Just before nightfall we finally made it to the campground at the entrance of Abel Tasman National Park. It had been a beautiful day, not a cloud in sight, and as nice as that is during the day, at night that spells frosty temperatures! Fortunately, the campsite had a nice little kitchen plus lodge with a wood stove burning. We quickly cooked some pasta and then planted ourselves on the couch in the TV room of the lodge and actually watched a movie on a big flatscreen TV! Decadence, haha! We dashed out of the warm little house into the damp, freezing tent and crawled into our sleeping bags as fast as possible. The night was freakin’ cold and my useless inflatable mattresses went flat a few hours into the night and had to be blown again and again to get me through the night. We woke up early, clambered out of the tent freezing some more and marveled at how crisp and clear it was and also how thick the ice was that coated our tent and the car! In no time flat the tent and sleeping bags were packed up and we were huddled in the car with the heater on full blast. It was only a 2-minute drive to the kayak center from where our day trip was to start.
We had booked a kayak tour around the coves and islands of Abel Tasman park but first we had to hike north on part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track to get to our pick-up point. So, as the sun slowly rose higher and slowly warmed our frigid and rigid bodies, we started walking. 12km of bush trail lay ahead and Luca and I loved it! It was an incredible atmosphere as the frost evaporated and the birds and everything else came to life. Luca and I were the only people around and because we were so cold we marched at a really quick pace to warm up. Abel Tasman park is known for its bird life and especially for its song birds and that was definitely evident. Everywhere you could see and hear all sorts of birds. Big Pukeka birds, as big as African guinea fowls, scampered around and up in the branches all sorts of big and small and colorful birds chirped away. The trail we hiked was beautiful. It meandered up and down, skirting the cliffs and golden sand beaches and led us through thick, dense jungle forests of huge fern trees mixed with all sorts of other trees and plants. Every square centimeter of ground was teeming with some sort of plant and every once in a while a little stream or a river would cut through the bush and trickle down into the sea. We walked and walked and then eventually came to a look out point on a peninsula and from there descended down to a little beach called Watering Cove. This is where we met our kayak guide and two other people who were doing the tour with us.
After a quick lunch we got suited up in spray skirts and paddle jackets and got into the kayaks. The sea was perfectly calm, almost no wind. The water was freezing cold but our feet and legs warmed up quickly inside the boats. Luca was in the back, in charge of the steering, and he needed a little bit to get a hang of peddling the peddles to keep us going in the right direction. The paddling however wasn’t a problem for him and he matched my strokes perfectly. In no time, really without much of an effort at all, we were boat lengths ahead of Lisa, our kayak guide and the other couple in the second kayak that we had to wait all the time for them to catch up. That wasn’t a problem at all, we were just enjoying being out on the water. It was so incredibly peaceful and nice being there. Perfect weather, beautiful place, that’s a good way to spend a day, I think.
We crossed over to a nearby island and paddled along the cliffs and boulders and spotted a whole bunch of mother seals and their little pups. One pair of little seals swam up very close to our kayaks and Luca loved it. We paddled for a few hours and then headed back to the kayak center from where we had started our day that morning, perfectly happy and content. Luca and I both had a piping hot shower and then we jumped back in the car and hit the road. There ain’t no rest for the wicked… I still wanted to make some miles that night, 350km to be exact and after a short stop for dinner in a very rural Kiwi road side diner we finally got to our camp site just after midnight. Luca had finally succumbed to the tiredness about half an hour earlier so I set up the tent in the freezing cold on my own, carried Luca over and stuck him into his sleeping bag and then got in bed as well. The night was even colder than the one before and I was very relieved when I felt the sun was about to come up and warm the earth again. We had another day of driving ahead of us…