not biking – Kayaking!
So – it rained on the way into Picton, but we got the car, the skies pretty much cleared, and we headed toward Nelson on the Queen Charlotte Drive. The drive is scenic and driving it made up for my lack of riding it way back when I first arrived on the South Island due to my brake problems. I had already seen Nelson and we basically handled some logistics there and headed for the pimped up crib in Kaiteriteri at the edge of Abel Tasman National Park. On the way, we were debating whether to go on a guided kayak trip or try to rent boats and venture out on our own. I think from our perspective, both options have advantages and disadvantages. The main issue was pace – we really did not want to be stuck in a slow group of people preventing us from pushing at our intended pace. On the other hand, going it on our own required more orientation from the rental companies, probably starting farther from the park, and not knowing the area at all, we saw the value in learning from what a guide might tell us. Chandra called Kaiteriteri Kayak company (which had been recommended by Emi and Sterling) and asked how “leisurely” the pace was, as indicated in their fliers. “Oh, it’s super leisurely” was the reassuring attempt on the other end of the phone. Disaster. Our fears were being confirmed. Chandra gently told the person on the phone that we were pretty experienced and started asking about rental-only options. Unfortunately, only an afternoon half-day was available, but we learned that there was no one else signed up for the day and it was already nearly 5pm. So, it might be that we would venture out just the two of us with one guide. Things were looking up!
So, in the morning, we arrived and met Jess (who by chance was Sterling and Emi’s guide on their trip), flew through the orientation stuff and got moving – Chandra and I in a tandem, and Jess in a single. Jess turned out to be a great guide – allowing us to move fast which in turn allowed for more exploring on shore, little breaks to hear her spiels about wildlife (and with a biology background, she had some interesting insights), Maori history, the really fascinating history of the park’s genesis, and we still made it to Te Pukatea (pdf map here) which is apparently further than the Big Day Out trip typically goes. We saw two penguins (little blues – one alove and one dead), seals, tons of birds, and much more. Another key advantage was we got to go around Adele and Fisherman islands which were cool, and with the wind picking up in the afternoon, we even sailed most of the way back from Fisherman Island to Kaiteriteri.
So, in the end, it was a little pricier to hire a guide, but it was not limiting and, instead, was an enriching experience that turned out to be a total blast! To top off the day, we went for a nighttime walk to check out a gully full of glow worms which is like looking at a starry sky on the ground. Awesome. The kush life may not be so bad – after days of cycling in the rain, sunny skies, warm breezes, and ocean air – not to mention using muscles other than our legs – was a fabulous change of pace.