Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Amazing Abel Tasman

Ok, I've given myself three solid days to recuperate and remember how to blog.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, last weekend our wonderful Arcadia guides took us on a trip to Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman's an area on the tip of the South Island, near Nelson (a.k.a. NZ's sunshine capital). Maori used to live there, until some Dutch explorers came along and tried to conquer them so they could re-name the land after themselves. In the 1940's a progressive-minded lady campaigned for the area to be turned into a national park to preserve its natural beauty. She bullied the government into agreeing with her.

We'd catch a sea-shuttle out onto a point on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Then we'd hike - ahem, tramp - a section on the first day. On Sunday, we'd do a guided kayak trip back to where we started. 

But before all that fun, we had to get an early start for our traveling day on Friday. We had to catch one of the the Interislander ferrys to get from Wellington to the South Island. 

The folks at Interislander seem to have a monopoly on the island to island transportation. But they do a darn good job. This was more like a cruise than a ferry ride. There was a full bar with fresh espresso (duh, because it's NZ), a food court, and a terrific motown band on deck 7. Check out their page. It's worth it.
Plus the scenery along the way was simply incredible.

The trip was pleasant enough. Something about being on a 3-hour ferry ride before 8:00 in the morning makes everything seem more mellow and slow. I chatted about tramping and rugby with a Kiwi guy sitting next to me. He was a scuba instructor with a passion for Arc'teryx jackets. He drank three beers before 10 and said "sweet as" at least twenty times. 

We landed (docked?) in Picton, a sunbathed little seaside town with a couple bakeries. We piled onto a tour bus and drove around the bay and through the hills to arrive in Marahau, a tiny beach town right next to the park. I'll spare you the pictures of roads and sheep.
Just kidding. I had to sneak one in. Sheep are too great.

We explored the area a bit. I went on an amazingly gorgeous run on the Abel Tasman track. Infinite jade water and white sand all around. I joined up with the rest of the group, and we hung out on a sandbar until it was time to consume massive quantities of carbs lovingly prepared by Mother Jane and Alex, our Arcadia support guy from Wellington.

We annihilated heaps and heaps of pasta and salad and dessert.This picture doesn't do it justice.
We spent a star-studded night in these adorable wooden huts and got up early the next morning to start the first leg of our hike. We caught another little boat that dropped us off further up the Coast Track.

I took at least fifteen pictures of the same water and trees. I had a hard time believing anything was real.
The ferry dumped us out on a beach and started pulling away before we could scoot off the gangplank.
The trail was easy - gently rolling, clean, and sandy. We had a leisurely hike, stopping for photos, lunch on a beach, and swingset breaks.
During this photo, the boys were busy looking at rocks. Typical.

Mother Jane at Cleopatra's Pool
Eventually we strolled to the sun-soaked bay where we'd spend the night in the hull of a boat.
It was cozy.
After we shoved all our stuff into our little beds, we found out that the roof of a katamaran is an excellent diving deck. 
Then the captain and crew grilled us a manly dinner. We went to bed sunburned, exhausted, and full of lamb. 

The next morning came around drizzly and gray. A great day to not get sun poisoning in a kayak. After we squished into the boats, we weren't dry for the next five hours. We paddled around the bay, stopping to look at fur seals hanging out with the seabirds.
Our guides acted like raft guides, telling lewd jokes and flexing their muscles under their lifejackets. Like all my friends at WV, they really got a kick out of telling me how small my arms are. I focused on looking bigger.

We paddled back to Marahau and realized that we had to go back to Wellington. There was another long ferry ride waiting for us.  We killed off most of the trip with card games and tried to pretend we weren't seasick. 

And now we're back in windy old Wellington, waiting out the rain until we can go on our next fantastic adventure. Unfortunately Arcadia won't be organizing anything else, so we'll have to pay for it all... and it probably won't be quite so seamless.

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