By Julie McGeorge,
NOLS New Zealand Rations & Catering manager
Yes, it's true. At 50-something years old and working for NOLS with younger, fitter people, I decided it was a great idea to join a sea kayaking section for 10 days in the Marlborough Sounds.
With children who had all left home and a wonderful organization as my employer, I was enabled, nay empowered, to go out there and join the New Zealand Semester course and their fantastic instructors Oscar Manguy, Yuri Hernandez, and Sally McAdams. Getting all my gear together with Yuri's help made it all so real, and excitement built.
Before I knew it, I was out paddling around Cowshed Bay (in Marlborough Sounds) practicing strokes. I even participated in a capsize drill! Dripping but elated we—the students and I—gradually gained confidence and those skills were reinforced.
What a liberating feeling, and how those young students embraced me as a member of their group. We set out from Cowshed Bay in a pod formation, which became the norm. I had to keep paddling to stay with the group, which I did find challenging at times. The wind was almost a constant companion. If we had to paddle to a bay, or across a shipping lane, it was just go until we got there! My boat buddy, Nonny, encouraged me often, and I sometimes had to really dig deep to keep those paddles flicking through the water. On occasion we would just glide along the coastline, checking out the flora and fauna, or an old shipwreck. The birdlife was wonderful and sometimes noisy, letting us know we were in their territory.
When we camped each night, I was treated to beautiful mussels caught by the students and great meals cooked by the instructors. They were all generous to a fault, and I was just spoiled. As rations and catering manager, it was just great to see "what was cooking" out there. There were some yummy dishes cooked and lots of imagination with the rations food.
It wasn’t long before students took over leading our travel days. Every morning we had a series of early weather checks. Sometimes we had to pack up quickly at very short notice and scarper through a "weather window." All too soon, we were blown and surfed our way across a tricky stretch of water. At Waimaru, I disembarked for the last time on this trip, just elated.
Six months later, I still tell people about my amazing NOLS trip. I do feel that I could go out now and sea kayak, in kind weather conditions, with so much more confidence.
My husband and I have moved and we now live beside the Selwyn River with Lake Ellesmere just down the road. I can get into my canoe or kayak and have another adventure of my own!