Two bright magenta sea kayaks are waiting on the little golden beach next to Devonport. We'll certainly be visible on the sea! The harbour is an amazing emerald green, and liquorice allsorts houses glow brightly in the warm evening.
It's in a moment of peace, before my swarthy guide, Jamie, from The Little Adventure Company, brings me back to reality with a jolt. The capsize drill is a scary reminder of the possibility of being upside down in the ocean. Somewhat reassuringly he says he's only had one capsize in several years of sea kayak tours. Apparently the gentleman concerned claimed falling out was the high point of his trip, and he'd be dinning out on the story back in Japan…. It takes all kinds.
Jamie has me into the kayak and off in no time. This guy's organised. As we paddle gently along, Jamie fleshes out the landmarks, with a history of Devonport. An innocent Pohutakawa tree becomes 'the hanging tree'-scene of a blood curdling 19th Century drama, involving the aristocracy of the area. Devonport was one of the first parts of Auckland to be settled and it's still a well-to-do suburb. The gracious colonial villas lining the foreshore are an architectural delight.
Jamie tells me Devonport was a thriving shipbuilding centre late last century. It comes to bustling life as he describes it. Then, we glide past the oldest Sea Scout den in the country, stretching elegantly into the harbour…. Ahead is North Head, riddled with military tunnels. It's been the focus for Auckland's' fear of invasion, for a long time.
The peninsula is wrapped in native bush and utterly quiet. Up head looms the huge shape of Rangitoto (Rang-e-toe-toe), covered in Pohitakawa forest. As Jamie says, it's a wilderness area, minutes from the heart of New Zealand's biggest centre.
"There aren't many cities where you can see a dormant volcano," says Jamie with the uncanny ability to keep me on edge. He says overseas people are amazed at all the different greens and the intensity of the colours.
We reach our destination, the popular, yet amazingly natural Cheltenham beach. On Twilight Tours, Jamie makes a barbecue here so people cam swim and relax before the return journey. Paddling back Jamie describes the night paddles which he runs when the moon is full. Quietly paddling with the sea dappled with silver moonlight sounds heavenly.
We fall quiet on the paddle back. As we turn around North Head into the golden sun, I feel like we are heroes returning from a day of adventure. We paddle under a rickety wooden jetty. A flock of sea terns sprays into the sky. As I glide through the turquoise waves…I dream of my next magical little adventure… perhaps a night paddle?