When did you last wake up at 5.00am and you just can`t wait to get up and moving? Well that was me last Sunday. Softly calling our dog so as not to wake Rose who was sleeping like a normal person should, we slipped out into the dusky half dawn, that magic time between darkness and sunrise. I carry the surprisingly light guillemot kayak down to the launching site, it is only sixty metres from our home on the Opawa river, Marlborough, New Zealand.
I slide it into the inky water and leap in and we are off. Bliss. There is sometimes a sense of adventure in the early morning you do not get at other times of the day, almost like you are the first human to have passed this way. In truth the early Maori were ploughing this water way 600 years ago in dug outs, trading flax and food.
We passed a pied shag flying, business like down the river, this is their highway, shags fly close to the water surface and very fast. Every bird has its signature of flight. Around the next sweeping bend called tug hard` after the trade ships that use to get stuck here, we see a skitterish flock of needle legged pied stilts. They are most unconcerned by our presence as we sweep by, carried on the tidal current. They carry on their bickering.
As we start to leave the river and enter the Wairau estuary the sun starts to peep up over the boulder bank to the east. Its light bathes us in warm light and makes the water off my paddle turn to gold. A moment of silence. The reason I have come to my mecca is in hope of seeing the arrival of the bartailed godwit, the legendary bird that has captured the imagination of us all.
Low on the horizon I see a twinkling like haze. It`s nothing but then it materializes and a definite grey and pulsing patch hangs in the sky. I can hardly believe my eyes when quickly the flock of bartailed godwit like apparitions land lightly in the sand 10 metres away, they immediately start to probe the sand for food that they flew 12,000 km to feast on.
I am a lucky man because I get to see miracles on a daily basis.