Thursday, January 18, 2018

Abel Tasman Kayaks - Day 1: Off (but not out)

The rain, it rained all night. And it was still raining when we were picked up by the Abel Tasman Kayaks shuttle that took a bunch of us to their depot in Marahau. We crossed several rivers brown and swollen by rain - the Wairau was particularly impressive - but as we drove past farms and vineyards into the hills, the sky gradually cleared and by the time we were introduced to our kayak, it was, hooray, a lovely sunny day. The depot was also flooded along the middle, but fortunately they had all their kayaks stacked up out of the water (haha) and there was a bit of grass for us to practise our drills on. I hand it to AT Kayaks, they're certainly thorough. Positively American. 
It wasn't just how to paddle a kayak and put on a lifejacket - rather terrifyingly, it was also how to escape a capsized kayak and then climb into it again. Plus pumping, flares, all that. And then there was the waiver to sign. Pretty nerve-wracking stuff, even if cheerfully delivered. It's not as if we were going in a guided group - oh no, we were heading off out to sea, solo. Yay. Five minutes later, at the beach, we had to demonstrate we could paddle, steer, turn and reverse - and then we were off, and were straight away on our own.
The Baby and I were sharing a double kayak so the work was halved, and we were able to chat which was nice, and reassuring - once we'd established trust re steering, etc. It was a bit choppy, and there were rocks to avoid, but we soon got into the rhythm and, looking at the map, realised that it was very large scale and that in fact today's distance was very do-able, despite not setting off till mid-morning. It helped that we'd been advised not to try to go round the off puttingly-titled Mad Mile today in the wind - no argument from us - and to camp a bit closer than scheduled tonight.
So we pootled along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park, with its bush and rocks and occasional yellow sand beaches, its shags and seagulls, and got to Watering Cove in time for a late lunch of rolls and salad (all catering done by the Baby, good for her). The site, just above a sandy beach, was flat, but very small given that a number of other kayakers were heading there to overnight too for the same reason as us, so we pitched our tents straight away. Good thing, too - when we came back later from our walk, it was elbow-room only. No big deal, but not quite what I'd expected. This is New Zealand! We don't do crowds in the bush...
Anyway, the afternoon we spent walking to Anchorage on the other side of the headland, which was even busier: long beach, big DOC campsite, masses of kayaks lined up on the sand, water taxis buzzing in and out, people swimming and sunbathing... So we wandered on along the impressively well-maintained track and took a detour to Cleopatra's Pool, where there's meant to be a natural rock slide between pools in the river. But with all the rain we've had, the water was gushing down and - sorry to sound feeble again, it's really not my usual state - it didn't appeal to me, though the Baby did her best to give me the willies.
Back at Watering Cove - which is surrounded by picturesque sea-sculpted rocks, one of them just like an elephant's head (with eyes and ears carved in by some anal type who didn't trust anyone to see it for themselves) - we (she) cooked our boil-in-the-bag dinner which came with wine tonight. Very impressive. Other people were cooking up their meals too, not all of them as efficiently as the Baby, who has had long practice with her kit. I heard one young boy, clearly a novice, asking loudly "Where's the kitchen?"
We ate by the beach, the sun lowered behind more cloud, we settled down for the night in our tents, arms and legs equally tired from the day's exercise, and it seemed odd to me that we were in a remote location, far from a road, and yet it was busy and noisy with people chatting right up close. And then, quite quickly, it went quiet and all I could hear were the waves on the beach and the occasional hooting of some unidentifiable night birds.

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