⑪ Upper North Island trip
～from Tauranga to Cape Reinga～
How’s going? I am Yoshiyuki Akatsuka and I came to NZ for kayaking from Japan. Last year, after I had been at a language school for two months, I traveled in the south island by car. I paddled at Kaikoura Peninsula, Milford Sound, Lake Manapouri, The Point of Otago peninsula, Abel Tasman National Park by my kayak which is a K－1 expedition (feather craft: made in Canada). And I joined The KASK forum in Anakiwa.
Thereafter, I circumnavigated both D’Urville Island and Lake Taupo. And finally, I started kayaking from Mt Manganui to Cape Reinga. This was my final goal.
I was discovered by Evan who met me at The KASK forum when I left the beach in Mt Manganui. I got information about Tauranga bay and the chance to write this article by this strange coincidence.
I think this article will be too long because this trip has a lot of unforgettable events.
My departure date was at March 18, but I left the beach the next day because I couldn`t prepare for my kayaking due to heavy rain. At first, I was puzzled whethe to choose either to go through the surf or go though Tauranga Bay. The upshot was I went to the inland sea because there was a lot of great scenery. The tide was good too.
Tauranga Bay was very calm like a lake. The center of the bay was mangroves and I could find a lot of waterfowl, such as black swans and herons. I remembered that it is sea when I found blue penguin. After I had been paddling for five hours, I could see the exit of Tauranga Bay. I was riding the tide as I went out to the open sea. Then I suddenly got confused about this situation because the sea changed from calm to rough and I drifted off shore with the winds. I went though a surf zone and I managed to head the kayak north along the coast. I intended to land at the holiday park in Waihi beach, but truthfully, I didn’t know where it was and couldn’t find it from offshore. So I searched destination at my discretion.
I attempted to land without riding the wave. But…I made a mistake.
My hip was suddenly lifted up at the edge of the beach and I had been capsized. I couldn’t do Eskimo roll then so I swam to the beach and collected the drift on the beach.
I camped out on the beach this night. I clearly understood the fact that this sea is tough.
The next day, the swell let up a little, so I could go across the surf zone easily. I headed north. The offshore winds were very strong. I finally arrived in Tairua.
The following day, I arrived at Buffalo Beach in Whitianga via Cathedral Cove which was a known beauty spot. I stayed at backpacker a called “On the Beach” where my friend worked. The next day, I thought I shouldn’t go out from Mercury Bay because of the easterly breeze. So I stayed there again. Then I could get one night for free and a can of beer thanks to the owner! Good place!
I was able to leave there the next day, but the entrance of Mercury Bay was really choppy due to a strong south-westerly breeze. So I paddled hard for three hours until I turned the Kuaotunu peninsula and arrived at shelter from the wind. This day, I paddled around to Waikawau.
The next day, I paddled to Stony Bay slowly. I wanted to dive there then, so I dived to catch some fish in the afternoon. Fortunately, I caught a big kingfish! Thanks to it, I didn’t have a trouble eating for days…
Great Barrier Island
March 25, I left the DOC campground in Stony Bay and I headed for Great Barrier Island. Unfortunately, this day was spring tide. I attempted to cross the channel one to two hours either side of slack tide, which were from 11am to 2pm.
But the winds were south-westerly. I was pushed by wind and with surfing and so I was able to get around the Cape Barrier in Great Barrier Island in only 2 hours 40 minutes after I left Coromandel Peninsula.
I was really lucky! It was a fine day. The Sea was calm. This was an ideal day for island hopping. I arrived at Medlands Beach in east coast then.
The next morning, I happened to meet John on the beach when I got ready to depart. He live at Devonport in Auckland. After he heard about my kayak trip, he said “I do want you to come to my house! You must come and see me when you arrive in Auckland!!” so I decided to visit his home.
Since dreamy good weather went on for five days until I left the island, I enjoyed my fill of Great Barrier Island. So there were a lot of remarkable rock forms and caves, and visibility was wonderful so I could look at many fish under water. This island is my best paddling place in NZ.
