Efforts are rewarded on a group kayaking trip by gorgeous sights and a hearty lunch. Andy Kenworthy joins in.
Every self-respecting Kiwi knows the precious place kayaks and canoes have in our nation's history, and most of us have had a wee paddle at some point. But Auckland Sea Kayak tours offer a simple, safe and exciting introduction to getting out on to the ocean proper.
Six of us picked a calm day last week to head out from Buckland's Beach on a five-hour return journey to nearby Brown's Island/Motukorea.
Unloading and packing the kayaks from the trailer was a good way to get the teamwork going and introduce us to our craft. Then there was a quick lesson on safety and basic handling from our guide, company owner Nic Mead, followed by a chance to put on some polyprop insulation and rain jackets to keep us as warm, dry and comfortable as possible while out on the water.
Launching from the boat ramp, we paddled at a leisurely pace in the sparkling water, threading our way past the various moored yachts along the shoreline. Nic told us a bit of the history of the river and the local surroundings, which he has known since his schooldays in the area. The small talk also provided a chance to take a break from paddling and enjoy the scenery from our unusual viewpoint out among the waves.
Our rain jackets easily shrugged off a brief shower while Nic radioed the passing ferry to confirm our safe passage over to the island. Once there, we took a ten-minute snack-fuelled walk to the high point on the edge of its beautifully preserved crater.
It was a privileged spot to take in breathtaking views of the Hauraki Gulf and the city, as well as some of the history that has shaped it.
Back down at the beach for the all-important lunch. Limp sandwiches might have risked a mutiny, but thankfully Nic cooked up a hearty vegetarian and gluten-free Thai green curry, with bread and rice. We burned this fuel on the return leg, circumnavigating the island before heading back to port, noticeably slower than on our way out, but no less enthusiastic.
All in all the day covered about 10km of steady paddling.
It's an outdoor experience, so you will need to pack a small tin of Harden Up to cover the moments when you might feel little bit wet, a little bit cold, or a little bit tired. But the enjoyment, adventure and feeling of accomplishment all make it well worth the small amount of effort required; after all, we're Kiwis, right?
NEED TO KNOW
* All clothing and equipment is provided.
* Anybody who is reasonably fit can give it a try. The youngest person to take the tour so far was aged 6, and the oldest 74.
* You don't need to be able to swim - in the very unlikely event that you fall in you will float in your lifejacket and instructors are on hand.
* Double canoes allow you to share the paddling effort with a friend.
* The tours can take up to 30 people.
* All instructors are highly experienced and fully insured.
* Vegetarianism, gluten free and other dietary requirements can be catered for.
* The one-day tour described cost $175 per person, including a hot lunch, snacks and drinks.
* Find out more about Auckland Sea Kayak's one to three-day tours.