With my hands wrapped tightly around an oar, I ask my guide a question that’s been bugging me ever since we put on our wetsuits.
“So Matt, do I paddle right first, or left? It’s important I get this right if we want to go forward, isn’t it?”
Kayaking has never been my strong point – indeed the last time I tried it I toppled over into the path of a sinister-looking stingray in Fiji – so I’m doubly keen to ensure I do things properly today, especially considering the conditions.
Kayaking in Freycinet National Park
The skies are dreary, there’s drizzle in the air and the bluey-green waters of Great Oyster Bay – a sheltered bay hugging Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula – are looking decidedly choppy. All in all, everything looks set up for another capsizing.
But Matt is having none of it – not least because he’s sharing the kayak with me.
“Don’t worry,” he insists. “It’s not the calmest it’s ever been out there, but it’s quite safe – and yes, it probably would be best to paddle right first. That means we’ll go forward not back.”
Reassured by his pep-talk, I begin this three-hour ‘Freycinet Paddle’ adventure (run by local family-run operator, Freycinet Adventures) by negotiating our way from the shore of the township of Coles Bay. Matt, meanwhile, expertly steers the course using the nifty little foot pedals tucked inside the kayak.
The two other pairs in our group – a 30-something couple from the Hunter Valley and a husband and wife team from Canberra in their late 50s – look like they’ve done this before.
Within two minutes I decide that this kayaking lark is actually not that hard at all – although Matt reckons I’m still a work in progress.
“You’re not doing too badly; your right side is OK, but you’re left needs improving,” he says, diplomatically.
“At least you can paddle, though. I had two AFL players from Hawthorn in my group and they capsized. They may be good at footy, but they couldn’t kayak to save their lives.”
Determined not to suffer the same embarrassment, I knuckle down and try to hone my technique. But it’s hard to concentrate, especially in an environment like this.
Wineglass Bay may be the big noise in this part of the world, but that’s on the other (eastern) side of the Freycinet Peninsula.
Where I’m sitting, you can’t fail to be entranced by the row of jagged granite outcrops looming in the distance.
Known as the Hazards, these striking lumps rise up to 300m high, dominating the skyline for kilometres, and are said to change colour depending on the weather.
Apparently they’re a pink or red shade when it’s nice and bright, caused by iron oxide impurities in feldspar, which is a component of granite.
Today, with the sun tucked safely behind the clouds and showing no signs of appearing, the colour has been drained from the Hazards.
Despite their morose brown appearance, they still stand out; largely because of the pancake-flatness of much of the surrounding land.
Whenever I cast my eyes anywhere else – like, let’s say, on my kayaking efforts – I’m constantly drawn back to the Hazards.
Freycinet Adventures runs all-inclusive 4-day sea kayaking expeditions between December and April. Everything is provided: kayaks, safety equipment, camping and paddling gear (including lifejackets, spray decks and dry bags), National Park fees, great meals and the company of experienced guides. Freycinet Adventures also runs 3-hour Freycinet Paddle trips and 2-day Ultimate Weekender trips.