The Watery Fortress – Ripapa Island(Fort Jervois)

“On a Mish” #126 The Watery Fortress. Ripapa Island(Fort Jervois). Entrance to Purau Bay. Whakaraupo / Lyttelton Harbour. 19.10.2014. The early Maori would use the many different bodies of water to get around, and in a land with no roads the water can act like a highway. I don’t do too much kayaking as I am not the biggest fan of water, however every time I have ventured out onto the water in a kayak I have returned with a tale to tell…

An early-ish start had Jeremy and myself heading for Diamond Harbour with a double kayak, and the plan to visit Ripapa Island. The island has been used throughout time as a fortified base for at first, the Ngai Tahu Maori, and then the Europeans as a quarantine camp, and defence base. As a kid we had visited Purau Bay most summers, and I had always wanted to visit Ripapa Island.

So now many years later I finally had the opportunity to check the place out. Stoddart Point in Diamond Harbour shelters the bay from the sea, and the weather was very calm and sunny when we arrived at the small wharf on the north east side of the harbour. The muddy sand in the bay made for a slightly messy start before we reached water deep enough to paddle in. Once in the water we rounded Stoddart Point and were exposed to the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

The harbour was reasonably calm, and we kept close to the rocky coastline before crossing over Purau Bay to reach Ripapa Island(Fort Jervois). We could only access the old wharf and not the fortress itself, so we took the time to rest our arms before the return journey across the bay. Little did we know, the journey across the bay to the island was going to be the easy part of our watery adventure. The wind had kicked up by the time we started to cross back over Purau Bay, and this made the paddling a lot more difficult and progress was slowed.

Once out of Parau Bay, and around Stoddart Point the going got a lot tougher, as we had to deal with head on wind for a short amount of time before getting back into the shelter of Diamond Harbour. We only had a couple hundred metres to travel, but it felt like miles as we fought against the battering breeze. Once we got into the shelter of the bay out of the wind we could relax a little knowing that we weren’t going to get blown backwards out to sea if we stopped paddling, and we enjoyed being out of the wind for the last part of the trip back to Diamond Harbour.

Seeing Whakaraupo / Lyttelton Harbour from the water is a great experience, and I would highly recommend a paddle to Ripapa Island for a unique Canterbury experience.

Lyttelton Harbour from Ripapa Island(Fort Jervois)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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