Paddle Day 59 (59-65)
Umzumbe to Scottburgh to Winklespruit 69km (5hrs 10min)
The day started off with an easy launch and very little wind. Hugging the shore line us much as possible and keeping away from the breakers on the points. The wind only started to build just before the two hour mark. It increased to a steady 15kt SW and as the time passed so the wind chop got better and better to ride.
My second waterproof VHF radio has now given up the ghost so today coms with Warren had to be with the cell phones which is not ideal because I have to stop paddling and balance while communicating. Hope to be able to get them repaired in Durban.
The past 3 days of paddling I have seen turtles so I know I am moving into more tropical waters plus I have to keep myself away from the shark net buoys. Most of the time I am well inside them keeping out of the current but sometimes they sneak up on me especially when going downwind.
I had a brief stop at Scottburgh beach to meet up with Billy & Tracy Harker and Colin Simpkins who is hosting us until I paddle again. I managed to get a fishing line caught on my rudder coming into the beach so I had to back paddle to get it off. The fisherman was pretty chilled about it especially considering they were taking part in a competition.
From Scottburgh the pace was a little quicker than normal. This tends to happen when paddling with others around as I am not wanting them to have to wait for me all the time. The 23km to Winklespruit was a great downwind with rather too much sea life jumping about. We all got knocked by these long skinny fish with pointy noses jumping out the water. Some are more than a foot long. On the plus side my life jacket now had a fresh fishy smell which I think is better than before!
Coming in to Winklespruit the surf was small but I almost made a meal of it when I decided to back off the wave and then try chase it in. I did not manage to back off soon enough and ended up burying the nose, flipping the ski backwards, a short trip in the white water (I am sure I was off the ski at the time) and when the wave was passed I was somehow still upright but facing out to sea. Must have looked good from the shore!
Gary from the local SLC was there to greet us and he arranged two flask of coffee. Now that’s good hospitality I say!
Winklespruit was the end point on my first attempt so I have now paddle solo around the entire SA.
BUT not uninterrupted. 12 more paddling days and I should be in Mozambique ?
Paddle Day 60
Winkelspruit to Umhlanga 49km (4hrs 5min)
After a few days being looked after by the Simpkins family it was time to get back on the water. Did you know Copper can cook! Yip he does a fine job too. Lol. The forecast indicated a fading SW wind. Our on the water time was arranged for 06h00 as we had to drive 40km drive to get to Winklespruit.
Paul and Gary from Winklespruit SLC joined me for the leg to Durban. Just as I got passed the surf zone the clip for my GPS broke. It had rusted right through! Managed to find a spot for it under the straps of the juice bags but it is too far forward for me to reach it so I will have to MacGyver it later (the agents say it will take 10 days to get a replacement).
The conditions were just perfect. The lumps and bumps all going in the right direction and our average speed was getting close to 13km/hr which for me is styling. We passed one little Johnny that was thrashing about but he soon disappeared when it realised we were there.
Since the conditions were so lekker I decided to carry on to Umhlanga and paddled on from the harbour breakwater on my own. Paul and Gary went in at Marine. Another gear problem is the new VHF radio. It works for about 10min and then emits a high pitch noise and all the buttons stop working and the screen flashes! So today’s coms with Warren we were relying on the trackers and cell phones.
BUT for some reason the Satellite tracker was not getting its signal out and the cellular trackers battery had finally said no more. I will get a new battery while in Durban. The Satellite unit started giving a position once I got to the beach but I am still not sure what’s up with it.
My other gear failures have been these so called waterproof ear phones and pouches. All my pouches have either got holes ripped in them (design issues) or leak just enough to destroy any electronics. I have lost an mp3 player already. I now have had to place every piece of electronics into a condom before putting into the bags and this has been the best way to keep them dry. (to all those where we have stayed, the used ones in the dustbin are not what you think!!!)
On Sunday, out of frustration, I did a Google search for waterproof earphones in Durban and saw a product called Dri-Dock. I emailed them asking if they believe in their product and how do I get my hands on them. Well before I had completed the paddle they had contacted Warren and a short while after my paddle I was sitting having coffee with Peter and Carla. They brought along some samples of their range which seem to be of a much better quality than I have been using.
