Motueka & Abel Tasman, New Zealand October 15-17, 2007
We found the cutest hostel in Motueka called the Laughing Kiwi, but the loudest room this time. Our room was next to the shared bathrooms so we heard the toilets flushing all night. The view of the vineyards from the kitchen was quite pleasing though.
Our real reason for coming to Motueka was to hike one of the “Top 10 Hikes in New Zealand”. The Abel Tasman National Park is one of the primary attractions on the south island of New Zealand and has been an important “have to do” on my list since last time I was here.
Most of the “younger” backpackers with good knees (poor Ted) choose the challenge of the 3-4 day walk through the park with 40-50 pounds of gear/food and take a water taxi ride back to base at the end.
Opting not to rough it in the primitive backwoods cabins with no heat, LOTS of bugs and mosquitoes, a bedroom with 14 plastic mattresses placed side-by-side on a two-level slated bunk or to tent it, we booked a full day adventure combining a half day of sea kayaking with a half day of hiking and a warm shower at the end. We arrived at the Sea Kayak Company at 8am to gear up. Ted had a look of reluctance and pointed out that it was so cold he could see his breath.
Here we are about to get in a tiny boat for two and paddle offshore with thousands of dollars in camera equipment knowing full well that both of us have a track record of being extremely clumsy. This doesn’t seem smart does it?
After a water taxi ride with our kayaks to a private beach and a comprehensive introduction to the basics of paddling, we were off. Little did I know that Ted was so focused on filming the presentation to produce another video piece that he didn’t listen to the “tips to a smooth ride” shall we say. To put it lightly, I wouldn’t bet on us in a race as the kayak rocked side to side with every paddle forward. A few “discussions” later and ¾ into the kayak trip we got into a rhythm.
After following the coastline, we paddled offshore to a small, protected island where New Zealand fur seals and blue penguins roam free. They swam under and around our kayak watching with a curiously close eye to see what we might do next. Meanwhile, blue-eyed penguins hid mysteriously in the shadows of caves and rocky overhangs nervously spying on us until we slipped away quietly.
Heading back towards the shore, two independent kayakers capsized into the frigid water about a hundred meters from shore. The coast guard was luckily patrolling nearby and moved in quickly. We smiled and were just thankful it wasn’t us for a change!
The half-and-half-day booking turned out to be a great choice because although we didn’t tip over in the kayak, after a half day paddling you’re still wet, have tired arms and are fed up with sitting in a tiny wet seat with your legs getting cramped. So we beach the kayaks, pop up on the warm sandy beach for lunch and change into some dry clothes for the hike.
Departing from the beach the guide reminds us that we will catch up with him and the other kayakers in a couple of hours. He explains we have 3 ½ hours to finish a 2½ hour hike that many people do in two hours so we can take our time and arrive by 4pm. Due to Ted’s knee and per the guide’s advice, we took our time hiking along the spectacular mountainous coast and stopping for photographs. The big highlight of the hike was the 40m long swing bridge we had to cross. I personally chose gingerly walk across as to not “swing the bridge”. Ted chose to climb on it.
On the other side of the bridge, the sign indicated we were way behind time wise and tried to pick up the pace. We figured if we were late, we would catch the next pickup. Right at 4pm we arrived on the beach covered in sweat only to see two of the three water taxis on their way out of the bay and the third lifting its engine. We flagged down the boat by waving our hands in the air. What a close call. We came to find out later that that was the last taxi ride out of there for the day…and it started to rain.
The next day, it was another day of glorious sun. Temperature was only about 62 degrees, but it felt much warmer relative to the regular daily temperatures. Ted and I went driving around to find a private beach to spend the day. There were huge shells (unbroken like the ones you see in stores), metallic looking mussel shells (which Ted enjoyed playing with) washed ashore, and birds.
Check out the view in Ted’s glasses before the weather turned grey and the picture of me Ted caught when I decided to “test” the water temperature!
Oh…and a flying bird this time. This bird was at least 50 feet away. I was having fun testing my new camera settings….it’s currently the FASTEST camera in the world, making this shot possible.