Saturday 20 January 2018

Abel Tasman Kayaks - Day 3: Not having our kayak or eating either

Grass is softer than sand, was today's first lesson - which makes sense, of course, since sand is rock. Granite, specifically, here. Also, if you sleep scrunched up it spreads the load from your hips. And it helps to be physically tired. All of which is to report that I slept much better last night, thanks for asking, which was just as well since today was to be the most physically demanding of the trip.
I've done some tramping in my time. Greenstone Valley, Milford, Hollyford and Hump Ridge Tracks, the Tongariro Crossing - plus *cough* the Inca Trail - as well as shorter tasters in all sorts of places (some of them with added bears) - so I know I can do reasonable distance and heights. What was new about today though was carrying all my own gear.  I KNOW! Gasp and all that. All those multi-day hikes I've done were supported, by which I mean that I only carried a day pack, all the rest of my stuff being carted to the next night's accommodation by either helicopter or porter. Go on, sneer if you like - but I still walked all the steps; and was arguably in a better state to enjoy my surroundings than those people bent over under their huge backpacks. Humph.
Anyway, today I was one of those people. Our gear has been stuffed into the kayak holds up till today, but Abel Tasman Kayaks spirited our boat away yesterday because the tour we opted for means that today we walk back to our pick-up point at Anchorage, so we are the transport from here on in. The main problem for me was my tent which, since I rarely use one (and have never needed to carry it, see above) is old-fashioned and heavy - the complete opposite of the space-age set-up the Baby has, which both weighs and folds down to nothing. Me, I'm stuck in the past where heavy nylon and metal poles rule. So even putting my pack on this morning was a struggle (upper-body strength never having been my, er, strong point).
Never mind. We set off on yet another gorgeous sunny morning, the sea turquoise blue and, now that the rough weather has been over for a couple of days, beginning to clear nicely to the transparency that all the Abel Tasman tourism literature makes such a feature of, as in this stolen pic:
So, the tramp? I'll spare you the detail. It was hot and sunny, cool and shady, up and along and down, repeat. There were many photo stops, it being super-photogenic New Zealand and all; there were rest stops, it being me and all; there was talking and panting, quite a lot of sweating, ferns and fern shadows, bush, streams, bridges (including one swing bridge), streams, waterfalls, mossy rocks, bellbirds, quails, beaches, bush, views long and short.
And people. Lots and lots of people, which surprised, pleased and dismayed me in pretty much equal measure. I mean, great that there were so many people out there getting exercise and enjoyment from the scenery; but amazing and a bit disappointing that so many of them were foreigners - I mean, why aren't Kiwis doing this more? - and finally, where were the peace and solitude you (I) expect in the bush? No wonder the track was so well maintained, with all this traffic.
There were long-distance trampers with huge packs and some of them carrying gas stoves in their hands like briefcases, day-walkers like us, and even people straying away from the nearest beach in bikinis and jandals. Some played music, many were nattering loudly (so I knew they were German - so many Germans! it was like a walk in the Black Forest - and Brits, Americans, Spanish, Chinese), and there was a traffic jam of selfie-takers at the suspension bridge. I was pleased to see so many solo girls, though.
We paused at Bark Bay again, where I was so glad not to be going in the opposite direction because it was a LONG steep climb that way, and where we waded through the lagoon, disturbing the oystercatchers and learning from the cheerful DOC guy cleaning the toilets that 29 degrees was predicted for today. (The DOC campsites we used and passed through, by the way, were the basic ones with nothing more in the way of facilities than a tap and a toilet. No showers, people! That's what the sea and the rivers are for...) We pressed on, past the lovely Sandfly Bay lagoon, and stopped above Torrents Bay to marvel at this little settlement of baches with no road access, tucked behind a finger of dazzling golden sand, alongside a tidal lagoon. Lovely.
Except, when we got down there, first of all we discovered that our planned lunch of pizza snacks was nowhere to be found, the Baby "100% convinced" that it had been stolen in the night from the tent fly by a greedy weka - yet another of our flightless birds, and much less shy than the kiwi. So we nibbled some kind of chocolate truffle things, washed down with filtered water. And then, instead of being able to cross the lagoon on the low tide track, we had to trail around its far reaches, adding an extra hour to our hike (the Baby did test the depth: they were right).
It was pretty, though, and it did mean that the Baby got a second chance at Cleopatra's Pool when we went past the turn-off, and ticked off her rock-slide while I sat feebly on the main track, eavesdropping on the passers-by and thoroughly enjoying not having my pack on my shoulders. 
And then we got back to Anchorage, to sit on the beach marvelling at the water taxis loading up more and more kayaks - 19 was the record - before it was our turn to climb aboard and whizz back to Marahau.
Abel Tasman Kayaks were so impressively efficient at this end, too: as our water taxi approached the beach, a team of tractors headed into the water towing trailers that the taxis drove straight up onto, so that the tractor could then trundle with us up out of the water onto the carpark. There the guys unloaded the kayaks super-fast, and we then stayed in the boat as the tractor towed it back to the kayak depot down the road. Brilliant. And then, after a bit of a R&R, the shuttle came to collect us and distribute us back to our various accommodations in Nelson - the Prince Albert again for us. Such a good service (plus, they support pest eradication in the park).
And that was it, our kayak/tramping adventure all over. I'm so glad the Baby thought of arranging it for us. It's something I've wanted to do for ages, but I would probably never have got around to it on my own. It was extra special too, having the time with her, and doing it together. Best Christmas present ever!

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