Monday, 6 May 2013

DAY 1 - Mon Choisy to Roches Noires

The tour could not have possibly started off more perfectly! 

Thursday night was a full moon and by 5:30am when we were leaving the house to meet Patrick at Mon Choisy, the full moon in all it's glory was there to greet us. As we drove on, the sun began to wake up and so to did the rest of Mauritius. I hadn't even seen what the sea looked like yet and my heart raced with both excitement and nerves. Today my adventure was starting, after 2 months of training and talking about this I could hardly believe it was actually happening! I had no idea what to expect, I just knew I had to do this, no matter what would happen and what the weather threw at me, I had to complete this journey. Too many people were sponsoring me, a great dream was at stake and Patrick's respect depended on this. I did not want to disappoint and the adrenaline of adventure was what would get me through it!

We arrived at Mon Choisy at 5:50am and whilst off loading the kayaks from the van and sorting through all the gear we were joined by the most unexpected guests...
...horses were walked down from near by stables, to the sea for a morning swim. It was perfect, I was so excited and looked around trying to take it everything around me, I knew I would never forget this moment.

Then it was time, the kayaks were packed and I had all my gear on... my adventure was starting!

We were off! The sea was so flat, so perfectly calm and as we turned the corner of Pointe Canonnier
the rising sun greeted us with such radiance. The beauty was simply breathe taking... 

We continued on towards Cap Malheureux where my mum and MC (Marie Claude) would hopefully be waiting to cheer us on. Sure enough, they were. Sitting, drinking their usual morning coffee, they waved their sarongs and cheered us on. 
I still could not quite believe how lucky we were to have such a beautiful day and perfect weather to start this journey. With each stroke of the paddle I felt more excited and with each new breath I felt the thrill of adventure overwhelm me. 

My mum's cousin, Jean, then followed us for a short while on his boat. Snapping away with his camera like the paparazzi! It was so sweet that he had made such an effort to meet us. Then as we passed by Kalodyne I messaged Jean Marc that I was going to be passing by his house and his wife Josee was waiting. She shouted her good luck wishes across the bay and seemed almost as excited as I was! 
After 2 and a half hours we stopped on a little island just past Grand Gaube and much to my absolute delight Paddy had a full flask of tea stashed away in his kayak. We sat there drinking tea, eating biscuits and constantly reminding each other how magnificent the day was! We had done parts of this trip so many times in training and yet never had it been so pleasant. Usually the wind had been howling and the waves pushing against the kayak so that it never felt as though I was getting any where! 
( I think Patrick had always planned training that way, always attempting to put me off this challenge!;) 

We continued towards Ile d'Ambre a beautiful little island, completely wild with indigenous trees and hedgehogs. Paddy arranges kayak day trips there with picnics and lunches, really a perfect outing! (click here for more info) We were joined by coast guards whom I had alerted of our trip earlier in the week. Little did I know they would take it so very seriously indeed, and followed us around the entire island. I felt like royalty to say the least! 

Anyway, with such perfect conditions we were making great time. We stopped at a Pointe Lascars for lunch. Afterwards we decided to take a little detour and venture down Riviere du Rampart. As the river narrowed so the tree cover extended until eventually we were literally kayaking under the canopy of the trees. It was incredibly beautiful watching the dappled sunlight dance on the water. How I would love to have built a little house on a floating platform under those trees! 

Now that I had a greater understanding of the distance we would be covering and how each day might work I was feeling more comfortable about the rest of the trip. In fact I couldn't wait to get going again the next day. Hemraz was there to greet us at the finishing line and tonight we'd be in our own beds and then it would be camping and staying with friends along the way. I had had so much fun with Paddy, and I was relieved that we got on so well, after all we had another 6 pretty intense days of kayaking together, so it was a good thing!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Part 2

Friday 19 April 

So after yesterday's gruelling 26km and a bad night's sleep I had another day to face! Unfortunately the sea was not calm and the wind was really strong. It wasn't going to be Patrick paddling with him me today it was going to to Hemraz, Patrick's sort of right hand man. Today we were going to be paddling against the current, against the wind towards an island called Ile d'Ambre, around the island and back towards Kalodyne. 

From the start it was as if we were on a treadmill, no matter how hard we paddled we didn't seem to be going anywhere very quickly. But we kept on going and eventually as we turned the corner at Pointe Oscorne the current calmed ever so slightly. We stopped for lunch at the corner of Ile d'Ambre to refuel before having to take on the area behind the island. This area was a sort of wind channel and because we were going to be kayaking towards the reef the waves would be much bigger and the current much stronger. 

