most part I paddled just behind the breakers to keep out of the strong current. I averaged 11.5km/hr so I was still in a head current. Normally in today’s conditions I would average maybe 13km/hr.

Many years ago I did a group hike from Kob Inn to Morgan Bay over 5 days. It was fun to see places I had been to and to recognising them from the sea. From here on it will all be new. The wind increased to over 30km/hr and was starting to get messy

As I was approaching Kob Inn I tried to call Warren on the radio to find out which was going to be my best option for landing but I got no response. I then called him up on his cell phone and was told that they were still half an hour away. So I was on my own and eventually made a call to beach well before the river mouth where the surf looked the smallest. I made it in without any problem but then had to walk 500m to get to the river before paddling up stream to the ski boat launch site.

Warren and Chris arrived and hour later! It sounds like the roads have taken a bit of a beating and it was slow going. They saw a bakkie lose its back wheel and drum assembly. The bakkie ended up on its side in the ditch. Very glad we have the right vehicle for these roads. Thank you Land Rover!

Tomorrow I will head for the Bashee river and by the sounds of it I will get there before my crew again. Maybe there will be more oysters while I wait for them 😉

 

Arriving in St Francis Bay

Paddling Update day 36-45

Paddling Day 36-45

Paddle Day 36

Knysna to Plettenberg Bay 44km (3hrs 45min)

After a wonderful day in Knysna we were on the go again. Leaving the lagoon and heading out through the heads I was accompanied by Alastair and Judy in a double, Paul Dugmore and Trevor Niksch in singles. Thanks for the company. It is always appreciated. The wind had already started to puff from the SW which meant a downwind 🙂 After going out of the heads and saying my farewells I turned left and paddled parallel to the coast. I kept within 1km to 1.5km of the shore for the rest of the leg.

knysna-lagoon

I am not sure if I was still too close but it was a very bumpy ride with a swell coming from the front, a swell from the SW and their respective reflection waves off the cliffs. I started to make good progress slipping down some swells with peak speeds around 30km/hr. I increased my average speed to almost 11.5km/hr until reaching Robberg. After going around it and into the bay the wind and sea flattened out and I could have been paddling on a pond. I paddled in at central beach next to the Beacon Isle hotel.

A good friend Wayne Craig had made arrangement with the local NSRI and paddlers to come out to greet me but I mixed up my departure time and arrived almost and hour sooner than anticipated. Never the less it was great to see and chat to everyone at the beach a little while later.

After a quick shower at the NSRI base we were whisked off to Off the Hook restaurant for fabulous breakfast and two cappuccino’s. Caffeine fix sorted we followed Wayne to the local radio station, MC 90.3 FM, for an interview with Sue van der Gaast. I am starting to enjoy these radio chats. It’s a lot of fun.

Tonight we have been treated by Owen Johnston from Tamodi Lodge and Stables. What a stunning place!!! Will post some pictures to make you all very jealous 🙂 Would love to chill out for a whole day here but we must march on!!

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Tomorrows plan is to head towards Storms River mouth 53km.

Paddle Day 37

PLETTENBERG BAY TO STORMSRIVER 50km (5 hrs)

We had delicious pizza’s for supper on Wednesday evening which Wayne and Louise Craig bought to Tamodi lodge. Thursday was one of the mornings I really battled to get out of bed. The view, feather soft duvet and the luxurious surroundings at Tamodi lodge was not conducive to the 03h45 wakeup. I had breakfast in bed and eventually dragged my body out of there.

While setting up the electronics for my paddle, I tweaked something in my lower back, but decided to paddle anyway and see if I could “paddle through it”. I launched at Central beach at the usual 05h00 and set of with no wind or swell to speak of. For the first hour, I was the only person on that stretch of ocean to appreciate the stunning sunrise until the peace as shattered by the fishing boats! An hour and 45 minutes into my paddle, I was approaching Nature’s Valley and decided that I was in too much pain and I was getting out . I paddled for 5 minutes towards the beach while having a serous debate with myself and then decided to HTFU and push on to the end of the planned day, Storms River.

