It’s Sunday morning. Saturday is behind you & Monday & another week loom ahead. Your kayak was loaded the night before, your paddle & PFD likewise, so you are ready to go. Turning off the bitumen, you drive down a dirt road & pull into a quiet alcove amongst some trees. The air is still cool but the cicadas are warming up. Birds are singing & ahead of you, at the entrance to a quiet creek, dragonflies hover, their wings shimmering above a cluster of blue waterlilies. Fellow kayakers start to arrive & soon a colourful flotilla of kayaks pushes out from the bank & into the creek. No noise, no fumes, no road rage & no mobile phones, just the quiet sound of paddles breaking the water, a breeze in your face & people chatting & enjoying the natural beauty of their surroundings.
Stands of melaleucas, their bark shedding like dead skin are white against their surroundings; rows of whispering casuarinas, eucalypts with gnarled trunks & twisted limbs, mysterious & shadowy mangroves, tangled creepers & flowering vines, wild orchids, elk & stag ferns nestled in the treetops & floating carpets of waterlilies. They are all there as we glide along, peering into the understory along the creek bank, below the canopy of trees.
Flashes of brilliant colour….blue, sometimes aqua or yellow jolt you into alertness as birds buzz us & play hide & seek amongst the foliage. An azure kingfisher, an Australian regent (bower) bird or perhaps a sacred kingfisher do reconnaissance flights, letting us know we are in their territory. A well camouflaged bittern watches us from his perch amongst the mangroves, & a sudden splash nearby lets us know a water dragon has broken his cover, alerting us to his presence. Nervous cormorants & darters forget about drying their outstretched wings on a fallen tree trunk & fly off awkwardly to another more distant perch. Overhead, the desolate cries of black cockatoos cuts through the air & kookaburras laugh raucously in the treetops.
It is easy to become mesmerized by the minutia of nature going on all around us, & paddling becomes a natural extension of body function so you are almost unaware of it, like breathing. Suddenly, the group is pulling over for morning tea, a stretch of the legs & to compare notes on what has been seen, heard & photographed. The billy on the boil reminds us that we are far away from it all, even if it is just for awhile.
Back on the water the journey continues, often through water that no tinny can navigate. Along anabranches, through mangroves, under overhanging branches & over the top of underwater grasses with their beautiful pearl like flowers bobbing just below the surface. Those up front enjoy the beauty of mirror like reflections on glassy water, unbroken by wind or other craft, & always the sound of insects & birds in the background.
Sometimes, if you look carefully, or get the feeling that something is watching you, hidden in the vegetation a kangaroo or wallaby can be seen. On open water you may encounter dolphins close by while overhead sea eagles, osprey & Brahminy kites glide on air currents, occasionally treating us to a demonstration of their hunting prowess or displays of aerial acrobatics or sorties.
Lunchtime rolls along; another billy boils & a cuppa helps to wash down lunch & fuel our bodies for the return trip. Before we know it we have arrived back at the cars & we prepare to leave the creek, its inhabitants & its forest guardians to melt into twilight, nightfall & a time without human interaction. But not before afternoon tea, sometimes around a campfire, which enables us to linger awhile longer & reflect on the day’s experiences before loading up, saying our goodbyes, driving back out the dirt road before turning onto the bitumen & into the world or cars, trucks & B Doubles…that is until next Sunday.
That’s why we kayak. It’s the journey that counts & the people you share it with. The destinations are just an excuse to get out on the water & enjoy the paddling experience.