Sure enough this leg was the toughest and it was nearly two hours of constant paddling! When we paddled straight up hitting the waves straight on that was one thing, but when we had to start turing the kayak to turn the corner that's when it got scary. When the kayak is side-on to a wave the likely-hood of being knocked over by the wave increases considerably and these waves were about 1m to 1.5m in height. I was not in the mood for being knocked over and washed around. Unfortunately the current had also separated Hemraz and I quite a bit so neither of us were in any position to help save the other. I dont remember when I last prayed so much but St Christopher (patron Saint of travelling) sure was there for me. 

Even once we'd finally turned the corner the waves were behind us the current was still pushing us in the other direction so that we were in danger of facing the waves side on again. I think I must have constantly paddled in the right side for about 40 minutes and I'm sure that arm is suddenly much bigger than my left! It was a huge struggle and the toughest training I've had to endure since I started this 2 months ago. I'll admit it, I was scared! 

Then Henraz started whistling and shouting something but with the strong wind the only word I could make out was "sea". He was pointing frantically in several directions, namely at the reef so and I really started to panic. What was he trying to warn me about?! I screamed that I couldn't hear him and he carried on with his gestures that I couldn't see and his whistling and shouting the I couldn't hear. He was making no effort to try and come towards me and so I had to try and turn to head towards him. After nearly be knocked over several times by the waves I finally got closer to him and said, "What's wrong!!!?" Only to have him tell me, "I saw a huge sea turtle!"
Well I nearly hit him with my paddle for panicing me so much about a sea turtle! Haha, I can laugh about it now though :)

We rested on Bernach island before heading back towards Kalodyne. At least on the return we had the wind and current behind us pushing us forward. Now the only challenge was to stay straight. It had been a learning curve that day and I had been humbled by fear. The sea is a different place everyday and I just hope and pray it's a nice place when I do this tour of the island. We must have completed about 22km that day and about 14 of that was against the current. 

I returned home with several more blisters and sores on my legs and back from rubbing in the seat. Thank goodness I have my mum to tend to all my wounds and now I can look forward to a relaxing weekend! 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Part 1

Thursday 18 April 

We decided that the only form of training still to cover was firstly an idea of distance, we needed to look at covering an average of 25km a day. Secondly I needed to know how it felt to kayak two long days consecutively.

On Thursday the sea was just beautiful and calm! What a relief! Patrick and I headed out at about 9:30 in the morning and we were headed for Point aux Piment. Taking advantage of the calm sea we decided to paddle out on the other side of the reef, another opportunity for me to get used to conditions that I might face on Day 4 - Blue Bay to Riambel. It was a beautiful day indeed and reminded me just how much I love this place, it is just magnificent. I looked out at this incredible crystal blue sea and thought (as Pascal would say) "If this isn't paradise, shit I dont know what is!"
We were also so lucky to see several sea turtle and I'm even happier to report that Patrick has noticed a rise in the number of sea turtle in this area, that can only be a good thing!

We continued on to Pointe des Cannoniers where my mum's cousin, Jean met us for lunch. He works near-by at a hotel called 20 degrees Sud as a scuba diving instructor. We found ourselves a lovely little spot on this little island and sat in the sun eating lunch. How lucky we are to be in such an incredible place. Not many people can say they kayaked to a little island to have some lunch! 

Sure enough Patrick had felt that the training so far had been far too easy, he had to make it harder. So instead of continuing with the current behind us he suggested we turn back and head home against the current. It made sense and although I knew it would hurt it was right, so, off we went! 

By the time we were passing Pereybere we both run out of water, fortunately I knew Pascal lived nearby. So we pulled in and I ran up to her house where Vimi gave me two bottles of water. We continued and as we turned to corner at Cap Malheureux so the current got stronger. We passed by my home and my brother stood on the beach waving, I felt so happy to see him :) 

The last stretch was so tough. As with a half marathon of 13.1 miles, that last 0.1 miles is the toughest. Today it was those last 5km that were so tough and we just had to keep going. The whole time I could see the 'finish line' but it just could not come fast enough! We completed 26km...

What will tomorrow bring!?

Back on the Water

Monday 15th April 

After being away from Mauritius for about 3 weeks and out of a kayak for about a month my fear for the tour had grown. I arrived back in Mauritius 15 days before the tour was begin, but I was not the only one arriving in Mauritius, so to was Imelda, a cyclone that was heading our way. I was so worried that Imelda was going to interfere so much with the precious little time that I had left for training.

