Monday, October 23, 2006

Water, water everywhere!

(photos posted above)

The first long weekend of spring was a perfect excuse to head down to the South Island and do a bit of kayaking. Our friends P & T invited me and G along for four days in Queen Charlotte Sound.

After a couple of weeks of intensive planning (mostly by P & T) we boarded the ferry to the South Island on a stormy Thursday night. This was bad news for me. I get seasick watching badly shot TV, so a stormy crossing of the Cook Strait was guaranteed occasion to make me heave. Luckily I stocked up on Dramamine, the wonder-drug for nausea. It made me sleepy, but at least it kept my head out of the toilet on a rather rocky voyage. Our entire party made it through unscathed, but there were a lot of green faces on board.

We rented the kayaks on Friday from a place in Picton. While our original plan was to take a water taxi out to the far end of Queen Charlotte Sound where there would be fewer people, the owner decided that the forecast was too windy to let us go to such an exposed area. Instead we settled for a campground about half way along the sound, with boat access only.

This sounded like the perfect place. No hikers or mountain bikers could invade, so we thought we’d have it all to ourselves. Wrong! By the time we had set up our camp and had a bite to eat, a tour boat pulled up at the jetty and about 20 sightseers toddled onto “our” beach to have a picnic. So much for privacy!

We responded by getting into the kayaks and going off to explore the many bays of Queen Charlotte Sound. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the water was turquoise below the cloudless, blue sky. Green hills surrounded us in every direction. We even saw a couple of little blue penguins in the water (the world’s smallest penguins). As far as I was concerned, this was paradise! I barely felt the effort of my sweeping paddle.

As the afternoon wore on, the wind began to pick up. By the time we turned back towards our campground, the waves in the main channel of the sound were a metre high. It was hard work (and very wet work!) getting back to our bay. Sitting in the front, I took a few big waves right in the face. Even with a spray skirt on, I ended up sitting in a pool of water. I was exhausted but still having fun. P had not found it so fun to fight the waves, and G was sore and tired.

The tourists were long gone from our campground when we returned, but they’d been replaced by a family of sailors. They had pitched a tent for the two youngest (late teens) at the campground and were getting ready to barbeque their dinner. They also had 2 dogs with them despite the fact that dogs are not allowed at the campsite. While I hate to be unfriendly, all I wanted was a quiet evening in the wilderness. Not a loud, family barbeque with barking dogs. When they left the next morning there was garbage on the ground, and dog poo they hadn’t bothered to clean up or even throw into the woods. Nice work boaties!

The day looked gray and menacing, and by the time we got into the kayaks it was starting to drizzle. We first paddled to a nearby stream to get drinking water (which we would boil later) then out into the sounds again to explore. The rain got more persistent and G got more sore and tired, so we turned back early to take refuge in our tent. I was disappointed that we’d had only a couple of hours on the water, but I figured if Sunday was nicer it would make up for one bad day.

We woke to steady rain on Sunday. It was clearly not going to get better, and the temperature had dropped as well. We surrendered to the weather gods and called the water taxi to pick us up a day early. (Yes, our cell phones worked out there. So much for the wilderness!) We found rooms in Picton and had very, very welcome hot showers! That night we ate at a lovely little seafood restaurant by the water. It was the night before my birthday, so I had a very nice birthday dinner. (Thanks T & P!) Afterwards we even went to a café for cake. If I couldn't have a nice weekend in the sounds, this was a good substitute!

The ferry ride back to Wellington on Monday was uneventful, but the rain continued. In fact, it is still raining a day later. So my plans for three solid days of kayaking turned into one and a half. But I still had a nice trip and celebrated my birthday in the great outdoors. Next time we just have to pre-book more sunshine!