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I passed a number of fishing boats, one with the gunwales full of punters holding fishing rods, looking very unhappy with no “stywe lyne” in sight and a few with green gills! I started moving closer to the coast as I wanted to see the Otter trail huts. The view of Bloukrans gouge and bridge from this end, was also spectacular. My speed over the ground started to improve and by the time I reached Storms river I was averaging 10km/h again. The last 5 km to Storms river was challenging and I had to dig deep. Paddling into Storms river was very special and there cannot be many people who have done that. Then while having a coffe on the deck a group of 20 tourists came paddling across the river!!! Oh well can’t have every moment to myself.

We battled to find accommodation and eventually Owen, the head park ranger, helped us out and provided us with a beautiful camp site. Robert, the very friendly manager of the shop also helped out by supplying us with some wood and ice. Storms river is packed to the rafters with tourists from all over the world.

Tomorrow is going to be another challenge as I am not sure my back is going to hold up and the wind may be hard in my face. I am paddling to Skuitbaai and unfortunately we have not managed to secure a spot to rest our heads for the night and I am not sure if Warren will be able to reach me as it is a private gated resort. He will have to sweet-talk the security.

Paddle Day 38

Storms River to Eersterivier 31km (3hr 30min)

Yeterday was a pleasant day at Storms River. We stayed at the campsite and I relaxed, giving my back a well deserved rest. I eventually had to dig into my pharmaceuticals for the first time in order to try to alleviate the pain. A little massage from Judy also helped. The wind picked up steadily during the day from the East which was not encouraging for the next day’s paddle, but the forecast indicated a small area of calm early in the morning before picking up again. While we were preparing for supper, I received a phone call from Richard Arderne informing me that Frans Loots happened to read my blog on facebook and offered us accommodation at Oubos, which is right next to Eesterivier. I am still amazed at the amount of compassion and kindness that people have shown me on this trip – total strangers to good friends.

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This morning I woke to a still and calm morning. Because the park gate only opens at seven, I did not have to strike camp (left to Judy who slept in) and I was able to be on the water by 4:40. The first two hours of the paddle was a normal day at the office except for a slight head current due to last nights winds. I remained quite close to the coast and my back was behaving itself in the lumpy conditions. The last hour and a half was into an increasing headwind making my progress painfully slow. The houses at my destination just did not seem to get any closer, but as all things do, I eventually made it to the end. I was shown two exit options by my shore team, which now included our host, Franz Loots. I turned both options down and opted for a more sheltered point further up the coast. As I was getting closer to this point, I saw another surfski paddler, paddling out to meet me, only to be disappointed when he turned left and headed away from me. I almost overshot my exit point until my shore crew pointed this out to me and guided me behind the reef and safely to the beach. After getting changed and about to head off to our host’s house, I realised that the paddler I had seen, was Heinrich Schloms. His wife was a little concerned as she had lost sight of him, but awhile later he came into view and all was well again. Maybe I will be able to convince him to paddle to Oysterbay with me tomorrow if he can paddle at my slow pace.

For lunch we sneaked inland with our hostess, Tanya Loots, who kept us entertained with her infectious laugh and sense of humour. Tonight we will braai with the “Loots of Trouble” clan before setting out for Day 39 to Oysterbay.

Day 39

Eersterivier to Oyster Bay 43km (4hrs 20min)

It was tough to leave the Loots family after such a lekker stay but I have to keep moving. Launching from the beach straight forward and the swells was small. The first section of the paddle I stayed very close to shore trying to find some favourable. When I got to the main bay that I cut across I paddled up to a chokka fishing boat. They were all fishing on the other side and as I paddled around the boat the got quite a fright. Some of them expressed their surprise with some colourful words. At least I had some fun!

In the middle of the bay I counted 35 boats all anchored in a group. They use massive light bulbs above the deck to attract the chokka. The holiday houses along the shore have to draw their curtains at night cause the light is so bright! The rest of the paddle was characterised by more boats and then some more.

