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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Paddling in Pahia, New Zealand - Page 2

Written by Aaron Ober
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There I was, flipping through a guide book in my hostel bunk, while
crunching noisily on vitamin C drops and sniffing back the head cold
that I had picked up somewhere in the rainy streets of Auckland. It
was day three of my solo adventure to the North Island of New Zealand.
With limited time, I decided to explore the Bay of Islands at the
utmost tip of the land, rich with native Maori history, geographically
blessed with one hundred forty-four islands, and some of the best
sport-fishing in the world.  I was dripping with anticipation—and as
sick as a dog.

Our group of greenhorn paddlers stood on the gravelly beach,
uncomfortably fiddling with our skirts, while our Maori guides gave us
last minute instructions.  The sky was overcast and the wind seemed
curiously strong as we set off across the choppy sea, awkwardly
feeling out our kayaks.  We followed our guides out into the bay and
soon found ourselves rising and falling between surging swells.
"Looks like a storm is coming!  Let's head to the river!" One of our
guides yelled over the wind.

Our crew paddled clear across the bay as
the wind bore down and the swells rose to six feet.  My kayak tipped
and rocked and an adrenaline charged state of panic arose inside me as
I strained to keep from capsizing and focused on surfing the monster
waves.  I gritted my teeth and paddled hard, alongside Arjen, who was
hooting like a mad bull, seemingly loving every second of it.
Suddenly, rain dropped from the darkening sky, pelting us in torrid,
windy gusts.  Somehow, no one in our crew
capsized and we finally reached the mouth of the river.  I was soaked
to the bone, shivering and utterly spent, bracing myself for another
coughing spasm.

Paddling in Pahia, New Zealand, solo adventure, adventure travel, North Island, travel New Zealand, Kiwi Express, Bay of Islands, Pipi Patch hostel, Russell, Pahia, Aaron OberThe water was much calmer as we paddled up river, though we were steadily
drizzled on by an unforgiving, cold rain.  We gathered oysters off the
rocks and corralled our kayaks near a waterfall to take pictures—no
one smiled.  The dense, frilly bush stretching up the steep hillsides
looked like good shelter from the miserable rain.  We beached our
kayaks and plugged through the mud to the luxury of solid ground and a
much needed stretch and bathroom break.  I shucked and snorted down a
few of the fresh oysters we had gathered, wolfed down a salty promite
sandwich and again we were on our way, back down the river toward the

I was daydreaming about the hot tub back at the Pipi Patch, following
closely behind Arjen, when we rounded a sharp bend in the river that
opened up to utter chaos.  Our kayaks made abrupt u-turns, slammed by
a 40-knot wind sweeping fiercely upstream, turning the river into a
white-capped snake, hissing and swirling violently.  "Bear down!
Paddle hard!" Our guides ordered.  I watched as Arjen powered forward
like a steamboat, seeming to feed off the energy of the storm.  I
heard a shout from behind me and turned to watch one of the guides
tossing a towline to a flailing paddler, just in time to keep her from
being swept up the river.

While the guide struggled with the burden
of a kayaker-in-tow, I turned my attention back down the river, where
Arjen was now a mere dot in the distance.  He was a true Dutch
workhorse; while I on the other hand was shredding gears in overdrive,
chugging forward with a bitter determination and only one thing in
mind: to make it through this ordeal and get my frigging money back!

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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