Finally, having been given the green light by the surgeon to resume kayaking, we were all set to do what I have been waiting for all trip, spend the day out kayaking and walking. New Zealand has always seemed to me to be a place where you get out and experience the landscape and enjoy, to coin a phrase, ‘the great outdoors’.
We have certainly seen a great deal of New Zealand on this trip, which was of course its primary purpose, and we have loved every minute of the trip and everything we have seen. The landscape, wherever you go, is magnificent, awe-inspiring, misty and magical or simply stunning. Kaiteriteri, sitting on the edge of Able Tasman National Park with its beautiful waterways, offered us the perfect opportunity to get out onto the water with a two hour walk thrown in.
When we arrived in Kaiteriteri the previous day, we found the cottage we had booked was high up on the hill behind the beach and overlooking the bay. This was a great location, inviting us to sit on the veranda with a glass of wine while watching the sun set. And, as we arrived early in the afternoon, we managed a few hours relaxing on the beach in the warm sunshine – something we had missed for the last 2 weeks!
Kaiteriteri is in the Malborough Sounds and has a tidal range of up to 5 metres. While we were there John looked up and found that at this time of the year there was over 4.8 metres difference from high to low tide. As we arrived on the beach just after high tide we could almost see the tide recede: a tractor arrived with a boat trailer and initially dipped its wheels in the water. However, by the time the boat returned to be loaded the wheels were high and dry.
We signed up for a day’s kayaking and walking with a local company, Wilsons, which runs a commuter/tourist boat service up the coast of the national park. We boarded the boat off the beach at Kaiteriteri. The boat has a long gangway projecting from the bow which is lowered onto the sand to allow people to board. The boat travels with this raised but in place, making for a very striking prow arrangement.
Having boarded, we set off up the coast. An excellent on board commentary is provided as well as a detailed map showing the various route highlights with accompanying explanations. The coast consists of a series of beaches, bays and headlands and some interesting rock and land formations just off the coast including Split Apple Rock. The dominant rock of the area is granite which splits along natural fault lines. When the granite breaks up and wears down completely it forms the golden quartz sand beaches of the area.
The boat dropped us off at Torrent Bay where we joined up with a group for a three and a half hour kayaking expedition. The kayaking was led by a young man from the Coromandel named Braedon, and what a terrific guide he proved to be. With a very precise and comprehensive safety briefing and some tips for the non-kayakers on technique, we were into the water and on our way.
The paddle took us past interesting rocky outcrops, some with hardy trees clinging to the tops or slopes, a seal colony, other sandy bays and finally, after a fairly challenging paddle into the wind across a long and open stretch of water, we landed at Frenchman’s Bay for lunch where we were joined by a weka who was looking for a handout. The weka is a very inquisitive ground bird and will quickly get into your lunch or bag if you do not keep a keen eye on it. Also during lunch a large stingray cruised the shallows in front of us.
After lunch we paddled into the lagoon, only accessible at high tide, at the northern end of the bay. This lagoon was very extensive with two distinct arms which went quite a long way inland. We only had time to explore a short way up both arms but along the way we did see a cormorant fishing in very shallow water. No diving from a height here, rather the bird ducked under the surface and skimmed along the shallow flats at a remarkable speed emerging after some 10 – 20 seconds with a small fish in its beak. The lagoon was very protected, with calm, clear blue water and it was a pleasure to cruise around in here for about twenty minutes.
It was then back to the beach from where we had set off in the morning to don shoes for the walk from the northern end of Torrent Bay back to Anchorage Beach where we would be picked up by the boat in a couple of hour’s time for the trip back to Kaiteriteri. If we had done this walk at low tide we could have walked across the bed of the large lagoon and it would have taken about 45 minutes. However, as it was high tide we had to go inland right around the back of the bay and then inland around a very extensive lagoon which ran inland again for some considerable distance.
This was an exceptionally pretty walk through dense vegetation but always with the crystal blue lagoon on our left.
A measure of the success pf the Department of Conservation’s pest trapping program could be seen in the national park. The number of weka strolling along the track and hanging pout on the beaches and at Cleopatra’s pool is testament to this. And they have no fear of people, rather they are. inclined to walk straight up to you and peck at your footwear.
Half way along there is a side track to Cleopatra’s Pool. Here, a sparklingly clear stream tumbles through huge boulders and forms pools along its path. At one place the rocks have left a ‘raceway’ for the water to stream through and people jump in at the top and are spat out at the bottom, landing in one of the deeper pools. A very beautiful spot and well worth the 20 minute detour to get there and back.
The last section of the track was a well graded but very long climb to the top of a ridge before a quick descent to the beach below for pick up.
Both of us were pretty tired by the time we got back onto the boat for the trip back to Kaiteriteri. However, back at the house a restorative glass of wine awaited us on the veranda, to be followed by a delicious BBQ dinner cooked by Frances and Lindsay and an early night!