|Knowing that one of the best ways to see and experience the unbelievable natural beauty of the Abel Tasman National Park was by kayak, we planned early on to set aside some of our apple-picking earnings to rent some kayaks and go for a paddle. The many kayaking outfitters in the area have kept the competition pretty high, and there are too many companies to choose from, all offering an assortment of 1,2, and 3 day packages. We decided to give an overnight stay in a hut one more go, and signed ourselves up for a one day hike (and overnight stay in the hut) and the "Royal with Cheese" guided kayak day. The outfitters took very good care of us, so much so that our packs were dropped off by boat at the hut for us and were there to meet us at the end of our hike. Pretty cush. The hike was, by all standards, fabulous. The day was that crisp, refreshing autumn weather that really makes you feel alive and happy. With sunny skies, and clear blue/green waters, coupled with good company and nice groomed hiking trails- I would say we had ourselves a fine day. The photos surely help to illustrate this.
That evening we arrived at the Bark Bay hut, to a pleasant crew of hikers. (no youth groups this time). The hut was quite cozy, and we spent our evening cooking alfredo noodles by candlelight on our camp stove, drinking wine and tea, and partaking in a (rather long) game of rummy with an international group of folks. We were a father and son from NZ, two young guys from Austria, a young woman from England, a fellow from southern France, and two fine Americans, sharing in a friendly game of cards by candlelight. It is nights like these truly make you feel fortunate to be traveling as we are, and to know that only by travel can you really have nights like these. We went to bed in our bunks, with fully bellies, and bodies warmed by the woodstove.
Sleep was disturbed (Mandy's sleep, that is) by several snoring men, but it was nothing compared to the circus of 9-year-olds at the previous hut.
Up early the next morning, to yet another bowl of porridge, and another beautiful day in the Abel Tasman. We were to meet our kayak group at 9:30 on the beach.
We turned out to be a small group, just four of us and our guide; Martin from Amsterdam, Tara from Ireland, and us two Americans. Our guide was fantastic; his humor, and knowledge of the animals, fauna and park kept our attention the entire day. It felt great to be out on the water, and to see the park from a different perspective.
We enjoyed a yummy lunch on the beach after about 2 hours of paddling, and had nice conversation over some mochacinos (I told you they took very good care of us!). The clouds and wind rolled in right after lunch, denying us the chance to paddle all the way back to our origin the day before, Kaiteriteri. We moored ourselves on a small beach, and passed a couple of hours while we waited for the water taxi to retrieve us. Our guide kept us busy, with a walk through the bush to a beautiful view, and we all enjoyed a light snack of mussels (picked right there from the rocks, and steamed on the camp stove).
The water taxi arrived, already packed with other marooned kayakers and kayaks, so we squeaked on, Mandy sitting next to Tara on the outside seat. Let's just say it wasn't a dry ride home, and the water was not warm. Although we kept in good humor as we were pummeled with sea water, often times unable to catch our breath between the waves as we were laughing so hard, we were drenched, and miserably freezing when we arrived back at the beach.
Nothing like having wet clothes, being sandy and cold, and arriving back to your van as your only offer for comfort and warmth. We found ourselves a campervan park, and paid the $1 for a hot shower (heaven these days). Then made our way back towards Motueka, and our next adventure- wwoofing