Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Source to Sea: Canyoning and Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park

After dreaming and scheming about this trip for two months (mainly on my part), Dave and I finally had time and money to do the Source-to-Sea trip offered by Abel Tasman Canyons and The Sea Kayak Company in Abel Tasman National Park.  

Our two day kayaking and canyoning trip started in Motueka where we grabbed our gear and boarded the water taxi in the parking lot. Because it was low tide, the water taxis needed to be towed onto the beach and dropped off by tractors.  I can't tell you how bizarre it is to be on the road, in a boat, being towed by a tractor.  

Our day canyoning was spent with two guides, two kiwi families, and a group of three kiwi men.  The canyon itself was pretty wide and mellow. It wasn't too deep but it held some really exciting things for us! We got dropped off at Anchorage Bay in the national park, a very popular spot with everyone else in NZ it seems.  It was about an hour hike to the top of the Torrent River. Our guides, carrying ropes, abseiling gear, snacks and drinks, set a pretty gargantuan pace. Pretty impressive, considering the rest of us were carrying very little and struggling to keep up!

The first half of the day was spent doing mini abseils, ziplines, natural water slides and jumps. 

Walking was the most dangerous part. 

Dave emergine after the biggest slide!

This is how your dismount from an abseil, let go and be free! 
Getting the talk about the 8 meter jump. Commit or get seriously hurt. Seriously. 
Last slide at Cleopatra's Pool.

Learning to abseil
The big zipline

The warm up to the bigger jump. Six meters

Group photo at the midway point. 

The big zipline

After Cleopatra's Pool, it was about a half hour hike back to Anchorage Beach. By this point we were all pretty exhausted.  Our path was also submerged by the high tide. Dave and I ended up taking turns dragging each other through the water. Our wetsuits were quite buoyant and we attached ourselves together with our daisy chains. 

Our next stop was the floating hostel in Anchorage Bay.  You had to stand on the beach and wave at the people on the boat in order to actually get onto it.  One of the two workers picked us up on their tender (another words for small motorized boat).  Dave and I were shown to our teeny tiny 'double' dorm bed. We acutally slept in the blue bottom part of the boat (as you can see in the picture).  We were immediately sea sick. Dave more so than me. Our dorm bed and dorm area also made us both really claustrophobic.  Good thing they sold ginger beer on the boat, because I think we both would have ended up throwing up. Despite the sea sickness, it was a beautiful night with some great food served by our two hosts on the hostel.  Definitely recommend it if you aren't prone to motion sickness.  

Welcome to sleeping on a boat!!

The next morning we were dropped off on the beach and left to entertain ourselves until noon.  We decided to soak up some sun and tried to recover from the sea sickness. We also hiked about half an hour to another beautiful beach to meet our kayak guides.  

Anchorage Bay in the morning.  Beautiful slice of heaven. 

Anchorage Bay from the hike

After lunch on the beach, we started our kayak tour. We headed to Adelle Island to see if we could catch a glimpse of the fur seals. We saw quite a few sun bathing and quite a few swimming in the water.  There were also baby fur seals that were so cute! They were also very vocal and were constantly screeching like velociraptors. It was pretty adorable.  We only had my little point and shoot camera though, so no good pics resulted from it.  After a day of canyoning, it was nice to half a calm, relaxing day on the ocean.  Our guide told us many interesting anecdotes, including one about Australasian Gannets, and about Abel Tasman's encounter with the Maori people which resulted in two of his crew members being cannibalized. 

Kayaking around Adelle Island looking at baby fur seals and shags.

What was an empty beach, quickly became crowded with about 30 people landing on it.  

Unfortunately, the second half of the three hour kayak was not as relaxing as it could have been because I had too much juice at lunch. Let's just say, this was the only time in my adult life I tried to justify peeing in my pants. Which also would have resulted in me sitting in my own pee for the remainder of the kayak.  Luckily, I was able to make it to the bathroom in time :).

This was probably two of the most enjoyable days I've ever had!! Wish I could afford to do this all the time!

If you are even in New Zealand, I highly recommend Abel Tasman Canyons and The Sea Kayak Company. All the guides were experienced and very professional.  The canyoning guides also took pictures for the group and shared them via Dropbox for free so you don't even have to worry about bringing a camera.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Impromptu Helicopter Ride

One of the things about working at a five star luxury resort is that the guests sometimes choose to arrive in a helicopter. When that happens, if we happen to have a day off and the stars align, staff are able to ride back.

Yesterday, Dave and I were lucky enough to be on one of those flights!! There was a large group of Chinese tourists who arrived via helicopter, and one of them was headed back to Blenheim, a nearby town we were going to the next day.  Stacey came up with the brilliant idea that we should see if we could hitch a ride back to town on one of the choppers around 5 PM. 

At this point, we were all lounging around in our togs (bathing suits) on a nearby jetty and I was drying off from my dip in the water. By the time we found Pip, the resort manager, to ask if she could ask the company about us going back on them, it was about 5:20.  Since it was really last minute, she said we had to be at the helicopter pad, ready to go when the helicopter landed, which was going to be at 6 pm. 

Stacey, Fran, Dave and I rushed back to our rooms, packed, and were there by about 5:40.  The first chopper landed and  we watched apprehensively to see if the pilot was ok with taking us back. Fortunately, he said it was alright and we got on!! 

He said yes!!

Dave and I got to sit in the front with the pilot, and boy was it a tight space! The views were fantastic though...the glass basically gave us a 360 degree view of everything. We were in the air for about 15 minutes and just glided over the sounds.  My favourite part was popping over a mountain range and seeing the ocean and the Kaikoura mountain range in the distance. Absolutely gorgeous!!

The pilot was a stud (in the words of Dave) and also drove us back to Picton so that we could retrieve our car.   This was completely unexpected and is an experience I will never forget!

Flying over Picton

The ocean and the Kaikoura mountain range

Stacey and Fran in the back of the chopper


To top off the night we had some delicious Indian food and then car camped by the beach. To save space, we didn't pack our sleeping pads, so it was a bit uncomfortable, but SO worth it. Thank you Tasman/Coast to Coast Helicopters for the ride!