CUL­TURE FROM THE WA­TER

Go Travel New Zealand - - Taupo - By Vaughan

WWe were on a sum­mer hol­i­day with Taupo be­ing one of our fi­nal stops. I came across a brochure for Taupo Kayak Ad­ven­tures pro­mot­ing a trip around the lake edge.

I de­cided this would be a treat trip for my son and I to take on.

ith the weather the next day look­ing okay, we made a book­ing with owner op­er­a­tor Lisa. As my boy was only ten I was keen to en­sure he would be able to man­age the trip and I was given this re­as­sur­ance by Lisa.

The day ar­rived and we made our way to the meet­ing place in Aca­cia Bay. Lisa was our guide for the day and we were joined by an­other party as well. Af­ter we had been shown all safety pro­ce­dures and had been kit­ted up with life jack­ets, we hit the wa­ter.

The first thing I no­ticed was safety was a high pri­or­ity as Lisa had a sin­gle kayak while the rest of us had dou­ble kayaks. She made sure we stayed to­gether whilst also giv­ing his­tory on lo­cal legends and sites.

The first story was of a lo­cal Maori woman called Ru­a­tohu who lived by the lake with her hus­band, a Maori chief of the Towhare­toa. Dur­ing a war with a neigh­bour­ing tribe, the chief strapped his son to Ru­a­tohu and made them swim across the lake to safety. The next day when they thought the fight­ing had stopped, Ru­a­tohu be­gan the trip back to her vil­lage on a ca­noe but un­for­tu­nately, they cap­sized and both child and mum drowned. Leg­endary be­liefs are that a dis­tant moun­tain vis­i­ble from the lake is in the shape of a woman ly­ing on her back (Rua­hohu) and a smaller peak next to her is her son.

Pad­ding on fur­ther, Lisa now drew our at­ten­tion to Aca­cia trees, hence the name Aca­cia Bay. These trees were planted to pro­duce twigs for start­ing fires and we could see a large mass of them from our po­si­tion on the wa­ter.

As we worked our way through, the pad­dling burn in our shoul­ders, largely re­sult­ing from go­ing into a head wind that had picked up, we were go­ing past a point with houses on the hills; one of these homes be­long­ing to the in­ter­na­tional singer Rod Ste­wart. You can­not drive up to these houses as ac­cess is restricted so to see them from the wa­ter was a priv­i­lege.

Round­ing one of the next bays we were asked to draw our at­ten­tion to a dis­tant hill range. We all had to guess what an­i­mal it rep­re­sented and af­ter nu­mer­ous at­tempts was be­lieved to be a shape of a croc­o­dile.

I had been to this next stop be­fore. As we rounded the next cor­ner, I re­alised it was the site for view­ing a steep rock face that had Maori carv­ings on it. These carv­ings were not an­cient, but were done back in the early 1980’s but still very im­pres­sive. When I was here last time it was by boat and we were limited on time and how close we could get to the rock. This time on

the kayak we had the ad­van­tage of get­ting right up close and were not pres­sured to hurry on. It was awe­some to have the time to ad­mire the work­man­ship.

As we started to leave the carv­ings, whilst still in the same bay, Lisa di­rected us to pad­dle onto a flat rocky area and as­sem­ble to­gether. We were taken on a small walk through the bush which led to a hid­den cave. My boy loved this which also al­lowed a wel­comed stretch of the legs.

Re­turn­ing to our own kayaks, Lisa pulled out a fold­ing ta­ble and pro­vided us with sur­prise re­fresh­ments. As we con­sumed a feast in­clud­ing gourmet muffins, quiche and cof­fee, Lisa con­tin­ued with her knowl­edge of in­ter­est­ing facts. She re­ferred to her pic­nic as a float­ing café.

We had trav­elled about 4km on the wa­ter, and it was now time to start our re­turn jour­ney. The wind had turned back to­wards our group mean­ing we had a tough pad­dle ahead of us. My boy met this chal­lenge and ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions.

Lisa was not done with her sto­ries. She ex­plained how Taupo is a vol­cano and is called a Caldera, mean­ing it had col­lapsed in on it­self. It had be­gun erupt­ing about 300,000 years ago and the caldera that ex­ists today was the re­sult of an erup­tion 27,000 years ago called Oru­anui. Fur­ther erup­tions caused part of the caldera to fill with wa­ter, form­ing what we know as Lake Taupo. The last ma­jor erup­tion was 1800 years ago, but the boil­ing mud, gey­sers; smok­ing craters still show the area still has a lot of geother­mal ac­tiv­ity.

Within about 2km of our start­ing point, the wind chal­lenged our abil­i­ties. Where we could, we pad­dled close to the hills which of­fered some shel­ter and when we had to cross open bays, we had to put ex­tra ef­fort to gain ground. The mo­ti­va­tion for drive was a cold beer at the end.

Fi­nally, mak­ing it back, we felt a sense of ac­com­plish­ment as we had pad­dled a very long dis­tance. The scenery was breath tak­ing ac­com­pa­nied by great sto­ries. The kayaks were easy to con­trol and at no point did we feel un­safe even when the wind chopped up the wa­ter.

Be­ing on the wa­ter and ap­pre­ci­at­ing the views and gen­eral sur­round­ings made this trip very spe­cial. The good com­pany and com­men­tary from our in­for­ma­tive guide leaves me no hes­i­ta­tion to rec­om­mend this trip to any­one who loves the out­doors, what­ever their abil­i­ties. One of the fea­tures of this great ac­tiv­ity is the op­tion of power as­sisted kayaks. They have a bat­tery run­ning so­phis­ti­cated Ger­man mo­tors that help in con­di­tions that can be­come over­pow­er­ing for those not in great phys­i­cal shape.

I would love to re­peat this amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence again. Back to New Zealand where we never tired of any­thing we saw or at­tempted.

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