Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 21st and 22nd; Big Waves, Broken Paddles and Spider Bites

Date: 21st March
Weather: Overcast passing heavy showers
Swell: 3m NE
Wind: 25-30 knots NE
Distance: 26nm
Camp: Mahunga Beach east end, Mahia
march 21st; Awoke to Rain pelting on the Fly of the tent, Dave doesn’t like me using the word “luxury” on the camera to describe that this is the first morning to wake up with rain. “ it’s a bit of a luxury that this is our first morning of rain while tenting on the whole trip” (meaning one that in 42 days it is a luxury we haven’t had it before, but also that it is a bit of fun now to have it). More to the point he doesn’t like the implication that the rain is a good thing I guess.
We pack up, cook porridge, the rain god is wet yet stoic, the sky is sooty black, the sea is choppy. Dave and I squabble, I rib him about being edgy, he ignores me, I get pissed off because he ignores me, so I rib him more, then I get sooo pissed because he ignores me more, he gets pissed because I insist there’s something wrong. Basically the morning is edgy, I am trying to make it happy, but get edgy myself. (Spending any length of time with anyone will lead to disagreements, nothing wrong with it, just got to talk).
We push the rocky beach, using logs as rollers. There was a tricky tiny side surf that makes launching awkward, Dave’s boat gets knocked a bit while launching and gets water in it. Same happens to me. We paddle round the back of the island at sponge bay, then paddle across Poverty bay to the south side, the point obscured in the misty rain falling. Dave and I talk it out and get passed the upset this morning, I get a vague weather forecast on the radio, NE winds moderate….. Increasing in evening…… swell building…. Outlook strong cold front…… 35… winds…. Increasing swell……, and suppress the urge to call the coast guard for a clearer update. It appears the front that was forecasted is coming tonight, we should be able t get to the next beach down at Mahia then camp it out. A friend also has a cabin there we can use, so hopefully we can get in there.
We press on through the rolling seas, the wind is at our backs, we are moving well down the coast, the coastline is stunning, steep cliffs the whole way except for a couple of small pocket beaches to run too, if the weather fouls more. I find out Daves head camera is out of battery, Mine is out of space on the card and my waterproof camera is out of battery as well, this off course something cool is going to happen which should be on camera, but what will it be??
We get to DCIM\100GOPROMahunga beach, there is a large swell rolling in on the beach, the surf is dirty. Dave is slowing his wrists hurting, possibly increased by the wrist gaskets on his paddle jacket, I am thinking either we go in here or we push along to where there is an estuary opening, perhaps we can get in there without having to land in large surf, or we go in now. I Ask Dave how he is feeling, he is happy to continue on. We push on for another hour, and front passing over with strong winds, heavy showers and the swell increases. There is a chance the Estuary mouth is just as bad as the beach, either way we have to go in within the next hour. We push on, another front comes through, and the swell now occasionally breaks far of the beach, big freight train size swells pushing a decent white wash. If one hits us we will be taken for a ride, a rough ride, luckily they are sporadic and we don’t end up meeting one at close quarters.
Reaching where the estuary mouth should be it is 6pm, 2 hours from sunset, though in this weather it will be dark earlier, the mouth is not visible from out back of the chocolate colored breakers, “ we got to go in!” “Just remember to try not to surf them!” I state
“That looks nasty!” states Dave
“Yeah but we have to go in!”
We line up with a green shrub visible on the dunes ashore; we wait for the big guys to go by, then we move in, I am in front, I hear a wave coming and look back to see Dave surfing the face behind me.
“Oh no!” I try to predict where he is going, as if he surfs into me, he could kill me, or at least break my boat or parts of me. He surfs down the face turns towards me, there isn’t much I can do except capsize if he gets pushed onto me, so I wait, watching over my shoulder. Dave rockets along the wave coming towards me yet still behind me, he then capsize And flushes of the wave, the wave passes me. Ok that problem over, Dave sets up for the roll, yet what he doesn’t see, but I do with wide eyes, is the monster wave coming, and it is already breaking.
