by Clair Morton
FOR more than two decades Philip Moore has been a familiar face in Yamba, but these days you're more likely to find him on the water.
After 22 years at the helm of Yamba SPAR, formerly Yamba General Store, Mr Moore and his wife Laurel took over Yamba Kayak just under two years ago and have not looked back.
So it was appropriate that I met them down at the riverbank as I prepared to embark on one of their more unique tours - a moonlight paddle from Yamba to Harwood.
Mr Moore came up with the idea for a night kayak tour after several trial runs with his mate, former Yamba Kayak owner Paul Commerford.
"It was a nice little adventure, just being on the river with the moonlight - that whole concept,” he said.
"Originally we were travelling all the way to Maclean so we cut it back a bit to make it more user-friendly. I thought 'why not make it into a tour?'.”
Paired up in the double kayaks, we were shown the ropes and paddles and gently pushed out onto the calm waters of the mighty Clarence.
After getting the hang of steering the rudder, and shaking off the initial protests from my latent arm muscles, my new kayak buddy and I followed the others as Mr Moore and fellow guide Mr Commerford pointed out the islands we were passing.
Then, a fin.
Mr Moore is out on the kayaks most days through summer, and tells us they see dolphins about 30% of the time.
So we were pretty lucky to see the playful mammals not once, but twice, during our paddle. As the last light streamed from the horizon, there was another surprise in the form of a huge turtle which popped its bulbous head up to check us out.
"That would have to be the biggest turtle I've ever seen in the river,” Mr Moore said.
Not everyone on the tour got to see the turtle, but we were all treated to a pretty spectacular pink sunset, followed by a moonrise partly obscured by clouds.
With only the light of the moon, our head torches and the odd cane fire on the riverbank to guide us, we paddled with the tide in our favour for the final few kilometres of our nearly 18km journey.
Slightly bedraggled but elated, we hauled up our kayaks at Harwood's Big River Sailing Club and were greeted by the scent of a delicious home-made curry courtesy of Mrs Moore.
All that paddling sure worked up an appetite - and the glasses of wine and a few laughs at the end didn't go down too badly either.
Just as Mr Moore said we all would, our group arrived as strangers and left as friends.