Abel Tasman National Park
Day 153 Golden Bay
The weather never fails to surprise. We wake up to dark skies and the forecast of rain, hard to believe after yesterdays sunshine. We have planned to travel over Takaka Hill up the coast to Takaka and decide we may as well do this anyway. Waterproofs are packed into the car alongside sun cream, bug spray and hats – all eventualities are covered.
Takaka Hill butts in between Tasman Bay and Golden Bay and the road is a steep and winding route with numerous lookout points, not that we see much as the cloud is so low and the mountains are covered in mist and light rain is falling.
There have been land slips recently and we have to wait 15 minutes at traffic lights as only one lane is open at one point of the journey. We climb to the top of the hill and then come down the other side into the valley where there are more fields of fruit and nuts. Driving through this rural area we reach the lovely town of Takaka.
It has stopped raining and the sun is trying to peak out. Parking we walk down one side of the street which is full of independent shops, galleries, cafes and accommodation. There is a real hippie feel to the town which reminds us of Glastonbury. Colourful shops are selling tie dyed clothing and advertising yoga classes.
A fabric shop catches my eye and we have a look around, passing through to the little town museum which is attached. There are a number of interesting displays showing life in the area over the last 150 years.
Crossing the road, we see Dancing Sands Distillery tucked down a laneway and make our way in for a tasting. They distil Sacred Spring gin which is crafted from water of the nearby Pupu Springs, and variations include barrel-aged gin, chocolate, saffron and fruit flavoured gins. We are also introduced to their rums and vodkas of different flavours and alcohol percentages.
Walking to the other end of the main street we call into a bar for coffee which we drink in the beer garden, covered with a large sail – good for inclement weather. We agree that Takaka would be a great place to stay if visiting Abel Tasman, what a good atmosphere.
We get back to the car and then Mark says he just needs to make a quick second visit to the museum. On returning to the car he hands me a little tin. He saw it when we were in the sewing shop and he’s been back to buy it for me, a tin decorated with a sewing machine image for my jewellery. What a lovely thought and I’m delighted with it.
Our next stop is the Pupu Springs which are the largest freshwater springs in the southern hemisphere. As we park the heavens open and the rain starts to come down, it’s torrential. Donning our waterproof jackets, we run to the covered information point, hoping the rain will ease. It doesn’t so we decide to follow the 30 minutes forest loop walk anyway.
The trail begins through rainforest and follows a stream with bridges crossing other little creeks. The water is crystal clear and looks good enough to drink, however, this is not allowed as the waters are sacred to indigenous people and therefore off limits. The lake is the most wonderful colour; blues, greens and turquoise. It is so unusual and an absolute treat to see. The lake is refreshed with around 14000 litres of water per second which surges from underground vents and we can see this bubbling on the surface.
We drive back to Takaka and take the turning towards Pohara, driving along the coast. This is close to the northern gateway of Abel Tasman National Park so terminates at a dead end. Nevertheless the journey is definitely worth it. The road hugs the coast with windswept beaches on one side and high cliffs on the other. We have to drive through a gap in the rock at one point which is quite scary a it seems precariously balanced across the road.
The end of the road is in a valley by a long sandy beach. It’s like the end of the world – nowhere else to go. On the way back we stop at the memorial for the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who is officially recognised as the first European to 'discover' New Zealand in 1642. This is up a steep path and affords a great view of the area.
As we drive back to Motueka the sun starts to make a come back and we see small rainbows all the way down Takaka Hill. By the time we are back in the valley the rain has stopped and the sun is shining. It’s going to be a lovely evening.
Day 154 Sea Kayaking
The sun is shining again, yeah. We need good weather today as we are kayaking in the Tasman Bay around the Abel Tasman coastline. The drive to Marahau is just 18km up the coast and we arrive early for our 10.30am meet. The town is very small consisting of a tourist information, a camp site, a backpackers hostel, travel companies and a few holiday homes.
Our Spanish guide Juan is very friendly and helpful, giving us important information on our trip. He explains how to store our belongings in the kayak so that they keep dry. We put our skirts and life jackets on and are shown how to get in and out of the kayak and how to attach the skirt. We are given a demonstration of what to do if we capsize as we need to avoid the sharks. What? I’m not sure I want to do this now and it shows on my face. Juan admits he is joking, not funny.
As there are three of us, we are taking out a double and a single kayak. Juan explains that the single kayaks are quite unstable so we must stay together in the sea. We walk down to the shore and our kayaks are taken down by tractor. Once we are seated in the kayaks Juan takes us out past the breaking waves to make sure we are ok to go freedom kayaking on our own.
Suddenly Marcus is in the water and his kayak is upside down, he’s capsized. Juan helps him get back in and leads us all back to the shore. Mark and Marcus swap places and we are off. Mark finds it difficult to keep the single kayak upright but perseveres and manages to keep going.
This is one of the best experiences I have had, I love it. The coastline is absolutely beautiful, a wilderness of jungle meeting isolated beaches and small islands in the bay. We pull up on a beach and have a walk along the shore. Mark’s finding it harder work as a solo kayaker so we have a bit of a rest before setting off to make our way around the point.
Mark helps Marcus and I into our kayak and fits my skirt as I am finding it difficult to stretch it around the opening. We set off and then realise Mark is having trouble getting his kayak off the beach, however, luckily a fisherman gives him a hand.
We work our way up the coast passing a number of tiny beaches and other kayakers. The water taxis whip up the sea which makes us very grateful for the skirts we are wearing. Eventually we pull up on another beach for lunch. Mark has already gone into shore and is sunbathing at the side of his kayak.
We have to be back on the beach at Marahau by 4pm so set off back in plenty of time. Mark goes first this time and us behind. I cannot get my skirt fixed to the kayak and waves are splashing over and into it. After struggling I eventually get it fixed on but then realise that the rudder peddles have fallen down. This means I have to take the skirt off to sort the peddles out and then struggle to get it on again. By this time the oars have fallen in the water and are pinned under the kayak. Marcus has to get out to retrieve them. What a nightmare!
The journey back to the beach is a long one and we have to cross a number of bays against the tide. Nevertheless, we have great views and the experience is really enjoyable. By the time we reach the beach Mark is already out of his kayak and he comes out to meet us, helping to get the kayak up onto the beach.
We take off our skirts and life jackets, leaving them in the kayak to be picked up and collect our belongings from the storage compartment. Unfortunately, Marcus drops his phone in the water and it gets well and truly drenched. We just have to hope it will dry out and be OK.
We walk back to the office to collect the car and I realise I’ve left the baseball cap I’ve worn for the last 4 months on the beach. We go to look but it has gone, what a shame I’d have liked to have completed our travels with this hat.