Abel Tasman National Park – Day 3

Today is off to a great start. I wake up to no rain and French toast! French Toast! Yum!

I sit down by the beach. The sun is out and warming me up. Finally! It’s so nice to see you sunshine, you have been a stranger these last 2 days. The water is so clear, and still. There are no big waves. It’s a very sheltered bay and so peaceful. It’s just like in the Islands, minus the palm trees. Finally I am basking in the sunshine. This is more like what I had imagined.

Slowly I move down to the water. My body is very stiff and sore from yesterday’s adventure. I am glad we are kayaking today, I don’t think I could manage a walk. The sand is soft and powdery, the water cool and inviting. The sea is so clear, I can see little fish swimming around and their shadows cast on the ocean floor.

Again, we are given 2 choices for the day. We can leave soon, take our gear and paddle back up to Bark Bay and get collected from there. Or, we can have a cruisy day, leave a bit later and explore the lagoon at high tide in the kayaks and be collected from where we currently are. Today I am pleased that our group chooses the cruisy option!

We leisurely pack up the tents, our gear and our campsite. All we need today is our small dry bags with water, togs and a camera. We get into the kayaks and head off. Today is about exploring in the sunshine! It ends up being a bit of a nature tour. We see shags, a stingray, oyster catches and sea stars. Red is really knowledgeable and is able to share lots of information about them with us. It’s nice paddling in the lagoon. Everything about today feels relaxed and leisurely. It’s amazing what a difference a bit of sun can make.

We stop for lunch in a small bay and while Red is preparing it, we all go for a swim. It’s really cold today, despite the sun being out. I think it’s gotten colder each day! While we are in the water, the ladies from the other group arrive in their kayak. They have paddled down from Bark Bay and will head down to Anchorage to join us for pick up.

We spend a while at this bay, having lunch and enjoying the amazing sunshine. But all good things must come to an end and it’s time to start the journey home. We jump in the kayaks and begin the paddle back. Daniel wants to be near the rocks as it’s ‘more interesting’ so we are constantly having to try and maneuver around them and avoid the ones that appear suddenly just below the surface. It’s not really very relaxing. The water gets choppy in a few places and the swell pushes us into the rocks. I get nervous that it’s going to roll us over, but nothing like that happens.

We land in Anchorage and unload the gear, then the ladies come sailing in. Yes, sailing! They have made a makeshift sail boat by linking their kayaks and using a fly and their paddles as a sail. It’s pretty cool to watch. They cruise into shore with a big hooray, shouting and cheering at their achievements. They have done so well. What an awesome group of women! I hope that I am as adventurous and well connected with friends when I am their age.

We board our water taxi and head back to Marahau. It’s not until we do this trip that I realise how far we actually paddled on that first day. In the rain. I feel pretty proud of myself. We have all done exceptionally well!

Back at the base we unpack our gear, change into clean clothes and enjoy sitting in the sun. Today’s weather has been glorious. It has soaked away any remaining dampness from my body. This trip was far from my expectations, mostly because of the weather, but with some positivity and a ‘just got to roll with it’ attitude, it turned out to be an amazing adventure.

Our kayaking and camping tour ended up being a kayaking, walking, camping, DOC hut, river crossing, nature cruising adventure. We got to see the park from sea and from land. At its best and at its worst. Best of all, I got to enjoy this experience with my best friend.

Abel Tasman National Park – Day 2

It rained persistently all night and into the morning. Will it ever stop? My visions of basking in the Abel Tasman sunshine are quickly fading.

But I get up and am greeted with a hot cup of mint and matcha tea. It’s so good and makes the weather seem not that bad. The ladies are up. They are eager to know what the plan for the day is and ask their very patient guide Kyle about 100 times what they will be doing. Our guides are waiting for a weather update before they make any decisions.

Breakfast is toasted muffin splits with jam and banana. A nice way to start the day. Red then gives us the options. First, he lays down the facts. The wind out on the water is too strong today so kayaking is off the table. But, it is meant to stop raining around lunchtime.

Our 2 choices, we can walk to Anchorage Bay, around a 4 hours walk and the water taxi will collect our gear and kayaks and drop it off. Or, we stay at Bark Bay and do some walks in the afternoon. Regardless of where we go, we will need to tent tonight as there is no room at the inn. But it shouldn’t be raining.

Our group decides to walk to Anchorage. Its not often you get to do one of the great walks, without having to carry all the gear!

Kyle suggests we take a walk to see the waterfall again, in this weather it should be more impressive. So we head out to take a look. The water has gone very brown, but otherwise it doesn’t look much different. Still, the walk in the bush is nice. The rest of the morning is spent in the hut, chatting and warming ourselves around the fire.

