We meet again, fellow travelers. And so soon! I know I said you’d have to wait but who knew it would be so short! I just love you guys that much, I guess. Also it’s my last day of mini vacation so I’m taking advantage of it. So let’s get started, one more story for you all before the work begins again.
This adventure was a couple of weeks ago. A work mate, Emma, posted in our Hobbiton Facebook group explaining she had access to some kayaks and was thinking a group of us could take a trip up the river then float back down in the dark to see the glow worms. Heaps of people were keen and a plan started to form.
Now, it wasn’t till writing this blog that I realized I complete forgot about the glow worms mentioned in the initial post. I somehow got stuck on star gazing, which we also did a bit of. So I was rather taken by surprise on the trip back. But more about that later. First we had to find our kayaks, and even before that my friend Hannah and I had to find the camp.
Our destination was about a 20 minute drive south of Matamata. Actually getting there was no problem, but when we came to the end of the final road we were faced with two signs for two different camps and we weren’t sure which was the right one. So we called Emma.
We turned off to the right and followed the dirt road down to the river’s edge where most of the group had already gathered. Hannah and I walked over and joined them on the pier. William was already in the water with his own kayak. The rest of us were informed presently by Emma that the majority of the camps kayaks had just been discovered stolen so there weren’t enough to go around.
Luckily, the camp next door (the one Hannah and I originally drove into) had plenty of kayaks and said we were welcome to use them. We all climbed back into our cars and pulled around to the neighboring camp. By some sick twist of fate, though, Hannah and I, as well as Glyn, got left behind which resulted in us getting lost again. What the fudgeballs.
Through process of elimination we finally picked the right road and rejoined the group. An assortment of different colored kayaks had been pulled out of the shed and set by the water. Everyone was grabbing life jackets and oars and claiming their kayaks before scooting off the slipway into the lake.
I’ve only been kayaking once before, just before I moved to NZ. It’s not the toughest thing in the world to do. If you have any degree of coordination and some upper body strength you can manage on still water easily. The difference this time was I had a destination and of course had to keep moving. It was a bit of a workout and my arms were feeling the burn by the time we came to our pull off.
The journey there, however, was quite lovely. It had a bit more shouting and off key singing than I would’ve liked but even with all that it was enjoyable. We started by crossing the lake (which was really just a rather wide spot in the Waikato River). The surface was thick with lengths of some spindly-needled plants that I worked hard to keep from wrapping around my paddles. They slid over the underside of the kayak, making a sound like long nails over dry skin.
On the other side we started down a tiny side stream. Here I managed to break to the front of the group and put a bit more distance between me and the more exuberant members of our group. At this point my bottom half was already well soaked from all the water dribbling down the handle. That’s just to be expected though. Slowly but surely the group glided past the long grasses flanking the stream and moved under a canopy of trees.
The cliffs themselves weren’t that high but the trees towered higher still, their branches reaching out over the water. The blue strip of sky above wavered in size, dependent on the thickness of the canopy as we continued to slip by far below. The closer we got to our destination, the more exposed we became once more.
Docking was fun. Our pull off point wasn’t much more than a break in the grass where you could get a bit of your kayak out of the water if you made a quick enough approach. Emma was first out and to keep the rest of us from losing a shoe in the muck, she helped pull our kayaks further onto the shore so we could avoid any such mishaps. Everyone who was on land already lent a hand as the rest of the group began to arrive.
The sun had vanished behind the tree line sometime ago. It was dusky, but would still be a while until it was completely dark. A few of us went off to explore the area while we waited. Following the curve of the river, we discovered a staircase made of tires, which by they way are terrible to climb in cowboy boots, especially when the tires aren’t fully filled in. But I digress. At the top of the stairs we discovered a camping area complete with lean to and fire pit. Everyone grabbed a seat and we killed time chatting and making jokes about being in a horror movie. We would’ve told scary stories but no one could think of any.
With the last dregs of light left, we climbed back down our rubber staircase (which is even worse to do in the dark with cowboy boots) and returned to the rest of the group. Now, Emma had enough foresight to suggest in her post that we bring a torch or a headlamp if we had one. But those who did have one forgot and others, like myself, just didn’t have any sort of light besides the one on their phone. In the end not having a light was of little consequence.
When all the light had faded, we busted out what lights we had so we could clamber back into our kayaks. As we launched back into the river, one by one, a general consensus went up it would be better to stay together on the way back. But that didn’t happen. Rachel, Hannah, and I were the first three in the water. We did our best to wait for the others but they were taking a ridiculously long time for some reason, so even though we were barely moving they were still ages behind. Oh well.
The three of us moved slowly on the way back. We were quiet with our paddles and didn’t talk much. I had my phone tucked into the front of my life jacket for a light but didn’t end up using it much. The evening was cloudy but the moon gave off enough light that we could make out the gap in the trees and use that to guide us down the river. And then of course, there were the glow worms.
Now remember, up till this point I had forgotten that glow worms were part of the deal tonight. I just thought it was stars and kayaking. The glow worms appeared little by little. At first it was just one or two dotted on either of the banks. Steadily their numbers grew. Our path home was illuminated from above and below, celestial light and bioluminescence working together to guide us.
It was almost like being in a kaleidoscope tube, enclosed and surrounded by a brilliant collection of lights and shapes. And it was so quiet. The most you could hear was the sound of your own breathing and the gentle gurgling of water as your kayak pushed through the water and your paddle dipped below the surface for another stroke.
Eventually, we left the magic behind. Rachel, Hannah and I crossed the lake and found our way back to the slipway, where it was much easier to get out of our kayaks. We replaced our kayaks and life jackets in the shed then went out onto the jetty to wait for the others. Once we were all back on land, we hung around eating all the snacks we’d forgotten to bring with us up the river and spinning yarn after yarn as the hours passed.
As you can see, no pictures were taken. I mean, it was dark and all I had was a phone. Plus my camera doesn’t do night scenes very well anyway. Those facts aside, I don’t think I would’ve bothered. That journey down the river was an experience I wanted to immerse myself in. I didn’t want to be distracted by taking pictures of it. I might not have any visual reminders that the trip happened. But random, spontaneous adventures like that are sort of what I live for and are often what I remember with the greatest fondness when the journey is over. Pictures couldn’t have captured the feeling anyway.