Redz NZ Journey – paddling the NZ coastline

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Lynn reaching land at Ngamotu Beach, New Plymouth with help from Anna and Jason. (Photo by Sharyn Smart)


Day 340 of paddling around NZ Redz (aka Lynn Paterson) finished the day at Ngamotu Beach, New Plymouth.

After 11 hours of paddling, contending with a small one metre swell as well as a head wind, Lynn was excited to see her support crew Anna and Jason standing on the beach.

“I had to do a big push two days ago to beat the weather.  I did 83.53 kms which is my biggest day ever.  Today I did 64.2km finishing in New Plymouth as the weather isn’t good for the next few days.”

Supported by a huge group of kind and generous sponsors Redz Journey is a personal journey to raise money for Mental health awareness by paddling around the coast of New Zealand.

You can go to http://www.redznzjourney.com/partners-bedford to meet the wonderful people generously helping.

“Someone wanted me to put a number on it, so I said 180 days.  If I have approx. 5,400km and I do 30 kms paddling a day that will be 180 days.

“Everybody assumed that it would be six months and you have to say that it will only be six months because that is the end of summer.  What mad idiot would want to try and paddle in the winter?”

That mad idiot turned out to be Lynn as the weather whipped up around her changing her schedule many times.

“When I was stuck at the top of the south island, there were many days where I was like I am not meant to finish this.  I am seriously not meant to finish this south island.  Someone doesn’t want me to finish it.  Then it all came together.”

Lynn’s journey started over 20 years ago when she was on holiday with her partner Jason Marshall.

“I saw some cyclists with their huge bags, slowly peddling along the coast on their NZ trip when I was in the Coromandel.  I looked over and said it would be quite cool to do that.  I got the look of death saying don’t be so ridiculous and probably some bleep, bleep, bleep as well.

“I went yeap there are probably too many hills, no second thoughts, not  one of my better ideas. I looked out at the ocean and went hang on, kayaking would be amazing!  I even got more explicit like you will die out there, you are crazy, you are insane and you’re a nutter.

“That was enough to sow the seed and it never went away.  Sometimes I wish it would go away.”

Jason quickly adds “In the beginning when she said she was going to kayak around NZ, I went whatever.  After she started her training with Mike and she said this is what I am going to do – I said go for it.  I saw her out training for it, doing it and I knew she would try her hardest to complete it.”

Over the years many people have said numerous negative comments about her dream which in a twist of fate made Lynn even more determined to follow her dream.

“Anybody I spoke to said I was crazy!  It became a standard yearly joke of when are you going to do it? My reply was always I don’t know, the timing is not right.  I am going to do it at 50 at the latest.

“A few things happened, people and lives changed, some not for the better.  I started realising I was getting closer to my must do age.  I couldn’t let it go.  Once I have been bitten by something I have to do it.  If I say I am doing something then I will do my best to succeed.  I’m not one for excuses!”

Lynn has become far more athletic as she got into her 30’s and a ‘tad obsessive’.  Her belief is that life revolves around enjoying doing something for herself every day, be it walking, running, going to the gym or swimming.

“Exercise is the best medicine!  Kayaking just seemed to be a natural progression and it took things to ‘a whole new level of obsession.’

“I quietly and slowly increased my training, because why share when many said you can’t do it, you are mad.  It got to the stage where I couldn’t mention it to anyone as they just said don’t be ridiculous.

“About 18 months’ beforehand people saw my kayaks and said well you are obviously doing the coast to coast.  I said well sort of, but not really and actually just sometimes agreed and just smiled.  It was far easier to say nothing earlier on.”

Things started moving forward when she told a couple of very close friends and fellow kayakers, one of whom was Mike who was training her to eskimo roll her kayak.

“I sat there while we were having soup after a rolling session.  I looked at him and said do you know what I really want to do?  I want to paddle around NZ.  He looked up at me and just said ‘I wouldn’t even attempt that!’ Or something similar.  He looked down and kept eating his soup.

“I felt sick because I thought I have told him and now he thinks I am an absolute idiot.  At the end of the session I said See you next week.  He said here are two books to read.  Read these and then tell me you want to do it.  They will put you off for life.”