We have lunch and as promised, the rain stops. We pack up all the gear and take it down to the beach. It’s probably only a 3 minute walk but we have to do several trips and the items get heavier and heavier. We get everything down to the beach, only to find the boat is anchored at the other end of the beach and can’t get down to us. So we then each make a couple of trips back and forth along the beach in the soft squishy, so hard to walk in sand with all the heavy items. Then followed by a river crossing to finally get to the boat. It’s fast flowing water and up to my knees so I take it slowly and manage to not fall in.

That done, we are ready to start our walk to Anchorage Bay. We set off and my fitbit buzzes. I have just completed my goal of 10,000 steps for the day! There are going to be a lot of steps done today!

The walk is beautiful. It’s so nice to be able to explore without having the weight of a tramping pack. Initially I was disappointed, I wanted to kayak Abel Tasman, but I think this worked out for the best. We got to see the park from the sea, now we get to experience it from the land. They are quite different view points.

We then come to a small detour to a lookout point. The group decides not to do it, I’m disappointed, but we agree we will go to the next one. The next one comes around pretty quickly. It’s a 5 mins detour to take us to see Sandfly Bay. Its a steep path down, not a nice, smooth track. We have to almost climb down, finding footing among the tree roots. All I can think about is how we are going to have to come back up this! It takes us way longer than 5 minutes but we finally end up on a golden sandy beach with huge granite boulders that have been smoothed over by the sea. It also lived up to it’s name, although, most beaches in this area have a mass of sandflies. We spend a little while on the beach, I close my eyes and try to soak up the peacefulness, the waves, the birds and cicadas. Lovely.

Then it’s time to head back up. All you can do is place one foot in front of the other and set your own pace. When we reach the top, we all need a break to catch our breath. We notice on the other side of the sign, pointing to Sandfly Bay, someone has scratched a 1 in front of the 5 minutes. 15 minutes, that seems more like it.

We carry on, the track does have some elevated sections, but for the most part it is pretty easy walking. I do find the hills pretty challenging. I walk a lot, but mostly on the flat. Its a well maintained track, it’s probably one of the most walked tracks in the country. It’s mostly through the forest, but every now an again, there is a break in the trees where you can see the ocean and little secluded coves.

We eventually arrive at Torrent Bay. It used to be a farm that then got subdivided. Now there are baches (holiday homes) everywhere. Some are small, modest, olde fashioned kiwi baches, others are a bit more upmarket. It’s a pretty sweet place for a holiday house! Regardless of their size, they would all be worth a fortune!

At Torrent Bay, we are again given 2 options. Anchorage is the next bay over. We can do the low tide walk, which involves river crossings, or, take the high tide route, which takes an extra hour and a half, but takes you past the 10 minute detour to Cleopatra’s Pool where there are large smooth rocks you can slide down into the pool. We have been walking for a while, I might be tempted to take a dip.

The group decide on the low tide walk, they want to get to the campsite, but Red lets Daniel and I take the high tide walk. I am here to see and experience the park. I am taking the opportunities as they come. As we set off, my fitbit buzzes again. 20,000 steps!

It’s nice having this time with just Daniel. We can set our own pace and I can stop when I want to take in my surroundings and enjoy the nature. I don’t mind at all that it’s adding all this extra time to our walk. While the others are walking straight through the lagoon, our track follows it circumference, snaking in and out.

We get to the detour for Cleopatra’s Pool and follow the track alongside the river. The forest here is stunning. Low growing fern, punga, black beach and rimu densely fill the sides of the river. It’s layered and textured and so exquisite. The photo’s just don’t do it justice.

Then the track stops. We have reached the pools but the river has forked and we are on the wrong side. On the other side of the riverbank we can see the sign for Cleopatra’s Pool. We look around but can’t find any track to get us there. There are some big boulders in the river so we decide to cross there. We jump across on the rocks. The last ones are quite far apart. I’m not sure I will be able to make that. Daniel of course does it with ease, then steadies himself, ready to catch me.

One. Two, Three. I jump. I almost don’t make it, but Daniel grabs me and pulls me onto the rock. As I land though, feel something go pop in my leg. I do a quick assessment of my body, I am shaking but I can still walk, good. I am limping a little, hopefully it will be ok. We still have 1.5 hours of walking to do.

The jump across has got us to the pools, but the water is high and fast flowing, it’s also pretty brown. There is no way we will attempt to slide down those rocks, it wouldn’t be safe. So we take some photos, admire the view and then hop back across the rocks to the track. I take a different route, but again, the last step looks too far for me to jump. I am not risking that again. So it’s off with the shoes and socks and I walk the last part. It’s fast flowing water up to my knees, but it’s only a couple of steps and Daniel is right there to help me.

