Our winter is New Zealand’s summer. After being invited to present a show at Coastbusters Kayaking Symposium in Auckland last year, Jim Kakuk and I could not resist. So, on February 15th, 2010, we hopped an Air New Zealand flight to Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.
After a long and terrible plane ride from San Francisco, we arrived at the Auckland airport in New Zealand feeling very tired. After waiting six long hours in the airport, we took a puddle jumper ride north to Keri Keri where our host Mark Hutson picked us up in his van, drove us to his house, loaded us up with kayaking gear and shuttled us and three of his friends to Matauri Bay. We packed our Puffin boats (I let Jim have the pink one) and set off for a three-mile paddle to Motukawanui, an island in the Cavalli Island group in the Bay of Islands.
We camped there for four nights and had a wonderful time. Motukawanui was straight out of ROBINSON CRUSOE. You imagined that you could live there the rest of your life in peace, just fishing and paddling and hiking. And no snakes, no crocodiles. It was truly paradise.
We had a nice hut to stay in with potable-enough water. We were set. There was only one small problem. I was getting sick. My immune system must have gone kablooey on the plane, since I don’t sleep when I’m packed in like a sardine. So I started coughing, sneezing, and feeling miserable. Still, I was determined to have a good time and did. That night I slept on the beach under the stars and awoke after 2 a.m. to the Southern Cross gracing the night sky.
The next morning we had freshly caught clams for breakfast and set out kayaking around the island. It was a beautiful day with blue skies. Mark was taking a two-day test to become a Tsunami Ranger. He led us on a circumnavigation and showed he was a good kayaker. Satoru went skin diving out of his boat and caught fish for dinner, which he prepared, Japanese style. Even sick, I loved snorkeling without wetsuits and the wonderful feel of the air and water.
Two cool fishing dudes were staying with us at the hut, Chris and Dean. Like me, Dean had artificial valves implanted in his heart, so he and I swapped scars and stories. Apparently, there was a cyclone somewhere in the area, and we got a bunch of big waves and some storm conditions. Of course we went kayaking Tsunami Ranger style and Mark proved that he could paddle through rock gardens in nine-foot seas. He passed his officer test and became a bona fide Tsunami Ranger. He had to wait only 20 years!
The next morning the skies were clear but the 30-knot headwind with 40-knot gusts was too much for poor little sick me (though I had no problems the day before). I knew I could paddle three lousy miles against the wind but chickened out because I was a heart patient with the flu and was paddling a borrowed boat. No one seemed to mind, so we endured another day in paradise, went hiking, did chi gung and were rewarded with another beautiful sunset.
The next day we paddled against a 15-knot wind no problem and drove back to Mark’s place in Paihia. A kayaking bloke named Kevin Dunsford came by and whisked Jim away on another week-long kayak trip while I languished at Mark’s. I listened as Satoru rehearsed a slide show he would be giving soon at the Coastbusters symposium. Mark, Sasha, Fujii, and Satoru then took off on a kayaking expedition with some Japanese tourists, while I worked on recovering.
For the next couple of days I walked to the Waitangi river, did tai chi, and played tourist. I checked out the wakas (giant Maori war canoes) at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and washed my clothes. Kevin picked me up, and I joined Jim and his kayaking group. We camped in the rain and headed to kayaker Gerry Maire’s house the next day, with Kevin again providing escort. We found that our philosophies of kayaking matched Kevin’s, and we had a great time with Gerry, who was a wonderful host.
The next morning Gerry drove Jim and me to Auckland for the Coastbusters symposium. Stay tuned next week for Jim and Eric’s exciting Auckland adventures and how we were blamed for the tsunami.
Have you had your own kayaking adventures in New Zealand? Please share! Want to know more about kayaking or visiting in New Zealand? Just ask, and either I or one of my knowledgeable Kiwi friends will answer pronto.