Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sailing and Walking in Abel Tasman (For the second time)

Apparently Nelson has a deal with mother nature: torrential rain downpours are allowed between the hours of 3am and 7am, but after that the weather has to slowly clear into a gorgeous sunny day. We woke up this morning at 6:30am rather disheartened at the prospect of sailing in the wind and cold, but as we ate breakfast (this time Dave expressed his opinions on WWOOFing and how he thinks WWOOFers are abused by a lot of hosts making them work too much) the skies started to lighten. By the time we were once again on the highway (and AGAIN my dad managed to turn the wrong way when we hit the roundabout for Richmond, which exasperated me to no end), I could see hints of blue sky off to the west in the direction of Motueka.

We arrived in Kaiteriteri at 9:10am in plenty of time for our 9:30am checkin with Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures. Using the BoD ("Bank of Dad", as the sales rep called it) to pay for our reservation, we then parked the car over at the Kaiteri Lodge, where we would be spending the night, and then liberally doused ourselves with sunscreen... coming from a family with boating experience, we all know too well what can happen on the water without sun protection.

Our boat today was called Jamarah, and it was a much larger catamaran than the one I was on when I sailed the Abel Tasman with Stray back in November; it's the boat the company normally uses for the overnight cruises, but because of the forecasted rain (which mercifully did not arrive), it was decided we would likely be happier off in a boat with a covered back deck and a cabin. As it was, we were even happier to have beautiful sunny weather, and to be enjoying it on a big boat with a large trampoline area in front, and plenty of seating for everyone without having to worry about being hit by the boom or tangled up in the jib sheets. 

Our sail pretty much followed the same itinerary as my trip back in November: a two and a half hour sail around the shores of Abel Tasman National Park, followed by a 12.4km hike back from The Anchorage to Marahau. It was wonderful to experience the sailing on a warm and sunny day, however, and to not sit huddled together, freezing cold, in the biting wind on the decks of the boat. We were even able to enter into an estuary today that isn't normally accessible to Jamarah, as the rainfall last night had been significant enough to raise high tide to 4.5m (maximum high tide is 4.6m!). My mom especially loved it when we sailed up along the shoreline of Adele Island, which has been pest-free (free of stoats, ferrets, possums, rats, and mice) for two years now, and as a result contains a thriving population of bell birds; the bird song could be heard sweetly and clearly from the boat.

If anything, the one disappointment of the sail was that we couldn't, well, sail that much; the winds were quite small, and seeing as we were sailing in the bigger catamaran going under sail-power would have meant our 2.5 hour sail would have taken 5 hours. We managed to sail under our own power briefly several times, but for the rest of it were using the motor lightly to keep us around 5 knots an hour.

One interesting thing our skipper told us about Abel Tasman National Park is that it is the only National Park in New Zealand to consist of entirely regenerated forest, as well as contain private residences. When the Golden Bay area was first settled, the mountainside was completely logged for timber, and after all the salvageable wood had been recovered was torched to create pasture for sheep farming. After about twenty years of trying to encourage grass to grow on the rocky, granite and quartz-covered slopes, the farming initiative was abandoned, and the land has slowly regenerated to its native bush. However, because parcels of land were sold off privately, and here in New Zealand there is no way for the government to usurp that land (short of paying the owners for it on the open market), there are still many beach and summer homes scattered throughout the park, and these are only accessible from the water (as road access cannot be built through the National Park). It's kind of odd to see beach houses in the middle of an otherwise public place, but combined with the knowledge that the entire park is the result of mother nature naturally regenerating the native bush, it seems fitting.

When we arrived at The Anchorage, we sought out a picnic table and treated ourselves to an oh-so-nutritious lunch: seeing as we hadn't had time to buy supplies on the way up to Kaiteriteri, and seeing as our food supplies were a bit of a hodge-podge, lunch ended up being a very nutritious mix of potato chips, cookies, trail mix, apples, and granola chocolate bars. Oh, well, we likely burned most of it off anyway hiking the trail!

The hike back along the shoreline seemed longer than the first time I did it; perhaps that's because we were going slower, as my mom's pace is slower than my own, but I think my feet were still sore from the 10km trek out of Christchurch on February 22nd, and as such were not happy about being treated to 12.4km of sandy, rocky path. Nevertheless, my mom and dad seemed to really enjoy it, particularly all the spectacular views of the coastline near The Anchorage, and on the tidal flats at the end when we arrived in Marahau.

We had dinner together at the Shoreline Restaurant, and it was the best meal I have had out since starting to travel with my parents; a relief, because after our pseudo-lunch I was definitely in need of some real, nutritious food. Now we are situated in our room at Kaiteri Lodge, and wedding is raging full swing next door (they've rented the entire bar/restaurant), so we'll see how much sleep we get tonight... wish us luck!


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