Abel Tasman National Park, N.Z. Takes 1 & 2.

The journal continues… with a flashback to Saturday 21 December 2002, during my first ever trip to New Zealand. What the hell for, you ask? Read on.

Out with Kaiteriteri Kayaks, and my second trip into the Abel Tasman NP. I luv it – the only place I’ve visited twice in Enzed! Well, besides Wellington, but that was only so’s I could lurk like Gollum to see Viggo and Peter Jackson and Sir Ian and Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin (paragraphs of gushing omitted- Ed.) at the The Return of the King premiere. Preciousssss…

My first trip into the Abel Tasman National Park was with my mate Kathy, where we’d done a day walk between Torrent Bay and Marahau on the gorgeous Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks and the most popular. I just had to go back; it’s stunning. There’s the most breathtaking mix of rainforest and beaches, it’s accessible to even the most deep-rooted couch potato, and, unlike many Great Walks, able to be taken in bite-sized portions.  On our maiden voyage most of the tempting golden beaches and tidal lagoons stayed frustratingly out of reach far below the winding hillside track, so the second time around I decided to see it from the water.

We took a water taxi from Kaiteriteri into the National Park, and as we zoomed up the coast through an artist’s palette of azure sky, turquoise water, emerald rainforest and warm golden beaches I was invigorated by both the stunning beauty of this new perspective and by the occasional shot of spray in the face.

Watch your ribs!
Watch your ribs!

At Bark Bay we met Carlos; guide, chef, iron man and trusty kayak minder.  We paired up and started cruising the shallows, trying to figure out Herbie’s (our kayak’s) steering and the art of paddling without splashing and/or braining the other person. After a half hour or so we felt slightly less incompetent so headed into the Tonga Island Marine Reserve.  There was only a light breeze and low swells, but it was still a bit tricky to synchronize our paddling, stay on course, and enjoy the view.

We finally managed to get some momentum, but in our focus on speed we totally forgot to watch where we were going. We panicked and screamed yelled a warning to Red Rocket’s crew and they started paddling furiously while we desperately tried to veer left. Herbie’s bow turned as reluctantly as the Titanic’s, but with much splashing and cursing and yelling of advice from the other kayaks we managed to slow down enough to avoid harpooning anyone in the ribs. Yay!

We paddled steadily for the next hour, Bark Bay’s sandy stretches giving way to the rainforested rocky outcrops framing Mosquito Bay.  After rounding the first point we were ready to charge in to Onetahuti Beach to veg out on the sand, but Carlos bribed us around the next point with muffins.  It was low tide at the Tonga Arches so we couldn’t paddle through… that’s okay.

With our pitiful steering we'd have only come to grief anyway.
With our pitiful steering we’d have only come to grief anyway!

We were thrilled when three New Zealand fur seals sunning themselves on nearby rocks bombied into the water to come and check us out.  I wanted to jump in after them, they were having so much fun whizzing around us, wrestling each other, doing lazy rolls and bumping into our kayaks.  I hoped one of them would jump on Herbie’s nose for a ride (they do that sometimes) but  they soon got bored, leaving us to squeeze between the rocks guarding the entrance to Shag Harbour and cruise the glassy waters by ourselves.

Here the water was so clear we could see every rock and pebble two metres below, and the temptation to leap overboard was incredibly strong.  It was only picturing my walrus-like attempts to climb back into the kayak and the likelihood of capsizing Herbie that finally dissuaded me.

After fighting wind and currents for most of the day we found that kayaking in sheltered waters is actually more like pinball.  By the time we headed back to Onetahuti we had twice ricocheted off the rock wall, nearly necked ourselves on a low branch, and spectacularly t-boned Green Eggs and Ham.

Shag Harbour, Abel Tasman National Park
The rest was sooo nice, drifting around under the rainforest.

We finally pulled up on Onetahuti Beach, eager for a feed and to just stop moving our arms.  We checked out the campsite and surrounding rainforest, smug safe in the knowledge there were no murdery or venomy creepy-crawlies to watch out for.

Either a regular fern or a special silver fern... though here it looks more golden.
silver fern I think, though here it seems golden.

Crashed on the sand and watched a few bushwalkers (no, Kiwis call them trampers) (NOT tramps though) loaded up with gear for the full 51km Coast Track choofing up the beach, probably trying to make the tidal crossing at Awaroa.  While waiting for lunch we went for a ‘swim’, which entailed running in, thrashing around in shock at the icy water, and sprinting out.

Herbie and Green Eggs & Ham.
Herbie and Green Eggs & Ham.

After stir-fry and hot chocolate we had just enough strength to get back to Bark Bay. The tide had gone out – we passed seals reclining on the now-exposed rocks, possibly having their siesta as they never stirred a flipper.  The journey back seemed shorter, as it always does, and with the end in sight we got our second wind, even managing one last race into the beach.  Then it was the speedboat back to Kaiteriteri and the bus to our hostel in Nelson.  My paddling technique must’ve sucked because my shoulders killed, my elbows and wrists ached for days, and I could barely lift my arms over my head.  I also had a slight sunburn, aggravated by approximately half an inch of salt and suncream gunk caked on my arms and in my hair, but  was still left dreaming about  when I might be back in Abel Tasman for round three.

… And that would be tomorrow! I’m off with the family (nuclear and extended Kiwi) to Mapua/Nelson/Abel Tasman NP and will bore regale you with stories when I get back!

Happy New Year y’all. 🙂

I hope we get the good South Island weather...
I hope we get the good South Island weather…

– Michelle

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