I fought easterly winds and waves between the green campground and Shag Point in Great Barrier Island. However, there was a sudden calm as the wind dropped; I paddled easily in the calm sea while crossing Collivel channel. But I got tired from the heat and tide in turn. And when I arrived on the coastline in Coromandel, I was reduced to fighting strong head wind and head tide…! I kept on paddling and could go into Port Jackson Bay.
The next day, I was able to go to Long Beach because sea was calm. The following day was a strong easterly breeze. I was crossing Hauraki Gulf as if I was pushed, then I arrived in Motutapu Island.
April 2. I arrived at the beach in front of John’s house in Devonport at 4pm after I climbed to the summit of Rangitoto Island. John waved his hand with his pet dog (I heard later on, that he had watched me with a telescope while I paddled from Rangitoto Island to there!) I stayed in his house for three days. John was a climber who challenged Himalayas when he was young, so he was generous to a shabby Japanese kayaker. I can’t thank him and his wife enough.
There is only Northland left to go before the itinerary. I went to Shakespeare Park via Toritorimatangi Island. I wanted to leave there early, but I had to remain due to strong north winds.
The next day, in strong westerly winds and intermittent rain, I left there. I landed on the north side of Takatu Point after I went through Martins Bay. Landing was surfing then, I didn’t make a mistake this time.
The following day, I headed for Goat Island via Cape Lodoney.
But this day had some dangerous situations because westerly winds became stronger than the day before and gusts blew sometime. It was unbearable to paddle in this situation, so I landed on Pakiri beach. However I left there soon because it was not time to erect my tent and the holiday park was expensive… surf exit, surf entry, strong westerly, those were very hard. I arrived around entrance of Mangawai harbor at 5pm. But I couldn’t find any definite entrance place!
Meanwhile, I drifted toward the surf zone. I escaped out of the surf zone as I put up with waves. I ran away offshore and be sizes I headed north and landed at the beach in Mangawai head. The sun gone down already, I felt cold because I was sopping wet, so I wanted to change my clothes. When I took the baggage out of my kayak, I was talked to by couple and they said, “Should we drop you off to a campground by car? You should leave your kayak in that surf shop”
So we went to this shop, which was really a life guard office!! At that moment the manager whose name is Dean Storey came there, he said “You can stay here” I took advantage of his kind offer. We carried some baggage into the garage of the office. The couple helped me…! They were very kind!! I felt relief after I had a hot shower.
This was the hardest physical day in this trip, and above all, this was the best day that I was gifted with a lot of kindness.
From then on, I could do to wonderful paddling in good condition to Bay of Islands.
The spectacular seascape of Brume Head, beautiful white sands of Ocean Beach, too many rock gardens around Tutukaka, the grandeur of Cape Bullet…! They all were wonderful! The point of Cape Bullet was particularly great. I stirred up fish school and a flock of gulls at Piercy Island.
There is a person who I wanted to meet in Bay of islands. His name is Mark Hutoson who has been seakayak guide for over 20 years there. I was introduced him by Mr. Fuji, I was making contact with him by e-mail but when I intended to arrive to Bay of islands, he had gone on a tour. So I joined the tour with his customer for two days to go. After we finished the tour, we went surfing with his assistant (?) guide and I talked to him.
I thought I really appreciated their kindness, but then, I couldn’t even think that I was more taken care afterward…
Stopover and robbery
The weather was going from bad to worse since I arrived in Paihia. The whole of New Zealand seemed to have bad conditions then. After I stayed at Mark`s house for 2 days, I started to travel from Matauri Bay because in Mark`s view I wouldn’t be able to get over Cape Wiwiki because of strong breeze. I went to Wangaroa Harbor. Which was hidden by clouds. But I came back to the Holiday Park at Tauranga Bay because I couldn’t go in the DOC hut. The weather took a turn for the worse after that. I couldn’t do anything for three days!
April 22, I set off because the rain and wind began to let up. But after I went out of the shelter at Steplenson Island, the north-easterly swell and easterly winds became too strong. I advanced with surfing as if I was pushed. It was horrible because the kayak sank like a submarine…. I turned barely a headland. I went further down into sheltered water. I arrived at Hihi beach where I was reduced to staying for five days…
A long spell of rain soaked the inside of my tent and my heart. I was overcome by a feeling of gloom.
I decided to give up this trip and I went to Cape Reinga by bus because I had to pick up my car there.