We walk the rest of the track. My leg is a bit sore, but I am managing. I think I will be pretty stiff though once I cool down and my muscles are no longer warm. The track finally leads us out to another beautiful beach. Anchorage Bay. A huge, crescent stretch of golden sand. The sea is green, reflecting the colour of the trees and boats have docked in the quite bay. The water looks so inviting. Again, it is quite a long beach, so we start our walk to the camp. Today’s walk has started and ended on the beach. As we set off, my fitbit buzzes again. 30,000!

We arrive at camp to find the rest of the group have put up our tent. How sweet! There is also a delicious looking spread of wine, chips, cheese, crackers ready for us to dive into. The chips almost hold me hostage, but there is one thing I must do first. Go for a swim.

No one else is keen to join me so I head down on my own. The water is cold and gets deep very quickly (not like at Bark Bay) but it is incredible. I become weightless and my tired, sore, achy muscles are loving it. I am the only one on the beach. The water is so clear and flat, apart form the little circles forming on the surface from the light rain. This is magical. A little perfect moment just for myself. It’s things like this that make life so sweet.

I stay in much longer than I intended because my muscles feel so soothed but I am also starting to get rather cold and we are in a tent tonight so getting warm is going to be a bit harder. I actually find it really hard to get out, I almost fall over twice, my legs are groaning as they are forced to support my weight again. I slowly hobble back to camp, change into warm clothes and sit myself down right in front of the chips and cheese. I’ve earnt this!

The rest of the evening is spent around the picnic table, chatting with our group and enjoying some local wines. Red cooks us dinner and we watch some weka having a stand off. They are such cheeky birds. Not at all afraid and very keen to try and get into the cooking equipment and food. There are lots of fantails at this campsite too. They are such sweet little birds.

Tonight we sleep in our tent. It’s not the most comfortable sleep, but I am exhausted enough that it doesn’t really matter. I fall asleep to the rhythmic sound of the waves and a morepork. It’s been a good day.

Abel Tasman National Park

February, it’s generally the most reliable month in the country for warm, sunny weather. That’s why Daniel and I take our Summer Holiday in February. The weather is great, schools have gone back and it’s getting towards the end of peak tourist season. It’s the perfect time to travel.

And Abel Tasman, it’s in the sunny Tasman region, well know for it’s hours and hours of glorious sunshine.

A multi day kayak through Abel Tasman National Park has been on my bucket list since long before I even knew what a bucket list was. And now I can tick it off the list. And, we did this through some of the worst February weather we have had in a long time, while the country was experiencing a tropical cyclone…..

Day 1.

Actually, I will rewind and start this story on the morning before day 1. Daniel and I are in the dining room of our hostel, quietly eating our breakfast. At the other end of the dining hall is a table of 8 senior citizen women who are making quite a racket. Excitedly chattering away, it looks like they are having a great time. I overhear them talking about going on a kayak tour.

Day 1. Daniel and I step outside the hostel at 6.55am in the drizzling rain, waiting to be collected by Abel Tasman Kayaks. There is a father and son also waiting outside. We get talking and find we are on the same tour. And then, who should also step outside , I know you know where this story is going, the women from the breakfast yesterday. Already their banter has me laughing. They are such a hoot. They will be entertaining companions on this tour that’s for sure!

We are collected by Abel Tasman Kayaks in a shuttle and driven out to Marahau. It takes a bit over an hour but it’s very scenic. We drive along the coastal route. It’s still and the colours of the sky and sea are soft and blended. It looks like a water colour painting. The day is still waking up.

Further into the drive, the rain starts pelting down. This is going to be a very wet trip. It’s pretty disappointing, but what can you do other than roll with it and make the most of the situation?

We arrive at the base and are introduced to our guide Mitchell, but everyone calls him Red. With the assistance of Red, for the next 3 days, we will be exploring Abel Tasman Park with the father and son from this morning and a couple who self drove to the base. The senior citizens are in their own group accompanied by their incredibly patient guide, Kyle.

We pack the clothes we will need into dry bags, and then put everything into the kayaks. We get provided with a tent and sleeping bag and all the food and cooking equipment needed has already been loaded into the kayaks. We are then given spray skirts, spray jackets and life jackets. The rain is heavy and persistent. We are trying to keep dry, sticking to the shelter, but soon there will be no avoiding it.

With the kayaks loaded onto the truck, we head down to the beach. Normally this trip starts with a water taxi ride up to Awaroa in the northern end of the park and then you kayak back down to Marahau over the 3 days. Because of the weather, our tour will be different. We are jumping straight in with a 5 hour kayak to Bark Bay where our guides have managed to secure us a hut for the night (rather than being in a tent.)

