Abel Tasman Kayaking & Tramping Adventure

December 17, 2007 at 2:51 am (Travels, Wedding)

Situated in the stunning Tasman Bay region at the top of the South Island of New Zealand, Abel Tasman National Park is one of New Zealand’s most popular national parks, a unique coastal playground of immense beauty. Golden beaches border the translucent turquoise sea, and sandy estuaries fringed by natural forests.

Before I get in to our actual adventure, it is interesting to know that the tides here raise by over 15 feet from low to high tide. It is really amazing — in under 6 hours the beach-front waterline changes drastically. So, ocean-front properties are literally ocean front for half the time, and have about half-mile or so beach in front of them the other half of the time. Tramping and kayaking trips need to be planned around the tides because actual rivers fill up and drain out every couple of hours, so you can end up beached on your boat, or stuck on a trail with a river through it. On our tramps, we had to cross estuaries a couple of times where you walk through the water that at low tide can still be up to your knees, but at high tide they are impassable except by swimming across. So, if you don’t tramp with a guide you might get stuck waiting for the tide to go down for several hours.

For our trip, we had a guided group that included Adam, our local Kiwi guide extraordinaire, a couple in their late 50s from Auckland, and a dad/son duo of about 50 and 14 years of age also fro Auckland. So, you would think that we, being in our 30s, would be kicking some butt — not so much, these Kiwis are pretty badass in their outdoor fitness level!

Our first day of Kayaking took us 10 miles up the coast of Abel Tasman. We paddled through beautiful bays and inlets and even went in a cave. The water in Abel Tasman is unlike any sea water either of us have ever seen. It is clear and so green you can’t believe it. We are told it is because of the large amounts of quartz in the sand. Whatever the reason, it was simply gorgeous. Adam had warned us of ‘The MAD Mile’, which is one full mile of open sea paddling in rough waters just before reaching the final destination of the day, the Lodge in Torrent Bay. After about 3 hours of exhausting kayaking, when we got to The Mad Mile, David and I thought we were about to drop dead. We were both paddling in agony cursing the decision to have an adventurous Honeymoon instead of being on a beach somewhere getting massages and drinking daiquiris!

When we made it to the Wilson’s Family Torrent Bay Lodge, the tides were low, so we got beached and had to drag our kayaks probably 100 yards to the lodge. But, I have to say, the Wilson’s tour group does it up right. The staff has your luggage there waiting for you at the lodge, with a full bar and a delicious homemade dinner. A staff member even had their new puppy there (the full staff sleeps there too, you can’t just drive in and out to this location very easily), she didn’t have a name yet – just ‘Little Dog’. The lodge only runs on a generator, so it isn’t like a fancy hotel or anything, but it was perfect after a long day of grueling paddling. We were asleep before it even got dark out.

For the second day of the trip, we were set to kayak as much as the first day (10 miles) PLUS tramp for 2.5 hours after. I almost didn’t want to do it. We could do the full day tramping option instead, but then we’d miss a lot of seal colonies, and islands and bays that are only reachable by boat. So, after a pep-talk from the hubby, we went for it.

It helped that the second day didn’t have as much open sea kayaking and we got an early start so the water was as smooth as glass in the beginning. Plus, David and I got our paddling groove down, so we were much more efficient in our synchronized paddle strokes. This ended up being the best day. There is little river that is only accessible in high tide, the tide was just starting to fill it up when we got to it, so in we went! It was lovely, and such a drastic change from the coastline waters. The sea salt water fills in on top of the fresh water, and the river goes through a rainforest jungle. What we didn’t realize (well until Adam told us to turn around), is that the river ends up going underground, so we have to paddle back out to the sea. At this point, the tide had come in quite a bit and getting out from the mouth of the river back to sea was not an easy thing to do. We had to super-paddle through rapids of strong sea current that were filling up the river waters. It was actually fun. We’d paddle hard and feel like we weren’t moving and the current would sweep us to the sides, but we finally made it out.

We also kayaked by a bunch of seal colonies. Seal pups are just being born now, so we were fortunate enough to see lots of pups on the rocks. Some seals would swim up very close to our kayaks and dive under us. I think they liked to give us a little show. The would dive down and then swim around on their backs and rub their face and bellies with a fin. They were taking a little bath right there with us. They were so close we could have reached out to touch them.

After the kayaking, we tramped to the next lodge – Meadowbank at Awaroa. This day wasn’t quite as exhausting as the first, although we were pretty beat. Again, we had a great meal and were asleep before dark. One of the owners was there with his dog too. Love that both lodges had a doggie!

The last day was a 3 hour hike to a campground where a ferry picked us up and took us back along the coast that we had kayaked up. It was a wonderful trip, and I have to say that the Wilson’s company really has this all worked out. From the guides, to the lodging, to the staff, and the meals, and the transportation. It is really a great adventure without having to deal much with anything – other than having a great time.

