Two words that don’t describe me in any way are extreme and sports. I was congratulated by a guy on Tinder the other day because New Zealand had smashed the Aussies…I had to ask what sport*. This does present a slight problem in New Zealand however, because seemingly the common way for tourists to enjoy the scenery is by something loud, dangerous and energetic. Never fear dear readers there is a New Zealand hack that allows you to enjoy the scenery and snack at the same time: kayaking the Wairoa River.
Ten years ago my Dad unwittingly started a tradition; we were staying in Mt Maunganui and it was meant to be a family holiday at the beach. I came down to breakfast one morning and asked where Mum was… turns out my sister had drunkenly walked through a window at a dress up party and was in hospital. Not the type of people to let an almost severed leg ruin a holiday, Mum went back up to Auckland to hang out in hospital with my sister, and Dad and I stayed at the beach. This would have been all well and good if it hadn’t been for the weather, that week was stupidly rainy. We went to every single movie on offer (averaging two a day), joined the local Blockbuster, and played endless card games. But then on the day we were meant to drive back there was finally the sunshine we were looking for, and Dad told me to quickly pack because he had booked something.
Now remember earlier when I told you about the lack of extreme and sports genes in me? You can imagine my face when Dad drove to Waimarino Adventure Park and the very first ‘activity’ I saw was a kayak waterslide off the top of a hill. Thankfully Dad had more sense then that, he had booked us into the Wairoa River kayak trip.
In true kiwi spirit the Waimarino team put you in a van and drive you for half an hour until they stop at a farm on the side of the road. Then they put you in a kayak, and put the kayak in the river. All of a sudden you are on your own, its peaceful and idyllic.
The river itself is slightly (very slightly) tidal, which means that even if you don’t paddle you will get back to base camp eventually. And if you travel with the Runawaykiwi whanau you get the added bonus of snacks. Yes, about ten minutes into the river trip – a reasonable time to take your first break, I said “man I wish we brought some food”. At which point my Dad set up a full cheese board on top of his kayak. Now this is the type of sport I can really get in to.
Every year or two years Dad and I have been back to kayak the Wairoa river. We take whoever is on holiday with us, the biggest group being a mixed friends and family bag of 12 (you can imagine the snacks needed for that group). We alternate paddling and snacking down the river. Seeing farms, curious cows, investigating tributaries (small rivers leading off the Wairoa); never knowing exactly where we are or how long it will take.
So going home over Christmas of course the Waimarino kayak trip was on my to do list. Mum, Dad and I took a special trip to Mt Maunganui just to do it. We got in that van, drove to the farm and then in a heartbeat were on our own on the Wairoa river. We again managed about ten minutes of paddling before taking a break, we snacked and talked about life in London, my sisters upcoming wedding and figured out exactly over what distance you could throw a pineapple lump and have it accurately land in a kayak.
*I think it was cricket? But maybe rugby?