Thursday, 12 November 2015

Where there is a cave there we shall go...

Goat Island and the Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve 
When: 7 Nov 2015
4 hours paddling.

This would rate as one of the most beautiful kayaking day trips I have done. Abel Tasman may have its abundance of white sands, but this stretch of coastline, only an hours drive north of Auckland, would easily compete for beauty. Get yourself there!

The day was perfect. Summery temperatures and blue skies.We launched at Goat Island, a marine reserve just a short drive from Leigh. It's a popular spot for snorkeling and diving so be prepared for crowds. There is a loading bay, so we unloaded the kayak and gear and then parked the car back up the hill in the carpark.

But, if crowds are not your thing, never fear. After 2 minutes paddling we were free of people, and out in the expanse of blue. We then paddled out around the north side of the island.

We had read online that the island has caves, so this became our quest. And they did not disappoint. No they did not! The first cave, complete with stalactites, was simply amazing. Unfortunately somebody left the nice camera (Nikon SLR waterproof) behind, so the photos don't do it justice. Please view the photos and imagine them more amazing.

On the way in...
Kayaking into a cave is a very unique experience. Unlike walking through a cave, or being in a boat, the kayak offers something completely different. Nothing beats sitting right on water level, feeling the surge of water and looking up to the immense ceiling above. The only way I can describe it is that the cave felt alive, breathing in and out, dynamic and powerful.

 But, we were to be amazed some more. These would be the first of 8 caves in total that we explored that day. But, I get ahead of myself...

After circumnavigating the island (which took about 40mins, including cave exploration), we headed across to the Leigh coastline. We found a stony beach for lunch, complete with waterfall. I never cease to be stunned by the unexpected beauty one discovers while exploring the New Zealand coastline.

From there we paddled for a couple of hours along the most stunning coastline. We adventured our way in and out of caves, and around the many rocky outcrops. This coastline is great for 'rock gardening' - playing among the rocks. Great fun! This involves scooting between the rocks as the tidal surge pushes you along.

We had high hopes of an orca sighting, as they had been seen in the marine reserve days before. However, we had to be content with a little blue penguin.

We paddled for a couple of hours along the coast before turning around just before the Leigh township. We headed back to Goat Island as the sun was going down, casting a beautiful light over the water.

And, as if that wasn't enough beauty for the day, we discovered a sideways blow hole on Goat Island, opposite the beach!

- This kayak trip is best when the sea is calm. And, try to aim for low tide. That way you can explore inside the caves. Watch out for swell as it can easily push you further into the cave than you might wish for.
- Give 'rock gardening' a go. Start with a wide gap between rocks, watch the swell approaching and time your entry to match it. That way you are less likely to scrape your kayak on exposed rocks. The more you do, the more confident you will feel.

Where we went:
Here is a highly accurate map of our day's paddle. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Full Moon Madness

Who: Annette and Shirley taking turns in Bluey and as jetty photographer.
Where: Maraetai
When: Evening of Tuesday 29 September

So the day after all the blood moon photos flooded Facebook, the weather was calm and clear. Only problem - work! So we went night-yakking instead.

You probably couldn't really call what we did kayaking - only one in the boat, staying within 50m of the jetty, taping glowsticks and LED flashing lights all over the place and taking photos with long exposure from the jetty.

But any time in the kayak is valued. The moon rose brilliantly, a deep orange, then illuminated the water far more effectively than our $2 Shop glowsticks did.

Most of these photos were taken with shutter speeds of between 10-20 seconds. Still learning the new waterproof Nikon 1 AW1 toy and this is a great opportunity for it. (I found that the iPhone did very well with the point and shoots as well.)

Enjoy the photos.

Tips - bearing in mind that we are learners at this too, and this was not a full SLR camera - just a bit too risky to bring that out so close to the wet stuff:

- The glowsticks didn't achieve much, perhaps because they were cheap and nasty ones or maybe because it was such a light evening with the mostly full moon. The LED lights that we've used before work very well.
- A tripod is essential.
- A thermos of hot chocolate is a great way to finish off the adventure.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Just Add Water Abroad

Santorini, Greece 
When: 24 June
South Discovery Tour
5 hours, including paddling, snorkeling and lunch

This blog has documented our journeys around New Zealand's many beautiful waterways. Recently I (Annette) spent time traveling around Greece and wanted to take the opportunity to get out on the water. So, this is a bit of a show-off blog post I am afraid!