When I went to Tapotupotu Bay on a tour bus, I couldn’t find my car…! My car had gone!!
During this trip, I was told by a kiwi, who met me,
“ I’m more worried about your car than your life…”
Exactly!! My car had been stolen. It was completely my error.
It was back soon to Paihia and I reported the matter to the police in Kerikeri with help from Mark. A car which appeared to be mine had been found on the street around Kaitaia already. Moreover it was burned…!! I satisfied myself by this fact.
I planned to finish this trip within April. And then I planned to go to Auckland to work as a kitchen hand from May. But Mark invited me to his tour from May 11, so I had spare time for about 10 days. Therefore, I decided to go to Cape Reinga before till May 11. I lost a car. But my kayak is a folding kayak. I thought I should get back to Paihia by hitchhiking!
May 1, I turned back to Hihi beach and I stayed overnight at there. May 2, I got across Doubtless Bay. The wind wasn’t easterly, but strong southerly winds blew there. As I caught a wave on the port beam, I barely arrived at Maitai Bay in cape Karikari.
The next day, while there was Chopper Sea around cape Karikari, crossing Rangaunu Bay was easy. But I was exhausted since the crossing, so at first I intended to go to Rarawa beach but I decided to go to Holiday Park in Houhora Harbor. I went to Rarawa beach next day.
There was a couple who were kite fishing at beach. I stayed overnight there with them and their friends. We could catch huge size snapper and made a SASHIMI of those fish and ate them. It was a good night.
The following day was one of the highlights of this expedition. It was “going over North cape”. I headed north after I was seen off by everyone. The surface was very calm, but offshore winds were very strong. I could see Kokota after I had been paddling for 4 hours. But I didn’t land there still heading north. When I passed Ngamaru point, the winds changed to south-westerly.
I arrived at North Cape at 14:10. I landed to sandbar between headland and island that has a lighthouse in order to take a rest. I attempted to pass through the gap between the sandbar and island, but at this point, I had harmed the hull of my kayak on the rugged rock!
I was reduced to do an emergency landing at the nearest beach and repair my leaking kayak. Although I wanted to go to Spirits Bay on this day, it was impossible. This beach was too much of dumper, so I had trouble to enter, and lost one of my sandals. I barely passed Serville Cliff into the headwinds of a westerly, the sun set over the sea then. The darkness was on me, I landed at Tom Bowing bay at 18:20. This was a dumper beach too, but it was very beautiful because of the moon light.
Early morning the next day, I had trouble to enter as it was too much of a dumper. I swam across a surf zone with my kayak and I started paddling west after doing a reentry. This day had a strong westerly breeze too. I was looking for shelter from the winds along the edge of rugged cliff as I advanced. The waves were rough too, I could see whitecaps in places and some swells broke over my kayak and me. I could see Spirits Bay after I paddled for two hours. I turned the headland, and traverse rough seas as if I rode diagonally the waves. I arrived on the beach in front of a campground.
The waves were very big, so when I looked at these waves, I thought how could I land on the beach in such rough waves…!!
May 7. The winds were still strong; sometimes I was caught in a shower. I thought that I would be unable to across the surf zone, so I didn’t move from there. But the next day`s weather became more severe still.
There were only a couple of campers in this campground then, so I thought if they don’t take me to Kaitaia, I will not catch the tour from May 11 and can’t take part in it. Then I decided to give up this trip.
I folded my kayak.
And I went to Paihia by hitchhiking and bus.
After that, I took part in Mark’s tour as an assistant. We paddled from Mairua bay to Paihia via Cape Wiwiki, so I could connect a line that is my track.
I think sea kayaking is a sport that faces up to nature for only oneself. However, in reality, we need a lot of help with ones kayak trip.
I have appreciated too many kindnesses in this time too.
John, Mark, Dean, and other people who I met in campgrounds or beaches or on the sea….
Mr.Fuji introduced Mark to me, and Mr.Evan asked me to write this article. The book which was written by Paul Caffyn “CRESTING THE RESTLESS WAVES” has greatly contributed toward my trip. And I want to acknowledge Mei. She sold me the new paddle. If I hadn’t had this paddle, I couldn’t have done this trip.
Special thanks for reading this poor English article.