A long overdue date with a kayak & some carvings

Many moons ago my (now) beloved, upon meeting me, announced he would take me kayaking to the carvings - Lake Taupo’s very own, modern day Maori craftsmanship, a boat ride, lake-ward for our very first date. Gosh, thought I, how romantic, what a stud. Six years later, I’m still waiting. I seem to remember we replaced his car windshield that day instead. I’d highly recommend that for a first date, it obviously worked for us.

So, kayaking to the carvings at Lake Taupo has been sitting on my to-do list for some time and what better time than now to take advantage of this beautiful autumnal weather before the snow rolls in and my will to leave the fireside and an ample glass of mulled wine wanes.

Dearly beloved, said I. The time has come. He gulped.

kayaking to the carvings - Lake Taupo’s very own, modern day Maori craftsmanship

There are several companies who run kayaking trips to the carvings on Lake Taupo, and they cater for all experience levels and age groups. The beauty of the trip is that it takes just a few hours and can easily be fit into a busy schedule or is a great option for a last minute change of plan.

Kayaking is as adventurous as you want to make it. It’s great if there a bit of a wind, to provide a few waves for some extra bounce and roll or if you prefer to go mellow, pick a glass-watered day and surprise yourself at how quickly your boat will glide through the water. Kayaking is also a great team sport, so if you go as a group it’s a great way to thrash out competitive personalities with a wee race or a timely prod with a paddle for that especially annoying member of the group… there’s nothing like the thought of plunging into the freezing lake waters to improve your paddle-stroke technique!

Given that Lake Taupo is roughly the same size as the island of Singapore and the carvings are culturally significant to the local area this is a unique trip to the Taupo region and gives you a good chance to stretch those lazy muscles or in my case, sit back and enjoy- they have double Kayaks available you see- safe to say, (my beloved paddled every inch and so he should…it took him long enough to get me here).

The kayak to the carvings trip takes about three hours (or six years in my case) and being that you are in kayak instead of some other water-worthy vessel, you can get into all the little inlets and bays along the Lake Taupo coastline and get a really good nosy at the beauty surrounding the lake that you just wouldn’t otherwise see.

There’s nothing like being encased in a teeny plastic boat on a humongous lake to make you feel small and the views across to the World Heritage Listed Tongariro National Park beyond are just breathtaking, it’s a very unique perspective from the water and as always there is something very cathartic about being in and on the water (especially when someone else is paddling you… ok, I did a little paddling… but not much!)

As my beloved and I did discover, perhaps kayaking in a double boat is not first date material after all or even, many-long-years-later-date material. There was a lot of “no paddle harder”, “no, not that way” , “you’re not even trying..” (I was so…) and upon approaching the carvings, “paddle right”, “no RIGHT”, “I am doing” (snorts of indignation). Just the stuff all successful relationships are built upon. I’m sure I saw the guide sniggering….

Tuatara (lizard), regarded by Maori as Taniwha, meaning Protector

The carvings themselves are situated at Mine Bay and are about 10 metres high and encompass a beautiful Maori face and various animals and icons at the base of it, it is a remote part of the lake accessible only by boat, it’s pretty amazing to imagine some poor soul hanging to the cliff face with a hammer and chisel, personally I would’ve done one eyebrow and lost my patience, it’d wouldn’t have been half so spectacular.

Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell is the master-carver responsible for this masterpiece of rock-art.  The face depicts Ngatoroirangi, a Maori navigator who guided the now-local tribes to the area. Lake Taupo was the land of Matahi’s mother and he visited here in the 1970s and decided to use the Mine Bay cliffs as his canvas, they took him four summers to complete and he never took a cent of payment for his work. Just another awesome kiwi bloke. 

I love Lake Taupo and this trip was a fantastic way to be right at the heart of things, afloat in the great blue, with a splash of culture to boot. I’d highly recommend this trip, just remember, if it’s your first date, perhaps just take separate kayaks so you can admire each other’s virtues from afar.

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