"Harder and Deeper" (again)

Trip Start Apr 16, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, August 19, 2011

A horrifically early start in Wellington, and a bus over to the ferry port. As standard, Korean Jay showed up late, but we were pleased not to be losing him, numbers were already low. So there were just three of us, the new bus driver and an office worker from Stray making our way over on the ferry. The 3 hour journey went by with not too much swaying about as we'd heard about, so caught up on sleep and began to take a look outside at the views greeting us in the South Island.

At the other end, now in Picton, we got our bags back and jumped aboard the new bus. The driver, Chase, set her rules down pretty quick and liked to talk. I’d thought bus numbers might fill out here picking people up on the route from Christchurch, but the only other additions were Hannah, a Scottish/German girl, and Antoine a French man. Seven people on total in the bus, it was still a small group. Anyway I got to know Antoine by busting out the wine chat, covering the Rhone Valley in which his family produce their own premium wines. I was already thinking about earning an invite.

We stopped at picture worthy rivers and such along the way. And talking of wine, we were driving through the very beautiful Marlborough region. Fortunately the driver pulled over, and let us have a quick sampling at a winery. Not a massive Chardonnay fan, but the buttery, brioche example took my fancy and thus I picked up a bottle for the evening. Back on the bus and along the way we lost Hannah, opting to hop off in Nelson. We’d meet her again, but numbers were down to 6, in fact just 4 actual travellers. Chase continued to talk too much, so it was ipod in for me. I just wanted to stare out the window lapping up the glorious landscape, and the sheep.

We arrived into our Abel Tasman accommodation, The Lodge, early evening. Already sitting in the toasty, cosy, fire heated room were another stray group, running a day behind schedule due to bad weather for their attempted ferry crossing. I began recognising some faces I’d chatted to back in flu week, Raglan. They were of course delighted to know I was well again, with a loud Irish girl fetching me one of her beers immediately. Unfortunately for her the repayment would be one of the rank beers I was still trying to get rid of that I first bought when on her bus from Auckland. We caught up on what had gone down. A couple of girls had done the goat hunting back at Blue Duck too, but with complete failure. I was validated yet more at their surprise I took Billy out with one, clean, humane shot. HERO.

Chase the driver was whipping up some fajitas for dinner, with some local (Nelson) green lipped mussels for starters. She’d previously invited people to watch how she did mussels, Kiwi style. Standing around sipping my chardonnay I thought I’d entertain her by showing interest. "So what have you done then?" I enquired inquisitively. Here I got my first taste of her dual personality and it’s proneness to flip as she very bluntly said, “It’s just onions, garlic, wine, parsley then the mussels, nothing special.” Slightly taken a back I just laughed it off, but really I had the urge to tell her I knew how to bloody cook mussels, love. Anyway, they were good; she’d done a good job with the dinner. The rest of the evening was spent sitting round drinking, banter, answering questions from Tui (beer) bottle tops, and Chase taking the chat slightly embarrassingly dirty. Bed time meant leaving the baking hot common room into the cold, non-heated dorms. Double up with covers it was. 

Waking up with a cold face it was time to get up and ship out for the day’s activity. I was joining Jamie in exploring the Abel Tasman National park area by kayak, and glorious weather it was for it. So we were taking over to the centre, kitted up, then to sea. The water was so calm, the sun was beaming (sunburn anxiety), and the views weren’t bad either. At the back of the kayak I was in charge of steering, with Jamie up front. I felt it necessary to dish out some advice as I’d had to back in Halong Bay, Vietnam in a similar set up, “go harder and deeper.” No Essex girl to comment this time though. No sea snakes around this time either unfortunately.

Along the way we took in secluded bays, faux penguins (some bird) and lazy seals. On trying to get a close up shot of the birds, I dragged us close in to a set of rocks and very nearly got shat all over. Sorry to disappoint, but I got away chocolate free this time. A Kiwi Experience couple with us had had a nightmare with their camera running dead. Probably too busy getting pissed. I took on the challenge to capture this beautiful day for them. Hero once again. On later reflection of the pictures, it may have looked like I was just stalking them on sea.

For lunch we parked up on Watching Cove, pretty. A hot tea, good filling of sandwiches and cake was very welcome. After, we parted the rest of the group as had opted to use our second half of the day to walk/hike back along the national park area. The first uphill immediately took it out of us in the sunshine, but the views from above were worth it. We walked another 1km or so away from our end destination to check out Anchorage Bay, again pretty nice. Here in the distance I noticed a man with a cowboy hat on. We knew this infamous hat, and thus the man, it was Antoine. He’d been having a nap in the shade after he’d already walked the fair old distance out here that morning. And so we all started the way back. It took us a good 3-4 hours to make it back, along the way checking out various viewpoints just to stop and appreciate the views for a bit. At one it seemed we’d gate crashed some lads reflective time as he sat there perched on a slanted rock, looking out to sea. Having a group nose blowing session probably didn’t do much for him. This wasn’t the last we’d see of him.

A glad return to the lodge and of course a good old tea to sort us out. Jay asked to see my pics of the day and so sweetly commented in his Korean-English, “O, you saw pingins!” An old Scottish lady had arrived, and was keen for card games, so we obliged. After a couple, winning one, I decided to hit the beers. Unfortunately for Antoine already busy on his laptop, the militant woman pretty much bullied him into taking my place. He very reluctantly played. Later an impromptu laptop party, but more probably just everyone’s common defence from the old lady.

As we sat around I overheard some guy talking to two girls about his travel plans. This included flying onto South America. I immediately piped up. Turned out this was the guy from the rock earlier, and his flight to Santiago was just 3 days before mine. His name was Ash. Once we found out he was hopping on the bus with us the next day, Jamie was sure to let him in the know for the big event on the cards in a couple of days. We reheated last night’s dinner, sat around talking and I had bit of a party on my own unnecessarily polishing off my beers. Lad.
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