Lynn skim read the books and when asked if she had been put off she quickly replied “no not really.”

“January came and Mike said so have you got a date in mind for this adventure?  I said yes 27th October 2015 because of daylight saving.  He said well you have a lot of work to do then haven’t you?

“That is how it all started.”

“We quickly decided I would need to get a different kayak and then it was no turning back really.  Each week a few close friends blasted me with questions like who is going to support you, what are you going to take, how are you going to finance this and survive?”

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Cuzzie at Ngamotu Beach, New Plymouth awaiting Lynn’s return.

A friend of a friend, Sonja, had a campervan for sale which she had travelled in for many years and adored.

“The only reason she was selling was to upgrade to something that was automatic so it was easier for her to drive.  She was really passionate that she just didn’t want her camper, who she named Cuzzie, to go to someone who she didn’t know and it would be badly treated.  She really loved her campervan.

“She was excited that the campervan was coming to someone who she knew and the campervan was not going to be parked in the back yard and not be used but was going on an epic adventure.

“You can imagine it is going to be a huge adventure by the time we finish probably like 30,000+ kilometres at the rate we are going.”

When it was nearly time for Cuzzie to start her next adventure with Lynn Sonja came and gave some helpful instructions.

“She came around to say goodbye and goodluck to us with cuzzie.   She took us through the daily workings, like how to drive it, how the hot water cylinder works, how the solar panel works, how to turn the shower on and work the toilet, how to empty them out.  If you have never owned a campervan you just don’t know these things!

“Just before she left she gave me an envelope.  In the envelope was a smokey quartz glass heart.   She said wherever you go whatever you do take this with you because it is good luck.  So it’s in a pouch and is always in my life jacket with me.  I am quite superstitious these days with it.”

Support crew was the next essential thing on the list.

“When I first started out I had a base of four support crew who were helping me throughout the journey.  We planned it out that Nat was with me for near on four to five months up until June of this year.  In between that she is a contractor and had work so she was already pre-booked.  The times when she had jobs pre-booked there were a couple of others that came down.

“There was Regan who came and did a couple of weeks with me who was a friend and also a work colleague.  Trisha who came and she did the Banks Peninsula with me over the Christmas period.  She was a friend and a university student so she was free during the Christmas period when Nat was away working on the cricket.

“Then also Jason hooked up for the summer period with Trish and at the end of June, through July and early August  he helped me through the top of the South Island until I got back into Wellington.”

Back in the North Island Lynne got a message from a long-time friend who had offered to come and help crew this next section for a change of pace for awhile.  Unfortunately at the last minute her life had turned upside down and was no longer available so she had to put her problem solving skills to use quickly.

“I sat there one day and thought you are a problem solver, sort this one out!  I advertised on a website www.backpackers.co.nz  and said free accommodation, free food, you will see the crazy side of NZ.  I wrote a list and said this is what you must do and I got a couple of replies.”

The first to reply was a Norwegian guy who spent nearly two weeks with Lynn.

“After I had confirmed Martin I got another email from this little one, Anna Caudle from North Carolina, USA.  She said she would love to come, I’m in tourism I have done this and that.  This worked out perfect.  Martin stayed with me until Anna was free and then here we are.

“She is gorgeous.  It is that whole thing that you have to have faith that something is going to happen.

“It doesn’t suit a lot of females as there are no hair straighteners and the hair drier is just to dry your hair when you are wet and cold.  There are only the bare necessities in cuzzie.

“Saying that I do have a pink box with girlie stuff things like nail varnish, hand cream, moisturisers, hair products, etc all kindly donated by L’Oréal.”

“I don’t like eating takeaways, it is not my favourite.  I prefer to eat healthy fresh food.  So a takeaway foodie would not suit this lifestyle.”

Lynn has become a strong believer in the universe will provide and trusts she meets the right people along her adventure.

“You put it out there and then all of a sudden it just arrives.  You just need to ask.  It is scary sometimes.  The longer I have been on this trip I believe it is right the universe does look after you.

