Sink or … Paddle!

“Abel Tasman was a dude, hey?” I said, in a bout of no-unversity-no-job-no-books-except-the-one-I’d-picked-up-from-a-campground-used-book-exchange-I’m-most-definitely-on-holiday intelligence, as we made our way towards the national park named after said dude. We’d spent the night after Tongariro camping in a backyard (I’m quite sure Tim wasn’t lying when he said he knew the family whose holiday home lawn we were crashing,) and then headed down to Wellington to catch the Bluebridge Ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island of New Zealand. After landing in the town of Picton, we headed off on the scenic drive along the coast where I got my first real experience on driving this country’s insanely windy roads – a success, I’m happy to report.

And then we arrived at Abel Tasman National Park. Other things named after Abel Tasman, I’m guessing, include Tasman Bay (that body of water right next to us, while in the park), the Tasman Sea (that bit between New Zealand and Australia), and Tasmania. Not a bad legacy in this chunk of the world, really.

Abel Tasman (the park, that is) is known for one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” a 54.4 kilometers, 3-5 day hike along the coast, up and down rolling headlands and across sweeping beaches. Having done only about 14 k.m. of the entire walk, and climbed at least that many hills, I was quite pleased with the fact that we had not walked the entire thing. I’m quite sure these hills had a rather consistent presence on the track. We opted, instead, to kayak. Cudos to Tim’s planning skills for calling this one, and an awesome surprise for me. We began our trip on the first really rainy day we had thus far, and figured what better place to spend it than in a kayak. We’re going to get wet anyway.

We spent two days in our double kayak, fighting the wind and the surf north along the coastline, dipping into inlets and up rivers to explore during high tide, and floating around islands and spotting seals. There was also the occasional penguin leisurely drifting past, buoyant on the top of the water. Penguins are my favourite animal, so we’d try to get as close as we good to them to snap some photos before they would dive below the surface and then pop up several meters away.

Abel Tasman Kayaking

Despite the near constant rain, we still counted ourselves very lucky with the weather, as camp set-ups and tear-downs stayed miraculously dry for the most part, the sun even making an appearance in the mornings to dry out the tent. We left our kayak on a beach the second afternoon where it was to be picked up by a water taxi, and completed the rest of the journey on foot (up and down those hills I’d mentioned). The walking track was beautiful as well, and gave a difference perspective of the park than seeing it from the water; it was great to have both. There are a couple of areas along the track that must be crossed within a few hours of low tide; they are completely impassable otherwise. Wading through the water with packs on, trotting along beautiful beaches, and catching some stunning views of the ocean we’d just been battling on kayaks was quite extraordinary. We made it to the end of the road where we, like our kayaks had been, were picked up by a water taxi and shuttled the length of our journey home.

Abel TasmanPhoto Credit: Tim Binks

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