Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Puhoi and Kayaking the Puhoi River

For more years than I can remember I have told my family that I wanted to kayak the Puhoi River.  For one reason or another I never seemed to get round to it.  In the end, (probably from sheer desperation!), my son and daughter-in-law gave me a voucher to do it for Christmas, so, a couple of weeks ago, on a fine autumn day, I finally achieved my ambition.  It was worth the many years wait!

The Catholic church of Saints Peter and Paul
A roadside shrine in Puhoi

Puhoi, about an hour north of Auckland, is one of only two designated ethnic villages in New Zealand.  It was settled 150 years ago by immigrants from Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, and still retains much of its Bohemian character.  It is picturesque and quaint and is one of my favourite "drive in the country" destinations. I deliberately arrived early in the day so that I could have a wander around the area.  The village is tiny with  just a church, a small but very interesting museum, the famous Puhoi Pub, a general store, a village hall and a few other business scattered around and about.  Both the church and the graveyard, located a mile or so down the road, remind the visitor that this is a Bohemian settlement.  The Czech names of Wenzlick, Schollum, Straka and several others feature strongly in both places.  I enjoyed a wander around the graveyard finding the graves of ancestors of friends descended from the original settlers.  It is an idyllic final resting place in a peaceful valley overlooked by a bush clad hillside.  A little further along the road is the well known Puhoi cheese factory where I enjoyed a tasty cafe lunch beside a serene lake complete with water lilies and fountains. On this occasion I did not go to the Puhoi Pub but have other times and it is certainly worth a visit.  It is a real old time pub crammed with photographs, artifacts documenting the history of the area.  On occasions the famous Puhoi Bomehian Band plays there.  The band was founded when the settlers arrived and includes the Czech bagpipe or dudelsack.  I have heard it play in the past and it is a wonderful and lively example of a folk orchestra.

Early afternoon I make my way to the Puhoi Kayak Company and after a briefing and instructions set off alone to kayak the eight kilometres down the river from Puhoi to Wenderholm, a coastal reserve. What a great way to spend an afternoon quietly paddling along helped by the out going tide. Bush and fields line the river's edge, cattle graze, an occasional fish jumps and birds sing from branches overhead.  At one point the river is crossed by a bridge carrying traffic on the busy main highway north.  This brief noisy interruption only serves to make the rest of the journey seem more tranquil. 

About halfway through my trip I am joined by a couple of  men also in kayaks and we travel the rest of the way quietly chatting together.  It takes around two hours from Puhoi to Wenderholm where we are met by the Kayak company owner who loads our kayaks onto a trailer and drives us back to Puhoi to our cars.  I am well satisfied with my afternoon's kayaking and so pleased it is something else to tick off my "to do" list.  I am certain I will do it again but, hopefully, will not wait so long to get around to it next time.

At last....job done!!