Paddling in the Park

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27/01/08
Good day to you all! Although I’m pretty bagged at the moment, I think I’ll try to throw together my blog post right away, as I don’t think I’ll be any more awake tomorrow after a long day in the saddle with some big climbs to tackle. Today was a nice change for me. I spent the entire day paddling a kayak in the Abel Tasman National Park. And I do mean all day. I was up at 6am, and didn’t get back here until 7pm, just in time to go buy some delicious Chinese food for supper, and get to work on preparations for leaving Nelson after spending 3 nights here! I was blessed with yet another great day of weather here, although I fear that will soon grind to a halt by the look of both the sky and the forecast I just saw on the TV in the lounge here. Sounds like only light rain here though, not full-on showers as I was worried about. Anyway, read on for my post, and check out my map. The stats on it are just from the paddling and hiking, not the bus trip there and back.

Abel Tasman is one of those parks that everyone raves about that has been to it here in New Zealand. As such, it was difficult to have to make the decision that I’d just spend one day there. I could have hiked probably for a week there, and not seen it all, but then my mission would be in jeopardy, wouldn’t it? As such, I decided that I’d get off the saddle and the legs for a day, and put my back and arms into action by paddling. I think it was a pretty good idea, as it allowed me to see the coastline quite nicely, and also get to know some different kinds of people. You know, paddlers, not bikers or trampers 😉 BTW, in case you’re wondering, I never did get in touch with Nathan Faavae as I’d hoped. There was no answer at his place, and I chickened out today after getting back. I just figured it was too late. I’ll still look up his races and hopefully get to do one, at which point I might meet him. Anyway, back to the paddling.

I was picked up pretty much on time, and we were on the road shortly after 7am for the park. The ride there was about 80km, so that would have been a full day at least from Nelson by bike. The bus we were on was quite the tank, and handled like crap I’d say. I would have loved an extra little nap time on it, but that was near impossible. Either way, I was fairly excited about getting to go out on the water, so I wasn’t too let down. Getting to the HQ, I learned I’d be in a group of 7 paddlers doing our trip, and would have 2 guides. Not bad. The trip we were on is listed as the longest one day kayak trip they offer, so I hoped that meant we’d all be paddlers. Well, of course that wasn’t the case, but it was just fine anyway. I ended up getting paired with one of the guides, as we used tandem kayaks. The odd guide out had a single boat, and he was just getting ready to be tested tomorrow to become a full guide himself.

We had a great day on the water, and got to explore plenty of nooks and crannies, as well as be tossed about like corks in a bathtub on a few of the ocean passages we had to navigate. We got to see a bunch of seals sunning themselves and playing in the water, which was cool. At one point, we also saw some rays underwater near a sand bar. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any snapshots of that, which I wished I could have. Our lunch stop was on what was supposed to be a relatively deserted beach, but it turned out to be rush hour for all the kayak tours, and our little beach was soon over-run by a myriad of small tour groups. It was kind of funny. While there, we made a side-trip by hiking up to a lookout which looked down on the beach, this was probably one of my highlights actually. We also played an old dutch game called whirling windmills, which I won!

Back on the water after lunch, some people were starting to get a little tired of paddling, so the pace stayed pretty tame. The guide, Josh, thought it would be funny to just let me do all the paddling, and at one point, another 3 boats were trailing off our boat, and I was the sole paddler. Apparently, this was supposed to be training for me. It was fun for a bit, but got pretty tiring after a while, which is probably why I’m so bloody tired now! That, and I have to bike 84+ km tomorrow, and climb up to a 700m peak. Yikes. Luckily, I’ve already made my reservations, so I don’t have to rush too much, and the place is actually called a bike-packers, and they cater to cyclists. Fun, eh?

Anywho, back to the paddling. Towards the end, we started having a pretty substantial tail wind, which got the guide pretty excited, as it meant he could use his secret weapon for our last leg of the trip. A Sail! Yup, we had a sail that we could all use as a group, by rafting up together, and holding it up to catch the wind. Well, I got the short straw again, as I had to hold the windward corner of the sail with my bare hand, and had to move myself as far forward as possible. So, I was hunched way over, and as a result of the kayak position, got tons of water coming in through my skirt, so that I was sitting in a nice soup by the time the ride was over. Oh well, it was still pretty cool, even though it was pretty tiring hanging on to the sail in that position for so long. By the time we got off the water, I was pretty chilly, and was happy to hop in a quick hot shower out there before boarding back on the bus for the return journey. Once again, I tried to get some shut-eye, but it was once again impossible!

That’s pretty much all I have to share about my day in Abel Tasman. A longer time would have been preferable, but even my snack of Abel Tasman was much enjoyed. I definitely feel the need to move on now. It seems that now that I’m on the South Island, my mission has become clearer, and the sense of purpose is higher in my mind. There are definitely more stops on the road south, but I do want to make some progress, so expect the next few days to show some good forward momentum on my side! Take care all, and remember, I’m always glad to hear from you guys!

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