We learned a lot about ourselves through this trip. I learned that I might be a little tougher than I thought. And we learned that together, we make a good team. On this trip, there were many opportunities to lose our cool with each other, but we were sweet and encouraging and really had a great time. I think all Honeymoons should include a ‘team-building’ exercise. It made us a little bit stronger together ๐Ÿ™‚

Advertisements

Permalink 1 Comment

Nelson

December 17, 2007 at 2:42 am (Travels, Wedding)

Nelson is a really cute little town on the Northeastern tip of the south island. It is a town of about 40k people and it nestled in between small mountains and the ocean. It is another town that reminded us a little bit of Boulder, with a lot of young and active people, bike paths, outdoor cafes, and a ‘Twilight Artist Market’ showcasing local artwork with live music on the closed-off main street of town in the evening.


We stayed at the California House, which was OK, but nothing that exciting. What is interesting though, is that in their guest book we noticed that a couple that left the day before we showed up were from Boulder. We haven’t been running in to many American at all, so seeing that we just missed another Boulder couple was pretty random. Most of the other tourists we talk to are either from the UK, Australia, or Auckland. It is refreshing to be on a international trip without running into other Americans left and right! Although, we still cannot escape McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks and KFC. They are in every town.

From talking to the Kiwis, we’ve concluded that the whole country, or at least the South Island, is made up of Boulder-type people. They are all so active and outdoorsy. Couples in their 60s talk about backpacking trips and 75 year old grandmas are on the tramping trails.

Some new fun Kiwi words we like:

Tramping = hikes shorter than a full day (hiking to them means backpacking, so when we talk about ‘hiking’ we sound hardcore)

Capsicum = red pepper

Nibbles = evening snacks (best enjoyed at happy hour-ish time with vino)

We ate well and rested up in Nelson, since our next stop was Abel Tasman, for 3 days of kayaking and tramping.

Permalink 1 Comment

Blenhiem & Marlborough Wine Country

December 17, 2007 at 2:40 am (Travels, Wedding)

We stayed for two nights at the Old Saint Mary’s Convent, which was a gorgeous property with its own vineyard and gardens. It was really a unique experience staying there, and the accommodations were very luxurious.

This part of the trip was really low-key and relaxing. We did a tasting tour of 4 wineries. The region has a lot of good Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. So, of course we had to drink some vino!


Permalink Leave a Comment

Kaikoura

December 10, 2007 at 12:41 am (Travels, Wedding)

We drove to Kaikoura from Christchurch. It was a beautiful drive and a fun road trip of about 2.5 hours. Kaikoura is a small town on the water where a branch of the Southern Alps meets the ocean. It is truly magnificent. The first thing we wanted to do when we got to Kaikoura was the cliff-top hike around the peninsula. It was about 3 hours of gorgeous views with some seal, sheep, horse, and albatross sightings.


Kaikoura is also one of the best places on the planet to swim with dolphins in their natural setting. In my last post when I mentioned seeing a ‘giant pod of dolphins’, I was mistaken. We swam with what is really a ‘giant pod of dolphins’ meaning hundreds of dolphins. We had the privilege of finding a pod of beautiful Dusky Dolphins to hang out with. They are the most acrobatic species of dolphin, and they were amazing! They would jump and flip and you can tell they were just having a blast. There is not any known biological reason for why they jump, they just seem to do it for fun. They are also the most promiscuous species of dolphins and mate for fun too. Females have been known to mate with several different partners in a matter of minutes. So when their calves are born, they don’t know who the father is, and the calves are raised solely by the moms, the males are off the hook and have nothing to do with raising the young. We were lucky enough to see a pod that had a bunch of mom/calf pairs. It was really cute. The calves swim right along side of the momma. It was hard to catch a picture of that since the babies don’t really jump, we mostly saw those when we were in the water, not as much watching from the boat.

After the dolphin experience, we hopped in the car to head to wine country – Blenhiem and Marlborough. On the way we stopped to check out the seals that were in the water on the side of the highway.

We’re off to the Old Saint Mary’s Convent in Marlborough. How ironic to stay at an old convent on our honeymoon. We’d have shown those nuns a thing or two about a thing or two ๐Ÿ™‚

Permalink Leave a Comment

Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise

December 10, 2007 at 12:35 am (Travels, Wedding)

We drove to the Lyttelton Harbour, which is just a 20 minute drive. But it was a very eventful drive since the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and they drive on the wrong side of the road. We got into the groove though, I drove while David navigated and continuously said “LEFT” to me to help me stay on the left side! To me the hardest part is that every time I go to use a blinker, I turn on the windshield wipers, even those are on the wrong side.

On the cruise, we saw a giant pod of Hector’s Dolphins. They are smallest and rarest dolphins in the world. The captain had warned us that sometimes they can’t find them on the cruise since they are the smallest and rarest dolphins and we are looking for them in the biggest ocean. There had to be at least 15-20 of them swimming all around us and giving us a little show. They would jump in 2s and 3s and swim back-and-forth from under the boat to each side. The captain said we must be lucky because usually if they see them at all, they see 2 or 3, not a giant pod. I think that is our luck kicking in again, just like the snow on our wedding day ๐Ÿ™‚ We got some cool video of the Hector’s Dolphins, but for some reason it won’t upload. So, we’ll have to add it later.

