Ready, Willing, and Abel Tasman

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

We were out the door by seven and en route for Abel Tasman National Park. Finally, a beautiful and cloud free day, we were all very excited to get rolling. It was an hour and a half drive from Nelson and we arrived a little early even after going to the wrong sea kayak company. Then, the hell began. The group divided into those who were going hiking in and those who were kayaking in. Those of us hiking in still had to do training, and our guy not only wasn’t a native English speaker, but he was a grumpy non-native English speaker. So much so that Albrie told him he was being rude and I called him a jerk as he threatened to ‘fail us’ for actually doing what he said. It was very tedious, to put it nicely, and really sucked the fun out of the morning. Meanwhile, as the sundial’s shadow crawled around the circle, clouds were starting to move in and we were growing impatient. On the plus side, we knew what to do in case of a nuclear strike while in a sea kayak, and more difficult topics like how to read a map legend, just as an example. And all the while, the constant threats of failing the whole group of us and so on.

So, we did the training, got back out, dried off, and finally set off on our hike. It was a beautiful hike. The sequoidas or whatever they were called were often so loud that you couldn’t hear. On the right there were beautiful expanses of golden beach, turquoise waters, blue skies, and verdant palms and rainforest. Sometimes the path would venture deep into the rainforest, so far in that it felt like someone just around the corner must’ve cleared it out with a machete. I started leading the group (we had an initial wrong turn with Norm at the head) and thanks to my photography soon found myself towards the back of the group. I also ventured off the beaten path here and there to try to get some of the beautiful coastline in, but to see it and to be there are sadly two different things. I kept thinking Nicole would love all these wild palms and tropical plants. Though she’d definitely hate the camping.

I took one outlook that left me about 20 minutes behind the group but it was a beautiful panorama. Then I went full tilt to try and catch up to the group as the drizzle started, and then the rain and then the downpour. I stopped only to throw on my so-called rain jacket and the rain cover for my pack and pressed on. I actually managed to catch up to and pass 6 of the 9 people that had continued when I detoured. I even jogged for probably 1km overall with my pack on but couldn’t catch the front three, Dustin, Chelsea, and Ally. I arrived drenched and Rachel pointed me toward the campsite though she eventually had to come with me and show me the way. O Mary Don’t You Weep (Bruce Springsteen) was playing on my iPod and I stood drenched in the rain looking over a creek at the ocean. It wasn’t a bad rain.

As I walked up, Brad and Chris had cooked up some fresh muscles they’d just picked and gave me one that was hot and tasty and just what I needed. Anthony had set up our tent already so I threw my stuff in and got dry. It turned out that the other group had encounted really rough waters on the Mad Mile and had beached the kayaks at Watering Cove, about 20 mins from our spot in Anchorage. We were hungry so Lauren Sanders and I cooked up some tortellini which was actually very good and then some apricot crumble which was… not so good. The important thing I’ve learned is never to let her cook on Dustin’s hot stove – she has a leaning towards burning things. To be fair, it is all but impossible not to on that stove, but nevertheless: The joys of camping.

That night everyone was tired early, as seems to be the case with this group. A few of us stayed up and played cards and to keep everyone up (since I was completely awake), I got us telling ghost stories. Chelsea had a particularly creepy one about a tape and hearing chains and screaming one time and then other things the next time they played it – in multiple players. Ally had a few creepy ones about this house near her, Rachel had one about having the car somehow avoid an unavoidable accident and emerge unscathed, and it was a good conversation. Then the sleep came.

The next day, we laid around on the beach after some dry waffles and chugged maple syrup and then I went with a group to go pick up the kayaks from where they’d been left the day prior. But, after the hike there – they were gone. One woman on the beach said she’d seen tracks leading into the ocean for the five kayaks, but otherwise no ideas. We got one of the water taxis to radio our company and find out what had happened and we waited around for almost two hours. Admittedly, this wasn’t bad. It was a beautiful beach in Watering Cove and quite quiet. We hung out, climbed rocks, took some wild pictures, and visited. Finally, we got our kayaks back from the company who took them in a mixup and did the Mad Mile no problem. My plan for the day had been to take a kayak out to Tonga Island with Dustin to look for seals, but the guy who brought us our kayaks told us the much nearer (by about 3km) Pinnacle Island could have seals on it as well.

I was in a kayak with Chris and convinced him that this was something we must check out since we were on the water anyway, and so we left the group (signaling them to follow, but none did) and made our way out there. We got to the island and saw nothing shy of some birds that looked like they could be penguins, and floated on the island. It was pretty windy at our backs and we thought about going all the way to Tonga when suddenly a seal bounded up, curious at the noise. Well, I scrambled for my camera but I had no need. They were quite happy to sun themselves on this beautiful day and hung out watching us. There were two parents and a little – and very cute – baby, and I managed to get photos of all of them. I even hopped off the kayak while Chris held it at bay in the rocks to get some better photos and managed to get a couple. In the short time I was there, the tide came up 15 cm and we got out of there before it stranded us too far. Seeing the seals there, in the wild, just living, was really amazing and alone made the whole trip to Abel Tasman worthwhile.

We got back and told our story to very jealous compadres and then the boys all went out to grab some muscles for a snack. We got a couple pots full and hauled them back to the beach. That night we had fettucini alfredo (which I dislike at the best of times) that took forever to make (yes, Lauren2 burnt the milk) and then some muscles which actually were pretty good. I can only have a few, but I do like them apparently. Brad, Chris, and myself sat by the fire as the others drifted off to sleep. I checked out the stars with Kate and had a good conversation with her before hanging out with the boys at the campfire and that was the evening.

The next morning we packed up our stuff and loaded the kayaks. I was kayaking back with Dustin and we had a good conversation too, interrupted by dolphins swimming and playing only 10m ahead of us. It was absolutely incredible. Seals, penguins, and dolphins in the space of two days, and all in the wild! Again, I scrambled for my camera but they must’ve detected my fervor and disappeared below, surfacing again 30m behind us near the next kayakers before taking off altogether. We showered for the first time in three days (my hair was whitish from the salt), grabbed a nice big cheeseburger, and hit the road for our long drive to Kaikura. We stopped in Nelson again to pick up some food we’d left at the hostel, and Chris and I ran to the bank, grabbed a few minutes online to download our email, and grabbed a six pack of beer for the ride since we’d gone with nothing to drink for quite a few days. Brad, Chris, and I sat in the back and sung along to almost every song we could. The CD I made is finally getting popular though with only one disc, even I am tiring of it. That said, here’s a tracklist for anyone checking later that wants to recreate it. The most popular are definitely the Ween , though us boys did a trumpet solo for Sixteen Military Wives, everyone loves the Lalalas in the Iggy Pop song. Without further ado:

1) Spoon – Everything Hits At Once
2) Air – Surfing on a Rocket
3) Breeders – Cannonball
4) Sam Roberts – Brother Down
5) Johnny Cash – The Passenger (Iggy Pop Cover)
6) Ween – Ocean Man
7) Calexico – Guero Canelo
8) Decemberists – Sixteen Military Wives
9) Radiohead – Karma Police
10) Spoon – 30 Gallon Tank
11) Frank Black – Coastline
12) Beatles – Across the Universe
13) Bruce Springsteen – Old Dan Tucker
14) Beulah – Me and Jesus Don’t Talk Anymore
15) Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
16) Tragically Hip – New Orleans Is Sinking
17) Ween – Bananas and Blow
18) Metric – Raw Sugar
19) Led Zeppelin – Misty Mountain Hop
20) Interpol – Slow Hands
21) Duran Duran – Come Undone

Abel Tasman Photos

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