Abel Tasman

The big kayak shop we start at doesn’t have any kayaks available, and so calls a smaller place. We sort out the campsites we’ll stay at and pay for the whole lot.

Wandering around town we come across a flyer for the kayak place we’ve rented from. He charged us 20 bucks more than the price we were charged. I tell him this when we meet in the morning and he promises to get it to me before we leave, and doesn’t.

After a brief introduction to the wonders of kayaking and how to keep one upright in the water, we’re off to Split Apple Rock. After that we head north, a direction we’ll follow for the next 3 days. We spend the night at Te Puketea with a load of Germans, with the mail boats constantly whizzing in and out, dropping off and picking up day hikers. Around sunset the activity stops and we’re left with breathless views and serene silence.

The rain starts that night and is relentless. The wind is strong enough to flatten our tent upon us. Once again we don’t secure all our food and a possum tries to grab a bag of our stuff. I shake him off and bring it inside. We spend the morning inside the tent waiting for the rain to abate. About half way through the day it breaks and we paddle off.

The next stop is called Mosquito Bay and despite the name is a great place. It turns out to be our favorite of all the places we stay. At high tide there is an island just off the beach. The tide differential is 12 feet so at low tide we’re surrounded by sand and a little creek wandering through the area.

There is a pair of Oystercatchers nesting, and a pair of Herons fishing in the little lagoon. Another little Bellbird doesn’t like the other birds too much and is just raising quite a racket. The napping seal just ignores us all. The only thing that detracts from this little piece of pleasure is Erica’s lip has swollen up so bad she slurs like the retard Jimmy from South Park when she talks. It must’ve been bitten by a sand fly or …something.

The next and third day Erica’s lip looks fine and we make it on to Onetahuti. It’s another big drop off for the boats, it is big and litter is scattered everywhere. We drop our stuff and go out to Tonga Island in the middle of a marine reserve and full of seals. There are babies squeaking loudly. One of them is so small he cannot walk very well and is still nursing, head wobbling as he looks out at the tourists passing by in the boats.

After much oooing and ahhhing we decide to head as far north as we’re allowed to check out Shag Harbor. This is named after a bird, not the action. It’s full of secret little coves and has tree limbs reaching over the water. Following back as far as we can we discover a little trickling stream which has cut out this exceptional place.

On the way back the sea has grown tumultuous and threatens to roll our little kayak over. We keep perpendicular to the waves as trained, cutting away from land and back towards it as we try and head south and back in to our camp spot.

It takes a long time fighting the waves and not being able to paddle direct so when we get back and have some company for the night we’re a little annoyed. This annoyance grows with each repetition of the guides’ tuneless ditty that he whistles. Over and over the same little notes are cast on the air and caught by the hair rising on my neck. I combat it by my own dull whistling to show how annoying it is but this only encourages him. I want to ask if he takes any requests, like SHUT UP but just try and ignore him, like we were in a city trying to pretend we’re the only ones walking down a street populated by the throngs.

The next day has us paddle south passing all the little places we’ve stopped on the way up, and we pull up short of the beginning in Observation Bay. It’s nice enough. We’re sharing the area with a family that is wholly ignoring their kids; who hassle the nesting birds. Flotillas of kayaks advance, it’s the weekend. One of them stops and pulls up their boats right to the nesting oystercatchers. Walking up miffed I point out that the birds are really freaking out by all this activity. I get brushed off with a ‘yep, thanks’ from their guide.

I’m more insistent than with the whistling dope and point to the sign guarding the area. I exclaim loud enough that even the family turns to hear me say that it marks a nesting area and is not to be entered. This is why the birds will not stop their chatter. To my relief this works as the guide has the people move their kayaks and the family yells at their children not to bother the birds.

After some reading and a nap on the sand we decide to paddle out to Adele Island. Not having enough of rough afternoon seas we get tossed about on our excursion that nets us only being soaked and exhaustion from paddling so hard to get back. We walk around our camp, examining the mussels at low tide and finding a plaque commemorating Durville’s exploits in the area; thus the name Observation Bay. This is in the Astrolabe Roadside where he once anchored and charted the area, naming some stuff.

The morning trip is quick, making our way through the Gannets out fishing in the morning. We take showers back at the kayak rental place and I remind the owner of the 20 bucks he owes. The owner gets us a tab at the local café as he’s lost his wallet. It’s a very nice place and we have a good lunch. Afterwards we wander across the street to a gallery to look at the wood carvings and I buy Erica a nice necklace.

Waiting for the food I call Midas and get some bad news. Driving on the broken wheel bearing made the tire grind in to the stub axel. They don’t make them anymore. There’s none in the country, He’s had to have one machined and is waiting for the price of the work. To me, it doesn’t sound cheap. It isn’t.

Our bus driver back is really funny. He’s a bitter old man with his own perspective on the history of the area. The development is ruining the place of his memories, of course. We hear a story about the ferociousness of the Maoris. After hunting the Moa to extinction there really wasn’t that great of a protein source, so they did the only natural thing and started hunting each other. Battles did not result in prisoners of war, but lunch.

Back at the shop David walks me through what he had to do. The brake part came, but when he put it on the truck it was at the wrong angle and wouldn’t allow the brake fluid to flow in to the master cylinder. They must not have marked how it was taken apart and put it back together off by about 45 degrees. He had to take it to a specialist to have it redone.

The stub axel broke from my driving it back to the shop. He called us to get advice, but of course, once again we were out of range so he made the decision to make a new one since they aren’t made and he couldn’t find any in the country. He took off the right stub axel to use as a cast and found it had the same thing happen and was a custom machine part. The bearing on that side was about to fall off so he put a lock-tight in around it.

He checked the back brakes to find a washer rattling around in there. The brake shoes were on backwards. We went to lunch while he machined the scored drum and turned the shoes around. Final damage on this work was $1,500. Adding it up at lunch I think we’ve spent around two to twenty five hundred on this puppy. That’s a lot of necklaces, other gifts, adventure trips or about a month’s budget on the road. It sure makes me feel bad about deciding to buy it. But it is only money. I mean we have our health and all that.

We take off again and make it that night to Kaikoura. This is the place I’ve dreamed about. A picture of it hung on our fridge in Denver as a constant reminder of what we were working so hard to achieve. But there is a dinging now in the left hub, sounding like David has attached a cowbell in there which rings at low speeds and over rough roads. So in the morning we push on, with one look back at the magnificent snow covered range looming over the sea.


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