To cut a long story short they gave me the samples to test on the remainder of the trip. How cool is that. Check them outhttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Dri-Dock-SA/202630733208006
In the afternoon I went to the Shark Tank medical centre for physio treatment with Jaco. I have been suffering with my left shoulder and neck so this was his target area. Welcome to a world of pain! Shew! I am glad I am not paddle tomorrow so the repair job can recover. (it feels a whole bunch better already)
While I was in getting myself panel beaten Warren read in the paper that the previous morning at Winklespruit at 05h50 a fisherman at was shot four times. Aren’t we glad that the wind was not ideal for paddling that day! Hectic!
We are staying with Billy and Tracey Harker while in Durban and should be heading off on Thursday when the NE winds start to ease off.
Paddle Day 62
Umhlanga to Zinkwazi with a 10min break at Tinley Manor 62km (6hrs 20min)
After a few days staying with the Harker’s and loving their aircon’s much to the displeasure of my man Warren, I decided for a late start in the hope the the forecast was going to deliver said SW 15kt winds. On the water at 08h00 at “Grannies pool” Umhlanga. The first hour reminded me of my ocean crossing days. I was paddling in a rain squall for ages. I could have had dozen washes if on a yacht. I love paddling in the rain today. It cooled things down a bit and the drops hitting the sea reminds me of the “Matrix” I felt like Neo and could read the movement of the sea so much better in the rain. Ha good start.
What all the rain did was send all the river down in flood. Every river was pumping muddy water out to sea and for the rest of the day that was pretty much the state of the water.
I wanted to put in a 90km day and push all the way to Amatikula but the wind that came and went was from the SE and was more of a pain than help. Until I passed Salt rock I had a strong head current which eased off the further north I went.
Warren and I chatted at most places along the way with our repaired VHF radios thanks to Imtec/RadioHolland who only charged for parts! Have to say it is great to have these coms working again. At Tinley Manor I opted to stop and stretch the legs for a few minutes. A good call and I was feeling rejuvenated for the next leg to Zinkwazi.
Well, this next leg had a fair bit of action. More action that I care for but all’s well that ends well.
The first thing was a Manta/Skate about two meters in diameter leaped well over six feet into the air. His wings curled up like two torpedo tubes. Splash it landed and it was all over! Very cool to see but what was it trying to escape from?
About half an hour later I was mock charged by a little man in a grey suit. It came from slightly behind on my right side and turned away, next to my paddle as I lifted it out of the water, so abruptly that I was splashed all over. Now that’s not cool! See my black stripe works! Could have been a brown one too!
Other sea life spotted today were dolphins and turtles.
Coming into Zinkwazi was simple enough but I had to stay clear of the river mouth that was in flood. I beached on the north side and then had to ferry glide across the river to get to Warren and the Land Rover. Then off to find a place to stay!
We were also lucky to be offered a last minute place to stay called Avalon B&B. Thank you Sue for making the contact and Lee our host for allowing us to stay. We will be here for less than 12 hours which means an early start tomorrow.
Paddle Day 63
Zinkwazi to Mtunzini 48km (3hrs 50min)
Last night we went down to the ski boat club for dinner but unfortunately the kitchen was closed so to make our trip worth while we stayed for a cold refreshment. All of a sudden the heavens opened and the rain did not stop till later the following morning. I had to have a little chuckle to myself at the local boys drinking their capt & cokes. I was wearing my sarong and T-shirt and clearly my dress code was not to their liking by the looks of disapproval. I can only imagine their conversation about these two old men, especially the one wearing a skirt!! love it!
Back at the B&B we had to settled for baked beans on bread for dinner. Never underestimate this age old meal! The following morning we woke just before 4am and I was still feeling tired from the previous day so I made an executive decision to get one more hours sleep. It was a good call and by the time I got up I was feeling rested. Having forgotten to hang up my wet paddling kit soon enough it was still wet when I put it on. Not a great start to the morning routine.
I paddled off the beach at 06h00 from the river mouth and used the outgoing flow to help push me beyond the surf zone. Straight away I could feel that the current was in my favour and I was paddling in the brown water from the river at I moved north.
The biggest issue I have for today was crossing the Tugela River mouth. (it is 502km long and the biggest river in KZN) The area around the mouth is well known for its nasty big fish and after all of the rain it was flowing full and strong. The water was such a rich brown colour that I could not see my paddle when in the water. After about an hour of paddling in this water I started to forget about these things. The wind from behind also started to increase and I was starting to make good progress with an improving downwind.
After passing the Amatikulu river mouth where I had injured my back on the previous attempt I spotted the Land rover stick out of the trees. I called “ Whiskey Delta” up on the radio and had a short chat. The swells and wind chop had increased and Warren never actually managed to spot me as I paddled passed. Quite a thing especially with all my high visibility gear.
