So we left Nelson Lakes after our strenuous tramping adventure and we thought we’d do some kayaking at Abel Tasman National Park. It’s a beautiful area along the northwest coast and the views are absolutely stunning. We set up our camper at a Beach Camp and decided to do some hiking the first day. It’s considered one of the Great Walks of New Zealand, but it’s a very popular kayaking place, too. The walks take you up in the bush and then down on these golden, sandy beaches and bays - you go up and down all along the coast. We took a water taxi up the coast for an hour and had a great time hiking back on the track - an easy walk, only about 4 miles with some stops to walk in the inlets and eat our lunch on the rocks overlooking the Tasman Sea. At another beach we met the water taxi for a ride back to our camper. This park is so busy that they have three different water taxi companies running with a set schedule during the day, kind of like hopping on and off the city bus. They have tractors that take the boats out into the water and then pick them up with a trailer and drive them back to the parking lot in town. It looks really odd to see about 5 or six tractors sitting out in the water along the beach.
The next morning we had a double seat sea kayak booked for a two day trip along the coast. We took all of our camping gear, since we’d be kayaking and then stopping at a campsite at one of the bays before continuing on the next day. We had to endure about a two hour orientation about the boats, paddling the coast, things not to do, etc. before they took us out into the bay, gave us a 5 minute check to see that we knew how not to flip our kayak, and turned us loose. Most of the folks that day were going out on half or one day trips with a guide, just us and a young German couple were going out alone. We got started in our kayaks hoping for nice, calm seas to relax and enjoy ourselves, ready to paddle the first 4 miles. Well, that was not to be. We started out fine, went out and around a small off-shore island but then after we had our lunch, the winds started to pick up. The water began to get choppy, the skies darkened and the wind was howling!!! Fortunately for us, the wind was at our back most of the way to our campsite stop - at one point, we just let the wind take us in the direction we wanted to go without even paddling. By the time we got to the bay and turned the corner the wind was blowing away from the beach right into our faces and we really had a hard time paddling and getting onto the beach. We made it into Anchorage Bay though and camped at a large campground. To give you an idea of this overpopulated ’wilderness’, we had flush toilets, drinkable water, a shelter to cook under and just down the beach was a hut with 28 bunks with all the facilities.
The next day was fine - we kayaked another 4 miles and went around an island with a seal colony - saw some adorable baby seals climbing on the rocks. Had a great trip although we were both feeling the effects of using their heavy aluminum/fiberglass paddles, not like our superlite paddles at home. Our water taxi picked us up at our beach as scheduled and told us about the freak storm we’d run into the day before. Apparently, many kayakers got dumped into the sea and had to be rescued, some were stranded and had to hike all the way back, nobody got seriously hurt, and according to the boat driver who’d been there 15 years they hadn’t seen winds like that ever, in the history of the park!!!!!!!!! Just our luck - our calm, gentle seas turned into a raging wind storm!!!!! We also found out later that this unforecast storm hit Wellington later in the day and caused a few hundred thousand in damages. What fun!
So, to top it off, we get back to base camp with our water taxi and see a hundred Harleys parked along the coast near our campervan. The NZ Hells Angels are in town! No kidding, big ugly guys with tattoos and stringy hair and vests with their insignias, real Angels. The boat driver commented that it looked like every Hells Angel in NZ was there, Bruce had him laughing because he said they weren’t too scary because none of them looked to be under 60 years old.
Quote of the day: Heading up the coast in our kayak we decided to stop into a lagoon to take a break and have something to eat. The lagoon is draining into the sea through a narrow channel with shallow sand on one side and large rocks on the other side; small waves are coming in and breaking over the outgoing current. Marsh is in the back, she has the rudder and controls the steering. We make a wide turn and head into the current which turns our kayak and starts heading us toward the rocks, I’m paddling as hard as I can shouting “Left! Left!”, she yells back in a panicky voice - “I’M LEFTING, I’M LEFTING!!” We made it.