The first “real” day of the Kiwi Experience tour took us east to Mercury Bay, for sea kayaking and to experience the springs at Hot Water Beach. The latter are unfortunately only available at low tide, and so were skipped.
Sea kayaking is a lot of fun, and the location was idyllic. Those on the bus who had chosen to do it were given a crash course on the beach before heading out to sea. It was two to a kayak, with the person in the rear steering. The instructor helpfully suggested that this arrangement was a “friendship breaker”. Paddling was quite intuitive, but the two methods of steering (paddling on one side and adjusting the rudder) involve opposite sides. For instance, to steer to the left you can push your left foot and/or paddle on the right. Doing both requires a little concentration. Thus, in the midst of slightly anxious murmurs from the person in front that we were heading too close to the rocks, I proceeded to steer right towards them.
Nevertheless, we successfully beached at an even more idyllic location by the name of Cathedral Cove. There it emerged that our guides had taken with them in their kayaks all the equipment needed to make coffee, hot chocolate and/or tea for all fourteen or so of us. We ran around the beach taking photos while they prepared our orders.
The return trip was a little more dramatic. Our kayak capsized (due possibly to some festive stupidity) and we were dumped unceremoniously into the cold Pacific. My fellow kayaker was not at all pleased about this, from the expression on her face. One of the guides scrambled to help us back into the kayak, which he did with admirable efficiency. We were flipped over again when coming into shore, and I lost my aging sunglasses. My camera, which had been aboard, survived unscathed.
We bedded down for the night in the small town of Whitianga, at a very nice apparently family-run hostel, in which you get dinner, breakfast and the momentary attention of at least three felines that idly stalk the property.