After a safety briefing and some instructions on how to paddle, we launch our kayaks. Instantly I notice how quiet it is on the water. It is calm and peaceful with the soft pitter patter of rain on the ocean. It is more like a lake than the sea, it’s so flat.

The bush on the hills is like what I fell in love with on the West Coast. Dense, lush and vibrant. It is every shade of green you can imagine and full of textures. The sea looks green too, reflecting its vibrant colours.

It’s simply stunning.

It doesn’t take long before I start to find the kayaking challenging. I am using muscles that haven’t been used in a while and they are not that happy about being woken up. But I push through it. 1, 2. 1, 2. Finding my rhythm and focusing on the beauty around me. At one point we are accompanied by a school of small fish that skim across the water, their bodies flashing sliver in the light.

We pass gorgeous, sandy bays. Even in the rain on this grey and gloomy day, the sand glows golden. We rest for a while, in our kayaks with the golden beach as our back drop and Red tells us how the area became a national park. It was first opened on the 16th December, 1942, 300 years after Abel Tasman had first sailed these waters. The government had plans to build a coastal road through the area but Nelson resident and environmentalist Perrine Moncrieff collected 1000 signatures and petitioned the government to turn it into a National Park. This was declined, so she wrote a letter to the Queen of The Netherlands, inviting her to attend the opening of the park, signed from the government. The Queen agreed to attend and the NZ government then decided they’d better follow through, not wanting to admit ‘government documents’ had been forged, especially during a World War. I couldn’t find this version of the story on the internet, but that’s what we got told and I very much like this version.

We then head out to Adele Island, named after the wife of French explorer Dumont D’Urville, who mapped the area with incredible accuracy in the early 19th century. Adele Island is home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals (which apparently are actually sea lions) and we were able to watch them on the rocks for a while. At this time of year there were also pups which were very cute. They are too young to know how to swim, but in a month or 2, Red explains that they will be more confident with swimming and are very curious. They will swim right up to you and Red has even had one jump onto his kayak.

It’s time for lunch so we paddle over to Te Pukatea Bay. It’s a perfect little crescent bay, filled with golden sand. Its a shame about the weather. Red puts up a fly and we eat our lunch under the shelter. Despite the persistent rain and being soaked through, I hadn’t felt cold, until now. Once we stopped paddling, everyone in the group started to cool down so we didn’t wait long before jumping back into the kayaks.

The next bit of paddling is hard. It’s called The Mad Mile. This body of water is more exposed. Its choppy and a rather challenging paddle, but we make it through. Before long, we arrive at another beautiful bay, a crescent moon shape and it draws us in.

We have arrived at Bark Bay.

After unpacking all the gear and moving it up to the hut, I decide it’s time for a swim. It’s not great weather, but when am I going to be here again? I am going to make the most of my time in Abel Tasman National Park, whatever the weather. I am joined by 2 others and we head down to the beach for a dip. The water is surprising warm, but also very shallow. We go out so far but it doesn’t get deeper than my thigh. Still, that’s enough water to float around for a while.

We head back to the hut to get warm and dry and find platters of cheese, crackers, dips, chips, wine and beer! This is not camping like I’ve know it, we are far from ‘roughing it’. We gather around the table and spend time getting to know our fellow travelers better, including the ladies in the other tour group. (They took a water taxi to Bark Bay and then did a little kayak in the area) They are such a laugh. They are a group of women, brought together by a shared love of travelling. One of them put an ad in the local paper looking for travel companions 12 years ago and have since done trips all over the world together.

The rain eases off for a bit so Daniel and I head out on a recommended walk to a waterfall. The bush is beautiful. It is so lovely in the rain, all glistening and dewy. There is a bridge by the waterfall which makes for a good viewing point. The water is so clear. It’s not the most impressive waterfall, but it’s certainly nice to get out for a walk and enjoy a rare moment of the day when it is not raining.

Back at the hut, Kyle gathers us all to tell us the story of Abel Tasman discovering Aotearoa and his encounter with the local iwi. It happened in what was called Murderers Bay (now renamed Golden Bay) Through misunderstandings and cultural differences, the encounter didn’t go well. Abel Tasman only spent 5 days in New Zealand waters and never once set foot on this land, yet the whole area was named after him. Kyle’s stories of this land were fascinating and passionate. He really brought the history to life.

We share more stories as a group over a lovely dinner of chickpea curry, followed by pavlova. Yes pavlova! On a kayaking trip. Who would have thought!

We all head off to bed early. It’s been a long and physically demanding day. We are all very grateful to be in the hut tonight and not in a tent! I don’t sleep well at all though, sharing a room with so many people, it’s hot, noisy and not particularly comfy. But I do wake in the morning, so I must have slept for some of it.