Support Strokes – Kayaking Abel Tasman

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Upper Buller Gorge Scenic Reserve

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, October 23, 2010

We woke and realised the nice Christian lady hadn't come to collect any money off us last night. Despite Erica shouting "go go go" I tried to find the lady but to no avail. We left at about 07:45 without breako. We went to the water taxi place and a couple of kayak places but there was no real way other than the next bay up. We took Stuart and Emma’s advice and hired our own kayak instead of doing the well over priced guided tour. These Kayak instructors are proper jib boys..... Take note James (who is a Kayak Guide and Instructor in Wales who can be contacted by searching on the web for Kayak instructor James Stevenson Llanfairfechan (or however it is spelt) (if that doesn’t earn us a tenner or a bottle of whiskey from the Yorkshire swine I don’t know what will!). Erica edit:  By the way he is our brother in law and the father of our adorable niece.

We obviously had to fill in a form stating that we had lots of kayaking experience and when questioned I said “yes we know what we are doing, I have more experience but Erica has sufficient and can do all the support strokes”, that got us through and got us our own kayak for about of the cost and a full day rather than 2 hours. P.s. that is Erica who has spent a whole 30 minutes or whatever it was in Vietnam.  (Erica edit:  you forget that also did an Eskimo roll in one at Three Sisters in Wigan circa 1989). The weather was great, we even had to splash out a bit of factor 6 dark tanning lotion and after a brief introduction to the dangerous areas and an explanation of mapping and navigation we had to prove our competence on the water. Basically with a mix of joking about setting off our emergency flairs as a way to find a good lunch stop and a far too loud counting of when we would paddle with the left and the right we were allowed to set off.

We headed up the coast and Erica declared that sea kayaking was basically boring and tiring. After about 30 minutes we decided to head out to sea and try and get to the outlying islands. We managed to cross but were pretty knackered by the time we got there. The island was lovely and the twitcher in the Lady soon got the trip underway properly as we saw lots of different bird species including oyster catchers and cormorants (to name but a few). As we paddled around Fishermans Island we saw lots of great rocks and lovely inlets but the lady kept complaining about getting somewhere to eat our tin of fruit we had brought for breako. By the time we crossed to the next island we were amazed to find NZ fur seals on the rocks and swimming around the kayak. Bear in mind you are not to get closer than 10m to one of these animals before they might bite and chase you we were absolutely shocked when they were jumping right in front of and next to the kayak (when I say right next to I mean within 1m). The paddle rate slowed right down and we spent ages just taking it all in. I did panic a bit when one seal just sat about 1m from me just looking at me out of the water, I didn’t know whether to act a bit Canadian and club it before it got me, but they do look so gentle and are also a protected species (obviously this is meant with jest both in a situational sense and to our many Canadian readers we see on our statistics page).

What we saw next made the whole trip really, really special for the Lady. I saw what at first I thought was a baby seals head out of the water maybe 10m from the boat. Then it swam towards us in the most unmistakable way before popping up again, as lady E grabbed for the camera it was gone... It was a Blue Penguin that are rarely spotted in the daytime at the best of times and are not too common a sight in this area (although we found out afterwards they are here so we were not imagining things). We still hadn’t stopped for breakfast and soon were overtaken by a local guide who we paddled behind and followed to the area where the baby seals hang out. Again the seals were jumping and playing in the water all around us. The guide had three customers so we just sat in complete silence listening to his commentary like real cheap skates.

We then crossed another big old channel back to the mainland and to the point where it was considered dangerous to go beyond (Mad Mile) clues in the name. We headed back down the coast and found a small beach to stop and have some breako. It was only then we realised it was 13:30 and we had already been on the water for 4 hours no wonder we were knackered. We sat down on a rock surrounded by gulls and got stuck into our cheap $2 (1) pate and 4 slices of bread (obviously with caramelised onion chutney – flashpackers!). To our amazement within 10m of us a seal popped up with a really big fish in its mouth and treated us to a display of throwing the fish as far as it could then chasing it and popping up to show it to us again. This lasted for about 15 minutes in a secluded gorgeous beach location and we knew this trip had already been worth every penny. After about 4 kiwi fruits we set off again to see more of the secluded bays backed by mountains which make Abel Tasman famous (plus it is the sunniest place in New Zealand).

As I had to steer using the foot peddles the guy had told us Erica was responsible for navigation (obviously we already knew this) although she didn’t remove the map once, for the most part I managed to keep on paddling (as Erica needed to rest for 45 minutes out of every 60, as well as navigating and steering). Erica edit:  Wow there cowboy I was trip photographer I couldn’t paddle all the time I was being creative, but I did more than you let on. 

We finally rounded the bay with the wind behind us and paddled back to the beach where we started. The kite surfers were out and I’m starting to like the idea more and more. I’m sure I’ll be pretty good at that, but not perhaps as good as I am at skydiving which I was convinced I could now train to be an instructor at (it is very easy to say these kind of things sat in a kayak!).

We got back at about 15:30 after about 6 hours on the water handed over our undamaged and un-sunk kayak (well left it on a beach near a tractor) and set off for Split Apple Rock. This is a pretty cool rock as it is round but has been cracked in half somehow, a pretty mad phenomenon. The only difficulty was parking as there were only about 5 spots, (I did hit a few logs in the car park but at such a slow speed the van was not damaged at all). We then headed off feeling somewhat guilty about the fact that Erica had tried to make us steal from the lovely Christians at the campsite. I insisted we went back before leaving and pay for last night, which the woman then stated she didn’t even know we had stayed but knew we were so honest she didn’t need to worry about us (listen to that DOC wardens). She was really grateful!   Erica edit:  You won’t be surprised to find out that it was actually my idea to go back and pay, I couldn’t handle the wrath of god.

We then drove back through Murchison through yet more stunning landscapes. The biggest event was when we saw a black cloud coming towards the windscreen before we could say “what is that” the windscreen was covered in bees and parts of bees, Eggsy’s worst nightmare. We eventually made it to a DOC campsite where I insisted we paid. So I paid for a single person and proudly displayed our receipt on our dashboard. It was an old gold panning area but we were covered in biting insects as soon as we got out of the van, they were just everywhere much to the ladies horror (Rorie and Emer you were right – Sandflies!!!!)  We had dinner of pasta with chicken and tomatoes in a red wine sauce. We watched the skydiving DVD’s about 18 times still amazed at how our different personality traits came through and of course the fact as soon as I landed I just ran over to the lady for a hug.

Anyway after a few reds we were asleep and another great day had ended, perhaps amongst the two best consecutive days we have had, Sky Diving and Sea Kayaking, great exercise, and contrasts in emotions.
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James on

Wow, impressive stuff folks, hope you kept an eye out for those angry sea snakes eggsy. Looks like an awesome place to paddle. Next time put a link to my website and then maybe I'll give you a bottle of whisky, I will just give Andrew a kick in the nuts when you get back for calling me a yorkshire swine and kayak instructors Jibs.
We are really looking foward to seeing you and can't wait for you to see Ellie (who is now walking).
Laters Folks

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