Jet setting with babies

Renate & I recently travelled to Holland to introduce Will to the Dutch family and friends.

It was a success but the airlines, airports and travel agent (Flight Centre) were hopeless in providing us with the information we required before travelling, all telling us to check with everyone else. We hope that this will help you if you are planning similar trips. The airline and ground staff everywhere were very helpful and we were pulled aside and managed to skip some queues.

Buggies/Strollers

We could use our Mountain Buggy from the moment we arrived at the airport until we got into the car in Holland including the 3hr stop over in Kuala Lumpur. Front packs are good but with stop overs, waiting at the gate and travelling through security checkpoints we preferred the buggy so Will could sleep and make travelling through checkpoints easier.

The key to being able to use the buggy in this manner is that either at check-in, or at the gate (airline/airport dependant) you need to get a special tag for the buggy (purple for KLM, red for Malaysian Airlines). This basically means at the gate you pack up your buggy, and dump it on the air bridge and they put it into the hold. If you are lucky they’ll do this for you.

Upon arrival they put it back on the air bridge for you (either by the plane door or half way along the air bridge). We got a bag for the stroller so that we could take the wheels off and it protects the buggy from the enthusiastic baggage handlers. We heard that the tiny umbrella strollers can be taken on board although we saw these being dropped off the same as our Mountain Buggy.

Security Checkpoints

You can take as much liquid as you want. We took a lot of bottles of boiled water and no problem getting through security they might just open the bags to check. They checked the buggy and at some checkpoints they wanted Will out of the buggy before inspecting it.

On the Plane

We had requested bassinets and these had been confirmed but confirmed doesn't mean confirmed. On one flight the attendant took one of someone else as our baby was smaller :-) You have a seatbelt extension that allows your baby to be connected to your seatbelt and this is required for take off, landing and turbulence (seatbelt sign). Yes, just after you feed your wee one and get them settled in the bassinet the seat belt sign comes on and you need to take them out.

Blankets are provided for the bassinette (same as an adult gets), so you may want to take a swaddle or sleeping bag.

We feed Will during take off and landing to help keep his ears from building up pressure. He had a bit of a cold on the way back so he struggled on the way into Kuala Lumpur. We used a saline nose spray and Pamol coming into Auckland and it was definitely better.

Will slept most of the time on the plane. We put it down to the white noise created by the plane.

Washing the bottles was easy as the flight attendants can do this and/or you can help. We had some washing liquid and the bottle brush with us but we didn't sterilise as we had plenty of bottles for the flight and stop over. We simply washed them so they didn’t stay yucky.

In terms of feeding we used a whole bunch of the single serve packets of formula and that worked a treat. We took extra just in case but ended up using less than we had planned for. Boiling water is available on the plane to make up formula along with the pre-boiled water we bought along.

In Transit

No problems here as Will just slept. Restaurants can be happy to heat food and/or give you boiled water for the bottles although we didn't try this.

We did pay for a few hours at one of the airport lounges as we could base ourselves in a quiet corner.

Luggage

For children the luggage limits are: 10kg checked-in and 10kg on-board) and I think you get the stroller for free if you check it in. We didn't use the 10kg limit on the way but needed another bag checked-in for all Will's gifts and of course the Dutch goodies.

At the Destination

You are still going to need all your milk powder, nappies, car seat etc. We were lucky in that Renate's parents were able to organise pretty much everything at their end before we arrived, borrowing from neighbours and friends.

Since Renate's parents were in New Zealand recently we gave them a couple of cans of formula to take back rather than risking an unknown brand.

Lessons Learned

  • Check and double check the buggies procedure and make sure you get the special tags.
  • In Holland we were waiting at the plane for the buggy but it went straight to the baggage carousel. This was a stuff up by the staff at KL (they gave us the white luggage tag but not an additional purple tag to pickup at gate).
  • Pack more spare clothes for the plane and in transit (s#!t happens).
  • Make sure your wife's permanent resident VISA allows her to re-enter New Zealand. Apparently in New Zealand permanent resident is only permanent if you don’t leave the country.