Patrick suggested that we aim to start training again on Monday and let's just see what the weather is doing. Thank goodness Imelda and not only swung away from Mauritius but she had also weakened. SO, on Monday afternoon after work off we went. It felt great being in the kayak again, dipping my hands in the water, feeling the wind in my hair and with every breath I took I started to feel at home again.

Although the cyclone was no longer a threat the sea was still very rough, the current was strong and we were paddling against it. Perfect training conditions in Patrick's opinion. I felt the same old aches return,  the same old blisters coming back on my hands but I kept going. It was tough but I knew again that I could most certainly do this tour and how wonderful it felt being back on the water in my red kayak. I must name it! :)

I can do this.....

Keeping Up Appearances

The last thing Patrick said to before I left Mauritius to go back to the UK for 3 weeks, was...
"Of course it doesn't matter if you have to 
go back to the UK in between training for the tour 
- just make sure you keep fit!"

So as well as help Matt decorate the new SOS Africa Charity Shop (the main purpose of my visit) I was to 'keep fit'. This seemed perfectly viable until I went for my first run in the freezing cold 'supposedly SPRING' of the UK. Breathing in the cold air rendered me speechless, my throat must have 'burnt' in the freezing air leaving me coughing and speaking like a 90year old smoker! That was it, I had to join a gym!

Thank goodness for Shepton Mallet 1610 Gym, they generously offered me several vouchers to use for entry into the gym. Sam, one of the instructors who is preparing to complete an Iron Man competition, took the time to give me an induction on several machines and put together a thorough training program  for me. Cardio was important to keep up my endurance, but more important was strength. So many think that kayaking requires such great strength from your arms, surprisingly that is not entirely the case. The strength in fact has to come from your core, your tummy and of course, never underestimate the strength you gain from your mind!

So in between painting and making and decorating the new SOS Africa Shop I trained at the gym and now and then braved a run outside too :)

Saturday, 13 April 2013

More Time in the Water than in the Kayak

Friday 15 March

Rescuing, Eskimo Rolls, Surfing and Falling (quite a lot of falling in fact) 

So if I fall in, or fall over and i'm hanging upside down under water I feel pretty confident that Patrick is there and can rescue me. He demonstrated how can lean over my up turned kayak reach for the shoulder part of lifejacket and pull me up and out of the water. However when it came to my turn to do the same to him I dont think he was filled with the same reassurance as I had been. My first attempt at pulling him up I knocked his head on my kayak - well done Claud, just really make sure he is unconscious! My next attempt I capsized my own kayak and still couldn't get him up, I'd started laughing and could not find the strength. I'm sorry Patrick but you just cannot fall over unconscious! 

I had started using a different kayak, one I was not used to climbing back into once I had capsized and after several attempts I got as far as lying down and decided I'd just stay like that and paddle - why not, it hadn't been done that way before? haha! 

Then came the ESKIMO rolls! I'd heard so much about them and watched Benoit doing them casually during many training trips. Now it was my turn... googles on... and GO!

It was great fun, and although I didn't get it first time I didn't want to give up. I also had a little Crab friend had found his way onto my kayak and every time I rolled and came back up he was still there. By the end of this training and tour I'll hopefully have mastered that roll... until then we had some kayak surfing to do! (All part of training of course!) 

Unfortunately that was the last kayak until I returned from a quick 3 week visit to the UK, but I was looking forward to it already! 

Beyond the Reef

Wednesday 13 March 

Today Patrick scared me a little by introducing me to the reality of the sea beyond the reef. This trip is not going to be entirely within the reef in beautiful calm blue lagoons. Day 4 (from Blue Bay to Riambel) is going to be all outside of the reef in very rough seas. We're arranging to have a boat follow us and will make the call on the day as to whether or not it's going to be safe enough. But today Patrick me beyond the reef opposite his place in Kalodyne. 

In the pictures it might not look scary but the waves were about 3ft and I have never felt so small in such a vast sea. I thought about all the people Patrick had told me about you'd done solo trip across vast  oceans and I suddenly had an enormous amount of respect for them (well more than before at least!) 

The sea is a magical place but it's strength is never to be underestimated. Children who grow up near the sea know the sea they seem to be so connected to it that they could feel it's warning before they see it. After a while Patrick just seemed to instinctively know where the next pass was that we would come back through. Any opportunity to catch some waves is always great fun. 

The weather changed just as we started paddling back, the wind picked up, the current grew stronger against us and the rain fell. Patrick seemed proud of himself, as if he'd arranged a way to make training more challenging haha! 

At least we could come back under a rainbow! :)