…continuing on to the South Island.
Thursday, January 8th 2015
We woke up in our tent at 6am. We immediately packed up and packed our hiking packs and drove into the Abel Tasman Center in the beach town of Marahau. Once there we had breakfast of cold cereal, berries, and coffee while we waited until 8:30am for our orientation to begin for our adventure. We met our instructor for the morning, Dale, who gave us a lot of instruction about our sea kayaks. He walked us through how to pack it, how to board and unboard on shore, our vests and kayak skirts and the Abel Tasman area in general. They drove us and the kayaks to the unloading beach and set us free after only 5 minutes practice on the water.
The first bit of paddling was certainly no joke. We had a fair amount of head wind and a good amount of swell. At this time the weather was also quite cold and gray, which we were not expecting and not very keen on. We made our way to Adele Island to take a bit of a break. We then made our way to the next island where we caught sight of tons of seals on the rocks and jellyfish in the water. We kayaked back inland to the Observation Beach, pulled ashore, and this was when the sun decided to come out and never disappeared for the entire rest of our stay in the National Park. After a long rest and soaking up of the sun we got back in the kayak for the so-called Mad Mile (supposedly stronger winds and currents in a mile stretch) and then found our first reserved campsite in the bustling but peaceful Anchorage Bay.
We picked a site first, as there were so many fellow campers, then stowed our kayak in the overnight racks when I stubbed my toe really bad! Ouch!!! I thought I might have broken it but within 24 hours it was feeling fine. We spent some time just laying on the beach, watching the sailboats and activity on the water and on shore. We then got to making our camp; Bryan set up the tent while I prepped dinner. And it was a good dinner! We used a dry sauce packed for alfredo, boiled the pasta and some sliced carrots on the camp stove and then added the sauce, dry milk powder, cheese and diced precooked chicken. This was much enjoyed on the the beach, watching the ocean, boats lulling in the water, and the slow-moving setting sun. We made hot cocoa just before heading to bed at 9:30pm. It had been a long day!
Friday, January 9th 2015
Friday morning began nice and slow. We woke with the sun and made cereal with more of those fresh cut strawberries (I was determined to get my fill of them this trip while they were in season there) and our trusty Starbucks Via coffee packets for breakfast. We packed up camp, walked our kayak to shore and were on the water by 9:30am. No instruction needed this morning and with the full day and a moderate distance to travel we had our time to thoroughly enjoy our morning on the water. And we did. There were very few clouds, the beautiful turqouise green water, sandy beached and gentle waves it was perfect. We took our time exploring every cove and then made our way into the lagoon at Bark’s Bay as high tide was setting in. This lagoon led us inland quite aways to enjoy a lovely waterfall. We decided to stop and lounge on Bark’s Bay for a time, swimming, sunning and cooking the rest of our chicken.
A little after noon, right about high tide, we set out again to make it to Onetehuiti Beach, where we were to leave our kayak for pickup. This is where the trip got exciting. We were kayaking through very strong head winds, a strong current, and large waves were giving us a good amount of air and were not letting up. They were not letting up for a full hour through what is appropriately named Foul Point. To make it even better I was completely rowing blind; my big brimmed hat that I wore to protect my face from the sun was being pushed down past my eyes and adjusting was doing me no good and I really couldn’t ease up on the rowing to get be able to get us anywhere.
Both of us were quite exhausted by the time we pulled ashore. We unpacked our kayak and repacked our bags as we had 1km to hike back to our campsite for the night; of which was at the Tonga Quarry camp, an old gravel mining camp with another beautiful white sand beach, and this one way more quiet and secluded which we both liked. We made it to camp at about 3:30pm with lots of daylight still. That night we made camp again but this time on sand with a fantastic view straight out on the water and to a tiny little island in the distance. We put up the hammock to enjoy the views and then Bryan showed me how he makes his legendary backcountry pizza.
He started with the dough; activating the yeast, kneading it, and then letting it rise in a plastic bag sitting in the hot sun and sand. Thirty minutes later it was ready for the pan, along with handy tomato sauce packets we had found, cheese and salami slices. The pizza came out so fantastic. We enjoyed this on the beach with the views of the sea and beer in hand. Beer? We were given two Tui IPAs to drink from the fellow campers who we allowed to use our picnic table. Pizza and beer on the beach…doesn’t get much better than that! We were sound asleep again by 10pm.
Saturday, January 10th 2015
Our last morning in Abel Tasman may have been the most beautiful yet. We woke up at 6am to a glorious orange sunrise on the beach. I snapped a few photos before packing up our dewey tent. Our last day in Abel Tasman was to hike from Tonga Quarry to Totaranui Beach. We had to get an early start on the day because we to make the Awaroa Bay crossing with two hours of low tide (+/- 7:30am). We hiked 9 km to Awaroa in mostly shaded forest with occassional views of the beautiful cliffsides and water below.
We made it to Awaroa with plenty of time to spare. It was very interesting walking a good distance in the bay on what is often the ocean bottom. I had to take my tennis shoes off twice to cross little estuaries. When we were safe across the crossing we took a long break for our delayed breakfast and waited for the tide to come in. It wasn’t until about 11:30am when the water was filling the entire back. It took its dear sweet time.
Just before noon we resumed our hike from the bay. We still had over 5km to reach our destination. The sun was hot and we had a few unsheltered beach sections of the walk that were toasty. Bryan was wearing his chacos and was fightin through the pain that led to quite a story. That granite sand was getting in between the straps and had immediately made good cuts in his skin. The last 1.5 km was the hardest part of the whole day. We made it to the final beach just before 2 pm and were luck to catch the 2 pm water ferry back to the base at Marahau. The water taxi back took nearly one hour which showed us just how much distance we had covered in three days. We felt pretty good about that though Bryan’s foot didn’t feel so good. And we both just remembered how hard I was laughing at his during the hike with his wrapped feet.
We got back to the car around 3 pm, stopped at a roadside cafe for a chicken quesadilla and roasted vegetable salad to share and then set out driving again. I was at the wheel for around 4 hours, driving through wine country, then through winding mountains and finally to the West Coast, known as “The Coast”. Our destination for the night was to make it to the city of Greymouth for dinner and a hotel so we could shower. Unfortunately, when we pulled into Greymouth every single hotel and motel had “NO VACANCY”signs posted to their windows. After finding nothing we headed to our good ‘ole backup; the Top Ten Holiday Park in town. We were happy to hear that they still had a tent site available and we learned that the reason for the city’s popularity that night was a one day horse race; The Kumara Races, just north of town.
After we had our site claimed we headed back to town for dinner. We saw an Indian Restaurant open on the main drag and headed there, fearing that nothing else would be open at 9pm. We got a chicken mango curry, which was creamy and delicious, and a lamb in tomato sauce curry that was an uncreamy and bland as one could get and still call it Indian food. We also savored the warm garlic naan and Bryan had a Kingfisher beer.
Once full and happy we headed back to once more hastily make up camp as really we just wanted to take our warm showers after two nights backpacking. After cleaning up we settled into the first TV and internet in the vacant TV room in ages where Bryan fell asleep, per usual.
Hold on tight because there are many more adventures that took place on the South Island…