Next we are heading to Kaikoura, for hiking and swimming with dolphins!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Christchurch New Zealand

December 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm (Travels, Wedding)

After 20 hours of traveling to New Zealand (we managed to both sleep for about 7 hours on the 12 hour flight, even with me doing my leg exercises!), we finally arrived on Thursday 12/6. We had left on Tuesday 12/4, so for us, there was no Wednesday 12/5, kinda strange. The International Date Line wiped that day from existence!

When we arrived at The George Hotel in Christchurch, the first person we talked to that was working at the check-in counter lived in Breckenridge last winter and worked the lift on Peak 8 where he met his now-wife that is from Ft. Collins. They are living in his native home for about 6 more months and then planning on moving back to Breckenridge. He seemed excited to talk to us about Breck for a few minutes — so we traveled around the planet to chat with someone who new exactly what church we got married in — small world it is!

The George Hotel has a great location, I’d highly recommend it to anyone coming to Christchurch. It is across the street from the Botanic Gardens, blocks from the Arts Center (which is the Old Canterbury College – the first co-ed college in all of the British empire), and a 10 minute walk from the city center, the pedestrian shopping area, and the strip of outdoor cafes.

We started our first day with a quick 2 hour nap and then headed out to explore by 1pm, so we ended up getting in a pretty full first day, which we hadn’t even counted on! Right out from The George, we went for a walk around the Botanic Gardens, and then headed to the city center, where there was a FunRazor going on. This was an amazing event to get to see and gave us a great first impression of the city. People joined together to raise money for children with cancer and had their heads shaved in support of the kids. The Mayor was there and his hair was the first to go (“the Mayor with no hayer“). An 11 year old girl raised thousands of dollars on her own and had her head shaved – she is a cancer survivor (had fought it from age 6-10) and this was her first haircut since her hair had actually grown back. There was another little girl who is fighting cancer and already bald who shaved her dad’s head. There were a ton of really touching stories and the event raised over $400k nationally. It was great to see so many shaved heads walking around town and it was really fun to be in Christchurch during this event.

We cruised around the city some more and checked out the shopping areas and stopped for dinner on The Strip, where all the outdoor cafes are. There was some fun live music going on and the cafes where packed. This seems like a very young and lively city. It reminds me a bit of Boulder that way, but just a little bigger.

That night we went on a Haunted Ghost Walk in the Old Canterbury College. It was actually really scary hearing the old ghost stories of the campus and we got to see parts of the college that are preserved and closed to the public.

Just to note – it is a lot colder than we thought. More like pants and long-sleeves weather, I’ve even been wearing a fleece most of the time. The weather is gorgeous though, sunny, dry, and in the low 60’s. We tried to do a little shopping to pick up some warmer clothes – big mistake, it is super expensive to shop. Any decent pants are like $160 and up (which would be like $120-ish US) and when you see brands like Merrell or Columbia (there are a lot of outdoor adventure clothing stores here – love it), those are even more expensive. Just a short-sleeve Columbia tshirt would be like $70 US. I saw the Keens that I have and they are $250-ish here when I got them for around $70. Just wanted to share that since I thought it was cheaper here – not so much!

More to come soon…

Permalink Leave a Comment

Let the Honeymoon Begin…

December 5, 2007 at 11:59 pm (Travels, Wedding)

The wedding was sooooo perfectly amazing, making it hard to leave Breckenridge, but we had a honeymoon to get started! So, we headed to LA on Sunday, 12/2. I had no idea where we were staying, so the swanky hotel in Santa Monica, the Huntley, was quite a treat! The room had a revolving 42 inch flatscreen TV that could swivel to be seen from any part of the room – the bed, the big tub, or the living room area. We also had ocean views from the room. Not bad! DC is really good at this stuff! SaMoooooth!

Quick shout out to Cindy Koehler – that kit of honeymoon treats really came in handy with the rose petals and bubble bath… I can say that now that I’m married, right ๐Ÿ™‚

On our first honeymoon day, we woke up totally refreshed from the wedding stress! We had a great, relaxing day just cruising around Santa Monica. It is such a beautiful town. I’ve never really spent time in the LA area so it was a lot of fun. We hung out on the 3rd Street Promenade, stopped at the cupcake store for a treat (why doesn’t Boulder have cupcake stores?), went to the Santa Monica Pier and rode the ferris wheel to see some great views, took an hour long walk on the beach, and then had a really nice dinner on the 18th floor restaurant of our hotel. It was a perfect first honeymoon day!

There was another surprise for me the next day! We had to check out of our hotel at 1pm-ish, but didn’t have to be at the airport to head to NZ until 7pm. So, we slept in late and ordered room service, then at 1:30pm a stretch limo rolled up and took us for a tour of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, West Hollywood, Hollywood, and Universal City. Since I had never really seen the sites, it was super fun to get in a day of the touristy LA stuff, and we did it in style!

Next stop – New Zealand.

Permalink 1 Comment