Well, I've decided that, although I'm gradually sorting the 2480(!!) photos from my European adventure, it would be easier to update this blog with a post about my latest adventure, my trip to Nelson and the Abel Tasman National park.
I had returned from my trip to Europe excited and motivated to do more travelling, but very conscious that I was a hopeless promoter for my own country seeing as I had never visited the South Island. Shocking I know, but a classic kiwi childhood of holidays spent at our family bach in the far north meant that although I knew a great deal about the top half of the North Island, including all the surrounding area of Matapouri, and vital tips like the coolest swimming spots and where to buy the best fish and chips, at 27 I had yet to cross the ditch to the Heartland.
So, by the fortunate co-occurance of the purchase in a Whitcoulls sale of the Lonely Planet New Zealand, and a long weekend, I was up and away, planning a trip to see the very tip of the South Island, Nelson, and the renowned Abel Tasman National Park.
Now, the South Island is a big place. There is lots to do. Too much for one holiday. So, I will be doing it in smaller chunks, tripping down there to tick off stuff whenever I can. My other influence was my good friends and old flatmates Luke and Annie, who never wasted a long weekend. When they returned and asked how my weekend had been, my tales of ironing in front of a dvd and sleeping in till noon paled dolefully in comparison to their day hikes through Southland and Queenstown adventures. So, now its my turn.
I just had to find an accomplice. Most people have done the South Island, so I thought I would have trouble finding travel mates. However luckily Tania hadn't done that part of the trip before, so it was all go!
It was to be an action-packed weekend. We were going to be kayaking the park. The plan was to fly down to Nelson on the Friday night after work, stay overnight, and then we were booked on a fully guided, fully catered 2 day kayaking trip. The first day was Marahau to Anchorage, where we would camp for the night, and then Anchorage to Onetahuti on day 2.
It was a slightly bumpy start. We ended up being those embarrassing people who get called over the loud speaker because they are holding their plane up.... we're not quite sure how it happened, as our plane was never up on the board as Boarding, but we got chatting and then somehow the waiting room was empty... after hearing our names we tore down through the doors... to find two planes on the tarmac. No signs where to go. Aargh! Eventually we spotted a maintenance guy, bedecked in earmuffs, doing something engineering-related on one of the plane's propellors, so we ran over, signalling wildly, and asked which one went to Nelson. Looking at us like we were half mad, he pointed to the other plane. Dashing over, we discovered the door.... hidden out of sight on the other side of the plane. Jeepers.
Safely arrived in Nelson, we experienced the small town baggage claim system of the unloaded bags been put onto the trailers, and wheeled around the front of the building where everyone just grabs their bag straight off the trailer. Excellent.
We stayed at a place called the Tasman Bay Backpackers, which was a cosy, friendly place about 5-10minutes walk out of town. It was really good, and the lure of free breakfast with fresh homemade bread, and free homemade chocolate pudding every night hooked me.
The next morning, waiting outside in the freezing cold (we'd just entered spring, so although the weather was mild, the temperatures were still icy) at 7am, we started to get a little concerned when the bus hadn't turned up at 7.20 (that's a long time standing in the cold). After calling the main helpdesk, to be assured the bus was on its way, the bus eventually turned up at 7.30... Nelson time is different to Auckland time, we guessed :-)
After a 1.5 hour drive to Marahau, we met the others in our group, a newlywed couple, Brett and Rachel, from Brisbane, who were lovely, and our guide Sam, an easygoing guy who looked uneasily at the amount of clothes Tania and I had bought that we had to store in the kayaks (no sweat... Tania and I are very efficient packers).
Tania getting into her chic kayaking outfit.
A curtsey in my 'skirt'. Our kayak is on the left, the guide's on the right.
A quick technique and safety lesson later (if you capsize, get your Breath, then your Boat, then your Buddy, then your Blade/Paddle) and we were off to the water. The weather was sparkling, the water was calm, and the scenery was stunning; beautiful golden sands creating greeny blue waters, and native bush coming right down to the beach. The temperature was nippy, but the sunshine helped keep us warm, and that combined with the lack of crowds meant I was glad we'd chosen Spring to visit.
The Brisbanites, Brett and Rachel.
Our guide, Sam
Tania being a cheeky monkey.
The main problem we encountered was strength related. Tania and I are fairly fit. But Brett the Brisbanite was a tall, solidly built guy, and with a few lazy strokes, he and Rachel seemed to streak ahead of us, followed by the guide Sam, who does the same route several times a week so must be super-fit. Tania and I were ploughing through, going a fair pace, but we just couldn't keep up. The others would pull way ahead, realise we were behind, so would stop, have a drink, a chat, a rest... and then just as Tania and I pulled up alongside, we'd start off again. It was very frustrating. I realised I hate being last! An hour into it my arms were sore. Two hours in my arms were sore and I was starving. We'd burned off our piddly breakfast within half an hour, I think, and I was longing for chocolate. We should have said something, but we were determined to keep up.
