This fantastic kayak adventure offers something very special for the whole family. We start from the Epworth camp and kayak our way down a truly beautiful section of the Waikato River, to the Pokewhaenua stream. With stunning twilight lake views we head under the Pokewhaenua Bridge and into the glow-worm canyon.
Draped with native ferns, the canyon offers a true slice of New Zealand Beauty, and as the light fades away the unique incandescence of the glow-worms start to shine from the surrounding walls. After a quick glass of some of New Zealand's finest wines (hot drink for the kids) complimented with some tasty cheeses had over the warmth of a campfire, it's back in the boats, as we drift slowly down stream using only the light from the glow-worms. Viewing glow-worms from a kayak on the surface of the world is a whole different experience from seeing them inside a cave like at Waitomo.
• We have a minimum age of five years. This trip requires only a moderate level of fitness.
• We recommend that people bring light warm clothing (NO JEANS!) Warm waterproof jackets will be provided and waterproof pants will be available.
• The trip departs from the Boatshed at 21 Amber Lane, RD2, Cambridge, which is a short 15min drive from the Epworth camp. Transport is not provided - we will travel to and from Epworth Camp in a convoy so ensure you have enough petrol.
• The trip is fully guided by experienced Boatshed guides and all the kayak equipment is provided.
• Trip departure times very depending on daylight hours and there is a minimum group size of 4 people so bookings are essential.
• There is a maximum group size of 16 and we like to use double sea-kayaks, so if you have an uneven group number you may be put with someone else.
As of 10th May 2012, trips are departing at 4.30 pm and finishing at 8pm.
Well, this was certainly something different for me - though I have done a fair bit of kayaking, I have never seen a glow worm in my life that I can recall. I was expecting an evening of muscle pain and boredom with a few moments of "ohhhh" at some stage. What I got instead was 210 minutes of magic, laughter, camaraderie, entertainment, and traffic management practice.
As per instructions, we drove to The Boatshed Cafe just south of Cambridge, to meet our guides, confirm our participation, fill out legal paperwork and basically ensure we were all in the one place long enough to be told how to reach our launching point without getting lost. Then it was back into the cars and a 15 minute convoy to Epworth Landing, where we were told to park our cars and prepare for adventure. 20 minutes later we were all in our safety gear, had been allocated our kayaks, and were getting fitted for oars and control pedals. Yup, control pedals - these are sea kayaks, so they have no keel, and have rudders for enhanced steering - at least, that's the theory. Rudders on a kayak take some getting used to, and we had more than one set of guests needing rescuing from running around in circles.
It was at this point that our guide noticed I was not only holding my own (since I had my youngest son with me, and obviously he couldn't paddle, so it was all up to me) but was ready and able to assist kayakers in distress. Thus, he was able to let me go about my journey with only line-of-sight supervision and deal with the less comfortable guests. This was great as far as I was concerned, because it meant I didn't have to feel bad about dropping back to get photos, because we both knew I would be back up with the pack in no time. If you have water skills, be sure to demonstrate them to the guide(s) early on, as this will enable them to focus their attention and efforts on the most needy.
The 45 minute paddle upriver was taken at a good, but not rushed, pace, meaning no-one was knackered by the time we reached our half-way stop-over - after a couple of brief "local history lesson" stops on the way. Being the winter months, we were very fortunate that the little canyon the glow worms live in got dark very early on, so we got a double-whammy dose of wormlight - once on the way up, and then the main event on the way back. Everyone was very pleased by this, and it leant an air of excitement to the wait, while we had drinks - wine for the adults and soft-drinks for kids and sober-drivers - cheese and crackers, and the Kiwi-traditional marshmallows-on-a-stick to roast in the fire. Some of the guests had also brought more substantial snacks to act as dinner, since the trip was a 4:30pm to 8:00pm event.
After a while, we were all ready to depart again, and it was back into the water with red tail-lights affixed to all the kayaks - so we could locate each other as we drifted. This proved to be somewhat more of a mission for some than others, and it was only minutes into the return journey that we encountered a huge snarl of kayaks, caused by someone not really comfortable with using the rudders to steer and the current to drive. Once more unto the breech... with the two guides and myself plowing into the mess to disentangle the kayaks and stagger the release with bigger gaps between them. After that, it was indeed plain sailing... or drifting actually. There were a few patches where paddling was required, and because we were running a little late thanks to the traffic jam, we had to put on a burst of speed near the end to ensure we made it back to base before the kids got too tired and cranky. A few moments to ditch our safety gear and stack the equipment, and it was time to hit the road homeward once more.
Overall... so, what was it like? BRILLIANT! I would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who is either a visitor to our fair land, or a domestic resident who wants to do something amazing. There's no adrenaline fix here, this is a chill-out and enjoy the show type event that has the huge bonus of being a family-friendly event. All safety gear and boating equipment is supplied, you need only bring warm clothes, good boots, and any snacks you want to have on top of those supplied. At the bare minimum you MUST keep in mind: Jeans and Gumboots are KILLERS if you tip the kayak... warm trackpants, thermal leggings, and good hiking boots are ideal. The upper half will be sorted by a good warm shirt, the life vest and the effort of paddling. Be confident, but not cocky, and you'll have a brilliant evening!
Okay, I have been through a lot of cool stuff in my life, but this is one of the top three in my list! I have never seen glow worms before, so seeing these little living Xmas lights in my own country was amazing! I loved paddling the Kayak, it had been years since the last time I did it, it was good exercise, and the twilight-induced scenery was spectacular.
The tour guides were great, they were kind, friendly, and descriptive. After the quick meeting to sort out consent forms, we all got into our cars and travelled in a well-organized convoy to our launch point, and after a 15-minute trip we reached a nice, tree-scattered area by the river at Epworth Landing, where we got into our safety gear and unloaded the kayaks. Before we launched into the water, one of the guides gave a good safety briefing and demonstration on how to use the oars.
We departed shortly after arriving, and the trip was nice and long, about 1 km down the river. Since it was already rather dark, so when we entered the canyon we managed to see a few glow worms along the way. The stopping point was rather nice, we could all sit down by the fire and had roasted marshmallows, and I even got to double-roast some chicken that we had brought, and this was thanks to a stick and a campfire.
While we were having our break, one of the guides told us a little about glow worms, and that the reason they glowed was that they burned up their own waste and gave it off as light, but after a little research I found out that the glow is actually caused by bioluminescent bacteria in their digestive system that soak up all the leftover waste and using it as fuel while giving off the energy as light!
Now, according to the website the child fee is $40 and adults $100, now since they supply the kayaks, safety gear, drinks and some snacks, this seems like a fair price for one tour. The appeal was very high, if I had the money I would do this tour over and over again, in fact my mum said she wanted to do this on a weekly basis, and I have to agree with her.
Altogether, I say this this is an awesome thing to go to, so enjoy!
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