Published: November 7th 2011November 7th 2011
I have to feel inspired to write. Its not something I enjoy very much. Articulation in general is something I work hard to achieve in a cohesive manner. Writing my blog is a task that I have to work up to doing. Hence my tardiness.
We said our final goodbyes in Cairns at the beginning of October. It wasn’t so hard, as saying goodbye is something we’ve become quite familiar with. I don’t enjoy them and sometimes would just rather slip off without anyone noticing. Its easier that way. Easier than feeling the guilt for creating the beautiful relationship, only to leave it just as quickly.
A week before we left, we embarked on a week long wilderness biking trip through the far north of Queensland. We were both volunteering. It was more than I could have asked for. I was a part of the catering team and Patrick, logistics. The best part was how great the coordinator Sarah was about getting us on bikes about half the trip. Somehow we were both able to keep up with the super fit bikers. I think it had something to do with the fact that we cycled absolutely everywhere in Cairns. At the end, I was offered a job with the environmental organization running the trip, CAFNEC, Cairns and Far North Environment Centre. Humbled, I kindly turned down the opportunity. My last thought was working full time. Something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do.
Our destination after Cairns was to visit my sister 4,000 kilometers in the South, just outside of Melbourne. I was so excited to get down to Melbourne to visit, as Rena had promised an epic paddling trip upon our arrival. To get ourselves there, we were able to secure a motorhome relocation to Sydney, three-quarters of the way to Melbourne. We got a brand new, 6 birth motorhome for free. They even paid for all our gas. It was so comfy. My favourite part by far was the TV. Australia has free digital TV and I was glued to the bloody thing. Crazy I know, but I haven’t seen TV in a very, very long time.
Once we arrived in Sydney, we took a flight to Melbourne to meet Rena. The first thing Rena says when we meet her at 12:30pm is, “We’re leaving tonight for our paddling trip. We have two hours to get back to my place, pack, and then a six hour drive to the put in. You and Patrick are going to be in your own sport raft (a blow up version of a canoe). The river is a class 3+ (out of 5)”. I was like “WTF Mate! We have just driven 3,000 kms, sat on a plane for the past two hours, took a train for another hour, the last thing I want to do is drive 8 hours tonight. Furthermore, I am totally not confident enough to paddle with Patrick on a class 3+ right away.” It really didn’t matter how I felt. We were going anyway.
Patrick is always cool as a clam, I was shitting myself. The only thing that was calming my nerves was the fact that we were going with some ace paddlers and river rescue people. Rena, Ben (Rena’s boyfriend) and Eric all work at OEG, the outdoor centre that Rena works at, and are at the top of their class in river guiding. I was able to convince the three of them that putting Patrick and I in a boat together was not only going to destroy our marriage, but kill all the confidence I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Luckily, we got a 6 man raft that Rena would guide in the back and Patrick and I would paddle in the front. This raft is much sturdier and less likely for someone to fall out of. Ben would paddle solo in a sport raft, and Erin in a kayak.
The river is called the Murray and its the longest river in Australia. Our section, The Gates, would take us about six hours to paddle with some of the most technical paddling I’ve ever done up to this point. But boy oh boy, we had the time of our lives. Rena nailed the guiding in the back. I was so proud of her. She didn’t even yell at me. Our lines were beautiful and no one fell out.
The next day we got word that the Swampy Plains River was running nicely, and still on the high from the day before, we thought we’d try something new. No one in our group had paddled this river before. This time though we couldn’t take the 6 man raft as the river was too narrow. I had to be in a sports raft and I’d be going with Rena, while Patrick would solo a sports raft. Eric mentioned before we got started that the last people he knew who paddled this river said it was ‘totally epic.’ I really didn’t understand what that meant, and didn’t want to know either.
Everything was going good besides the fact that Rena and I almost killed each other. I wouldn’t paddle on the right side when she made a call and she couldn’t get the line straight. Then we came up to a really technical part. The river was very pushy, fast and you had to make every paddle stroke count. There was a ton of consequence if you messed up. There was no way I was going to paddle it and Patrick really didn’t feel up to it either. We set up safety while the other three all got the boats out of what we thought was the hardest part. “OK great, we made it,” I thought. The rapid wasn’t over, but what we thought was the tough part was. We knew we’d have to scout the rest of the rapid once we were all collected together again.
Rena was by herself in the sport raft and Eric was up front in his kayak all waiting for Ben, who was behind us all collecting the last raft. Patrick and I were working our way downstream through really thick bramble bushes when I heard the most terrifying whistle blows of my life. Three really hard, really fast blows. I remembered from my swift water rescue course, emergency. Rena. I just knew it was Rena. My heart feel out of my chest and I couldn’t move. I tried to ignore it really. It was just Eric messing around. Patrick yelled from behind, “Ami, get to her right now, run.” I ran. I ran and jumped off huge boulders in an attempt to save my sister. Then I saw her upside down boat up wrapped against a rock and her paddle floating down stream. I knew that this situation was very serious. There was the potential for significant injury everywhere on this section and Rena was no where to be seen. I yelled back to Ben that Rena was out of the boat and to hurry to find her. The worst part was I couldn’t do anything about it. I was so helpless. I remember thinking to myself, “This is not real, she is OK”.
