By Emiliana Gonzalez-MacKay (member of the Kayak Kapers)

Kia ora. My name is Emiliana and I am a Year 12 student at Wellington East Girls College. I am currently working towards my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; however, this story is about my recent Silver Qualifying Journey – a kayaking exploration in the Marlborough Sounds!

We were a group of 24 students and five adults that set off for the Queen Charlotte Sound and an epic kayaking adventure towards the end of the April school holidays. Of the 24 students on our expedition, only four had a lot of kayaking experience and over 50% of us had never kayaked before! 

Prior to our trip, we met as a group to plan and organise our food and gear. I discovered that it was so hard to know how much to take and exactly what I would need, as I’d never been kayaking. How much gear could I fit in a kayak? What would I need for three days and two nights away? What equipment did I have to bring and what could we share as a group? 

The gear list was a good start and our trip leader had told us we could leave any excess in Picton. With the help of the group members, friends and family that were in my house whilst packing, I managed to gather together most of the things we would need and eliminated the things we didn’t. I finally got everything into my pack ready for the trip. 

We sailed from Wellington on the Interislander and overnighted in Picton. The next morning, we headed to Wilderness Guides Picton for the start of our adventure! If I thought the packing was challenging, the next and bigger challenge for me was that my buddy and I had never kayaked before, so this was a very new experience for both of us. We were quite nervous!  Something that really helped us was Wilderness Guides showing our group a safety video about how to paddle the kayak, as well as what to do if we tipped over or had an emergency. That calmed our nerves – a little!  

Once packed (which took a few hours), we all launched and proceeded to paddle out of Picton harbour and along the southern edge of the Queen Charlotte Sound towards Governor’s Bay. It took a while for Mila and me to get used to the rhythm of paddling and steering, but singing songs and making some up on the way really helped keep us in time.

After Governor’s Bay we put into Ngakuta Bay for a rest, then set off for a big paddle to Mistletoe Bay where we camped. We chose to go there because the weather forecast was for strong winds on Day Two, so we opted for a sheltered campsite to be safe.

On Day Two, we chose not to paddle as the weather forecast was for strong winds and rain. Instead we did some cleaning and gardening around the campsite, then tramped to the top of Onahau Bay and back. It was hard because I really needed to pee the whole time up and down. The track was really muddy and slippery and a number of students didn’t bring tramping shoes due to the space restrictions in the kayaks, but we all managed to get to the look out and back and the view was awesome! 

On the final day we left Mistletoe Bay and paddled around into Lochmara Bay, then across to Picton harbour. Timing our crossing of Picton harbour around the ferries was a big challenge! We hid beyond Maud Island in the lee of the wind due to the very strong southerly. As the Bluebridge sailed past, we did a strong paddle across to Bob’s Bay riding the (very big for a kayak) ferry wake! The Interislander started sailing out just as we got across to Bob’s Bay – phew! There was time for a swim then before heading back to base. 

The trip was great. We watched a seal feeding on an octopus, coped with the ferry wake tossing the kayaks around when we were moored up in Lochmara Bay and sang plenty of songs while waiting for everyone to regroup at various points along the way. An extra little thing that was fun was that it was my friend’s birthday, so we tried our best to make it as special as possible. Overall my arms got very sore over the days, but when I got home it was a nice rest. The trip was an amazing experience and I hope to do something like this again in the near future.

Photo credits:  Deb Remacha and Emiliana Gonzalez-MacKay

We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.