The major turning point in my trip was when I was paddling down a river called the Waiou River — it had been raining for days which had caused the water levels to rise.
My goal for that day was to paddle as far as I could toward Te WaiWai bay. As I made my way down the river, I heard a faint alarm in the distance. I didn't think much of it and carried on paddling. It wasn't long until I noticed the river was starting to swell. There was a strange rumbling sound, and the sound of alarms had stopped.
Suddenly, I was met by a wall of water as the river was thrown into flood. My boat flipped and tossed me into the turbulent, freezing water. I did everything I could to keep my head up. I became entangled in a willow tree, its branches pulling me down and its tendrils wrapping around me like a snake.
The more I struggled, the harder it became — I was trapped underwater in freezing temperatures. I fought to get free, clawing at the branches, ripping the tendrils away from my body, fighting for my life. It was useless.
So I let go. I stopped fighting, I stopped struggling, and I said goodbye.
After that I was engulfed in a warm sensation, and everything became pleasant. The rocks flying across the river bed became diamonds rolling to and fro, the water was warm and soft on my skin, and I drifted away into a dark eternity.
I was lucky enough to survive this experience. I woke up on the water floating toward a bank. The only sense I can make of it was when my body relaxed, I was taken with the current and pulled under the willow I was trapped against.
I will never forget what happened that day, and because of it I will never take another day, another moment for granted.
On the final day of my adventure, I was filled with fear of the unknown. It may sound odd as I had just spent 600 days in the wilderness on a solo adventure, but I was afraid of finishing. What was I going to do next? Where was I going to live? How was I going to function in society?
These questions and millions more rolled around in my head and made me anxious and stressed. Not exactly the romantic end to a life-changing journey.
But when I headed toward the lighthouse on my 600th day, I saw a crowd of people holding signs, cheering, calling to me. It made me realise I was going to be OK. My family, friends and partner were there. I could see pride from my dad’s beaming smile, and feel the love seep into me from mum’s embrace.
Finishing my journey wasn't the end of adventure for me. It was just the end of this adventure. The rest of my life was just beginning.