Sun’s Out, Guns Out

It was an early morning for the team and we ate a quick breakfast before heading 45 minutes up the road to meet our kayak company at the entrance to Abel Tasman.  After checking in, we were shuttled over to the launch point where we met Ruby, our guide for the day, and the other two people in our kayak group, who we literally learned nothing about.  Ruby was a 30 something former veterinarian who recently gave up the hussles and bussles of farm medicine for living the life of a sea kayak guide.  We were all a little inspired and jealous.  As we waited to leave, tragedy struck! Lynn discovered that I had neglected to load the SD card back into our camera the night before.  At least I had my GoPro with us so we would still be able to get some pictures.

We soon loaded up in a boat that was trailered on an old Ford tractor, rode down onto the tidal flats and on into the surf.  The tractor seemed very unconcerned and was up to its floorboards in the ocean before the boat could float away.  The water was quite choppy and some grey clouds above us did not bode well for the day’s kayaking.  The ride out did nothing to assuage our fears as we bounced through very large swells in a ride that Lynn and I both agreed was more exhilarating than our jetboat. Along the way we passed a number of kayaks washed up onto some rocky cliffs.  We would later learn that a boat ferrying the kayaks up to our start point had almost flipped and spilled its kayak load all over the bay.  The kayaks would be stranded until the tide went out more and it was safe to rescue them.

Trailering the boats into the low tide ocean with tractors.
Trailering the boats into the low tide ocean with tractors.

As we pulled into our starting point of Onetahuti Bay, we gratefully noticed that the clouds had all blown away and we had a full sun smiling down on us from clear blue skies. After loading up the kayaks and some brief instruction, Ruby got serious and told us that the swells were the biggest she has seen all season today so we needed to be careful to not flip as we crossed them. They were in fact so large, that initially our trip out to the island full of seals had been cancelled, but thankfully the waves had died down just enough while we prepared that we would be able to make it out.

After a very wet start crashing through the waves washing ashore, we powered into the wind and made our way out to Tonga Island.  It only took 15 minutes but it seemed like a lot longer as our little boats rose and fell over the large sea swells.  Our sunglasses quickly hazed over in a mist of sea spray and we had to wince against the bright sun reflecting off the water.  We thankfully reached the shelter of the island before too long and made a little trip to sea mama seals and their two week old pups.  It was quite delightful and totally made up for the hard paddle.

Lynn on the beach before we loaded into the kayaks.
Lynn on the beach before we loaded into the kayaks.
Ruby getting the kayaks ready for us.
Ruby getting the kayaks ready for us.
Ruby launching Leah and Stephen into the ocean through the waves.  No one tipped!
Ruby launching Leah and Stephen into the ocean through the waves. No one tipped!
This was the island with seals on it. They're there among the rocks at the water's edge, I promise.
This was the island with seals on it. They’re there among the rocks at the water’s edge, I promise.

We next turned south and hugged the coast, hoping it would offer some protection from the wind.  It didn’t really but we saw some amazing cliffs and everywhere we looked everything was very vibrantly colored, which even I could appreciate.  After another hour we paddled into Bark Bay and were all quite glad to be on a surface that wasn’t rising and falling, especially Leah who had a touch of the seasickness coming on.

Lunch was surprisingly fantastic and featured large brie and chicken sandwiches, carrot cake, and something called “slices” that tasted like gooey chocolate chip cookies in brownie form.  Post lunch, the wind had died down a lot but just to be safe we had taken some Dramamine. With less wind, it was also a lot less cold so we shed our spray jackets and bared our arms to the sweltering sun.  This would end in tragedy for poor Stephen who already was sunburned going into today, despite his constant reapplication of sunscreen so thick it made him look pasty and ill.

Having lunch on a very sunny beach.
Having lunch on a very sunny beach.

The afternoon was much more pleasant, and we spent it weaving in and out of bays that are only accessible at high tide. The water was quite clear and looked brightly teal colored due to the high level of quartz in the sand below.  We even stopped and watched a seal play in the water for a while at the rocky base of a cliff.  He seemed to be having a lot of fun with himself, though he was a bit shy as we got closer so we kept our distance.

Couldn't have been a nicer day for the views.
Couldn’t have been a nicer day for the views.

Eventually our kayak came to an end and we washed up on the shore of Anchorage Bay after having navigated through a host of sailboats anchored in the harbor waiting for a New Year’s fireworks display later that night.  We were both disappointed that not a single one had a name with a pun on it (Example: Show Me Your Buoys).  After unloading we waited for quite a long time for the other groups to arrive before we could leave.  We spent most of it watching Ruby and two other guides (one with dreads and a feather in her hair) load kayaks dangerously high on a water taxi.  It suddenly became very clear how those ones had been lost earlier in the day.  After 45 minutes of waiting we finally loaded onto our ride home and made it back to our car in Marahau.  We rode the whole way back on the boat, even after it had been trailered, and we really enjoyed the ridiculousness of riding in a boat on a trailer, being pulled by a tractor down a highway.

Loading up the kayaks to go home at the end of the day.  This looked very unstable but it seems to work.
Loading up the kayaks to go home at the end of the day. This looked very unstable but it seems to work.

Arriving back in the carpark we quickly booked a water taxi for the next day when we planned on doing a New Year’s Day hike, and headed for home.  Along the way we stopped at a fruit stand and purchased some boysenberries for a crumble later that night.  Once home we all agreed a snack was in order and ate some cheese, hummus, carrots, bread, and a very terrible ginger beer while we took turns showering and Lynn lost terribly to Stephen at a few card games of War.

Lynn and Stephen playing games of chance.
Lynn and Stephen playing games of chance.

As the afternoon turned into evening, Lynn and Stephen cooked up a New Year’s feast of vegetable risotto while Leah took a long walk on the beach and I wrote this thing.  What adventures will the night ahead hold?  Only time will tell.

Update on the adventures that the night held:  After dinner Leah made a delicious boysenberry crumble in hopes that the sugar rush would help keep us up till midnight.  It did not work.  At about 11 pm we decided we had done all we could, especially given our plan to wake up at 6.30 the next morning.  We sadly called it an evening and wished each other happy almost new years.

New Year's Eve risotto, salad, and sauvignon blanc.
New Year’s Eve risotto, salad, and sauvignon blanc.
Boysenberry crumble, which was amazing.
Boysenberry crumble, which was amazing.
The team is tired and ready for bed.
The team is tired and ready for bed.

Daily Kayaking Miles : 7.5 miles

Daily Walking Miles : Who knows, it turns out that rocking kayaks count as steps.

Fun Facts:

  • Abel Tasman is New Zealand’s newest, smallest, and most visited national park and before it was created the area was all farmland, a stark contract to the native vegetation that exists now.
  • Abel Tasman was a Dutch explorer who discovered New Zealand in the late 1600’s. He also discovered Australia, naming it New Holland, but decided it was not worth settling.
  • The first country to celebrate New Year’s is Kiribati. None of us have ever heard of it.  Baker Island (a U.S. territory) is the last.

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