Other Tips

  • Get your kids used to drinking/eating cold stuff. That way if you are stuck they will eat without a fuss.
  • If travelling to Europe avoid (at all costs) the US and Shanghai. They both require you to jump through all their extra security hoops (ie, your literally enter the country then have to leave again without a single transit procedure). This just causes a lot of unnecessary pain let alone with children.
  • The games on the personal entertainment system appeared to be aimed at children from say 5 years old rather than younger children.

Of course all this may be dependant upon airline and airport but in general this all worked for us. We feel a lot better prepared for our next adventure.

 

48hrs Winter Kayaking in Taupo

After patiently making our way out of Auckland through the wet rush hour conditions we were on our way and after a quick bite to eat at the Loose Goose in Tirua we arrived at the All Season’s Holiday Park in Taupo.

After the drive it was straight into the hot pool to relax with a nice cold beer and discuss what lay ahead for the weekend. Whether it was the steam coming off the pool or the fact we were in relaxing mode we didn’t see the “No Alcohol” sign and got a telling off from the owner.

Jerusalem Bay to Kaiapo Bay via the Maori carvings

Saturday morning started wet and yucky and the weather looked like it had settled in but after breakfast things began to change for the better. Already prepared we headed off around to Jerusalem Bay where we launched and set off anti-clockwise around the lake.

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Making it to Kaiapo Bay we left the return trip to explore every nook and cranny. We had seen reports that there were other carvings at the northern end of Mine Bay but we didn’t see any evidence of these and put them down to people getting confused with the Southern end of Mine Bay.

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In the misty conditions the trees played hide and seek in the cloud yet the colours of the Lake bed shone pure white and blue like on a bright sunny day. In such as short piece of shore line the landscape changed from smooth stones, sharp rock and cliffs, native bush including Kowhai, sand stone shelves with mushroom like formations, native grasses and weed and even pine trees.

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Unlike last year when we needed to keep our distance from the shore and breaking waves, this year we managed to have a detailed look and admire the carvings created by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in the late 70s.

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Exploring Lake Hinemaiaia

After a late but lovely lunch put on by the ladies we set off for Lake Hinemaiaia so we could be off the water before it got dark. After the constant rain heading into the weekend the road was wet and muddy with large puddles but no one got stuck in the mud (figuratively or physically).

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P1000153Progress was slow as no one wanted to break the surface of the water with their paddle. A couple of strokes then gliding through the mirror surface. The dark water enhancing the mirror effect so even rainbows reflected in a full circle.

The constant rain in the past week hindered access to the waterfall. Waters were flowing more quickly and we were unable to make the last push through a 1 meter wide gap with cliffs either side (no where for the paddle to go). On the return trip we played hide and seek in the reeds of the swamp and make it back to the cars just as a sun set.

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Orakei Korako to Ohakuri Dam

Last year the folks at Orakei Korako didn’t want us using their jetty. Whatever the reason we found another entry point upstream which we used once again.

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P1000175Assisted by the river flow we meandered down river keeping a careful ear on possible jet boats but there were none. We explored the warmth of the thermal springs flowing out into the Waikato River including the hot waterfall complete with a Geyser warning. We had showered the previous night so considered ourselves clean enough and opted not to take a dip.

The steam from Orakei Korako was visible over the last corner so we knew we were close and dived in for a detail look and to warm our buttocks. The kayaks providing just the right amount on insulation.

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We would normally turn around here but the night before over a few Stones Green Ginger Wine’s we modified the plan and carried on down river. This appeared to be a favourite spot for duck shooters with many hides only accessible by water.

Unfortunately the previous wet weather played havoc with our pick up point and Megan managed to get us on the mobile to update us on a new location closer to the dam. The road was just too muddy to get through and didn’t add a lot of paddling.

