Kayaking the Abel Tasman

Our next stop was a 3-day kayak trip along the coast of Abel Tasman National Park.

Abel Tasman National Park, located at the northwest end of the South Island, is named after Abel Tasman, a Dutchman who in 1642 became the first European explorer to sight New Zealand. His men were the first Europeans to have a confirmed encounter with Māori. They anchored at Wharewharangi Bay just north of what is now Abel Tasman National Park.

The initial meeting between European and Māori was tense but peaceful. The following day, though, the Dutch had a violent encounter with local Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri, a numerous and fierce tribe that dominated the area for at least 200 years. Tasman named the place Moordenaers (Murderers) Bay before sailing on, east to the Manawatu coast of the North Island.

The park was opened in 1942 to mark the 300th anniversary of his visit. The Park is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and its world-famous coastal walking track. Sea kayaking allows access to some of the sheltered coves that the track bypasses.

On our way to the Abel Tasman National Park, we pass by bays that are void of water during low tide, with boats resting on the bottom of the bay for a few hours twice each day.
Our first introduction to “Aqua Taxis” into which people and equipment are loaded at the base, then transported to the ocean via tractor/trailer, backed across the low-tide flats to deep enough water for launching, and finally taxied to the various jumping off points along the coast. Our boat ride north took almost an hour from the kayak base.
This map shows the undulating ins and outs of the coastline that we followed. We started further north than this map shows, where you must be with a professional guide to kayak, and ended at the bottom with our guide Harley’s heroic RESCUE! of Shauna (marked at the bottom of the map). Mark swears it was not ‘driver error’ even though he had control of the pedals in the back seat when the incoming surf waves overpowered us.
Ready to load up at the Abel Tasman Kayak base….. we’re thinking our guide will be towing an extra sea kayak to take all the gear and food laid out here.
We’re goin’ on a ‘venture!
Hard to capture at close range but there were at least a dozen tractors unloading boats in the bay.
Our taxi skipper helps our guide unload some kayaks we picked up along the way.
We were in fiberglass double sea kayaks. (Guide Harley piloted a single.) The neoprene skirts we wore around our waists cinched up tight around our seat and kept our lower bodies quite dry and warm. As you can see… no extra gear kayak along, and no gear loaded up on the top of the kayaks getting wet…. it ALL fit into the storage hatches in our kayaks… amazing. 
We had a nice tailwind at first, strong enough for us to hold the kayaks together in a makeshift raft and speed across the bay with a spinnaker sail….until the wind overpowered our ability to hold the sail.
We had an outstanding guide, Harley, who ALWAYS had a smile on his face and a wonderful “no problem” attitude. Here, he is serving as the helmsman for our kayak raft.
After a 2 hour paddle, our legs needed to stretch a bit. Actually, we are faking; the kayaks had plenty of room for us.
The coast alternated between beautiful little coves accessible only by the water…..
…..and rocky shores and islands often inhabited by seals. Here is a mom and her pup.
And here is the inspiration for Tom Hanks’ friend, Wilson the Volleyball, in the movie Castaway.
At the end of the day, the kayaks are on the beach…..
….and we took off on a hike along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track….
…..with some terrific views….
….of deserted beaches.
OK…..he hasn’t put up a tent in a long long long time.
Harley pointed us in the direction of a cool little waterfall with a pool in which we could get the beer cold.
Shauna thought it would be a good idea if we climbed a few steps up the waterfall.
It took a few takes to get the shot in focus.
And finally, a first for us in 15 years of marriage. Sleeping on the ground (in sand no less!) in a sleeping bag.
The next day, we stopped for a quick visit to some really cool rock formations…. the Tonga Arches.
….that also served as adult monkey bars.
We got in and set up camp just ahead of an approaching storm.
It didn’t deter us from hiking…
…nor any of the rest of our group! We certainly brought the average age of the group up (ages 18-30), but we really enjoyed our tripmates from Canada, Germany, France and New Zealand. 
The storm provided us with some amazing views.
It cleared up after an hour or so, but brought the temperature down to about 50 degrees that night. Great sleeping weather.
Chef Boy-ar-Harley did an amazing job….
….vegetable curry one night, pasta with sauce made from all fresh ingredients the next.
Topped off by some whipped cream with a little hot chocolate.
We capped the evening off by a trek down the beach to a small cave full of glowworms.
The next day brought a crystal clear morning, and as the tide was in, we traversed the lagoon it made and traveled up a small river.
To us, our turn-around point looked like a bit like Dominica.
On our way back to the open seas, we passed by a hiker who wasn’t willing to wait for low tide when the flooded lagoon empties out.
We tried to sail back in our final hour, but there just wasn’t enough wind. 
Following our kayak trip, we stayed at a beautiful contemporary B&B called Awatea Tasman Bay, overlooking the Motueka River….. just the relaxing scene we needed to recuperate.
The Motueka Valley was chock full of orchards and vineyards as well as growing a variety of specialized crops such as hops. With the Tasman Bay and the Mount Richmond Forest Park in the background, the view was very special.


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