I headed to TripAdvisor, and researched great kayaking spots on the Greek Islands. I discovered Santorini Sea Kayaks, with glowing reviews!  Next step, convincing my friend who I was travelling with.

The conversation went something like this:  
"Maria, would you like to do 5 hours paddling or 10 hours?"
"Okay, 5 hours it is then." 

If you are heading to Greece, this kayak tour is well worth the money. It is easy enough for beginners but has enough challenge to not be boring. Blue skies, blue sea and fabulous food!

Check them out at:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Bounty Of The Sea

Who: Annette and Shirley in Ciao
Where: Near Duders Beach, Maraetai. We put in opposite Umupuia Marae.
When: On the only grey day between two sunny ones - Saturday 22 August, 2015.

The Bounty Of The Sea

'Twas Saturday, hip hip hooray
And both of us were free
What better way to spend the day
Than heading out to sea?

Behind the clouds, the sun was bright
(We think, we couldn't see -)
But what the matter? Waitemata
Called us out to sea.

The wind was wailing, time for sailing
But it was in our faces.
The orca swam and milled around
- In other, far-off places.

We turned around to hoist the sails
To meet a sudden calm.
Oh well, to bob in still, no swell,
Has never done us harm.

Then to our favourite mussel spot
To harvest for a feed
Beneath the scunge and grimy gunge
Our bounty of the sea!

So all in all, a splendid day
Of orca, wind and sun
What we don't know is quite why no
More of our friends will come.

So, in a nutshell, the weather wasn't great, the orca stayed ever-elusive, the mussels in our favourite harvesting location were covered in gunge, (but they cleaned up well and tasted great,) and the wind died as we turned to sail with it. BUT we got Ciao on the water for the first time in a while, enjoyed lunch on an isolated beach and loved being outside on the water. It's very hard to have a boring paddle. :)

Duders Point up ahead

Good spot for lunch and a spot of tea

Socks are great for keeping cold feet warm. That's how they're used, right?

ArTEA farTEA shot

Orca!! Down there - somewhere - maybe. Dang.

Monday, 1 June 2015

A misspelt name and a misleading website...

Lake Rototoa, South Head, Auckland 
When: 31 May 2015
3 hours easy paddle (including lunch and numerous stops for photographic endeavours). 

This beautiful lake, about an hours drive north of Auckland, has been missing an R for many a year. Lake Ototoa is now known by its correct name - Lake Rototoa. This is a change however that locals and Google maps hasn't caught up with.

Lake Rototoa is the largest and most pristine freshwater lake in the Auckland region. And on a rather wet and miserable day it called out to us. A website I consulted said it had easy access to the water for kayaks. So, with this knowledge we made our way to the end of South Head.

Well, the website wasn't exactly correct, unless you call "carrying your kayak along a paddock and then down a path through the bush" easy access. However, we haven't been kayaking for such a long time, we were determined! And it ended up being easier to carry down than we thought. Tip: bring a small light kayak, or a strong muscly person... although we are evidence that it can be done.

Can you tell we are a bit happy to be back out on the water?

The first thing you notice out on the lake is the quality of the water. And it is deep, around 23 metres. The water is clear and dark. Stunning! What a fabulous find, and so close to Auckland.

We took our time, meandering around the edges, taking many photos of the reeds that hem the lake. 

The expected rain didn't show up so we were able to paddle around to the other side and find a great spot for lunch. As we paddled into a sheltered beach we heard a noise, and two wild fallow deer skipped through the forest and disappeared from sight. The thing that never ceases to amaze me is the surprises that kayaking brings. It truly is the greatest way to go exploring.

After lunch the rain set in for a bit, but it just adds to the beauty. Water drops on the surface of black water. The swaying of the reeds in the wind. Not a bad way to spend a day if you have the right gear to keep you warm... and a thermos of hot chocolate.

And then there is the climb back to the carpark to warm one up! 

This is a great day paddle. Be prepared to carry your kayak down... and then back up from the lakes edge. But, it is worth the effort.

Paddling in winter requires good warm clothing. Invest in good gear: beanie, thermals and a waterproof, wind proof jacket.
A thermos of hot drink is priceless.
Lake Rototoa is battling the invasion of water weed so check that your kayak is clean.

Extra important tip:
Bring snacks to recover your energy after lugging your kayak up the hill :)