 

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Coming into Oyster Bay was straight forward (normally a big tricky surf line) with a well chosen exit point by Warren. We had been invited to camp on the lawn at the Oyster Bay beach lodge by the owners Nic and Stephanie. Being in season time the lodge was full hence the need to camp but not actually having a lawn we set up our tents on their balcony.

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The lodge has the most a relaxing atmosphere ever which is just my style. We spent the rest of the day chilling and chatting to the other guests. Nic looked after our every need from the breakfast fry to dinner and even breakfast the next morning.

Paddle Day 40

Oyster Bay to St Francis 34km (3hrs 20min)

The paddlers from St Francis came to Oyster Bay to keep me company today. It was a later start than normal allowing time for everyone to drive here. There was no wind or swell to worry about so we paddled right along the shore passing the spot where our wonderful national power company is planning to build another nuclear power station. So sad!

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In this bay a school of dolphins joined us on their way to St Francis Bay for what seems like their daily run (Have seen them do this for 3 days in a row now). Going around Cape St Francis light house, (the oldest light house in the country so I was told but Google gives title to the Green Point lighthouse) the NSRI came out to greet us. Thanks for the support. We popped into the main beach and picked up another bunch of paddlers swelling our number to almost twenty. We proceeded around Shark Point and along the shore and past the harbour At Bruce’s Beauties we caught a little wave or two for fun. It was around here that Etienne Buys, our host for the next few days, arrived in his ski boat. I quickly hopped on the boats wash for the rest of the way to the Krom River mouth. Paddling into St Francis canals is quite something with the impressive homes along the banks and then you see the devastation caused by the recent fire. A very very sad sight indeed! We got out at the St Francis “marina/slipway”.

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The St Francis paddlers have certainly upped the anti in terms of welcoming me in. Thanks everyone and especially Richard Arderne for making the arrangements.

Paddle Day 41

St Francis to Sardinia Bay 63km (5hrs 43min)

Yesterday afternoon we went for drinks with Ralph Teulings and family in Cape St Francis. Ralph has just completed racing in the Cape Point Challenge and was now officially on holiday! Well so he thought. The weather forecasts for the following few days indicated that the 25th, would be a good day to get my next paddle in which was meant to be to Jeffreys Bay however I managed to twisted Ralphs rubber arm and he agreed join me. Now that I had company I suggested that instead of doing a short paddle lets do a big one and cross the bay in one go. It would mean that at some point we would be as far as 15km from land!!

So on Christmas morning (MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE) while the children were still dreaming of their presents we got on the water and paddled out of the Krom River and into the bay. The wind had already started to blow from the West and as the day progressed so did the winds strength. What a great downwind paddle.

It did get a little tricky at some stages with the wind swell running against the current creating steep waves. Every now and then I would get swamped by the breaking crest of a wave but all in all it was a great paddle. Even in these conditions I would not have been comfortable being on my own so far offshore. The two of us have paddle together for the past 12 years and know how to keep a eye on each other. Sometimes we would end up on the same wave and “Tulips” would curse out loud saying something about having the whole @#$* ocean to paddle on 🙂 Getting “T” boned by your mate out here would not be cool!

Coming into Sardinia Bay I was a little apprehensive. The last time I paddled in here the surf was huge and today it looked equally tricky. I knew we had to go around a reef before turning to the beach but I did not know how much shelter the reef offered. I had tried to chat to Warren on the radio but he could not see us and the wind noise over his radio was to loud for me to hear what he was saying so my eyes on the beach were of now help. After rounding the reef it was immediately apparent that all was well and the surf was not going to be an issue.

My 2013 Dusi partner and brother in law, Kevin Goodspeed, will be pleased to hear that I have been doing some extra Dusi training. We had to carry our boats up and over a large sand dune to get to the Land Rover. Even though I had to stop and rest twice but I am still claiming it as training!!!

We got back to our host around 2pm and to our surprise they had waited for us to get home before starting their Christmas lunch. We have been so spoilt. They have taken us in as if we were family. A place at the table for each meal.- been fishing on the boat at sea, with great success- trip up the river and there were even Christmas gifts for us. We are staying in a little cottage next to the main house. Not sure I want to leave.

