NELSON / ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK - Sunday 28th January to Thursday 1st February (Days 93-97)
Fearing we were running behind schedule on our tour of NZ we decided to head straight from Fox Glacier to Nelson. This involved making a long and tiring 11 hour bus journey up the west coast of the South Island, in the process missing out on our planned train journey across the Southern Alps (the TranzApline) and up the east coast to Kaikoura. For the entire journey it absolutely poured down, and was still doing so when we arrived late in the evening in Nelson, our gateway to Abel Tasman National Park for a 3-day/2-night walk & seakayak starting early the next morning. It's all go on this trip!!
TOUR DAY 1
We awoke early to brilliant sunshine, a complete contast to the previous day, and were transferred to Kaiteriteri for a 3 hour boat ride north along the Abel Tasman NP coast to Totaranui. Our fellow tourists numbered only 6, a young couple from London on their honeymoon, and a couple of older women from NZ, plus our guide Jock. We made a transfer by dinghy onto the beach where we had a brief break for lunch before embarking on a 2 hour walk (the northern part of the Abel Tasman coastal track) through beautiful forest, filled with absolutely deafening cicada beetles. The track also afforded superb views of the coves that make up Abel Tasman NP, and in some places meant walking along the beaches. The final part of the walk meant wading across the Awaroa inlet (see pics) to Meadowbank Homestead for our first nights stay. The lodge was lovely, the lodge hosts providing us with a superb 3-course meal. This is the only way to go, none of your camping stuff for us!
TOUR DAY 2
We awoke to yet another glorious day and set off for another 2 hour walk this time to Onetahuti beach where we had a cuppa and waited for our 2-man seakayaks to be dropped off by boat. When they finally arrived Jock gave us instructions on how to paddle (useful info for kayaking!) and a safety briefing on the beach before we set off. I was a bit nervous having never kayaked before, Gill was terrified not really having a liking for water! We attempted to set off from the beach and immediately tipped over, fortunately in only about a foot of water!! We both got soaked and had to pump our kayak out!! Not a promising start for 2 days of kayaking on the sea!! Anyway we eventually got going and set out to see some seals on Tonga Island Seal Colony. We stopped off at another glorious beach for lunch before arriving after about a total of 4 hours on the water at another superb lodge, Torrent Bay Lodge, for our second nights stay.
TOUR DAY 3
We were just about getting used to the technique required for kayaking by day 3, although keeping in sync with Gill's strokes (she sat at the front of the Kayak) wasn't always easy! (I sat at the back and did the stearing). Although the sea was fortunately at its calmest (if it hadn't been I think Gill would have decided to give up!) there were a few points around bluffs where the sea was rougher with rocks we had to negotiate that Gill thought would cause us to sink. We stopped on another delightful beach for lunch where Jock demonstrated how weave a flower as done by Maoris. We also made a short climb to a lookout, apparently the most photographed beach in NZ. We eventually made it safely to Marahau beach, the end of our adventure.
Abel Tasman NP is simply stunning, if a little crowded (It's the smallest NZ National Park with over 200,000 people a year visiting. I think access restrictions will have to be brought in). We both thoroughly enjoyed seakayaking (Gill saying so only after making to the end!) and couldn't think of a better place anywhere to give it a go. The company we used (Wilson's Experieneces) were great, from our guide Jock, to the beautiful lodges, and meals. THIS IS A MUST TRIP IN NZ!!!!!