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Note: There now appears to be public access to the water at Orakei Korako.

 

48hrs Winter Kayaking in Taupo

After patiently making our way out of Auckland through the wet rush hour conditions we were on our way and after a quick bite to eat at the Loose Goose in Tirua we arrived at the All Season’s Holiday Park in Taupo.

After the drive it was straight into the hot pool to relax with a nice cold beer and discuss what lay ahead for the weekend. Whether it was the steam coming off the pool or the fact we were in relaxing mode we didn’t see the “No Alcohol” sign and got a telling off from the owner.

Jerusalem Bay to Kaiapo Bay via the Maori carvings

Saturday morning started wet and yucky and the weather looked like it had settled in but after breakfast things began to change for the better. Already prepared we headed off around to Jerusalem Bay where we launched and set off anti-clockwise around the lake.

P1000057

Making it to Kaiapo Bay we left the return trip to explore every nook and cranny. We had seen reports that there were other carvings at the northern end of Mine Bay but we didn’t see any evidence of these and put them down to people getting confused with the Southern end of Mine Bay.

P1000077

P1000075

In the misty conditions the trees played hide and seek in the cloud yet the colours of the Lake bed shone pure white and blue like on a bright sunny day. In such as short piece of shore line the landscape changed from smooth stones, sharp rock and cliffs, native bush including Kowhai, sand stone shelves with mushroom like formations, native grasses and weed and even pine trees.

P1000083

Unlike last year when we needed to keep our distance from the shore and breaking waves, this year we managed to have a detailed look and admire the carvings created by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in the late 70s.

P1000098

P1000104

Exploring Lake Hinemaiaia

After a late but lovely lunch put on by the ladies we set off for Lake Hinemaiaia so we could be off the water before it got dark. After the constant rain heading into the weekend the road was wet and muddy with large puddles but no one got stuck in the mud (figuratively or physically).

P1000139

P1000153Progress was slow as no one wanted to break the surface of the water with their paddle. A couple of strokes then gliding through the mirror surface. The dark water enhancing the mirror effect so even rainbows reflected in a full circle.

The constant rain in the past week hindered access to the waterfall. Waters were flowing more quickly and we were unable to make the last push through a 1 meter wide gap with cliffs either side (no where for the paddle to go). On the return trip we played hide and seek in the reeds of the swamp and make it back to the cars just as a sun set.

P1000150

Orakei Korako to Ohakuri Dam

Last year the folks at Orakei Korako didn’t want us using their jetty. Whatever the reason we found another entry point upstream which we used once again.

P1000170

P1000175Assisted by the river flow we meandered down river keeping a careful ear on possible jet boats but there were none. We explored the warmth of the thermal springs flowing out into the Waikato River including the hot waterfall complete with a Geyser warning. We had showered the previous night so considered ourselves clean enough and opted not to take a dip.

The steam from Orakei Korako was visible over the last corner so we knew we were close and dived in for a detail look and to warm our buttocks. The kayaks providing just the right amount on insulation.

P1000182
We would normally turn around here but the night before over a few Stones Green Ginger Wine’s we modified the plan and carried on down river. This appeared to be a favourite spot for duck shooters with many hides only accessible by water.

Unfortunately the previous wet weather played havoc with our pick up point and Megan managed to get us on the mobile to update us on a new location closer to the dam. The road was just too muddy to get through and didn’t add a lot of paddling.

P1000169

Note: There now appears to be public access to the water at Orakei Korako.

You may want to have a read about the same trip last year (Kayak Fire and Ice in Taupo) as it was quite different.

 

Kayak Matheson's Bay to Goat Island

When asked who had kayaked this part of the coastline before, only one person raised their hand so it was certainly a good start. The forecasted wind was non-existent so 12 of us headed off in near perfect conditions.

