Swapping an E out for an A…

Paddling Not Pedalling…

After a recent post of mine on Instagram, Steve Makin asked if I’d write an account of last week’s ‘Ocean Adventure Camp’ overnighter.

Parking the cycle’s up for a few days, Wifey & I opted to take the days between our Labour weekend and (our district) Marlborough Anniversary Day off for some extended exploration around the top of the South Island and spend several days of this in the Queen Charlotte Sound area, which is our main playground on the Ocean. Also the surrounding cycle tracks, when in that particular mode.

I’ll give a brief description of the Ocean vehicle we use…

A surfski is a sleeker, racier version of an ocean kayak. Narrower for catching waves which means tippier! inevitably leading to more time swimming. With practice and time, the capacity to paddle in the roughest conditions is a great reward. Cycling is sometimes described as sitting on your arse whilst running. The surfski equivalent would be sitting on your arse flailing your arms about!

Wednesday morning we packed with surfski’s on the car for the 47km drive to the launch site.

Whatamonga Bay.

Surfski’s to waters edge, all loaded with gear for an overnighter…

Slight Norwester, with low waves pushing into the bay. Off we set, first into Ahuriri Bay to see if ray numbers are rising with the warmer water temps? Not disappointed, we see a good dozen or so as we glide over them. Like large eagles flying underwater some seeming to stay stationary, others flying off in a hurry to settle elsewhere on the sandy bottom. 

Continuing on, hugging the coastline, we catch site of the various Shag colonies with the younger ones now in flight stage. All of the seals have left for deeper water after a successful breeding season with pups joining the adults for richer feeding grounds on the outer coast. The winter was entertaining with much seal interaction with cold weather padding. Continuing on, the sight and sound of gannets feeding, diving into the ocean from great heights to rise out again with fresh herring in beak, marvelous!

Further on we pass a peninsula that was previously a Maori Pa (village fortifications).Some 200 years ago war canoes (Waka) frequently passed through these waters to get warriors to battle. Several kilometres further into the Sound, we come to a Bay named Cannibal Cove where Pakeha (English Sailors) were on the menu after encounters with early explorer’s.

As we head further out the rising waves give a little more speed to our journey, approximately 9kph. When conditions are ideal a surfski will get up to 20 to 27kph which is quite a thrill when basically sitting in the ocean. With our destination in sight we turn in and catch a few nice waves to disembark our gear then pull out surfskis to the camp site just a few metres above high water. Opening the rear hatches to retrieve our gear, with the Jetboil first in order to brew up.

Our campsite is ideal, with copious amounts of #grassupthemiddle which was being grazed on by wild goats as we were nearer the bay. With cups filled with hot water and the smell of fresh tea and freshly baked scones in the air we settle down to take in the view from our new (temporary) home. A couple of the inter-island ferrys pass by, carrying passengers and freight between the two islands of New Zealand.

Now for a bit of an explore of the bay…

Beach combing is always an enjoyable time, finding interesting shells. Sometimes you can find older artifacts from early settlers and I’ve been lucky enough over the years to find a good collection of Maori Adzes and others small stone tools!

We find a walking track, and cooler air all whilst listening to the native birds flying through and singing in chorus, as they compete for bountiful flowers in the tree top’s. Back to camp to unfold the brand new tent for this season. We chanced our arm and didn’t give it a test setup before departure, but all is well and it takes it’s finished form in a few minutes. Other sleeping gear is quickly sorted and it’s time for the main meal of the day. It’s 7pm, and with daylight saving there’s plenty of light and a warm ambient temp make for a pleasant evening. The small steel 20cm pan bubbling with eggs and bacon, accompanied with fresh artisan bread it all provides a nice warm when dished on plates sitting on our legs. Tasting a nice Pinot gris from work (Spy Valley Wine).

After another few hours its time to turn in for the night. A half hour read by the lamp above our heads, with the predicted late evening rain arriving. Spattering on the outside of the tent which is just bliss. Sleep comes quickly…

6am and the sounds of birds in full chorus, with the lapping of the ocean a few metres away, the new day is inviting us to partake. The dappled light from slightly swaying branches makes for a wonderful ambiance. Out of the tent to take care of the bladder, then the Jetboil is go. Warm cup in hand, surveying the glistening ocean and vibrant greens of our surroundings…

All is Well With Life.

Breakfast taken at an easy pace. Another slow beach wander then we break camp. Stowing the gear in it’s proper place to balance the surfskis we carry them to the waters edge as the breeze begins to rise. Taking our time we head further out in an arc to reap the downwind benefits. Waves breaking over the bows of our ski’s, we give a few hoots and yahoo’s, embracing the vibrancy of the environment. Turning, we head back to Whatamonga with some speed on. Waves peeling off the bows as we ride from one wave to the next. Another half an hour and we arrive back at the beach.

We carry the gear back to the car, wash the ski’s down with fresh water, then loaded up we head to Picton for a walk around the town before our favourite Irish Bar (Seamus’s) opens. Sam nods as we walk in for our standard order… One house wine and a Guinness, as we settle into a debrief, and discuss future #grassupthemiddle (Ocean) Adventures… 

Words and pictures – Paul Nicholls

4 thoughts on “Swapping an E out for an A…

  1. Nice! I’d like to go on a water-based adventure soon.

    But I’m going to be “that guy” and get pedantic: Peddling means “selling”. If you mean “what you do on a bike”, it’s pedaling (in the US), pedalling (elsewhere). Of course, your boating activity may be in contrast to your day job, so carry on!

    Liked by 1 person

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