Friday 19 January 2018

Abel Tasman Kayaks - Day 2: Saturated. In both senses

You know how people rave about falling asleep to the soothing lap of waves on a beach? And there are even apps supplying that sound to insomniacs? Well, t'ain't so. Not in real life, not when you're lying a couple of metres from endlessly busy waves, it isn't. Slap, crash, slap, crash, all sodding night long. Plus there were snorers in some of the tents who were physically so close to me, that they might have been sharing my bed. Except there was no bed, just a ridiculous yoga mat that was nowhere near thick enough to enable more than a half-hour's sleep at a stretch, before the hips started complaining. Also, it got colder than anticipated. And don't get me started on those bloody night birds, squawking away with no consideration whatsoever for us diurnal types.
So, after a night like that, it speaks volumes for the beauty of Abel Tasman National Park that as soon as I emerged, bent and creaky, from my tent, the first person in our little bay to see the golden early morning light over the painted beach, the (finally) calm glossy sea, the green bush and islands and the sculpted rocks, it all immediately calmed my soul and put me into a good mood for the day's adventure. The Baby's excellent muesli and coffee on the beach set me up well for our assault on the Mad Mile - a couple of kilometres around a headland, exposed to the full force of the wind.
Except, there was no wind. Later, there would be, but up so early we were able to skim around the headland on water almost lake-like, with the leisure to observe the shags and gulls, appreciate the beauty of the bush and rocks and hidden little bays. It was gorgeous. We swept past Anchorage where we'd walked to yesterday, detoured around Pinnacle Island to look at fur seals on the rocks, couldn't go into the Sandfly Bay lagoon because the tide was wrong, and pulled in at Bark Bay which should have been our first overnight if the wind hadn't been so strong yesterday and the sea too rough.
It was a lot bigger than Watering Cove, so there was room for everyone to have their own space, plus it had a beautiful lagoon. Still quite early, the colours were saturated: green water, gold sand, blue sky, black rocks. It was gorgeous - but then, if we hadn't stopped at the Cove, we wouldn't have seen the elephant. Also, it was much busier at Bark Bay: already water taxis were buzzing in and out, delivering people and kayaks, impressively efficient in their arrival and departure off the beach. They would approach the shore, turn around, drop the anchor just so, back in to the beach and, when the anchor chain was at full stretch, the boat stopped in exactly the right spot to drop the ramp for the passengers to step ashore - and then, departing, the same in reverse. Very professional.
We set off again - also, if I say it myself, practised and efficient ourselves - out across the bay to tackle Foul Point with confidence. And rightly so: in today's calm conditions it was a piece of weasel. We could see the North Island quite close, there were more rocks and shags and bush to enjoy, and the picturesque Tonga Arches - and then, suddenly, we were at Onetahuti Beach, our final stop - and it wasn't even lunchtime!
This was the end of the kayaking section of our trip, and we glided into the beach a bit sorry, a bit glad (sore bum from the hard seat). And then, in the last seconds, it all fell to pieces: I got half out, a wave pushed the kayak, it knocked me over backwards with one leg still caught inside, and I disappeared under the water until I was able to kick my leg free and stand up. Typical - and funny.
Here I set my tent up on the grass, hopeful for a softer sleep than on last night's hard-packed sand, and after lunch and a nap Abel Tasman Kayaks very efficiently turned up to reclaim their kayak; and the Baby and I set off for a walk to Awaroa. We strolled along the gloriously golden beach, took a curving boardwalk through a wetland and across an artistic bridge over a clear and tannin-stained creek, and climbed over the next bluff and down to Awaroa. Where, dear reader, we found a pizzeria/cafe/bar set under the trees with bean bags and WiFi! After almost two whole days in the wilderness, deprived of social media, what a treat that was. It wasn't even that busy there, considering how many people we'd seen in kayaks, on the beaches and in the campgrounds, and along the track. Mostly Germans, it seemed - certainly the people on the bean bags next to us were German. "Ich bin Spiderman!" their little boy was shouting at his sister as they played.
It was all so relaxing that we didn't much mind when we learned we'd missed the water taxi back to Onetahuti by five minutes, and had to walk back again instead. The sun was lower, the colours richer, and it was just gorgeous. We even rescued some starfish that had inexplicably got marooned on the sand, a long trail of them. We had b-in-b butter chicken for dinner, sitting on the beach, I had a swim in the warm, shallow water, there were gannets and gulls, crickets and cicadas, dotterels, quails and pukeko, well-behaved waves lapping on the sand and, after everyone else in camp had organised their dinners and retired early for the night, it was quiet. Fabulous. A 10/10 day.

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