From the small town of Motueka, we headed to the smaller town of Marahau. At least Motueka had a supermarket. Marahau is at the entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park, but that is it. The Abel Tasman is a very popular park along the coast on the South Island. Having walked the last 70 km track carrying our heavy packs, this time we opted to use kayaks.
We had a boat drop us off at the north end of the park and we paddled for three days in a southerly direction. The idea was that the wind typically blows from north to south so the paddling wouldn’t be very difficult. The first day we landed at Onetahuti beach and paddled a bit further north to Shag Harbour. There we were able to sea many seals lounging on the rocks and rolling in the surf. As soon as I could, I put on my goggles and swam out towards one. I tried to swim slowly and not spook it, but it wasn’t as fond of me as I was of it.
It kept swimming away. I couldn’t stay in the water very long because it was FREEZING. We even saw penguins swimming around! (The Blue Penguin here is the smallest in the world.)
We eventually headed south to our destination of Mosquito Bay. We hit some 25 knots onshore wind that made us paddle like mad, get soaked, but stay upright, and had me humming the Gilligan’s Island theme song in my head. Luckily we made it to Mosquito Bay without much more trouble.
We doused ourselves in insect repellent and made dinner. The campsite is only accessible by kayak so the people that walk in the park are unable to camp with us. We explored the marine life some more when low tide hit. We found some starfish and decided to have some starfish races in the tidal streams!
The following day we leisurely broke down camp, had breakfast, and paddled out looking for more sea life. There are amazing birds like Gannets and Shearwaters that we were able to see dive bomb the ocean for their food. Our next camping area was similarly only accessible by the water so we didn’t expect a lot of company that night. Unexpectedly, nobody else showed up. There were a couple of Oystercatchers that noisily alerted us when we got too close to their nest. It felt like we had the whole world to ourselves.
There was a sailboat about a mile away and we could see their light on once it got dark enough for lights. (The sun goes down around 9 and it gets dark about 10.) We woke up, still alone, and decided to stay in bed for a while. The weather wasn’t great and there was no reason to get out of bed. Hunger drove us to the only picnic table in camp eventually. The clouds gathered and things began looking like the weather wasn’t going to be friendly. We said good bye to the local birds and decided to head back to Marahau where we knew we could find good burgers and some hot chips (french fries). It rained a bit and when we pulled up early to the beach a guy was there to take us back to base. We immediately ordered food, packed our gear and hitchhiked out of town.
Now we are at the town of Takaka (Tah-kuh-kuh). We are staying at hippie central. Willie Butler lived a 2 minute walk from some of the best rock climbing in New Zealand. He would charge climbers $5 to camp on his property because the Department of Conservation runs the crag and doesn’t allow camping. He tragically died climbing a couple of years ago, but his family still lets people camp here. So here is to Willie and all the other dirtbag climbers that we hope aren’t stealing our food right at this moment!