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Journals from University of Otago

2009-10-14 Kayaking Lake Manapouri

This past weekend I went on an amazing kayaking and camping trip. Unipol, the recreation center at Otago, organizes a variety of trips that students and faculty can sign up for throughout the semester. Some of the options are surfing lessons, wind sailing, snowboarding/skiing trips, and winery tours--and there's so much more. The trips are a great way to go on adventures at good prices. I signed up for the kayaking trip one of the first few days I got here and have been looking forward to it for a long time. A Unipol representative drove us up to Lake Manapouri on Friday and we stayed in a hostel on Friday night. It was the best hostel I have stayed in so far. It had eight beds (eight people went on the trip), a sink, stove, dining area, and two much-needed heaters. Food was included in the price of the trip, so on Friday night we bagged up all the food to put in the kayaks for Saturday and Sunday meals. On Saturday, our driver dropped us off at a beach on the lake where we met up with our guide from Fiordland Wilderness Experiences. Our departure was delayed a little bit because one of the kayaks fell off the trailer on the way to the launch point without the guide noticing, so we had to wait for another kayak to be dropped off. While we waited, we filled the kayaks with our gear, the camping equipment and food. It was nice because the guide provided us with all the camping gear and all the clothes we needed for kayaking. We were given a wet suit, a sweater, a raincoat, rain and sun hats, and an under-armor-type shirt. Saturday was a beautiful day on the lake and the water was very calm. We were in two-person kayaks, so there were five boats total. We paddled around the lake for a few hours before we stopped for lunch. We found a little beach and unpacked our food. It was nice to get out of the kayaks to stretch and let our clothes dry. Once we got back in the kayaks, we paddled for another few hours. It was so serene and peaceful. My partner and I would often stop paddling and lean back to just enjoy the scenery. Most of us have just finished a very busy part of the school year with lots of essays and group projects, and the kayaking was a perfect mental break. Once we stopped for the day, we found a beach to set up camp. We raced to see who could get their tents up the quickest, and as soon as that was done, we got out of our wet clothes as soon as possible. Once changed, we walked over to a nearby beach to go on a tramp (hike) to The Monument. The hike was very strenuous and was a steep uphill climb most of the way. About halfway up, most of the group decided to stop but a few of us continued on towards the top. We had to use ropes and chains and squeeze between rocks and under logs on the way up, but it was worth it; the view from the top was breathtaking. We had a great view of the lake and the surrounding greenery. Once we finished the tramp, we headed back to camp for dinner and to sit by the fire on the beach. After a disturbed night of sleep on big tree roots without a pillow, the morning came way too fast. We packed up camp and reluctantly put our wet gear back on. When we got back out on the lake, it was amazing. The water was so still and the sun was shining bright. After about half an hour, the wind started to pick up, and soon the swells started to get pretty big. We battled against the wind for quite a while, then paddled to a little bay and stayed there for a while hoping that it would calm down a little. When it didnt, we decided to head to shore and have an early lunch. Our guide decided it would be better if we took off from a different beach, so we carried the kayaks though the bush. It was hard work! The kayaks were full of gear and we had to go over uneven ground full of logs. I was sure that someone would fall and get hurt, but luckily nobody did. Once back on the lake we battled the strong winds and waves again. When we were able to see the beach we needed to return to, we rafted up and sailed back to the beach. Rafting up is when all the kayaks get side by side and the passengers hold onto each other's kayaks. This helped to protect us from flipping in the water and allowed us to lift a large fabric sail. The people on the outside-back of the raft held onto a paddle that had the fabric tied to it and the people on the outside-front held onto the rope. When the sail was up, the wind helped us travel pretty quickly. It was a lot of fun to sail and was a welcome break to the hard paddling against the wind. Unfortunately, the boat next to us didnt have a good hold on our kayak and we ended up detatching from the raft and almost flipped over in the process. Luckily, our balancing skills kept us upright. We paddled into shore the rest of the way, fighting some large swells the closer we got to the beach. Our kayak almost flipped agai,n but we were able to prevent it again. On the ride back to school everyone was so exhausted that most people slept the duration of the drive. For those of us that were awake we were able to watch the lambs playing with each other. The weekend was a lot of fun and the scenery was incredible. After the experience I would love to go kayaking again and I would love to return to Fiordland. New Zealand's landscape is one of a kind. Claire

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