Friday 13th November
It was a very cold night last night and we woke a couple of times despite having two duvets on our bed! It was equally cold at 5.40 when Bill woke up and went to see if the sun had risen. It hadn't. He returned to try to encourage some enthusiasm for the event from the tousle headed lump under the duvets, and, after a mug of hot tea, was successful.
The sun rose most beautifully over the distant Bryant mountains beyond Nelson and then illuminated the low water sand flats of Tasman Bay. We ran a few miles along the coastal path passing an eclectic mix of sea front dwellings and an assortment of smiley people out running or walking their dogs on the beach. At Motueka Quay we passed a very photogenic wreck, named after the daughter of a former NZ prime minister.
On our return we cooked breakfast but ran out of time to eat it before our deadline for leaving to get to Kahu Kayaks and Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures in Marahau, for our 8.30 start.
Even the main road version of the route was steep and windy, but we got there with 10 minutes to spare and met Morgan, our red pigtailed Kiwi guide for the morning.
After a very brief briefing we set off in the company of Jen, a cheery, but disillusioned teacher from Oxfordshire, Walter (Volta) from Holland and a couple from Leeds.
We paddled away and along the edge of the Abel Tasman Park. Blue sea and golden beach after golden beach. All deserted. Forested cliffs rose steeply from behind the sandy coves. It really was extremely beautiful. After stopping for hot drinks on Stillwell Beach we set off again, this time wearing spray jackets as although sunny it was choppy with a stiff breeze. We paddled across 'The Mad Mile' to Adele Island and a number of New Zealand fur seals lounging on rocks, looking around, and flopping in and out of the water. We paddled back and finished the morning on Watering Cove. High tide made the beach rather crowded with kayak parties like ours so we were glad to be able to follow the path up through the bush and over the headland to look out over Anchorage bay on the northern side of the peninsula.
We descended the limestone track to the coarse golden sand beach and met Matt, our skipper for the afternoon. After a tranquil picnic lunch on the shore overlooking the bay we boarded the large fibreglass racing catamaran, joining the existing day passengers to make up a crew of 8. We weighed anchor and motored into the eye of the wind, out of the bay, viewing more seals en route. The sails were then unfurled and 'Mystify' surged forward in the steady force 5.
She sailed along beautifully and we lay on our tummies on the 'trampoline' area between the front hulls and watched the waves skim past. As we rounded the headland, Matt warned us it would get choppier and wetter - and he was right!
Eventually taking shelter in the port cockpit we found our towels and some blankets. It was surprisingly chilly even though it was a sunny day and we were glad of the extra layers. Matt produced a tray of tea and shortbreads from the galley whilst Bill took over the tiller for a while. (He looked like the cat that got the cream and very at home at the helm of his speeding craft, flying over the bright blue ocean!)
We sailed north at first up to Bark Bay, so called for its history of providing tree bark to be used in the tanning industry. We then headed out to sea beyond the islands, stopping to look at the wildlife and rock formations - many eroded outcrops named after an animal or the loved ones of ancient mariners,as we passed.
We then headed south, past numerous sandy coves including Coquille Bay and Split Apple Rock.
Finally we headed back in to shore, our final approach being on a fast but choppy broad reach.
At 4.30 we landed on the beach and were pleased to be able to warm up a bit! Caroline dropped us back to our van, conveniently parked next to the 'Fat Tui' burger bar which came in extremely handy for an early supper in the sunshine! Bill's 'Fush 'n' chups' went down a treat, as did my chicken satay and avocado salad burger, with the interesting appellation 'Plucked'!
Supper fine and feeling very content we set off to sort out our usual plumbing/housekeeping/find some internet/fill up with diesel, lpg and water.... Also as usual, it took longer than expected and so we abandoned our evening drive north in the dusk, in favour of an early night down at the beach reserve and an early morning drive to the northern end of the National Park tomorrow.
Back at the reserve there were several other motor homes parked (as one might expect at a free camp ground next to the beach, on a Friday evening!)
With a bit of ingenious parking we managed to find a spot where all we could see from our windows was sea and sky, trees and beach (it felt rather like watching a toddler play hide and seek -'If I cover my eyes, then you can't see me either!')
Bill rustled up some pudding and a couple of glasses of cab sauv and settled down for the night.