I had googled Abel Tasman before I left and this was one of the stops I was most excited about on the tour. I mean just check out these pics and you'll know why. So I was a little bummed that we woke up to MORE RAIN!!! It wasn't too bad so I hoped it would pass quickly, we hopped on our Aqua Taxi and headed out. I may have been running a little late (mornings aren't my strong suit) so I was in the back of the boat aka the part that was not covered by the awning- always good when its raining. A little rain soon turned into a lot of rain especially when the boat is flying across the water. Us back row seats were drenched in no time but it was a blast and I was laughing the whole time so being wet didn't really seem to matter....plus we saw a little blue penguin!!! Yup a penguin! Everyone should be jelly about that one as they are adorable. We had stopped to look at some seals and since I didn't have my glasses on I shouted 'Is that a fucking penguin?!?!' as soon as I saw its little head over the waves...lucky everyone ignored my...umm...colorful outburst and freaked out themselves over the little guy.
As we left the penguin and seals the driver goes 'so this next part is going to be a little rough' and heads into the waves. And these were not little insignificant waves, we're talking George Clooney Perfect Storm kind of waves here (ok might be exaggerating a little). They were big enough that he would have to pull back to let us slam back into the water between waves otherwise everyone would have gotten very wet. We eventually made it to our destination and I leapt off the boat and ran to the awesome Anchorage Hut. It was completed recently as a place for hikers and backpackers to stay as part of the Coast Track (just under 55k). Theres a kitchen, bathrooms with flushing toilets (big deal), changing rooms, foot wash station (for sand), awesome rooms with mattresses (it sleeps 24 people), dryer racks to hang wet gear AND a fireplace.
My backpack had stayed dry up at the front of the boat and I had brought along a bathing suit, board shorts, flip flops and a fleece so I quickly changed into dry clothes and hung everything else up. Most of the group decided to start the hike in the rain but Kate and I decided to wait out the storm while our clothes dried in the hopes of having a sunny day. After eating lunch and checking the hut out, the rain eased up enough that we could explore the beach right outside. Our tour is considered a 'Yolo: you only live once' tour - meant to be more adventurous than a standard tour. So we made sure to write YOLO in the sand and take a bunch of pictures of it.
After about an hour we decided that there would be no more rain (power of positive thinking right?) and decided to detour to the Cleopatra Pool hike before heading back. The trail headed up pretty steep right away before leveling out which gave us some great views. At one point I thought the trail had ended until I looked across to the other side of a stream and saw a sign pointing over a bunch of boulders. So we got our Oregon Trail on and forged the stream (only casualty was a wet foot) and climbed over the boulders to check out the secluded pool. At that point the sun came out- hallelujah!!- and I proceeded to lay down on a boulder and take a nap...vacations are supposed to be relaxing right?
After my nap, we packed up and began the actual hike home. It started out as a cloudy hike but soon enough the sun came through and we had beautiful blue skies to complement the gorgeous turquoise-y blue water.
Soon we started seeing beaches! No one was on them so we weren't sure if there was a way down- Kate was trying to figure out if we could safely make it down the cliff- but soon after we saw a trail heading off towards the beach and we quickly ran down. Most beautiful beach I've ever seen! We pretty much had the beach to ourselves (only 2 backpackers) and we were happy to put our bathing suits to good use by swimming in the ocean. The same ocean which is home to a very grumpy crab that pinched both our feet. After swimming, laying out and frolicking (just me) we grudgingly put back on our hiking shoes since its about a 4 hour hike.
Before we left we thought we saw penguins and went running over before stealthily creeping up on them- nope not penguins, just white and black birds. Bummer.
It was so hard continuing the hike and seeing all these beaches but we knew that we had to get back before it was dark (and we still had a long way to go).
Abel Tasman | Day 8
I had loved Abel Tasman so much the day before that I decided I wanted to see more of it and what better way than hang-gliding?! Mia (fellow tour member) and I headed over to Tasman Sky Adventures in Motueka to get our glide on. They suited us up and then we were off! Trevor was the actual hang-glider so all we had to do was hold on and enjoy it!
It was such an awesome view- sadly not of Abel Tasman (you only see that in the micro lite) but it was still really cool being up that high and hearing nothing but the wind. Ah yes, the wind. Turbulence on an airplane? Not fun. Turbulence when the only thing holding you up is a glorified kite? So so so bad. I was nauseous within the first 10 mins and was close to telling him to land immediately when he finally did head in for the landing. He actually cancelled the rest of the day after our flight since it was so turbulent.
After recovering, we headed back onto the bus and got ready for a long drive. We stopped at Cape Foulwind to check out the seals (its a fur seal breeding area) and stretch our legs. FYI it's appropriately named as it smells awful and is very windy.
We saw a little baby seal (not dead just kinda looks it in this pic) and lots of Weka birds who are not shy at all (they would terrify my bird-phobic mom).
The whole crew took a pic- I think this is the only one we have (stole from our CEO's FB page :-)). And the now traditional jumping picture- I'm getting better at jumping height.
We continued on our drive (stopping to take the amazing penguin road sign) all the way to Punakaiki.
Punakaiki is known for their pancake rocks (which we did see) and blowholes (didn't really see those so much). The official description (source):
The Pancake Rocks that Punakaiki is famous for, are limestone formations that began forming 30 million years ago, when lime-rich fragments of dead marine creatures were deposited on the seabed, then overlaid by weaker layers of soft mud and clay.The seabed was raised above sealevel by earthquakes to form the coastal cliffs and coastline. The sea, wind and rain have since etched out the soft layers to form the unusual rock formations we see today.
When conditions are right, heavy ocean swells thunder into the caverns beneath the rocks and huge water spouts blast skywards through the blowholes in a truly spectacular sight.
Yup they were neat but it only took a few mins to look at them before we were in the gift shop buying ice cream. Our hostel that night was the Te Nikau Retreat. Some of the group stayed in the Te Nikau lodge but the rest of us stayed in the Weka lodge. It was pretty cool because they're all situated in the rainforest so you take trails to get to different buildings- and there was a weka in the kitchen. We did a 'make your own pizza' night for dinner and played Janga.
Punakaiki | Day 9
We started the day off with the Pororari River hike. The river was pretty but the hike was kinda boring since there's no view when you get to the top, just a bunch of trees the whole way. The hike ended at a road so we headed back up the street to the gift shop (for more ice cream) before getting back on the bus to head to Franz Joseph.
During our drive we got our first view of the Southern Alps- so pretty!
We got into our Franz hostel Rainforest Backpackers, in time for dinner. One of my favorite hostels because they had towels- yup handing out towels for free is my new measure of an awesome hotel. For dinner we had lamb with roasted potatoes, salad and chocolate cake for dessert- so good. Kaisa liked the chocolate cake so much she helped everyone finish theirs (not mine though- chocolate cake eating champ over here).