We then had Christmas dinner with Ralphs family which meant more lekker food. I am sure I ate for 10 people today. We played some fun games around opening of gifts. By the time we got home I was asleep on my feet.

Tomorrow I will take part in the annual paddle race around the canals. Hopefully I can create some more awareness from it. After that we will head to PE with the hope of paddling into PE on the 28th.

Come on Port Elizabeth:- Can you beat St Francis’s welcome!

27 December 2012

Today was a rest day… well not quite!

We stayed another day in St Francis in order to take part in the Rezco Investec St Francis Surfski 14km Challenge – Sporty Anderson Memorial paddle.

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It was my honour to paddle doubles with our hosts son, Danie Buys, a very talented young paddler. I sat in the back and Danie steered his first race on the sea. You could see us from a long way away from my poor timing. Never the less I enjoyed this day of competitive paddling.

Well what a special day it ended up being for me. We managed to take the lead at the first mark and then kept it for the rest of the race. Clearly all due to the power house in the front seat and not the old fart in the back. At prize giving I was called up and presented with a cash donation from the event. A few of the winners also came over and gave their cash prize to me as well. How awesome is that!!

To round it off, our medals were presented by Joan Anderson, my cousin, who I now have just met for the first time.

What a great few days we have had in St Francis and a big thank you to all the friendly and helpful people we met.

We now moved on up the coast and will paddle from Sardinia Bay to Summer Strand tomorrow starting at 8am. Anyone joining me?

Paddle Day 42

Sardinia Bay to Summer Strand (PE) 28km (2hrs and change)

Gavin McNish and Kay van Oosten in a double and Rob Welsh in a single joined me today. On the water at 08h00. Getting out was no problem and we sneaked along the inside of the reef. The Westerly had not faded as predicted so were had a really pleasant downwind all the way to Cape Receife. At Cape Receife we met up with Richard Mangold, Luck McNish, Craig Seale, Fanta Gous and Brendon Bosh for the last leg to Summer Strand.

Rob and I had some fun sneaking inside the reef at the point and then we all surfed the waves down the coast. I managed to get some great video footage of this and the image attached is a screen shot of it.

Tomorrows plan is to cut across the bay to Sundays River.

Paddle Day 43

Summerstrand to Sundays River 34km (3hrs 20min)

Today’s paddle was straight forward. Head across the bay following the GPS heading. There was not a lot happening out in the middle of Nelson Mandela Bay. I did see some dolphins playing around St Croy Is. I passed two ship out on anchor waiting for their turn at Gouga harbour. On the MSC one the crew were busy chipping and painting high up on the stern. From their shouting and laughter I must have provided some light relief.

Coming ashore at the river mouth could have been tricky, especially as it was spring low tide when I got there, but by staying out of the fast flowing river mouth itself it worked out fine. The only problem was I had to portage the boat 400m to the Land Rover. Will put that down as Dusi training.

Tomorrow is a big day to Boknes. Seven hrs on the water.

Paddle Day 44

Sundays River to Cannon Rocks (Boknes) 69km (6hrs 30min)

Yesterday evening Warrens son, Paul, arrived at Sundays River from Johannesburg. He will be joining us for a few days to spend some time with his Dad.

We camped on the banks of the river and again our budget took another hit for a 6m x 6m patch of grass. It did however come with a bunch of fishermen/campers for neighbours who got louder and louder as the dop flowed. At 3am they did quieten down when the one guy found out one of the other guys tried to muscle in on his girlfriend etc…. I am sure it would have been amusing if I was not paddling the next day.

Today was the first paddling day that did not start with a cup of coffee. Maybe that was why I was a little grumpy! Leaving the river mouth was tricky and I had to take a few foamies on the chest before finding my gap in the waves.

This section of the coast line is all sand dunes. They have to be the most spectacular sand dunes in the whole country but unfortunately they don’t give a sense of progress as they all look the same. There is one spot just before Woody Cape, 41km into the day, where they turn into a 5km stretch of cliffs. These cliffs are both loved and hated by the paddlers competing in the PE to EL Surfski Challenge as you can see them from miles away and they never seem to get closer but when you pass them you know you are almost there.