I back paddle me ass off, hoping to push over it, Dave begins to roll. The last thing I see is Dave upside down boat getting swallowed by the 8 foot wall of white wash, just before it impacts with me. The tail of my boat lifts up, the water throws me forward violently, I lean back, feel my boat list to one side as the nose digs down, I shift my weight and brace into the wave as I feel myself drop through the aerated violence. I begin to bounce, and I don’t mean just bounce I really should say leap, I am side surfing a wall of dirty white water, there is at least 3 feet of it below me too the green water, and there is at least a foot above my head that I am bracing into. The boat side on drops down, bounces of the green water, leaps back up the wash, and then repeats for what seems like a furious 2 minutes, eventually I end up back surfing. I Lean forward desperately trying not to back loop the fully loaded boat. Tilting the boa hard on edge and dragging one paddle, try to bring it back to a side surf, though eventually the wave lets me go. I look back out to see, bits and pieces (Drink bottles, Thermos, a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a water bag) ridding the surf in, and Dave swimming his boat in through the now slightly smaller surf.kayakdownundernzleg2-04394
I notice pretty quickly that Dave is holding to pieces of paddle, shit he broke his paddle. I paddle about picking up some of the stuff I can get my hands on, Dave lets go of one of the paddle halves, I go to get it, just as I get to it the foam core inside it that makes it float, pops out and that half sinks. Oh piss! On the beach, we collected the bits washed up, though still no other half of the paddle. Dave has cut his hand up on the rudder bolt while holding the back of the boat and swimming it in, it isn’t too bad. He is cold, I get into my grouchy get shit done mood, and I start bossing Dave about to get his shit together while I get the outer of the tent together so he can get changed inside it, though Dave tags around refusing to be taken care of and now says he’s not cold, as long as he is moving. All good then
After dragging boats up into he dunes we set up a fly in the rain, get the inside of the tent put in, Dave get’s changed under the fly (very quick makeshift rig on the lee side of the tent, Dave suggests a nicer set up, I bluntly an probably rudely state “No it is getting dark, Let’s not muck round, we should just eat dinner and go to bed, we can worry about niceties in the morning!” I set up the cooker and start boiling water for our Backcountry Cuisine meal, while sitting in the grass, I notice the points of the grass poking my leg, but ignore it while cooking the food. After a couple of minutes the sensation gets annoying so I flatten the poky grass and pour hot water into the meals. As I stir the meals, I notice it still feels like the grass is poking me, I push it flat again and start boiling hot water for drinks. I still notice the sensation but pass it off as an irritation form the grass.
I go to get the spoons from the kayak to eat our meals with, as I sit down, I pull my groin muscle, argh! “Did you burn yourself?” asks Dave, “no I pulled my groin muscle!” I state. After eating our dinner, the sensation hasn’t gone away. “It isn’t feeling right Dave; if I didn’t know better I would think I have been bitten by a poisonous snake!” I tell him, as I realize the sensation in my groin isn’t a muscle pull. My brain suddenly clicks; Sand dunes and tall grass, the only poisonous thing in NZ, a spider lives in these environments. The pain is now gone from a prick in my calf to a spreading burning twitching pain, while the pain in the groin has become stabbing and spreading into my abdomen. “Dave give me your Headlamp, I am sure I have been bitten by a spider!” I use the headlamp to search the grass where I was sitting and sure enough, find a little shinny, dark chocolate brown spider with a golden Yellowy orange stripe on its back. “Not quite the right coloring, but looks like one!” I talk to myself
I get the cell phone, and call my mate Bruce, “Bruce I am pretty sure I have been bitten by a Katipo Spider, can you search the net for symptoms and likely out comes, cheers mate. The pain worsen I am moaning and groaning all over the place. Bruce calls back, no one has died since 1800 something, you will get aching pain at sight of bite, in abdomen, muscle twitching, sweaty fevers, trouble breathing, increases heart rate, cramps. You should seek medical advice if bitten. General symptoms usually last up to 2 hours though pain can become excruciating. Dave goes off to see if he can walk to the road and a house, in the mean time I sit and rest and think about what is going on. I can’t find a bite wound though I am positive I have been envenomated, I don’t want to cause a fuss about a little bite if it isn’t going to kill me and just cause a little pain, so if Dave can’t find anyone easily I will just wait it out.
Dave returns, no go, the pain is easing and I feel like I can sleep. Though in the tent the warmth makes the pain increase 5 times more, so after a painful hour I get back in my rain gear and lay under the rain fly outside with my legs downhill. The pain subsides, I sleep. I hoped to wake and it to have subsided
March 22nd; 3 am: I awake with stabbing pain in both hips, my entire left leg aches, my right thigh hurts, my mouth tingles, and my stomach feels queasy. I stand up to get the cell phone, I can’t walk well. I call my Dad on the phone, he used to be in search in rescue and I know he police Cell phone will be on. I tell him the issues and ask him to ask the SAR medic what I can do to self treat myself if I can, otherwise I will have to get out. The weather is worsening, the winds increasing the rain coming down.
