By the time we got out of the gorge it was pretty much lunch time. Dave and I needed to get some food quickly so instead of paddling for another 10mins we stopped and sorted some food out. I wasn’t too happy about stopping as I figured we could just drift down the river while we ate etc, but it was nice to have a bit of a stretch out. After getting some food down both Dave and I went into dark places. Dave was struggling with the steering so I gave it a go… I was ten times worse, my wrist hurt to paddle on the right side and I just could not concentrate at all. We quickly changed back and ran a few rapids but I was so tired that I started to fall asleep while paddling. I was still dipping the blade in the water, but there was very little power going into my stroke. Dave had had enough and we pulled up alongside the others. I was at my lowest point in the whole race here, I was in pain, I wasn’t happy, bored and I was falling asleep. We did a quick switch around, Nathan jumped in my boat while I got painkillers and some No-doze into me.
It took about 20mins and a bit more sleep paddling before the No-doze started to kick in, I had some food and then all of a sudden was alert and functional. I took on the role of navigating the gravel shoots and we powered through the middle section of the river. For the next couple of hours we went really well, but I think it was all the stopping that seemed to tax our speed quite considerably. It wasn’t until we reached the road bridge that it became evident that it probably was possible to get through the majority of the paddle in one day and especially if you had a good one it would be possible to do it all in a day. This didn’t really sit to well in the knowledge that we were not making super fast progress… but knowing what we did now the goal was to get as far through the gorge as we could before we got caught by the dark zone. We had a good couple of hours before pulling up at possibly the last good spot for quite some distance at 8:20pm.
It was a welcome relief to get off the river and fed. Dave celebrated his birthday with a cake that Amy managed to stash on board the canoe along with some party hats! After all the drying off, eating, partying and setting up for the night it wasn’t until 10:30 until we got to bed.
For half an hour three of our watch alarms went off at 5 minute intervals before any of us woke up! it was amazingly refreshing to have a full nights sleep, but pretty cold outside still. The cold wet wetsuit was the hardest thing to put on before jumping on the water. As with most transitions there was so much to do and little time to do it in and we were 10mins late getting on the water after the dark zone opened.
There was a solid four hour paddle to get to the river mouth but it was a pretty welcome sight to see that beach! Again it was a super slow transition with all the wet gear to deal with along with setting ourselves up for another day our in the hills. There was one other team in transition when we arrived, and then another 3 when we left at about lunch time heading into the 6th day.