I have spent hours stuffing my gear into small waterproof bags in my motel in Paihia in the Bay of Islands, in the North of New Zealand. My gear is now piled on top of the rest in the back of the van – how are we going to fit all that in kayaks!!
There are five of us – brought together on this women’s trip by Bushwise Women – Zohar Tur-shalom as our guide, her mother Simcha is my paddle pal, Jill Pask and Ruth Brown are up from Christchurch, Theodora Barychewsky has joined us from the States. I met my fellow paddlers last night in a briefing, now are being driven to our starting point at Rawhiti. It’s an hours drive on winding roads with glimpses of the water tantalising us – less paddling I guess!
Rawhiti is a beautiful bay – with our destination Urupukapuka Island off shore.
It takes another hour to load all that gear in the kayaks – amazingly it does fit. A brief lesson, and we slip into the double kayaks and we are away. The sea is like glass, which is great – because it takes a while to get into synch with my paddle partner Simcha. A bit of swell adds some interest, but it’s an easy crossing to our base at Cable Bay. Here we find an empty camp ground – lots of flat ground, compost toilets and cold showers – all you need for a great campsite.
We unload the kayaks and set up camp, a clever fly provides a shady gathering place with the poles as our paddles. The tents are up, we are starting to work together as a team. I sit in my tent gazing out on the bay, and I think “This is so what I needed to do”. It’s been a hard year – a new job, no real holiday.
Its hard to holiday on your own, but joining a small group tour like this, makes it easy.
The wind is up – 10-15 knots and promising to get worse – the early morning swim I planned is put off until later in the day. A leisurely breakfast and great plunger coffee and we are ready to ponder and adventure. Lunch is packed and we carry the kayaks down the water and a small miracle – the wind drops to an easy 5-10 knots. We enjoy a great paddle Island hugging and hopping -a sting ray passes beneath my kayak – heaven. We paddle into a perfect pohutukawa lined bay on Moturua Island. There is no one else around so it’s ours for the day. We snorkel and swim and enjoy a scrummy lunch. I could get used to this!
The paddle home is more of a challenge across the open water and against the wind, but we rise to it, and push on. When we round the last point into Cable Bay – a cry breaks out – we are home. I am exhausted and fall into my tent while others sort the camp. Before I know it, happy hour has started, our thermarest mattresses clevely convert to a chair and we are off on another round of interesting conversation – peak oil, alternative power, sex changes and parenting – we are an eclectic group.
The wind is seriously up – 20 knots – the others climb to the top of the hill to see what is around the corner. I hunker down in my tent for a read and the best view in town framed by my tent doorway – all is right with the world. In the bay a gannet dives for its meal, and pops up like a rubber toy – success in its beak. It gobbles the fish before its huge wings lift it off again for another foray. I squeeze myself into my wetsuit for an extended snorkel to the off shore island. Simcha is playing a recorder under the tree and sound drifts across the water. This is the life!
More of the same – a day of kayaking, swimming, talking and eating before packing up for the paddle home later in the day. Its been a fabulous trip – the six of us have formed a great bond as we have paddled, prepared food, shared stories and games of cards.
- seeing sting rays in the water
- the juvenile blackback gull endlessly pestering its mother
- an Oyster Catcher family with two young birds
a Pukeko squeaking in a manuka tree
- the flash of yellow and blue as a kingfisher flys by
- a blackback gull unloaded all over me – a cup of it – yuk
- February in New Zealand is the best time of year – the summer still lingers, school has gone back.
- Bushwise Women – see all their tours – this tour is a regular for them in February each year.