Not having a whale of a time

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Thursday March 25th

Despite feeling not exactly 100%, dragged myself out of bed at 7:30 to find somewhere to watch the Arsenal-Chelsea Champions League game. It's much colder up here, evident by the snow-capped mountains that sloped down to the sea.
Despite being a beautiful sunny day, I had to have a kip in the afternoon - not waking till 9:30 at night. No whales today, then.

Friday March 26th

After these months of travelling I have come to the conclusion that the Japanese have the least backpacker etiquette. They're not afraid to put lights on and not whisper when everyone in the room is trying to sleep, but the thing that really winds me up is that everything they own seems to be in very noisy plastic bags, especially when they leave early in the morning. Today I had four of them rustling around for half an hour whilst I had my head buried in the pillow wishing I had a gun.
Still not feeling too good, and definitely not up to standing on a boat for four hours looking at whales and dolphins. Instead a Danish girl gave me some flu drugs that she bought in Brazil (well, she said they were for flu). My Portuguese is a bit rusty, but the packaging looked good enough. Either I was going to spend the next 12 hours dancing and being mesmerised by traffic lights, or I was going to have a decent night's sleep. Fortunately - I think - it was the latter.

Saturday March 27th

I had arranged a bus and accommodation a few days ago for my next stop, and couldn't be arsed to change it for the sake of some whales. My parents went out on the boat a few weeks ago and said it was great, so you'll have to read about their exploits just as soon as their TravelPod is up and running.
I took the bus today up to Nelson on the South Island's north coast, the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. For some reason the bus was full of Israeli backpackers, so I spent the journey hoping that Hamas wasn't in the area.

Sunday March 28th

Feeling better, I decided to do something active for the first time in days. A short walk up a hill from the hostel is the Centre of New Zealand. Somehow they've calculated that this very spot is the geographic centre of the country, so I walked up there. It was really a waste of time, but there was a nice view of the town and I was happy to be out the hostel, which was pretty lame.

Monday March 29th

I booked a two day trip into Abel Tasman National Park, the first day kayaking and the secong hiking. Unfortunately I couldn't go till Tuesday so today was another day chilling out and wandering the streets of Nelson. I did manage to stay away from the internet and radio until 6pm when they replayed the Arsenal-ManU game played overnight. Bit disappointed with the result, but at least we didn't lose and the unbeaten streak remains!

Tuesday March 30th

Picked up at 7am for the hour drive into the park. The Abel Tasman id New Zealand's most popular park, famed for it's beautiful coastline and walks. Fortunately this is the end of the season and there were not nearly as many people around as during the summer. Whilst there were a few more day-trippers, there was only four of us kayaking all day and spending the night on a boat. Hardcore people take their own tents and food and do everything themsleves, but for a few extra quid I was more than happy to sleep in a boat and for someone to cook me food.
I shared my kayak with a German girl and no surprises that she was very efficient - and she even had a sense of humour! All in all we paddled about eight miles along the coast, starting at Marahau, into the Mad Mile past Ta Pukatea Bay, before finishing at Anchorage. En route we saw lots of herons, oystercatchers, cormorants and even a couple of playful seals showing off.
From the beach at Anchorage we were taken aboard the boat where we had steaks for dinner and a couple of very bad beers. It was too cold to sleep on deck, but the boat was half full so there was plenty of space below. After all that exercise in the sun and fresh air I certainly didn't didn't need any Brazilian pills to help me sleep.

Wednesday March 31st

Today we had a six hour tramp in front of us to meet the water taxi that would take us back. No guide today, just a map of the park and the Coastal Track. The German set off early at 8am, but seeing as we didn't have to catch the taxi until 3:15pm I decided to have another bowl of Weetabix. And more toast.
Some of the track goes through a tidal basin, meaning that it can only be crossed two hours either side of low tide, otherwise you have to take an hour's detour around. Unfortunately the tide wasn't low enough and so we had to the long way round. I was walking with a nerdy London doctor who was upset that we couldn't walk through the rivers, so half way round the long way we decided to walk down to the basin to see if we could cross. I was a little nervous as I had heard about the Chinese cockle pickers that had been caught by the incoming tide and had drowned off the English coast. But what the hell. If it meant Dr Phil would stop moaning then I was all for it. Off came the boots and socks, and with bags held high we waded through the mud and freezing waters to the other side.
The weather was a lot more overcast than yesterday, and I was glad that I wasn't kayaking today. The wind was whipping up the water and most of the kayakers I saw looked quite cold and miserable, but at least I was warm and dry on land. We made it to the water taxi at Onetahuti beach in plenty of time, and zoomed back to Marahau where we caught the bus back to Nelson.
A good couple of days, and a fitting end to my time on the South Island. Tomorrow I'm catching the ferry to the capital city of Wellington on the North Island.
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