“The first day Martin drove my campervan I went to him. Can you please promise me that you will turn up at the first stop and don’t just head south?  I don’t fancy losing my campervan to you and the south island!  He went I never thought of that.  He turned up and all was well.”

On the Fiordland section of this journey from Port Craig to Jackson Bay Lynn was on her own on a solo journey.

“I had 43 days in Fiordland by myself.  There were times that I stayed in hunters hunts as they invited me to stay the night.  There were times I was on a super yacht for dinner and then went back to my tent to sleep.

“Those are pretty amazing stories that I take for granted now.  I was in my holey leggings and my smokey smelling clothes and I turn up on their super yacht.

“I got told to ‘go and stay on a launch for the next few days until the weather clears as I’m not going to be on it and it is moored there all summer.  Just go and sit on it as it is open.  There is a solar panel so you will be fine for power.’

“People have just been incredibly generous really.”

Having a bubbly personality and the confidence to chat with anyone has been great as she meets people from all walks of life.

“People ask me how did you discover a cray fishing boat out in the middle of nowhere?  You sort of work it out and meet fishermen along the way.  They go hey do you know “him” he will be out there so call “him” and it certainly makes my life interesting and for sure a lot easier.

“That’s the whole thing about travelling and talking with the locals about what you are doing.  You are connected and people talk.  So I hear about them and they hear about my adventure – we connect like that!

“I was talking with some people in Golden Bay and they said we know some cray fishermen around where you are paddling to, they will tell you what the weather is like, they won’t mind, call them and talk with them.

“So we started this text conversation and I then said I will come into you.  They said you might as well clamber on board as we are moored there every night when we are out so just let us know when you are getting on the water.  So it’s making contact with the locals.

“The cray fishing boys that I met further south in the Fiordlands also knew these guys.  Everybody along that coastline knows everybody else.”

Lynn is quick to explain that a crazy funny story could be told about nearly every day of her journey as she tells of her meeting with the cray fishermen.

“The cray fishermen are coming towards me leaning out over the side of their boat trying to see where I am because I am so little compared to them.  They then hauled me up onto their cray fishing boat.  They made a special rope ladder for me to clamber up the side.

“Then they said how heavy is your boat?  I said she is quite heavy.  Both of them leant over the side, grabbed a handle each and just lifted her up over the side.  Nowhere near as heavy as their cray pots for goodness sake.  So she just popped up on their deck. I couldn’t stop laughing.”

Cuzzie has created many laughs as she has her own personality.  There are many stories from when the support crew are driving, of bad parking, forgetting to put the ladder up, kayak tie down mishaps, stuck in the sand and mud along the coast and country roads.

“It is always a silly crazy hysterical time getting the camper van out of the mud when we get her stuck.  It can be insanely hard work getting her out.

“Ablutions always seem to turn into a funny crazy story.  With our on board toilet, because we use it also as storage cupboard, it is a planned event when you need to go and use the toilet.  Everything has to come out before we can use it.

“I think there is a crazy funny story most days which gets me through the bad times.  I always write about smiling on my blog so at the end of the day I have to go what the heck was good about today.  Sometimes it is not a good day.”

Some of the not so great days appeared early on in the journey.

“Losing my first kayak off the roof of Cuzzie way back on the North Island was definitely not great!  That was through it not being tied down correctly.  As we were driving down the road we heard this crash.  I just couldn’t believe it.  We came to a sudden halt and I grabbed her and threw her in the back.  That is just mind blowing stuff where you go, how am I going to solve this?

“I was not really in love with the other white kayak I had as my backup because she beat me up once and now I have to go out on the water with it. She has now done more kms in one sitting than my red ones ever did so she is proving herself.

She has capsized and the ocean has claimed a few items of her cargo that weren’t lashed down.  She is a very positive person and claims that every mishap is a learning experience.

“Most, in fact all the incidents, we can laugh at now but at the time it most certainly was not funny.”

As well as a personal journey Lynn is raising money for the Mental Health Foundation.  Her son in his teenage years battled depression and now she wants to share the awareness of the illness.