Rock gardening was the name of the game keeping a careful eye on the set of 3 larger swells as we ducted in and out of the rocks riding the surges. Fortunately the higher tide meant we could pop in and our of some caves and an archway. The best cave was shaped like a "U" into the cliff face. You could enter one side go into the cave and come back out through the other side. Unfortunatley this is where John lost his flag and light.

Cheryl entered the water unexpectedly being left high and dry on a rock as the swell retreated and I mistimed the large set of 3 catching a biggy side on and trying to brace against air. These events provided some rough water rescue practise (see lessons learned below).

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We eventually made it to Goat Island in plenty of time to have lunch, a bit of a snorkel and time to sun bathe. The water was significantly colder at Goat Island than along the coast south of the Island.

Unfortunatley the choice of landing spots looked ideal but upon packing our boats discovered that the shags nesting above didn't have any form of toilet training. Everything will get a more thorough wash this trip.

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The return journey took us out and around Goat Island and back down the coast. The wind had picked up to 15-16 knots and stayed on our nose the whole way with the waves come in on the side. Not the most comfortable trip but well within the capabilities of the group.

Lessons learned

  • Tow the right way up makes is easier for the tower, prevents the kayak from filling up and protects the flag from submerged rocks.
  • The leg over rescue just filled the boats with water so in these conditions a t-rescue would have emptied the boats a lot faster.
  • Lay on your back when being towed out of the danger area and you should float over any submerged rocks.
  • Don’t park your kayaks under nesting shags
Note: Photos supplied by John

 

What to see and do in Auckland?

Rather than a list of activities that are basically paid adverts, here is my list of activities that include both free and paid options with my tell it like it is description.

Auckland is a wonderful varied city with multiple harbours, 50 volcanoes, loads of beaches and a slice of culture.

Attractions & Museums

Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)

View Auckland like it was back in the 1800’s and check out the trams, buses, planes and rail and military vehicles from days gone by. They also have an interactive area for kids.

www.motat.org.nz

Auckland Zoo

For the most part its your normal zoo containing critters from all over the world. The main point of difference is that they have some of New Zealand’s native and endangered species.

www.aucklandzoo.co.nz

Devonport, North Head & Mt Victoria

Just a 10 minute ferry trip from down town Auckland gets you to relaxing Devonport. Old architecture, beaches, specialty shops and greet the visitor. It’s also worth checking out the military installations on Mt Victoria and North Head dating back to 1880.

www.devonport.co.nz

Waiheke Island

For a day or a weekend Waiheke relax and enjoy the beaches, vineyards, restaurants, or explore the military installation of Stony Batter.

www.waiheke.co.nz

National Maritime Museum

This museum is dedicated to the rich history New Zealand has with the sea fro  its earliest settlers to modern day races.

www.maritimemuseum.co.nz

Spookers & Corn Evil

They have an R16 rating for a reason. The actors take their job seriously and Spookers is located in an old mental asylum.

The corn maze has a limited season between January and April.

www.cornevil.co.nz
www.spookers.co.nz

Sky City’s Sky Jump

Day or night, 192 metres above the ground you jump off the Sky Tower and assisted to the ground at up to 83km/hr.

www.skyjump.co.nz

Horse Riding

Murawai and Parkiri are probably two of the best places to ride horses in the Auckland area.

Mountain Biking

There are a number of mountain bike parks around Auckland including Riverhead Forest , Whitford Forest and Hunua Ranges. The cream of the crop with the most and varied trails is Woodhill Forest.

www.bikepark.co.nz

One Tree Hill (Maungakiekie) & Cornwall Park

One of Auckland’s most prominent volcanoes set in the lovely Cornwall Park. Although it’s missing its tree, One Tree Hill remains one of Auckland’s iconic land marks with its monument with great views over the city. Yes, its the one U2 wrote and sung about.

www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/places/parks/onetreehill.asp

Mt Eden

The highest volcanic peak in central Auckland rises to just under 200 metres. Great views over the city.

