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Dipping into the land of GODZone

Thursday 2nd March 2017

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By Annabelle Latz
It’s been an epic and humbling week here in Queenstown, as a volunteer on the GODZone media team for Chapter Six.
To slap some icing on the cake, it was a thrill and a privilege today to be able to fill in as the fourth paddler for Team Cloud Base Nine (19).
It was the tenth and final stage of this adventure race, a 47km paddle from Kingston back to Frankton Beach along the mighty Lake Wakatipu.
I met the team last night just after 9pm at Kingston, as they filed in off their Stage 9 33km 18 hour alpine trek exploring the ‘Eyre Mountains.’
Graeme Ewenson, Matt Jeans and Hannah Lowe quietly organised their sleeping gear and dinner, aware of the Dark Zone that had been implemented which meant no paddling between 9pm and 6.45am.
Fourth team mate Divan Pretorius had pulled out earlier in the race due to not being quite prepared for the task that lay before him. He was a late call in, good on him for giving it a go!
Watching Graeme, Matt and Hannah, with 11 GODZone’s and a World Champs race under their belt between them, they had every detail down to a tee.
Before long they were watered and fed and we were calling it a night, along with about 10 other teams who were also awaiting day break.
This morning we rose at 5.45am, just as the sun was creeping up. There was a good buzz and kayaks and gear were prepped.
A WOO HOO from Graeme, and we were off at 6.45am or just a fraction after. It was going to be a long paddle, so we made sure spray skirts were firmly in place, snacks and water close at hand.
Admittedly, I am a very sporadic paddler, and aside from fits and bursts every now and again, I’m still very much a novice.
It was a magic 7 hours on the water, my ‘team mates’ gave me some cracker tips to get me on the right foot, and soon enough I had my groove. I didn’t want to be anywhere else but right there.
Rolling up to the finish line, it was a neat experience to be on the other side from where I’d been standing with my notebook and camera for the last couple of days. I was grinning from ear to ear as we approached the beach.
It struck me both last night, and as we were paddling home, what Team Cloud Base Nine had been through the last few days.
It would be insulting to try and understand; I could only try and paint a picture in my head from the anecdotes I had jotted down from competitors over the past few days.
There have been close to 300 people from all walks of life and corners of the globe, gracing the most beautiful and unforgiving terrain of this region this week.
And there is an underlying commonality between them all.
That commonality is modesty.
We reach the finish line, scramble out of our kayaks, call Divan over for the team photo, then crack a beer and dig into a pie.
It’s game over for Team Cloud Base Nine, and they’re stoked as.
But if you told them they’re awesome, they’d probably say ‘yeah nah not really.’
Living off an oily rag of sleep and lots of freeze dried food and goodness knows how many muesli bars, they’ve put themselves through an emotional and physical roller coaster; five and a half days of navigation by foot, bike, kayak and raft, through tricky country that demands technical skill and intelligence, rationality and bravery.
And they love it, they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Thank you Team Cloud Base Nine for letting me join your journey for just seven and a bit hours.
I had a blast, and who knows, maybe I might be back for a longer ride another time.

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