Friday, 29 January 2010

Kayaking Sugar Loaf Island Marine Park

After a very poor sleep, anticipating walking up in time to get to the kayak place. (which is such a joke. I wake up at 6am whether I want to or not!) I sat in the dining area and chatted with some folks from Christchurch and a German tramper. She is doing as many walks as seems possible and dearly wants to scale Taranaki. Not much point when it is cloudy which it has been for days. The South Islanders give me some distance times and recommend the glaciers.
Off to the kayak place, I scoped it out yesterday so I knew where to go. The fellow there puts roof racks on the van and loads this very light polycarbonate .... the name MAY come to me. spray skirt PFD (life vest, I think) paddle,paddle float a dn a dry bag for the camera and cell phone. he assures me if I get into trouble "some fisherman will help" hmm.
The launch point is on the otherside of town, not far from where I just came from, at the port. i carry it down to the beach and fall in trying to enter. I told the guy my Prijon is a bit "twitchy" so he gives a boat with a round bottom. Oh well nothing hurt but a bit of pride. I do my usual stretching, twist to the right, the left and tilt the hips both ways and I am off. I find it doesn't track well so reach around to flip the rudder down... Paddle back to shore and unhook the bungie.
Smooth sailing around the breakwater, a large seal is scratching his/her mouth with front flippers and erratically swimming past me. Doesn't even look up! these are big animals. They make our harbour seals look like big otters. Two huge freighters (aren't they all huge?) leave right behind me. I feel small!
Out to the big Sugar Loaf and around wide. I am feeling cautious, not used to the boat but regretting the camera is stowed in the forward hatch, a little unsure of the wave action which is quite begnign really. Almost flat calm with swells. Those swells are crashing against the less than friendly looking rocky island. Definitely nowhere to land. The reflected waves, known as clapiotis are mostly unpredictable unless you know the place well. I skirt the giant surf crashing over the unexposed reefs (the tide is falling) and circle around most of the islands, cutting through between the outermost which has extensive crashing surf on the outer edge. I head for the shore , I need to pee and I could use a break from sitting, it is hot, I'm tired, hungry and thirsty. gee somehow that whining just doesn't translate well.
As I approach I can see these little sticks on the beach moving back and forth. Hmmm? Closer I can see they are actually people , some with surf boards. That nice looking surf break from this side looks gentle. Reality check, those folks are surfing! I carry on looking for somewhere with non existant surf. Seems unlikely I will find a spot to land. I see folks swimming , girls in bikinis! Hey! Not possible to land there, around a corner though and one of the Islands has a lee shore and I slide right onto the beach. I take off most of my clothes and swim into those huge waves, body surfing towards shore. I get a smile from her.
Take a few pictures and decide I like my camera too much to risk losing it. Back in the bag in the hatch. Launching successfully I paddle back out to the big island. More confident I get in close to see the rocks, seals and blackback gulls. The island is really an enormous rock, pounded by the ocean on most sides. Where there is a cave or opening the waves make a huge drumlike boom as they smack the back face spraying up like a geyser. The rock itself seems rotten or unstable, great chunks have fallen out leaving large openings like amphitheatres, on top is bush and on one side sandstone carved out like in the gulf islands, big and little holes.
There ARE fishermen out here. Boats keep buzzing in from way out at sea and little putputs trolling around. A long passenger boat coloured up like a circus tent cruises by, I can hear someone with loudhailer waxing elequent I am sure, about the geology and biology of the place.
When I was leaving the kayak hire guy said I should text him if decided to go somewhere else after. And where would that be? I had a good time, quality trumps quantity for me. So I paddled back around the breakwater (which by the way is made of gigantic concrete legolike chunks tumbled together willy nilly), tide now way out, tons of kids frolicking in the waves and digging holes in/on the beach. The van is like an oven, thank goodness I left my food back at the hostel. Deliver the kayak and stop at the library to catch up on my blogging. Elke is good, she catches me most times. Of course we are not allowed to talk in the library. So we text, while viewing each other on Skype.
Time flies when there is lots to say/write and sometimes I need to step away from the screen....
Collected my food/ice and said my goodbyes. I was tempted to stay another night, that might have turned into a week! Anyway Ben had some advice. Stop at Kaupokanui Beach, cheap, showers and great beach. And that was so true.

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