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The Abel Tasman Coastal Track

NEW ZEALAND | Saturday, 6 December 2008 | Views [1374] | Comments [4]

While we were still at home planning our New Zealand trip, Pete and I made lists of must do activities.  My list included kayaking along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, an activity that made the list after I saw a picture advertising the kayak trips with a baby seal riding on the back of a tandem kayak.  My mind was made up - I would definitely kayak the Tasman Bay and I would do everything possible to coax a baby seal onto my boat.

Last Wednesday we began our tour that would include two days of kayaking and one final day of hiking.  After packing our backpacks and camping gear into the kayak and receiving a brief introduction to sea kayaking, we were delivered to a calm bay where we were to begin paddling.  A few strokes in and the rain came down.  It was quite light at first - just a drizzle - but eventually it turned in to actual rain.  We quickened our pace and stopped for lunch on the first available beach.  The rain was uncomfortable but it didn't take away from the views.  Wow.  Gorgeous scenery. 

We continued our paddling into what is called "The Mad Mile".  This is a stretch of water that follows the coastline away from the sheltered bays and into exposed waters.  Very choppy but we managed.  In fact, we paddled a little faster than we'd expected and found ourselves at our campsite pretty early in the day.  And I was feeling lucky because we didn't have to complete "The Mile" all at once - the rest would have to wait until morning.  We set up under the trees where about 5 other hikers and kayakers also set up camp.  We met a nice couple from Boston and played Scrabble (we splurged and bought travel Scrabble). 

Day 2 began with some high winds and really rough water.  The Boston couple was reluctant to start paddling because they were both fighting colds and figured they'd wait until mid-day to start, but Pete and I had a longer distance to go since we were camping that night a little farther up the coast.  So off we went into "The Mile," paddling against the wind.  Because of my complaining the day before - I didn't like my spot in the front because I was splashed too much! - Pete took the navigator's position in the front and I controlled our direction with foot pedals from the back.  Once we reached the first bay and had survived The Mile, we high-fived each other and agreed that the hardest part of the day must be over.  Ha!  Far from it. 

In my eagerness to have a baby seal tag along on the kayak, we paddled about 40 minutes out of our way to a small island that is also a seal colony.  Once we reached the smelly rocks we did see a few seals, but the wind was too strong to allow us to stop and take a picture without floating away.  So we took a quick look and paddled like mad back to the mainland.  Something didn't seem right... the paddling wasn't getting any easier and we had left the Mad Mile...  We rested and ate lunch at a lovely tidal lagoon, safe from the choppy waters, but had to enter another set of exposed waves at Foul Point. 

This turned out to be far worse than The Mad Mile.  Just before Foul Point most kayakers stopped and camped at Mosquito Bay, but Pete and I had reserved a campsite at Onetahuti Bay instead, which required us to paddle out and around Foul Point where we saw no other kayakers and the wind/wave combo kept us paddling for over an hour... a distance that could have been covered in about 20 minutes on a calm day.  Part of the way in I noticed a playful seal skimming along the water right next to our kayak!  And while this should have been a highlight, all I could think was, "You ****ing seal had better not tip this boat!"  And when I yelled to Pete that a seal was trailing behind us, he told me later he'd been thinking, "Maybe it can push us to shore."    The seal didn't do much but swim next to us and for the entire hour we struggled, unable to slow down or change course.  Once we finally made it to Onetahuti Beach, we practically fell out of our kayak and some hikers asked us if we'd enjoyed the trip.  I don't remember responding, but I think our expressions answered the question.  Pete and I agreed it was the most challenging experience either one of us hopes to endure. 

That night we camped near the beach and took a walk to Tonga Quarry, an old stone quarry, hoping the walk would warm us up.  It did.  The next morning we woke up to the most sunny, beautiful day we'd seen since starting the track.  We hiked a few hours, making some very cool tidal crossings, and stopped on sunny beaches for snacks and water breaks.  At the end of the walk we were picked up by a water taxi and shuttled back to the front of the park.  The boat stopped at a seal colony so we could get some pictures of the sleepy seals... thank goodness.  We got back into Marahau, the town at the entrance to the park, and camped at Old McDonald's Farm.  Not surprisingly we slept well that night. 

Now we're in Takaka enjoying some sunshine and rest.  Tomorrow we start another WWOOFing experience, helping a family build a lodge in Golden Bay.



I guess I didn't realize your trip was going to be so "physical"...my goodness, kayaking, hiking, camping, but none in the normal way I think of it. You two are certainly young and energetic...
Aunt Dee Anne

  Dee Anne Dec 7, 2008 2:53 AM


Sounds like one of those adventures you enjoy more when it is a memory. Be safe!

  Donna Dec 7, 2008 4:01 PM


Kayaking-seals-amazing vistas...whatever...Who scored the most at Scrabble... :)

  Arlene Dec 9, 2008 6:12 AM


Oohh!!! You got to see seals??!! How cute!

  calley Ekberg Dec 29, 2008 12:02 PM

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