As I approached Mtunzini I could see two vehicles on the beach and what looked like a line of rocks angling across the beach. I tried to call on the radio but got no reply. It was only when I was a few hundred metres away did I realize the the rocks were actually the bank of a river in flood. It was the Siyaya river and it had not broken its mouth in 13years and we were the first to see it.
Waiting on the beach with Warren was Isabella, our host from Nkawu Cottage. Isabella managed to save a turtle that had been washed out of the river and it was put into Umlazi lagoon. It such a shame that we only get to spend a few hours at these wonderful places but I had a great night sleep in a cool room. I LOVE AIRCON! Poor Warren does not fancy aircon and always gives me stick when I put it on in the Land Rover.
Paddle Day 64
Mtunzini to Richard Bay 41km (4hr 15min)
I thought that the rain was over but it just poured all night. The gate to the reserve only opens at 05h00 so a 06h00 launch was the order of the morning. A quick photo shoot with Isabella before we set off to meet Craig Webster at the reserve gate. Once on the beach the surf was not looking so friendly but a well timed dash to the back line made it look easy. The water was still dark brown from the river that was still gushing into the sea. I think I am over this brown water now!
Craig paddled a straight line across to the first point just past the Umlalazi river mouth and I followed the shore line. There was not too much in it other than I guess I had less of a head current on the inside. I moved off a bit to join Craig and a little while later a tail wind started to give a bit of assistance and the runs started to become easier to catch but our average was slowing down. Classic case of being in a adverse current with a tail wind. We headed closer for the shore into less of a current. We stopped alongside the light house for a few minutes and then again for me to take another great picture of a rainbow. See album 61 to the Finish
As we got closer to “New Mouth” the surf started to break a long way out to sea and this forced us back into the current but with less than 10km to go now it was not too much of a worry. As we started to pass New Mouth we met Leon and Jacques on their single surf ski’s. From here it was a quick hop passed the harbour wall and into the the yacht basin and on to the Zululand Kayak Club. Along the way the a large bunch of novice paddlers taking part in the clubs training program joined us for the final kilometre.
After a quick interview with the local press and a nice shower I was treated to a local refreshment. Milk stout in a pint glass topped up with cola. Sounds odd but its right up my alley!
Unfortunately the forecast is looking bleak for quite a while so we will be sitting in Richard Bay. Only 5 paddle days to go!
Paddle Day 65
Richards Bay to Nhlabane 25km (3hrs 11min)
The weather and sea have not been playing along and I am getting frustrated waiting in the bustling city of Richard Bay! The forecast for today showed a small gap in the late morning. Sitting around waiting for this change somehow makes me a little nervous! Similar to the butterflies before a big race. Who know why but the second I get on the water I find myself in my happy place and no more butterflies.
I had to split day 65 into two days of paddling. A 25km today to Nhlabane and then a 36km to Mapelane on Friday morning.
Craig our host joined me again and we set off from the ZKC and paddled out of the harbour just after midday. As we left we could feel the wind that was supposed to swing to SW was in fact coming from the NE. Straight into us. Bugger!
Well not much to do but try and get into a rhythm, stay close to the shore and watch out for any rouge waves. A one point Craig was sitting tail slip and I hit a bigger wave causing me to slow down and rocked up and down. The nose of his ski went under my tail which slammed down on his boat and knocked him into the drink. I am glad that my ski is well made and no damage was inflicted.
As the afternoon moved on the wind increased and it started to rain again. As you know I like the rain which cooled everything down from the 34 degrees when we started. Always look for the positive!
It was quite frustrating at times especially when the boat stops after bashing into a few waves in a row and then have to work a bit to get the boat going again only to have it happen a few minutes later. Yes, I know a lot of it is in how you steer over the swell and chop but sometimes it just gets you.
In last 5km the rain and wind stopped and the clouds moved off. The sea flattened out and it was back to a decent pace. It really is a beautiful coast line even with the rehabilitation after the mining. I am looking forward to the next few days.
Landing at the beach was straight forward. Take the gap between the sets and don’t get caught in the shore break. I must be improving because that’s just what I did.
On the drive back to Richard Bay I got a message reminding me that in 7 days it will be Valentines day and would I be home in time. I guess I have been away from home for much too long that my loving wife would ask such a question. Maybe Judy was hoping that being at sea every day has soften my brain. Maybe a little!