After leaving Team USA at the hotel in Hamilton on Monday morning, Ma & Pa and myself headed down to Wellington in order to catch the Inter-Islander ferry to Picton on the South Island the next day. The ferry took a good three hours in the morning, cruising across the Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds before landing in Picton. We got right on the road in order to get to Havelock by lunch time in order to have some Green-Lipped Mussels (for which Havelock is “world famous”). I love mussels, so we had a great lunch at The Slip Inn at the Havelock Marina before heading out to Nelson to find accommodation for the next two nights.
The Nelson I-Site was really busy and we had to wait almost an hour in order to speak to someone about booking a day trip and a hotel. We ended up booking a Sea Kayak/Tramp for Dad and me, and Mom went on a wine-tasting tour on Wednesday.
We booked through the Sea Kayak Company (http://www.seakayak.co.nz) who are based in Motueka, and ran this particular outing in conjunction with Abel Tasman AquaTaxi (http://www.aquataxi.co.nz). The trip was a catered 3 hour sea kayak around Tonga Island marine animal preserve and then a moderate 2-3 hour hike down part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track from Barks Bay to Torrent Bay. From there, the Aqua Taxi retrieved us and brought us back to the SKC base. Part of the logistics of this trip were dependent on the tides during the day, since the Aqua Taxis run business beach to beach. The tide apparently varies about 5m from low to high, which covers several hundred meters of beach. This makes it necessary for the Aqua Taxi companies to haul the boats (full of passengers and/or kayak equipment) out to the low tide waters from the road with tractors and boat trailers. Then the Aqua Taxi ride is basically a jet boat ride to your drop off point at high speed with great spray and breeze.
Once on the beach with the kayaks, we got a very brief orientation and hit the ocean for some paddling. This was my first kayak experience, and I really enjoyed it. Dad had some paddling experience so we let him sit in front and navigate, I used the rudder in the back . We saw New Zealand fur seals and a few different kinds of cormorants (“shags”), which we also have on Lake Carnegie in Princeton (though different varieties). Our guide, Keta, was really nice and did a good job of giving us some background on the area, history of the park, conservation efforts and the critters there. She and I talked a lot about her choice to leave “the life” with the bills and mortgage behind in order to spend life as a kayak, ski and river guide. She also used to row while growing up in Australia, so was super psyched about the World Championships.
After a few hours it was time for lunch on the beach… chicken and camembert sandwiches with carrot cake and coffee (how did they know!?). Then Dad and I headed out for the unguided trekking portion of the day. The 6.4km walk took us about 2h15m with a few short breaks. Most of it was wooded, with occasional coastal vistas and one really sweet swing bridge. We didn’t see many thru hikers yesterday, it seemed like most people on the trail were day-trippers, like us.
By the end of the day,we were pretty invigorated and happily exhausted. The Aqua Taxi ride back to the entrance of the park was a nice way to unwind for a few minutes before having to get back in the car and drive back to Nelson. Overall, this particular package was a great value for the price, and all the staff at both SKC and Abel Tasman AT were very professional and fun to work with. I would definitely recommend either company. My only complaint was that our return bus back to the Motueka SKC base via Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi was at the end of the day, and ran an unexpected 20-30 minutes late. That bus was the error of the Aqua Taxi company, however, not SKC.
We left Nelson around 6:30 a.m. in order to make the 8:00 a.m. departure from Motueka and returned to Nelson around 7:00 p.m. so it was a very long day. But well worth it!
Interesting tidbit (though regretfully no photo evidence): The name of the national park was spelled both “Able” and “Abel” on signs/placards/brochures interchangeably. Why…?
Now we are on Route 6 headed to Punakaiki and Paparoa National Park for the afternoon to do some more hiking.
Long Live the Dream,