New Zealand Herald January 3rd: “The blustery conditions disrupted flights, toppled power poles, damaged scaffolding, and left trees and debris scattered across roads north of Wellington, delaying traffic between Otaki and Levin. Firefighters said one downed pole crashed through the conservatory of a Lower Hutt home”
New Zealand Herald January 4th: “the MetService issued a severe weather warning for this morning. The lower North Island and Marlborough Sounds were expected to get heavy rain and gale-force winds … including gusts of up to 140km/h in the capital”
THE JONESES January 5th – 6th: The entire genetic lineage of the Jones Family, aged from 8 years to 43, go for a two-day kayaking trip on Lake Taupo, despite the congregating isobars and their collective kayaking inexperience”
My two brothers, the four nieces and nephews, a Japanese friend of the family, and myself stand on the shores of Kinloch. It’s cold, threatening to rain, and gusts circle and play within the sheltered harbour occasionally dipping to pick up and ruffle the surface of the water, not sure which direction offered the least pressure. Before us lie a line of yellow and green kayaks. They are the product of much negotiation around town. I bantered my way into the acquisition of enough vessels and equipment for eight, and with the surprise generosity of a helpful staff member from Hunting and Fishing, I also managed to borrow enough sleeping bags and tents to see us through this two day adventure. I had sold this idea to my brothers well in advance of the family descending the globe for Christmas, and after all the effort in getting it together, there was no way we were backing out now. My eyes strained to see beyond the headlands. How big as the swell? Why, oh why couldn’t the weather have just stuck to the plan?
In a circle I brief my family. “Everyone pick up your paddles and hold them like this, with your right hand on the protruding lump, the flat of the paddle face perpendicular to the ground. Dig down with your right, push out with your left, lift your right hand up, twist your wrist and swivel the pole through left hand until this paddle face is perpendicular to the ground. Left hand down, push out with your right …” Those of us that have been paddling for years have forgotten just how confusing this can be when it’s your first time. I looked at my fellow kayakers. I looked beyond the headlands. “Oh my God” I say to myself. I continue my safety brief, mentally crossed myself in Roman Catholic tradition, despite my atheist soul, check everyone’s life jacket, and push them out onto the lake. Once on the water I taught everyone how to ‘raft up’, appointed lead and tail kayakers, and then headed out to see what fate delivered.
My younger brother, a self proclaimed “inside cat”, and somewhat bullied into this caper, wasn’t looking amused. His boat was filling with water, and rocking ominously from side to side with the slush, the altitude of his gunnel sinking closer and closer the lake’s surface. The difficulty in controlling his plastic-moulded beast was starting to piss him off, his face a furrowed mask of frustration as his lips muttering f – sounding adjectives. Over my other shoulder, and off in the distance, was my older brother and his daughter. Totally ignoring my safety instructions of sticking together, they’d gone off on their own agenda to troll for trout! And behind me, his head nodding like a wobble doll with continued assurances in broken English that all is “A Okay” is our Japanese friend. My eyes tell me otherwise, as he lags in the rear struggling with his boat and paddle.
Luckily I can count on at least one family members to keep me sane, as my diligent son playing ‘tail end Charlie’ accompanied and supported our friend. My daughter, capable and peaceful within her dreamy nature was picture perfect, but my youngest (who was in a double kayak with me) was refusing to paddle and getting soaked at the front. Therefore it wasn’t long before his feet turn opaic white and his skinny frame started shivering with the cold. With hypothermia at risk, I usher those near by to ’emergency raft up’ so I could clamber over the hull of my boat and pull extra thermals out from our kit and roughly cover him, life-jacket and all, in adult size clothes, all the while being wildly pitch around and blown alarmingly close to the cliffs. Fun! All this and we hadn’t even made it out of the bay yet!
The closer we got to open water the bigger the waves and the harder we had to push into the wind. It was bloody hard work! Once around the point, we finally got some respite with the wind at our backs. We rode the waves, some more confident than others. My neice squealed in glee as her father surfed down the swells, as others concentrated hard on keeping a straight line and staying upright. The Japanese lad continued to refuse help and got slower and slower, and somewhere along the line, my younger brother realised that the water would drain from his boat if he removed the drainage bungs. As soon as I saw a small sheltered bay I headed straight for it. Most of us were glad for the rest after almost two hours in battle, and a chance to have a snack to eat. All expect my older brother who wanted to know what the hold up was – “jeez sorry but we can’t all smash through the surf like a freight tanker like you!”
Three or four hours later we safely make Whakaipo Bay. The bay sheltered by its headland from the westerly was a relief. And once we’d made landfall, you’d have thought it the most glorious of summers days. And that my friends is how the day ended … it was time for the grandparents to join the fun, for the sausages to be BBQed, the frisbee to be thrown, tents to be pitched. There was a bonfire to be lit, one Japanese language student to be taught how to roast marshmallows, and of course, later on there were sandflies to be swatted. Perfect!
After yesterday’s escapades, there was no way we were going to risk taking the family around Rangatira Point. Thus, feeling somewhat let down and dispirited by Mother Nature, the kayaks and kayakers were portaged back to Taupo, where the Jones family enjoyed the remainder of their Kayak adventure throwing themselves around in the rain in the safe, wind protected, confines of Acacia Bay.
I hate not being able to complete adventures as I plan them, but my families wisdom in this matter was confirmed when we read the following in the paper the next day …
Waikato Times January 8th – “Two teenage boys were rescued [by Greenlea Rescue Helicopter] from Lake Taupo … after the dinghy they were in began sinking.
“As they rounded Rangatira Point, they met a 20 knot westerly wind and large waves, which threw water into their boat and they began to sink”