The medic calls me back, I am now in excruciating pain, making me writhe and wriggle and yell, I am well aware that the poison is in my system and effecting my Lymph nodes in my groin this is potentially dangerous, I could be the first to die since 1800 something. Angela at the Hasting Hospital calls and tells me I can’t do much except some pain killers and evacuation as if it is systemic, only anti venom will help.
I make the call, 111 and ask for an ambulance. After a long talk of what is going on where we are how best to get to us we wait. There is a big estuary lagoon between us the nearest houses and the road; we are in a tricky spot. The ambulances come to the wrong spot over the lagoon. They call me while Dave walks down to talk to them, they ask me on the phone to set of one of the flares I told them we had. I struggle out of the shelter and atop the nearby mound, I can see the lights flashing I set of the red flare. The attendant on the phone tells me they can now see my position. I see the ambulances turn around and drive the other way to the far end of the beach. Dave returns helps me walk to the beach, as I can’t carry my own weight any more, we sit in the rain for about 15 mins (seems like an hour of extreme pain for me).
Soon a 4WD vehicle shows up, it is a Department of Conservation truck with a paramedic in it, they load me in the back, Dave stays behind too look after gear and off I go down the beach. Of course I have been filming as much of this as possible in the wet and dark. At the end of the beach are two ambulances and I meet Roger my EMT.kayakdownundernzleg2-04395
Now the ambulance ride was an interesting progression of deducting my problem. They ask me f I saw the spider, I describe it, off course they are usually black with a red strip, so that creates doubt in a brown yellow striped spider. Also we can’t find a bite sight. So now we go to a cardiac problem as the symptoms a similar, and my heart algorithms are off a bit. They gave me NTG ( nitro glycerin) spray, which made me almost pass out, so that meant it wasn’t a hear t issue, so they gave me the counter drug, then put morphine in me, which took a bit of the pain away, though not much.
We began the 50 minute drive to the hospital in Wairoa, along the way I got a bit more morphine, it still didn’t do much, then Roger noticed my airways degrading so he gave me adrenaline, and instantly I started feeling better, I relaxed and was able to sleep. This signified and allergic reaction to something, I was still adamant of a spider bite. In the hospital the y put me in a ward, took some blood draws. At this point it is now 6am. The doctor will be in at 8am.
I sleep, and then awake in lots of pain again at about 7.15am; they give me a pain killer suppository, ooh that’s different! The doc arrives, and she asks me about what happened, I tell her again I am sure it is a spider bite as the progression of pain was typical of envenomation. She tells me she will check with a specialist and will return soon. Eventually she returns and agrees with confirmation of the specialist that it sound typical of a Katipo spider bite, and they will put me on Anti venom, which should relieve the symptoms almost instantly.
In the mean time I have been on the cell phone toa friend, Dawn, who is organizing getting Dave of the beach and moving our stuff to her cabin in Mahia so we can regroup there and move on when ready. I describe where Dave is and a chap Ian who helped get us last night will go out to get him with a tractor for the boats and gear. I am hooked up to a drip and injected with anti venom, just about the time kayakdownundernzleg2-1020969Ian starts his tractor and heads of down the beach for Dave. Dave and Ian Load the kayaks on the tractor about the same time my pain subsides and I am able to sleep. Dave gets moved to the cabin about when I get my second anti venom shot, I sleep more, and Dave has made new friends in Grace and Cullum and is eating Mince pies and looking at scenic points.  I eat some real basic dinner, Dave is now eating fish and chips then going out to a dinner party, he calls me in the middle of celebrations, as I lay with a heart alarm on ( incase the anti venom effects my heart ), and looking at stuff on the internet. (Thankfully I thought ahead and packed my computer to come with me to the hospital)
All in all I was in good hands and so was Dave, He may be having a touch more fun than me, though I was quite enjoying the process of all the Biological effects of the venom (a neurotoxin, which effects the nervous system) and the drugs and the whole process that happened. A very fascinating experience and a rare one, Katipo spiders are endangered and facing extinction in NZ, also the Brown one with a Yellow stripe I encountered is a Rare Subspecies that the specialist my Dad spoke too was super excited about. So, quite cool all up though very painful. I also enjoyed having an excuse to use a marine flare, and putting my First Aid training into practice and evacuating myself as well as diagnosing my problem almost instantly as a poisonous spider bite.
Here is a Pic of the Rarer Chocolate color with an Orange yellow stripe!

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