www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/places/parks/mteden.asp

Coast to Coast Walkway

Starting at the viaduct in downtown Auckland walk the 16kms passing through Auckland’s urban landscape and parks until you reach the Manukau harbour.

www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/places/walkways/coasttocoast/index.asp

Stardome Observatory

Located on One Tree Hill, learn about planets, stars and constellations as viewed from New Zealand. They also have a variety of shows.

www.stardome.co.nz

Sky City’s Sky Walk

192 metres above the ground with no hand rails you walk around the outside of the Sky Tower (you are clipped in my a harness).

www.skywalk.co.nz

Rainbow’s End

As long as you aren’t expecting a Disneyland or Dream World there are certainly a few rides to get the juices flowing.

www.rainbowsend.co.nz

Bungee Jump off the Harbour bridge

The world first Harbour Bridge Bungee Jump. A 40 metre drop to the water and a bit further if you want to get wet.

www.ajhackett.com/nz

Harbour Bridge Climb

90 minute guided tour sharing the bridge's colourful secrets, architectural features and the myth and legend surrounding this New Zealand landmark.

www.aucklandbridgeclimb.co.nz

Harley Davidson Tours

Cruise the streets of Auckland taking in the panoramic views.

www.harleytoursnewzealand.co.nz

Auckland Brewery Tour

Visit four of Auckland’s local breweries and taste some of the local boutique beers.

www.absolutetours.co.nz

Markets & Shopping

Retail Hubs

The best shopping areas are High Street in the City, Newmarket, Ponsonby and Parnell.

Dressmart Outlet Shopping

A huge number of New Zealand and International brands at discounted prices all under one roof.

www.dressmart.co.nz

Clevedon Village Farmer’s Market

Pick up the local seasonal offerings of fruit and vegetables, fresh pasta and other goodies. Every Sunday 8:30am-12pm.

www.clevedonfarmersmarket.co.nz

Matakana Village Farmer’s Market

Pies, beer, fresh berries and greens, coffee, olives, mustard, macadamia nuts, chocolate, wine, cheese, organic meat and eggs.  Every Saturday 8am-1pm.

www.matakanavillage.co.nz/farmers_market.php

Bars & Restaurants

Viaduct Harbour & Princes Wharf

The bar and restaurant heart of Auckland city.

Minus 5

Don a fur coat and go inside the bar with a sub-zero temperature. Worth a visit for the novelty.

www.minus5experience.com

 

Whale of a time for Mid-Winter Xmas

What was once an attempt at bringing the European cold wintery Christmas to New Zealand has turned into a sort of tradition or at least an excuse for a gathering.

Every winter, groups of friends and/or family get together a celebrate a mini Christmas type event. This year I organised a group of kayaking friends to have a mid-winter Christmas at one of the beach Bach’s provided by the Auckland Regional Council.

The weather looked terrible however the trip was in sheltered waters. In the end we decided to at least check out the situation in person and back track if need be. The conditions in the sheltered harbour were fine so we loaded up our kayaks and headed across to Big Bay.

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Only accessible by boat Big Bay is located on Mahurangi North and we were stoked with this 8 person bach. We could have booked any number of weekends and was immaculately kept. Even the cutlery and crockery was better than most peoples homes.

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Upon arrival is it was straight into preparing the Turkey and getting it into the oven as it would take a few hours to cook. We then managed to relax over a few wines and snacks. As the evening wore on, we told stories of our traditions and memories of Christmas spanning 5 different cultures.

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Dinner was now ready so with table set, candles lit it was time to consume the stupid amounts of food we had prepared and after that we attempted dessert.

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The next morning we awoke to find a rather large Whale on our doorstep complete with her baby. The Southern Right Whale (named after being the “right” type of whale to kill as it floats) had been cruising the waters for a few days. Being sure not to annoy the mammals a couple of the group kayaked out and drifted while the whales came to check them out. What a marvellous way to start the day.

