jen yu: new zealand 2007 - day 3

new zealand 2007 - day 3

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okarito, haast
march 20, 2007
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On the road by 6:20, we departed from Greymouth in the dark and damp morning and drove south to Okarito in just over 2 hours. Okarito is a small town with maybe a dozen or so permanent residents. What brought us here was the Okarito Lagoon and the kayaking outfit that rents and guides kayaks. We drove through pretty lush temperate rain forest before the road opened up onto the shores of the lagoon. We were greeted by one of the staffers as a large group was being outfitted and shipped off. Jeremy and I changed and gathered what we wanted to bring while the others moved toward the shore. Unlike the Australian Outback flies, the sandflies here bit! How quickly it all comes back to you.

A few more couples arrived and we were all briefed on the various routes to explore depending on current, tide, and time. The lagoon is a large body of protected water - protected as in, sequestered from the ocean by a strip of land and protected as in, calm. It is also an excellent place to spot a huge variety of birdlife. At low tide, many of the mud flats attract herons and other birds who come to feed.

We shoved off in our two-seater kayak (aka divorce boats) and paddled out to the channels. We essentially explored all of the suggested routes although a few times we hit water so shallow that our paddles hit the ground. It was incredibly fun to maneuver into tiny jungly coves and listen to bird songs without being inundated by creepy crawlies hanging out in the vegetation. New Zealand is quite special in this way. There were black swans, white-faced herons, cormorants, shags, ducks, and so many other birds. We had lunch on a small sand bar and eventually paddled in by 3:15 pm. Instead of camping in Okarito, we figured we should press on to Haast to eat up some of the long drive we had the next day.

As expected, the drive was all eye-candy and the weather held nicely. We stopped briefly in Franz Josef to mail postcards that we had written in Australia and picked up more postcards of New Zealand. Once we reached a campground in Haast, we paid for a dorm room to crash in. Cooking dinner in the communal kitchen (a very nice kitchen facility) we noticed the elaborate meals everyone else had prepared compared to our canned soup in our backpacking pot. Their meals didn't look all that appealing, and our prep and clean up was definitely a fraction of theirs. I personally wouldn't want to come to New Zealand to spend a lot of time and energy cooking. I'd much rather spend all of my energy seeing the lovely wilderness.

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