Real it was, but Rena was OK. Eric was able to grab her out of the water with his kayak about 8 feet away from her death. Had she gone down those 8 feet she would have been sucked into a full river sieve that went under a huge bolder. Meaning, the whole river went under the rock and she would have gone with it and got stuck. We hadn’t had time to scout it because Rena had gone over much further upstream. When I finally saw her yellow dry suit on shore, I took a knee and had a small cry, letting out all the fear of the past five minutes. Everyone was really shaken up, but we had to suck it up and get out of there or risk spending the night.
I realized how quickly things can go wrong. I am so thankful for the skill level on the river that day. The experience that the three of them had was so crucial in those few minutes and there I was just staring at her upside down boat. Now I understood what Eric meant by “totally epic”.
We had enjoyed ourselves so much that week after hiking to a hut for an overnighter and then going out to the ocean to do some kayak surfing, just like surfing with a board but in a kayak, that we decided to change our flights and delay heading back to New Zealand for another week. When the time came, I wasn’t too sad to say goodbye to Rena as she is coming over here at Christmas when my mom comes.
Getting back to New Zealand resulted in a mixed bag of emotions. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to keep traveling. After being in one place for months in Cairns and then settled comfortably at Rena’s, I was in settle down mode. When we’re traveling, we’re constantly on the go and continually having to watch every penny. I’m really excited about getting back to Canada to start our homestead that we’ve been planning for so long. I’ve become a huge believer in trusting the process and my intuition. I had to trust that being back in New Zealand was where we had to be.
I quickly forgot all about those feelings once we arrived at our first wwoof. We were at an organic micro-brewery helping to set up and run their annual Oktoberfest. It was so much fun. There were about 10 other wwoofers to keep my social butterflyness happy. Patrick made good with the head brewer and was given full access to the brewery to fill kegs and help in the beer making department. After our long days of working, we were given a keg of beer every night to share amongst us. Yep, it was fun. The fest itself was great. Eight-hundred people showed up and Patrick and I bar tended. It was funny to watch people get progressively drunker and drunker with each stein of beer. The fellow wwoofers we met there were great, but again, we had to say goodbye.
We began traveling south as our next wwoof is at the very south of New Zealand, in a town called Riverton. We made a promise to stop in to visit our past wwoofing hosts, the Dutch family. Somehow we made a huge impact on them. The kids kept asking for us to come back and the mom Merel loved having us there, stating we’ve been their favourite wwoofers. I especially loved the new additions to the family farm. Baby goats were born just a few weeks before our arrival and I just couldn’t put them down, combined with new baby bunnies and little mini chickens. Also, a wild baby pig showed up one day and hasn’t left. He loves to play with the other farm animals, pulling the tails of the cows and trying to get the sheep wound up. My type of pig for sure.
When we are on the road, we’re always hoping for some sun. We were traveling down the West coast, notorious for rain, and had planned an over night hike to a place called Welcome Flats. Its a 17 kilometre hike taking roughly 7 hours. When you arrive, you are greeted with a beautiful hut and best of all, natural hot springs. The weatherman had called for three days of full on rain. The hike is chocker blocked full of creek crossings, so if it rains too much, crossing the creeks becomes impossible. You have to remember that you also have to recross the creeks on the way back, so if it rains too much when you’re out there, you have wait it out until the water levels lower. We checked in with the Department of Conversation letting them know we were out there in case we needed to be rescued. Needless to say, our hike involved all the elements; a full thunder and lighting storm, followed by a hail storm, torrential down pour, 15 minutes of sun while we ate our lunch, ending with a classic snow blizzard. It didn’t matter though, because once we arrived the hot springs erased all the miserable weather that was thrown at us and we had a great time.
After our hike, the sun hasn’t stopped. We are going to wwoof with a permaculture family who also started a non-profit environment store. It has a food co-op, a place for anyone who grows food to drop it off and the store will sell it for them, a make-your-own cleaners area and a small cafe. All this in one of the most conservative towns in New Zealand. The Maori population is around zero. I’m really looking forward to this one as starting something like this back home has been a dream of mine, since my friend Lauren gave me this idea. I’m glad to have found a place that is making it happen.
Both Patrick and myself have been toiling over the fact that we have immense passions and dreams, but making them a reality is another thing all together. I found this quote which has sorta been my inspiration, “You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind”. We want to make our dreams become a reality. I guess this trip has been an example of that happening, making our dreams become a reality, but we really want to do all the other things we dream of; starting a homestead, building a sustainable home, working a job for ourselves. The list goes on. Its all so big, so grown up. This trip has really allowed us to grow and process all these ideas and really, I don’t know how it couldn’t happen. If we could make this happen, leaving everything that was comfortable, we can surely make anything happen, right?