All in a days worth at Abel Tasman
Every inch of the sky as far as the eye could see was covered in a blanket of sparkling diamonds. I was standing in PJ’s completely awestruck on the front patio of our rooms. It was 4:30 in the morning in Abel Tasman and the stars were out in full force! If I had known that was going to be my last chance to see that incredible New Zealand night sky I never would have gone back to bed. We had arrived in Abel Tasman National Park early evening after a very very long drive from Picton. I was instantly captivated by its natural beauty. Abel Tasman National Park, the smallest of New Zealand’s National Parks, was named after the explorer Abel Tasman. Who was the first European to discover New Zealand. He first anchored off of Golden Bay which now borders one end of the park.
The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is rated as one of the countries great walks and can be done between 3-5 days. I unfortunately only had a day in the park but I got to experience a little bit of the hike plus take to the sea and enjoy the park from a seals point of view. As you know, NZ is the land of outdoor activities. One of the ones on my bucket list was sea kayaking. Since I was a little girl and watched a sea kayak interact with a pod of whales off of Meat Cove, the Northern tip of Nova Scotia, I have wanted to give sea kayaking a go and Abel Tasman is one of the top places to try it in New Zealand. So when in Rome.
I booked a full day outing of half self guided hike and then half kayaking. Only three of us on our bus booked that particular activity so morning arrived and Nicolas, Yves and I were given directions on where to get started, a time to be at Watering Cove for lunch and explained the kayak back. It was around 9 when we left and we had to be at the Cove by 12:30 for our lunch which was sandwiches and very melted chocolate cake. This was only day two of my Stray experience so I didn’t really know many people yet. My fellow hikers included. Pointed in the right direction we set off to find the beginning of the trail, conveniently a stones throw from the kayaking centre and began the process of getting to know each other chatting away in a mixture of English and my rudimentary French.
The hiking or tramping as they call it in New Zealand, or at least the small section of the trail we did was breath taking. The day was the perfect tramping temperature, the sunshine was beaming, the sea sparkled and there was plenty of shade along the path which runs directly beside the granite cliff sides. We even picked up a fellow traveller, Ran, who was from Israel and was jumping off the Stray bus here so he could do the 5 day trek. I was slightly jealous. Our walk was done way too soon and from what I had seen it only made me want to keep going but our gooey chocolate cake was calling.
Next up was learning how to paddle. Each kayak held two persons. Somehow I lucked out and was given the role of navigator. I sat at the front while my partner was in charge of steering. I felt kind of bad as she definitely had the harder role. It was pretty windy out there. Each of us were given a spray skirt which kind of feels like you are wearing a strange tutu that fits over the edge of the kayak seat to keep you dry, a life jacket and our paddles. I was tucked into the kayak first as I was in the front and dug into the sand with my paddle to help push out. Well as much as one can do when you are strapped into a kayak. I still felt very useless as everyone else helped push off. My kayak buddy jumped in, secured herself and off we went out into the crystal clear waters of Abel Tasman National Park. Our little party of three boats plus our guide headed off down the shoreline heading back towards the main beach. The best part about Kayaking is how close you are to the water. I grew up on speed and row boats but Kayaking makes you feel as if you are part of the landscape. Swimming without getting wet. Unless you fall in. We didn’t spot any seals but we saw some fish and cormorants while battling with the wind and cold. By the time we got back to the beach I was numb but smiling ear to ear. We did jumping jacks and played catch the paddle trying to keep warm while waiting for the tractor to come and take us all back to camp.
That evening I worked on my socialising and kicked the shyness to the side as we made fajitas for dinner and roasted marshmallows over the kitchen fireplace. You really can’t beat toasted marshmallows. The only thing that was missing were graham crackers and a wee taste of chocolate. My time in Abel Tasman was drawing to a close and it was just enough to wet the lips and add it to the list of wanting to visit again. The next morning it would be a bright and early start to head off to Westport with promises of Nippers Famous Burger.