The plan for Sunday was a paddle, walk and paddle, with the intended destination being Mt Cawthorn in the Southwest. It was ambitious for a winters day, and perfect weather was going to be crucial. Ambitious enough that I’d initially expressed doubts to Simon, the organiser, over whether I’d be able to paddle fast enough over the distance we’d need to travel with my back the way it was. He reassured me, and a solution I was happy with was found when I asked Graham if he was going, and if I could share his double.
The weather didn’t agree however, and the fine day I’d had climbing Frederick the day before was not to be repeated. The wind was forecast to be 25-35km/h, with 80% chance of rain from 10am-4pm or something ridiculous. Plan A was called off.. Plan B was formed, pondered, and also decided unsuitable. A lot more last minute work on Simon’s part and Plan C was devised: A drive in to Bangor, just past Dunalley on the Forestier Peninsula, launch from Lagoon Bay, and paddle around to check out the Tasman monument (commemorating the arrival of Abel Tasman on December 3, 1642). There were also options to explore nearby islands if time/weather/people agreed.
I was still conscious of wind and swell, and the fact that I’m not an experienced kayaker by any means, nor do I know how to roll a boat. I actually sent Graham a message questioning whether or not I should go (he was, after all, the one who risked getting wet if things got rough, and he could still go in his single if I didn’t go). He convinced me otherwise, just, and once the double was on his car there was no backing out.
By Saturday night after returning from Frederick I was too exhausted to think about it any further anyway. I couldn’t even get my head around what I needed to pack (walking is automatic, kayaking requires thought!). So I left it for the morning, and headed to bed. I was rather annoyed to find myself wide awake after a few hours sleep, but still too tired to think about anything, so I resorted to sorting through and posting photos of the walk up Frederick. I finally drifted off, only to wake at 4am to my alarm.
I had to get up, I still had all my gear from the last weekend hung out around the house to put away, kayaking gear to pack, and lunch to make. I bumbled through it, deciding it might not be so kind to vacuum the floor at such an early hour (a good excuse anyway) and was ready to be picked up shortly after 6.
The drive was a bit quiet due to the mood I was in, but Graham managed to talk me out of it, and it’s hard not to smile when you’re around happy and bubbly friends who are excited about being together and going on yet another adventure. Jess was the only one who look positively terrible, and it hit me how easy it is to take her smile for granted. She had good reason, and Bec gave her what only Bec can give: a Bec hug (they’re different from normal hugs). I was glad Jess had still decided to come, and it was even more special to see her laughing and smiling later in the day.
We set off, a little late, but made good time. As the sun started to rise the day got really special. We drove past scores of trees, covered in dewy spiderwebs, that shined in the mist. It was really rather magical, particularly in those few moments when the sun had risen above the horizon and turned the mist and cobwebs a golden yellow. I should have listened to Graham when he insisted I ask to stop if I wanted to take any photos, but I was being stubborn, and we hadn’t discussed the possibility with Simon, who might have wondered where we had got to if we suddenly dropped off the back of the convoy.
Later on though, after arriving at the Bangor property and picking up the key for a fee of $10 per person, everyone else started to photograph cobwebs on fences or the beautiful misty views. It took me a while, but I reluctantly joined in… and then got a bit carried away. I was very much aware that it wasn’t my walk, and I was making everyone wait, and after getting bogged and losing my sandals in some smelly marshy stuff while taking photos of yet another cobwebby tree, I thought I should be a bit good.
A brief stop at a river to wash off my feet and sandals so that I didn’t make Graham’s car smell too badly, and one other to take some photos of reeds in front of mist (which I justified as being ok because it was Graham’s suggestion, not mine!). We drove past swans, sheep and belted galloways, and saw our first few sea eagles flying the skies. Already, any expectations I’d had for the day had been far exceeded.
A bit more of a drive and we found ourselves at a grassy spot to park, just above Lagoon Bay. The water was calm, the sand soft and damp underfoot, decorated with seaweed and heaps of perfectly whole abalone shells. I was ready for the day now. Boats off cars and down to the water’s edge, gear sorted and packed, skirts and pfds on, and we were ready.
