Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Abel Tasman checked off

The drive from Blenheim to Nelson was only an hour and a half, but the driver's skills were sorely tested. The last half hour or so was on one of those twisting roads that NZ highway engineers seem to specialize in. We held on for dear life, and EAP kept the car on the road with great skill. We all breathed a sigh of relief on reaching the city.

Nelson is known for its artists, its plentiful sunshine, and its proximity to three national parks. We were booked for two day trips to Abel Tasman, famous for golden sand beaches and the Abel Tasman Track, another of the Great NZ Walks.

Up early for the bus which made a laborious 90-minute trip to the park, stopping along the way to pick up other travelers as well as the milk and newspapers to be delivered to Kaiteriteri, our destination. The morning was devoted to kayaking to Split Apple Rock and back.

The water was clear and green and refreshing, the sun was shining, and the cormorants (known here as shags) were swimming and flying. Here's an oystercatcher strutting around.

We paddled past the golden sand beaches (no waterfalls in sight) and enjoyed the water.

After a bag lunch, we boarded the Vista Cruiser for a ridiculous interlude. We cruised past Split Apple Rock again and on up the coast, stopping at a couple of beaches to drop off and pick up passengers and at Tonga Rock to see the seal colony consisting of one lone seal on a rock - thank goodness we had seen so many fur seals the day before.

Our destination was Tonga Quarry, site of a long-closed granite quarry, where we picked up the Abel Tasman Coast Track. These people had the most perfect camping spot.

Here's what's different about hiking here compared to the mountains: it's hot! Plus, the beginning was mostly uphill and soon enough we were hiking in our swimsuits and wondering if we had made a bad decision... but then the downhill began and things began to look up.

We were advised to take the high-tide route to Medlands Beach, our pickup point, since the main route of the trail is submerged then. We wound through an estuary and came out at, yes, a golden sand beach.

After the heat and exertion, wading into the cool green water was a delight. We had about 20 minutes of bathing until the boat returned and delivered us back to Kaiteriteri.
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We looked at each other and all agreed that we had now had the full Abel Tasman experience and had no need to return the following day for an even longer cruise and hotter hike. So we cancelled our booking and returned to Nelson for a late dinner of mussels and oysters at The Anchor.

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