Life-jacket, ‘check’! Paddle, ‘check’! Skirt, ‘check’! With no more questions to be had, our guide, JJ, helped slide our kayaks onto the tranquil waters of Lake Mapourika. The clear water was a portal into a land filled with waving seaweed, tiny fish and, to the lucky viewer, the long finned eel. Our group started off across the long lake with every one quickly getting into synch with the paddle strokes of their partners and figuring out how the peddles helped to steer the boats. As a group of nine, with two individuals who had never paddled a sea kayak before, their competence seemed attributed to our guides clear instructions and the simple fact that sea kayaks are easy for anyone to control.
Onwards we went, getting to make each others acquaintance. Our group was from across the world: The English, Australians, Canadians, Americans, and Slovenians, all brought together through Glacier County Kayaks. Our age gap was wide, lifestyles were different, and our travel modes and agendas all varied, lending the conversation to interesting perspectives, great travel recommendations, and sincere laughter.
Our arrival at the other side of the lake thankfully did not mark the turn around point (as we were all having a great time), but instead led us into a marshy, meandering tributary through a Kiwi sanctuary. It was a good thing we got to practice our steering early on because this part of the paddle had some tight corners, creating a fun challenge and the feeling of being in the secluded wilderness. Each turn made our mouths drop wider as we listened to the wild and beautiful cries of New Zealand’s unique bird population and passed raw, untouched rainforest. This path opened up enough for our kayaks to turn around and here we took a few minutes to look and listen. Relaxation swept over me and a peaceful serenity cloaked our group. We floated for several minutes in the blissful state, and were slowly brought back to reality as our guide interpreted our natural surroundings for us.
Back across the lake we went, but not before we saw a white heron soar across the lake and plop down right in front of us! We were told that the Maori culture regards the white heron as a sign of luck, and lucky we all felt. The way back allowed us to hone in on our new kayak skills: some of us zoomed out a ways to glide to a stop, while others paddled long, consistent strokes. Our clear reflections showed happy faces and the mist weaved in and out of the mountains, allowing epic glimpses of Franz Joseph Glacier
Landing again on the beach I felt a bit sad to leave the kayak behind, but a full three hours on the tour left my arms feeling grateful to put the paddle down (or so I consoled myself). I’d come, made new friends, learned about the flora and fauna, experienced Lake Mapourika in a unique way, and as soon as I get home to Canada, decided that I was going to get myself a sea kayak.