After packing up we headed back to Sullivan’s Bay where we had parked the night before. Low and behold our friends the whales had   gone across while we had breakfast.

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Disclaimer: No whales were harmed during the making on this blog entry (or breakfast)

More information
  • My photos of the Mid-Winter Christmas at Big Bay
  •  

    Kayak Fire and Ice in Taupo

    To make the most of the weekend we made sure we were down in Taupo for an early start the next morning. The Loose Goose in Tirau provided sustenance along the way and after a quick scout around the All Seasons Holiday Park in Taupo before we settled in for the evening.

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    Saturday morning was beautiful although the wind was planning to get up and we couldn’t see the mountains across the lake. We popped in to see Steve at the local Canoe and Kayak shop to get some local advice and go through our plans. He gave us some great tips so we set off for our first explore.

    Part 1: Jerusalem Bay to the Maori carvings

    After driving around to Jerusalem Bay (just around from Acacia Bay) we launched and headed around the point to check out the Maori carvings at Mine Bay. Created in the late ‘70s, Matahi took four summers to create the carvings. Not the best shot but due to the waves and swell it was a shot all the same.

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    The southerly wind was cold and the 60km of open water ensured the waves were big and steep. This made the trip uncomfortable so as soon as we found the carvings we put our tails between our legs and hi-tailed it out of there. Back in the sheltered waters of Jerusalem Bay, the conditions were quite different . The  sun was shining and it was warm, the perfect spot for lunch.

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    Part 2: Lake Hinemaiaia

    P1030950That evening I was considering a night paddle so we at least went to check it out. Just before Hatepe (about 30 minutes South of Taupo on SH1) we darted inland and found a small hydro lake. We launched and after only about 10 minutes we entered the river system above the lake. It was cold and the sun had a hard job making its way into the valley to melt the frost at the sides of the river so it was no surprise we struck ice. Not just a little big but whole sections of the river sheltered from the main flow.

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    P1040038Further upstream the canyon walls closed in so we headed further up stream in smaller groups. Stalactites made of ice from the dripping foliage lined the walls of the canyon and some were massive. The only flowing water was the fast moving main flow and a water fall up on the left. There was just enough room to turn the sea kayaks before we headed back out down river.

    After the canyon, we explored a lagoon area where the last of the days sun was hiding in a corner, the birds were playing in the trees whilst we played in the ice covered water. It was then back to the camp ground for a well deserved soak in the hot pool, dinner and a spa.

    Part 3: Orakei Korako on the Waikato River

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    Sunday was another beautiful day and this time we could see the snow capped mountains 80kms South of Taupo. We headed out of Taupo and up to Orakei Korako. The directions took us to the shop and ferry where there were no launching points (Actually the camp ground was a building site and due to OSH regulations they didn’t want us using their Jetty). We headed back and found a bridge with access to the Waikato river where we entered the water. Brett feeling a bit poorly minded the cars sitting in his chair on the jetty covered with his blankie.

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    We set off down stream keeping in mind we would need to travel back up stream against the flow but it wasn’t that strong. We quickly discovered jet boats use this section of the river and although the signs said 5 knots through the gorge it was obvious that this apparently didn’t apply to the jet boat. The water acting as a mirror buckled with the wake but never broke in the gorge which was a weird feeling. We continued downstream paddling through the mist until we came across the geothermal activity.

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    Hissing, gurgling and plopping could be heard from beyond the river banks. The surface of the water was hot and warmed the bottom of the boats. Keeping our distance from the more violet places we took our time checking everything out. We came across a bathing area complete with warning signs and moved along.

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    The main feature “Orakei Korako” was off limits with access from a private jetty although we explored the river side. Hot water flowed over the large white coloured rocks. A closer look revealed more detail and colour.

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    As time was pressing on we returned to the cars for our journey back to Auckland.

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    All in all this was an amazing adventure and a perfect reason why winter should not stop you kayaking.

     

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