Thursday 14 February 2013
On Day 6 we explored the jewel of the north island: Abel Tasman National Park.
Lyn had the table set for breakfast by the time we surfaced on Thursday morning. We had cereal, juice, fruit and coffee, Lyn insisting on making plunger coffee just for me. Lyn assured us she’d packed a picnic lunch, and suggested we bring a small backpack. The only one I had with me was my laptop bag, so I emptied it and loaded up extra fruit, water, swimmers, a jumper, and a towel for Col and I to share.
We climbed into Garry & Lyn’s 4WD. Garry drove us out to Kaiteriteri Beach, giving us a running commentary on the way, as we passed orchards and green fields of growing vegetables.
We pulled into a busy carpark and Garry fronted up to the booking booth. Apparently there were not enough people booked on the cruise he’d selected, so they’d transferred us to another operator with a smaller boat. We took our backpacks from the car and Garry offered us bottles of water to carry. I loaded two into the backpack and selfishly handed the backpack to Colin to carry, while I carried an extra bottle of water for myself.
The water taxi guide rounded us up and herded us down to the beach, which had a tropical look and feel. Who would have believed we were so far south? The water was the deep blue of the Whitsundays, and the hills were covered in greenery. The day was glorious, the sun glinting off the water. There was a strong wind blowing, but Garry assured us we’d be in the lee of the land, well-sheltered from the wind.
A thin, pretty girl, with piercings and tatts and no shoes, haughtily lit up a cigarette and drew on it, making no effort to blow the smoke away from the group.
One by one we had our tickets checked and waded into the water, to climb into the back of the boat, then make our way to the front and take a seat. Colin complained about my big bum, saying he could fit just one cheek on the seat. The skipper handed out lifejackets, which we each struggled into in the limited space.
We bounced across the water, the skipper pointing out places along the way. We circled close to split apple rock, an unusual formation of a rounded boulder split down the centre, sitting perched above the water near a beach. We stopped at a couple of beaches to let people off, or transfer them to other boats. The dainty girl with bucket-loads of attitude, but no luggage and very few clothes, skipped off at one beach. “We’ll be back for you at four,” the skipper told her.
We were dropped at Torrent Bay. Behind the slice of beach was a row of houses. If I understood correctly, although it was a National Park, people were allowed to keep holiday houses there, though they were not allowed to live there permanently. They were allowed, apparently, because the houses were there before it became a National Park. We made our way past a noisy group of children to a quieter spot by the lake inlet. We sat down and Garry handed out a lunch pack each with sandwiches, home-cooked slices and biscuits, fruit and a chocolate bar. I pulled some oranges from our pack and I commissioned Colin to peel them for us.
After we had a munch, we put on our shoes and headed off on the track through the rainforest. It was a smooth track, with a gentle climb. Garry set up a good pace and Lyn kept up, chatting to me as we walked. Colin lagged behind, and every so often we stopped while he caught up.
We swapped and Garry walked with Colin, while Lyn and I took our time, talking almost all the way. We passed lots of people walking in the opposite direction, and several passed us going our way. Along the way we stopped and ate our sandwiches.
A track led off to Medlands Beach. “That’s where we catch the water taxi home from,” Garry pointed out. “But we’ll go to Bark Bay for a swim first.”
Bark Bay was another lovely sheltered beach. It was lined with people stretched out on the sand. The water looked calm and inviting, though very few people were swimming. Garry immediately dropped his backpack on the beach up near the bush then dropped his shorts, his shirt hanging low. “He must have worn his speedos,” I thought, but then his undies hit the sand and he’d pulled his speedos on so swiftly I didn’t even have time to take a peek.
Lyn disappeared up the beach in search of toilets, and Garry pointed out to me where to follow. By the time I returned in my swimmers, they were all floating in the water. I stopped at the edge. “Come on, just do it,” Colin called. I plunged in and swam out to them. Glorious!
Garry, our organiser, let us know when it was time to head back to catch the taxi, apologising for the short swim. Hey, we were the slow ones, not him.
There was a small crowd of people waiting at Medlands Beach, and a stiff wind blowing. We found a place at one end of the bay that was more sheltered, while we waited for the boat, which may have been a little late (though I don’t know, I wasn’t worrying about anything). A bigger boat took us back. It had a fancy gangway that folded out onto the beach so we could climb on without getting our feet wet.
Back at Kaiteriteri, Lyn unpacked a thermos of tea, and we had a cuppa on picnic blankets on the beach. I’d saved the homemade bickies, which I relished with my tea. Afterwards, we took a drive up to the headland, looking at the modern houses and checking out the view. We drove up onto a block with an amazing view, which Garry told us had been for sale for years. That’s my block, I reckon.
Tony had asked his parents to take us for the world’s best fish and chips at Mapua. On the way, we pulled into a supermarket. I dashed in and bought a bottle of wine, and Lyn picked up some plastic wineglasses. Down by the water, Colin and Garry minded a picnic table while Lyn & I went and bought battered blue-eyed cod and chips. We enjoyed them together with a good glass of local sauvignon blanc.
At the end of the wharf was a pole with a heron perched on it. When I looked again I realised it wasn’t a live bird, it was a sculpture. Garry told us the story behind it. Apparently a heron frequented the wharf each winter for something like 30 years. The locals named him Hamish. When he finally disappeared, the locals decided to put up a monument to him, which continually fools people like me, even though it’s double the size of a real heron. Amazingly, Hamish is made of horsehoes, but you’d never know it to look at him.
After dinner, Garry drove us out to see Rabbit Island, a sandy island of public parkland at the head of Tasman Bay, where families and groups had picnics and Garry liked to go fishing with mates.
Garry and Lyn, who lived for many years in Wellington, chose this area to retire, because of its great weather (mild temperatures, with relatively low rainfall), its beauty, and leisure activities. For several years they had a caravan on Kaiteriteri Beach, where they stayed most weekends and a boat that they’d take out and explore Abel Tasman National Park. They tired of the caravan, deciding they wanted to visit other places as well, and sold the boat because it wasn’t getting enough use since they went out on friends’ boats a lot of the time. Now they have a 4WD and an Ultimate Camper trailer in Australia, where they spend the winter touring around. I think they have it pretty well worked out.
Back at “home”, Lyn asked me if I had any washing I’d like to do. She’d told us we could stay as many nights as we liked, so we gratefully accepted another night. I put some light-coloured clothes into the washing machine and left my darks next to it while I had a shower. In the meantime, Lyn hung out my clothes and started the next load. Unbeknownst to me, she also hung out the next load while I sat at the dining room table and transferred photos from my camera to my laptop. The next morning, while I ate the breakfast she’d laid out for us, she brought all of mine and Colin’s clothes in, beautifully folded. Wow! I felt guilty, but I so enjoyed being mothered again.
When packing up our gear, Garry offered us extra bottles of water, while Lyn gave us doggy-do bags, which she said come free from the Council and are very handy rubbish bags. She said she worries about dying and people finding doggy-do bags in her freezer and wondering what’s in them.
After hugs and goodbyes and vowing to catch up when they’re next in Sydney, we’re on the road again.
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