The other problem was that I seemed to be the only one taking photos. This too set us back, as this involved me stopping paddling, pulling the protective box I'd been given off the front of the kayak, undoing the box, wiping any seawater off my hands, taking the photo, then putting it back in the box, sealing it properly, storing it in the front of the kayak again, and continuing. Enough time for the others to stream 20 metres ahead. So I was the official holder-upper of the group: you will need to admire the photos double to compensate :-)
Beautiful quiet coves. Most of my shots were taken in a shaky boat, holding the camera over my shoulder as I was in front and couldn't turn around, snapping just as kayaks moved out of shot, dammit... hence weird cropping.
My viewpoint, Day 1 :-)
A quick stop for lunch, and we were off, finishing up in Anchorage, where from about 100m offshore, Sam pulled out a sail, and with a complex configuration involving all the kayaks linked together, 2 people at the back holding paddles, and us two in front holding ends of the sail while routinely getting soaking wet sections of sail flapping back into our faces, we cruised into the beach in style. We'd kayaked 11km.
After dragging everything to the campsite, we pitched tents, while Sam busily set up a cooking area and sorted dinner. As if Brett and Rachel hadn't had enough, they set off for a bushwalk, while Tania and I lay in the sun and vegetated. Not for long though, as the only rain of the weekend came across in two showers: one while we were pitching tent, the other while we were drying off :-)
Stunning view from the campsite onto Anchorage beach.
Tania in the hub of our campsite, Sam's makeshift kitchen.
Our wee tent amongst the trees, dusk.
After a great dinner of chicken and veges in rice rissotto (it tastes SO much better over a camp cooker) teamed with a couple of bottles of wine and a steamed pudding for dessert, conversations about Australian politics, speed-dating, and the scarily similar formula of all Australasian breakfast television programmes, we hung around the campfire until the bitter cold drove us to bed.
I woke at 5 the next morning to the most deafening bird chorus I've ever experienced; a very cool experience. And at 8, got up, to find Sam making us toast, cereal, bacon and eggs, and orange juice. A much more realistic breakfast for the day ahead.
Anchorage the next morning. Beautiful, huh! I had to get all arty-farty with this cool tree.
Brett and Rachel prepping the kayaks.
Kayaks sitting on pristine, tear-inducingly white sand, under a blue, blue sky. Such a scene of adventure awaiting. Yay for the Great Outdoors.
Me and Tania, Anchorage.
My viewpoint, Day 2: Tania in action, leaving Anchorage. Note Brett and Rachel are ahead already!
Us all together at one stage; I think attempting to sail. Another beautiful beach in the background.
It was another beautiful day, sunny and calm, with a bit of wind around. So many more amazing little beaches tucked into coves, some only accessible by boat, which made it cool that we could explore those parts. Would definitely love to go back and walk the Abel Tasman to see it from that perspective. After a bloody hard slog (I wasn't really enjoying that stretch), Sam directed us to pull into a little beach for lunch, cheerfully telling us we'd managed 8km that morning! As I was having trouble even getting out of my kayak and dragging myself up onto the sand, I could well believe him. Food restored inner peace, and we set about exploring the cool little cove, full of wind-created arches in the rocks and nooks and crannies. It was excellent. It was so sunny and hot, that I was able to get down to a singlet top, and Rachel to a bikini, and soak up the glorious heat. Yay for Nelson microclimate!
Our lunch stop.
Tania exploring the cool cliff nooks and crannies.
Me, looking suitably grubby and shattered, pre lunch.
Cool cliff formations.
After lunch, we did a loop of Tonga Island, where exhaustion was distracted by the sight of all the cool seals chilling out amongst the rocks. Apparently dangerous in the water, they just looked dopey and curious perched up above the water.
Cute seals! Both looking straight at me!
Amazing rock formations around Tonga Island. I mean, really, how did that big slab manage to fall like that? They looked to me like part of a set from Lost.
A stretching-over-the-shoulder-backwards-with-camera-precariously-at-arms-length shot trying to capture both of us in the kayak.
Finally we paddled over to a tiny beach to be picked up by the water bus (we were supposed to cruise into Onetahuti Beach, but headed into this secluded little bay only accessible by boat (which is, I'm guessing, how it came to be called Bonk Bay) where they picked us up from instead. The cove was gorgeous; crystal clear water, stunning yellow sand, and, if the temperature had been a little warmer, I would have been swimming. Definitely a bonkable location.
Cruising into Bonk Bay. The place looks almost tropical.
Parking up on Bonk Bay beach.
Sam surrounded by all our gear at Bonk Bay.
The weather had started to change, and the 20minute ride back to Marahau was lengthened quite a bit as the water bus had to pick up about 4 other people who had been on kayak trips but had abandoned going further as the weather had made it too difficult. Back to Marahau, back on the bus to Nelson, a long shower at the backpackers, and chocolate pudding.... aaaaaaah.
We even had time to work out the bottom half of our bodies the next morning with a 3 hour walk around central Nelson (we were going to do a vineyard tour, but they all started in the afternoon! A gap in the market, we reckoned...) before getting back on a plane (first onto the plane this time!) back to Auckland.
I slept very well that night :-)