Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Royale with Cheese

Kayaking in the Abel Tasman had always been a dream of mine so when Kaiteriteri Kayaks offered me a free trip I jumped at the chance. I had visions of gliding across a calm ocean whilst happy dolphins swam by my side as I basked in a warm autumn sun. Oh, how naive I was!

“I’ve booked you onto the Royale with Cheese” announced Sean, the manager of YHA Nelson the previous morning.

The Royale with Cheese, as it turned out, was a full day’s Kayaking trip from Marahau to Bark Bay. Admittedly, the words ‘full day’ had me a little worried until I met Raewyn. Raewyn was almost twice my age and would be in my group. If she can do this then surely I’ll have no problems, I confidently thought to myself. As we sat together and chatted about the fact that I had weedy arms and she talked about the arthritis in both of her hands we looked around for our hunky tandem partner whom we would sneakily let do all of the paddling.

“Raewyn and Sue” said Josh, the over-exuberant, smiley guide. “You two can partner up”. There was no hiding the dismay in both of our faces.

After a fun safety session, which involved waving our hands in the air and pretending to drown on gravel, we set off from Marahau beach into a relatively calm sea towards Adele Island. Josh was a well informed guide and provided us with stories and the history of the outlying Islands. To our delight, we got to see plenty of seals and their cute little pups and I got very over-excited when I saw a large brown thing bobbing in the distant water.
“What’s that Josh?” I cried out, pointing into the distance thinking I’d spotted a whale. “Oh that big brown thing?” he replied patiently. “That’s a piece of wood”.

An hour and half into the trip, I sheepishly asked my partner “Are your arms hurting yet?”
“No, they’re fine” she replied “Why? Are yours?”
“No, I’m fine” I lied, each paddle sending a burning sensation through my muscles.

Then without warning, we caught up to the huge dark clouds that had been looming in the distance. As the raindrops started to soak through my clothes, the cold began to set it. I started to yearn for my thermal – which was in a dry bag in the middle of the Kayak and my only dry item for when I reached the shore. I didn’t dare touch it!

So as I sat there shivering, my energy and spirit draining with every bumpy wave, Josh turned around and with an enthusiastic smile announced, “Ok guys! Brace yourselves for the mad mile”. The aptly named mad mile is a stretch of rough sea that requires a good deal of concentration and quite a bit more strength than my spaghetti arms had. At the end of it though, we were rewarded with a break on a beach and a hearty lunch.

After our break, we headed off to a tranquil lagoon with clear waters and colorful jelly-fish. We then set out towards another Island where we got up close to some more seals and their pups. The May rain still poured down but I gritted my teeth and soldiered on, trying to appreciate the whole experience.

When we finally ended our trip at beautiful Bark Bay, although my arms hung limply at my sides and my teeth chattered with cold, I was strangely exhilarated. As soon as I was in my warm yellow beanie and my bright orange thermal (provided by the guides) I could finally appreciate my huge achievement: A 17km kayak across a stunning coastline.

Kaiteriteri Kayaks is a highly professional and excellent company whose utmost priorities are safety and fun. The key to enjoying an out of season trip is TO BE PREPARED. I wasn’t! Wear warm clothes and take plenty of dry for the end of the trip. There are plenty of alternatives to this trip, including half days and stay-overs. Check out their website: