New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - THIS WEEK IN... WOMAN'S WEEKLY -

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

The An­chor­age.

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.

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