PAMELA WADE AND HER DAUGHTER TRAVERSE ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S STUNNING NATIONAL PARKS
Even from behind, my daughter Holly’s legs are much more shapely than mine were at her age. I know this because I spent many hours and kilometres observing them as we walked along the Abel Tasman Coast Track together. I suppose it was payback for her having just had two whole days to study in detail the back of my head in a kayak.
A typically original Christmas gift from Holly, the trip was much better than that sounds: two days kayaking along the coast of the Abel Tasman National Park, and then one day walking back towards the start. There was camping at DOC sites, there were water taxis, there was self-catering, there was even wine.
Most of all, there was spectacular scenery, and the chance to share it with someone I hadn’t seen enough of since she’d reached her mid-twenties and set off on her OE. Long hours of shared effort allow for a width and depth of conversation it’s hard to fit into a normal day, and for that reason alone it was my best present ever. Also, it was fun, even the bit where I got my foot caught while exiting the kayak and ended up dangling head-first in the water.
Happily, that was the most dramatic part of the whole kayaking section: our initial briefing had, unnervingly, included what to do in case of capsize. Once we set off on our own, though, everything went, er, swimmingly. The sea was turquoise, the bush green, the beaches gold and the sunsets epic. So were the sunrises.
When you’re camping in the bush, it’s easy to get up early and the rewards, besides the colourful sky, are long shadows on the empty beach while you perch on a rock drinking your coffee, birds noisy overhead, but the sea quiet and calm.
This is important when you’re about to round a headland across a stretch of water called
the Mad Mile. Novice kayakers both, we gripped our paddles and set off bravely – and found it was a breeze, mainly because there was no breeze to speak of, and the sea stretched flat and glossy all the way across to the North Island. This meant we were able to appreciate the sculpted rocks along the shore, the fur seals sunbathing on islets, the sea bird action all around us and gorgeous little bays that only we could see.
The kayaking went so well that we were sorry to nose into the beach for the last time on day two; but the Abel Tasman Kayaks water taxi whisked it away so efficiently that we had to stick to the plan. Having paddled from Marahau up to Onetahuti, we then headed back south again, following a well-maintained track through the bush, over low headlands and past more lovely bays, to our collection point at
There were rivers and a swing bridge, wetlands and beaches, and a side-track to Cleopatra’s Pool with its natural rock-water slide. The DOC camps had toilets but no showers (that’s what the sea is for), or kitchens. It’s liberating to discover how little you actually need.
Finally, all the effort was over, and we were picked up by water taxi and returned to Marahau, then Nelson. We’d had such a lovely time together. And I think even my legs looked better by the end.
Dawn rises at Onetahuti. Below: Ready to go from Marahau.
Sunshine on your shoulder with little wind – perfect kayaking conditions!
The two-day trip was a Christmas gift from Holly. Right: Stunning Torrent Bay. Above: Holly strokes the elephant in Watering Cove. Left: Almost at The Anchorage. Below: Onetahuti bridge.