“I wanted to do it for a charity and I thought of a couple of different charities along the way.  Mental Health Foundation became more prominent when my son and I were working through his illness.  He already knew that I wanted to go and do this kayaking and we talked about a couple of other angles.

“Like many, he manipulated his depression with drugs and alcohol.  It seemed they were a major issue and reason for his depression.”

As her trip now heads towards completion of approximately 80% of the coastline Lynn has a few special moments that stand out so far.

“The high points are sort of in sections as it is such a chunk to have one highpoint.

“A highpoint was feeling all the fear in the world and getting across Cook Straight.  That was a high point getting over the other side.

“Another high point was being brave enough and going around Stewart Island when I was told by many not to do it.

“A highpoint was seriously coming out the other side of Fiordland and nailing it.

“Another highpoint was going from French pass back to Tory channel.  A 77km day to finish the south island.  Huge highpoints!!

“I dull it down for me because I haven’t finished.  It will be a realisation when I do!

With the finish line closer by the day Lynn still has some big hurdles to overcome.

“I don’t look at the NZ map of where I am going very much and don’t look at the whole of NZ.  For me I have smaller daily goals to get around. From the time I left Wellington it was all focus on getting past Cape Egmont and into New Plymouth.

“So I am now around Cape Egmont it is re-evaluation time.  What I have done is broken it down so simply now that I am happy if I have done 5 days paddling in October and then November.  I will be ecstatic if I just get 5 days each for the next two months.”

Jason, Lynn and Anna outside the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth. (Photo supplied)
Jason, Lynn and Anna outside the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth. (Photo supplied)

Lynn has been “stuck” in New Plymouth now for 10 days due to big swells and nasty weather patterns.

“You have to make sure that it is going to be alright all the way up there.  We try and have an A, B, C plan each day I paddle.  Three sections along the way where if needed I can land and call it a day … well that is in the perfect world!  So you really have to be sure before starting out.”

“Mother Nature (the sea) torments me a bit on days like today (big swell and winds).  That is why I have got my back to her.  I don’t really like Mother Nature today!  Maybe I should just go for a swim in the cold water and that will probably work.”

Never one to sit still long when she has down time she can normally be found out and about.

“A day down for me is one where I’ve got to go see the rest of the coastline in the campervan and that is my peace and sanity so I know what I am landing into.

“Some coasts it is Ok not to know.  It is exciting to come around the corner and see a gorgeous bay.  On the west coast for me it is not an exciting prospect, it is the heart in the mouth, and what the heck am I going to come into?”

Lynn also needs to keep fit and healthy so quickly scouts out the local pools, tracks and sometimes a gym wherever she is.

“When I am in a city I always try to find a swimming pool and go to the pool for an hour.  It’s the pools that are sanity for me as they are the same kind of muscle group for me as paddling.  I find it great.  I am a much better person when I come out the other side of that swimming session because I have had a little bit of water therapy.

“I need to get some kind of exercise in daily as it helps me mentally and also it keeps me physically fit enough to hit the water and do a big day.

“It is really hard to find somewhere to paddle other than the sea. When I was in Nelson I had a tiny circuit of 5km that I would do a few times to give me 20+ kms.  I felt like a beetle going around in circles but I would just zone out and go around for a couple of hours.”

Well aware of some big kilometres left to travel Lynn is not yet focused on the finish line.

“You always have the finish line in mind from the day you leave but it is the beaches further up this coast, the big river mouth and harbours still to cross that I have to get past yet that are my focus.  The mind will feel far better once I get past Cape Reinga.

“Every day I tick off a paddling day it’s an exciting time, but I don’t dare look up just yet and say I have succeeded!  A lot could still go wrong.

“I will smile once I touch sand on the beach at Takapuna, Auckland.  That will be the day I dare to look at the finish line!”

To make a donation text REDZ to 2446 to donate $3 to the Mental Health Foundation NZ.

To follow Lynn and Cuzzie along with her support crew go to https://www.facebook.com/REDzNZJourney

Just to show that even the bird life thought she was fun crazy our interview was gate crashed by a duck quacking very near to us to get our attention as it thought we were having a picnic.  We all jumped and burst into laughter!

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