Here we are back again, and I am officially two holidays behind. So, I now commence the telling of the Abel Tasman adventure such that I am no longer in blog-debt.
If you'll remember, we were on our way up the island from Franz Josef Glacier to spent the night in Motueke, a small town near where we were set to head off on a one-day kayaking/hiking adventure in Abel Tasman park. On the way we stopped at the Pancake rocks, a geological marvel of ancient limestone that has been carved by seawater into the most amazing shapes. You can walk around the rocks and observe a few "blowholes" where the seawater traps enough air to cause mini-explosions of moisture up through tunnels in the rock. We went for a quick walk around on our way up to Abel Tasman.
The carpark there also offered an interesting diversion insofar as I managed to leave the car's lights on. After enlisting the help of a generous kiwi family, and through Karla's quick thinking in borrowing a set of jumper cables from the local cafe, we managed to get things going again. The best part was Karla's little chat with the girl at the cafe:
Karla: Hi--do you have some jumper cables? My boyfriend managed to leave our lights on and now we're stuck.
Cafe Girl: Sure thing. That's five dollars, and you'll have to leave something here in the meantime, like some ID or a bank card. You know, something you'll want to get back afterwards... so, definitely not your boyfriend!
Now, a couple of fun facts about the park:
- It is located at the top of the South Island.
- At 22,530 hectares it is NZ's smallest
- Its main natural features are its incredible golden beaches and turqoise blue water
- It is one of NZ's newer parks, having been established in 1942
Due at the kayaking tour company at 8:30am, we missed a turn and had to make a panicked phone call to let them know we were going to be late. Luckily, the easy-going staff weren't phased at all. They just got an ETA from us (we were half an hour late), told us to be there as soon as we could and all would be put on hold to wait for us. This was super nice of them. And breathlessly, we arrived.
Immediately we launched into our training, complete with gear. Karla took advantage of the thermal underwear on offer ("I can do cold, I can do wet, but I CANNOT do cold and wet"). While functional, she more or less looked like a Dr. Suess character, candy striped legs and all. Obviously she carried these off with her usual grace and style, making things look good as always.
We paddled our way along some magnificent coastline complete with swirling eddies, active wildlife, cliffs and caves. It took a while to get totally comfortable, but eventually we started working better as a team and made a really enjoyable time of it. It turns out that the world looks really good from a kayak.
Two hours later we built up a head of steam and hit the beach. There we had a great cooked lunch, and started off on our hike. It was magic.
Wandering up through rainforest to the top of a hill, we could see down onto three or four bays and inlets. There were birds galore, and Karla was happily making friends with many of the plants along the footpath.
When we got to the beach where we were to meet the shuttle we still had a bit of time. So I took off on a short walk to another point, while Karla found a comfortable spot on soft golden sand. I had a great quick hike, made really good time, and got to take in some nice views looking back on the bay. I even made it back in time to go for a (cold) swim! It felt great.
Later on, the water taxi came to get us and take us back into town. Tired and happy, we slept really well that night. Next morning we were off again and back to Wellington (barely). We almost missed the ferry, dropping our rental car and getting on board just as the final calls were being made. But we did, and the whole trip was tons of fun.