The visibility was good and I could see Bird Island clearly. Just as I was heading around the northern point of the bay I came across my first real fin, a small hammerhead and then something a bit bigger heading away from me, or was that me heading the other way :-).

Coming into Cannon Rocks was quite tricky. The tide was low and the swell running at 2.7m but my spotters gave me the best line and we avoided any drama. Once ashore I was told that one of the trackers had not been working which seemed to cause a few followers a little consternation. I have to admit that I am absolutely bushed and a little stiff.

We have set up camp on Fred Cresswell’s lawn for tonight. Tomorrow the plan is Cannon Rocks to Port Alfred 37km.

Paddle Day 45

Cannon Rocks to Port Alfred 38km (3hrs 20min)

Yesterday we pitched out tents at Fred Cresswell’s holiday house in Bushmans River. I spent a bit of the afternoon sleeping on the lawn under their ski boat trying to keep out of the sun. It’s been rather hot lately and I am not a fan of the heat. Fred made arrangements for other paddlers to paddle along for the leg into Port Alfred. Some would leave with us from Cannon Rocks and other would meet us off Kenton.

That evening it started to rain and we can say with confidence that our tents offer less protection that an upturned colander! The forecast indicated a good downwind and the swell similar to the day before. Well when we got to Cannon Rocks the swell was pretty big. That was while looking down from the sand dune. From the waters edge it was a lot bigger! We entered the water with confidence and waited just before the impact zone popping over the foamies waiting for the lull.

Right that’s the last wave of the set, lets go! Fred and myself got the jump on the other two, Nick Rocky and Marc Notje, and were looking good for a few moments until the early arrival of the next set. I had miss timed it badly. The first wave broke a foot in front of us. The foamie then reared up and swallowed us hole and then, after what seemed like forever, it spat us out. Fred lost contact with his boat which washed up onto the rocks! I managed to hold onto mine and then did the same for the next four waves. All my accessories had come adrift from my ski and were dangling from their safety lines. What a mess. I had to clip everything back in place before remounting.

Again I had to sit and ride over the foamies waiting for a gap in the surf . Eventually I managed to get out to the dead ocean. As I reached the back line I head Warren on the radio telling me Fred’s ski was damaged and he would not be going any further. The three of us turn for Port Alfred and started to ride the wind chop and swell. It was turning into the last great downwind of 2012.

Marc was going to get out at Kenton but was having too much fun. We called his wife and made new arrangements. As we reached Kenton a few other paddlers came into view and one of them was Fred! He went home and got his old ski and then had another go at getting through the surf at Kenton, which all agreed was bigger. A double and single ski made it out with Fred but unfortunately another single got smashed at Kenton. The double and single left us after short while and headed back to the beach. It was great to see you out there even if only for a short while.

The swells were now getting bigger and the wind stronger. Having come in and out of Port Alfred a number of times before I decided that I would go up the river mouth and not try the beach. I wanted to avoid any more surf time. I made contact with Warren and asked if there were any waves breaking across the entrance. Nope nothing breaking!

I headed off first and as I started to near the entrance a monster set started looming behind me. I was confident that they would not break. I had been told so. I backed off the first wave just in time as it crashed across the entrance! WHAT!!! CRAP! Now I am in trouble!

The river was still flowing out strongly and if you take a swim here you would most certainly be in big trouble. The next wave broke behind me . By this time I sprinting for the A team but it soon overtook me. Somehow I managed to stay upright and then managed to duck behind the breakwater before the next wave. I also got hit by this wave but only from the water coming over the breakwater and onto my head!

But what had happened to the other guys.

They had managed to hang back and let the set go past before paddling in. They had thought I had been eaten by that set. When we were back together there was a lot of post nervous laughter! I took the video camera out to get the footage of the river and our arrival but when I viewed it later it was quite shaky! Wonder why!

That’s enough excitement for 2012. See you all next year.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!