Kayaking In the Abel Tasman N.P.

Yesterday we headed out to Marahau Bay to pick up our sea kayak so that we could go and explore the Abel Tasman National Park. Upon arrival we were given all our gear and told to pack the boat before then being shown how to paddle forwards, backwards, turn and to stop. They had to make us prove that we could do it before they would let us take the boats out on our own, fair enough i guess, but I found it pretty funny when he is trying to teach me how to paddle forwards!

We we’re the last to leave the beach in our trusty fiberglass kayak who we named Keith. Keith seemed to like the fact that we had named him and turned out to be a bit of a dark horse. I thought he’d be really slow as he was so bloody big compared to the plastics but turns out he was a beast and we we’re soon flying along passing people left right and centre. Before we knew it we looked back and we’d passed everyone, Keith was eating up the water! i came to think that because he was obviously so old, he probably didn’t get out much and so now he was being given the opportunity, he was going to show us what he was made of.

As we exited the bay we arrived at what is known as “Mad Mile” both of us agreed that it wasn’t so mad really, there was a bit of surf but nothing to class it as mad, you just had to watch out for the rocks. Continuing north we were helped out with having no head wind and soon made it to Torrent Bay where we stopped and enjoyed a well deserved lunch break. After lunch we headed across the bay to Anchorage Bay where we were to spend the night. We lay on the beach until about 4pm when we were picked up by chris the owner of Aqua Packers, our hostel for the night, with one big difference. It was a 18m Catamaran house boat, we had a really good evening though laughing and joking with everyone and then watching the stars from the boat and spotting the McNought Comet which is visible over New Zealand at the moment,

This morning we all got up had breakfast and headed back to the beach, we we’re the only ones continuing up north via the sea and the rest of them were hiking the wimps! Unfortunately, first thing this morning, hiking didn’t look like such a bad idea. As we left the bay we were greeted with a rather strong (15-20Knot) head wind… nice when you have a 12k paddle ahead of you! We carried on regardless and battled onwards across the choppy waters and out into the sea. The problem was now obvious regarding Keith, he was a absolute tank, incredibly hard to keep in a straight line in the swell even with the rudder and not only that he was susceptable to a fair bit of roll. This was a tad concerning from my point of view as the last thing i wanted was for this beast to get hit side on by a wave and for us to capsize as there was absolutely no way i could have rolled it back up on my own it was too long, too heavy and i was sat too far back. To try to avoid this i decided the best thing to do was to head out to sea and not along the coastline, by doing this we managed to cut through the waves and poor old Keith wasn’t battered from side to side quite so much. However…. Kate did get soaked in the process as the soon to be familiar sound of fiberglass crashing on top of another breaking wave would send a big salty splash up into her face, lucky i was at the back hey!? (sorry about that kate, but i did it for our own good!)

After what seemed like an eternity of getting beaten about in the rough we found some shelter at Mosquito Bay and stopped there for a loo break before continuing north towards Tonga Island. Noticing on the map that there were usually off shore winds that blew towards Tonga, we soon managed to find it and managed to get out to the island much quicker than what we would have if we’d have continued to battle the head wind. When we got to Tonga Island we were surrounded by seals swimming and playing in the water. All the little baby ones sat on the rocks screaming their hearts out. As the water was really sheltered on the back of the island Kate managed to get her camera out and became chief photographer as i manouvered Keith as close to the seals as possible. There were a few of them that were really funny and kept showing off and coming right up to the kayak, jumping out of the water splashing about and stuff, it was really cool to watch and well worth the hard paddle to get there.

By the time we had finished gawping at the seals we headed back to Big Tonga and moored the boat and waited for the water taxi to come and collect us and Keith and take us back to Marahau. We finally made it back to the beach and then drove to Nelson about an hour away.

The plan is to now go to the North island tomorrow as we’ve pretty much done everything we have time for in the south. The last two days have been really great, and the weather has been brilliant. I have, however, learnt one thing, I’m not made for sea kayaking, my shoulders are aching much more than they usually do.

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