Out we went, in our own time, enjoying the freedom of being on water. Bec glided past, paddle resting across her boat, arms spread out in a gesture that expressed what I think we were all feeling. And so, in that fashion we made our way out of the bay, keeping closish to the edge. A seal waved a flipper at us as we passed and cormorants looked on from their well inhabited rock, before we made our way between the land and Double Rock.
Three more seals were spotted on rocks to our left, and we went to check them out. Narrow passages between the columnar rock of Cape Fredrick Hendrick were very tempting, but I don’t think any of us novices trusted our kayaking skills enough to think about an attempt for longer than a few moments.
Slightly further around Simon spotted another sea eagle, perched on rock. We paddled over to check it out, and Graham decided it must just be a tree stump, because it didn’t move an inch. I agreed. But we were to discover on the way back that it wasn’t there anymore, so sea eagle it must have been!
And then we were paddling out across North Bay, the water nice and calm, disrupted by a decent sized splash just to our right that none of us saw but could only assume was another seal playing. We each paddled at our own pace, happy to be alone in our boats, but to also have the occasional chat with others as they passed. At one point we made a kayak raft of 5 boats, sour worms were passed around, and more laughter was shared.
A little bit of playful splashing, jokes on initiation rituals for Graham’s double kayak, and enjoyment of the place, activity and moments kept us occupied as we passed by Two Mile Beach and rounded Monument Point into Tasman Bay. Beaching on pebbles proved a tad slippery but manageable, and very quickly priorities turned to food and photos. I was really quite hungry, but kept finding things to photograph. A slice of Meredith’s home made muesli slice did the trick, and I indulged my desire to try and capture the orange and yellow lichen growing on rounded grey rocks before turning to lunch.
We sat in the sun on the pebbles, chatting away, munching on lunch, sharing dessert. Smiles all round had me smiling, and feeling that warm glow of perfect happiness. All done, we went to check out the monument, and a decent sized hut nearby, before returning back to the boats. The wind was up a bit, so we decided to just push back.
Though a bit ‘lumpy’, as Simon described it, I suspect the double was rather a lot more stable than some of the singles, and I was surprised to find I didn’t feel at all concerned, in fact I rather liked the feeling of rolling with the waves. The sea eagles were almost out in force by now, and one flew almost directly over head at one point. Quite special!
After rounding the choppy Cape Frederick Hendrick again we had the wind behind us, and paddling became a whole lot easier! The seals were gone, but another sea eagle was flying around Double Rock, and one was perched on a tree on the land to the right of it. Graham decided we were going to pick up the pace as we went through the narrow bit of water between the two, which was rather fun, especially when we caught a wave.
Once through, we were back in the shelter of Lagoon Bay, and decided to wait up for the others here. My back was aching by this stage, and I was glad of a break, even though there wasn’t much I could do to stretch it out. The four of us chatted about the day as we waited, and then together we cruised back in.
Packing up of gear and kayaks was interrupted slightly after Jess provoked Simon to the extent that he gave her a dumping in the sea. Later she nudged me, asking for a hand getting him back. We gave chase, but decided we needn’t waste our effort, as he still had to carry his boat back to the car. I figured I’d have time to help Graham with the double first, but for some reason I became the new target. Luckily I still had one hand on the kayak, and I wasn’t letting go!
Jess came to my rescue, turned the tables, and soon Jess, Graham and myself were all ganging up on Simon, and we had another chase.. also called off. Another go a little while later, and Simon finally conceded defeat and decided to walk down to the beach rather than have Jess and I carry him.
So the four of us walked into the water, which was not too cold after all the running round. Graham dived in, Jess had a go at Simon who eventually went under, and I was too slow in realising that I was the only one still dry!! Uh-oh!! Simon grabbed a leg, Graham an arm, and for a few moments I was balancing on one leg, being pulled in two different directions.
I thought I’d been given a break when Simon let go, but no such luck, he’d just decided to jump on my back. Time to go down it seemed..! I came up laughing, we all were. Crazy but happy. Completely soaked, out we walked together. Can’t say I ever expected to be swimming in the ocean in the middle of winter, but I’m especially lucky to have friends to do it with!
But the fun wasn’t over, and Jess soon had us playing frisbee (with the covers from kayak storage holes) while people finished packing and changing. Lots of fun, until we managed to lose one that just refused to be found (sorry Simon!). Another pretty perfect day.