One Day in New Zealand, This Happened…
A Kayaking Trip in Abel Tasman Cut Short by Rocky Waves
The waves were rapidly getting larger. I tried to stay calm as I pushed my paddle through them and hoped Tom was focusing on keeping the kayak straight forward to the waves the way the kayak rental expert said.
Capsizing was not an option.
I looked forward through the spray of the waves, blinking rapidly, and saw a huge wave coming toward us. I was too scared to even open my mouth to shout or alert Tom. I simply gritted my teeth together and prepared for the worst.
The wave hit the front of the kayak hard, lifting the nose up precariously. We rocked briefly on top of the wave, then thudded down with a sickening thump in my stomach. I waited for the water to cover us, holding my breath. Then after another breath I realized we were fine. We weren’t capsized. A smaller wave came toward us right as I heard Tom swear behind me.
“Babe…” I started.
“We need to turn around,” he said, mimicking my thoughts.
“Yes,” I said. No more words were needed.
It had been a long thirty minutes since we’d left the shore after spending the night camping on Anchorage Bay in Abel Tasman. Rain was scattered throughout the night and in the morning, we surveyed the deep bay and it looked choppy, but the board at the Anchorage Bay information point said it was fine.
So, with our kayak rental instructor’s warning of only going outif the waves were manageable, we took off into the bay.
As soon as we left the bay and got into the open sea, the waves quickly became large and…well, very scary. We knew it was a short kayak to the nearby bay of Te Pukatea. We just had to get there, we assured each other, then the conditions would get bigger.
Then, with the last large wave when I was sure we’d capsize, making it to that bay seemed unattainable.
We paddled back to shore.
Once we hit the sand we climbed out of the kayak and pulled it up farther onto the sand and then sat down, exhausted.
“How often do you think the water taxis come by?” I asked breathlessly as I laid my head on Tom’s shoulder, both of us plopped on the sand.
“I don’t know,” Tom replied. “They made it sound pretty regular.”
With that, we didn’t say anything for awhile, and with one side of my pressed into the sand, I dozed away on Tom’s shoulder. A very short while later I was suddenly woken by a kiwi accent.
“Is that your kayak down there?” I heard a voice ask as Tom rustled under me.
A smiling woman looked down at us, her blonde-gray hair blowing in the harsh wind. I groggily smiled back, trying to be friendly, while Tom answered. “Yes, we’re waiting out the weather.” He paused. “Or waiting for a taxi.”
“Oh, thank goodnesss,” the woman answered cheerily as she plopped down right next to us. “My husband and I were worried we were the only ones around who weren’t going out in these waves!”
I’d fully woken up by this point. “You guys are worried, too?” I asked. “That makes us happy because we were worried we were just being wimps!”
She settled down more into the sand and shook her head. “Oh no. We’re camping on Te Pukatea and the waves are huge over there. We hiked over here to see what the prognosis was.”
Tom shook his head in frustration. “Well, it says its fine, but the waves seemed huge when we went out.”
The woman laughed. “Yes, we’ve been here for a couple days and that seems to be the norm. The weather prognosis is always wonderful. Even when it isn’t.” She looked over to the far shoreline and waved at someone. A man began heading our way.
“My husband,” she explained. “He’s on the lookout for a water taxi.”
He showed up next to us. “No luck yet,” he said after introducing himself to us.
Tom nodded. “We’re thinking a water taxi is our best bet, too, but we don’t know how long.”
So we sat. Shielding ourselves from the wind and sand flies and sharing stories of our lives. We learned they were from the North Island and tried to travel to the south island once a year to partake in all the outdoor activities down south. They assured us they had kayaked over a dozen times and had never encountered weather they didn’t feel comfortable going out in…until now.
This made Tom and I feel better, but once the water taxi finally arrived, we were still worried we were on the verge of being judged and having eyes rolled out “us stupid tourists” for being too scared for battling the waves via kayak.
The couple we had been talking to had arranged with their rental company to pick up their kayak tomorrow (the bay was even too rocky for boats). They’d headed back to the bay to get their camping and personal belongings so it was just Tom and me pleading to be saved at that very moment.
The young guy with surprisingly surfer blonde hair was very obligingly. He assured us no one should be out in this weather. Feeling guilty, both Tom and I – after heaving all our belongings out of the kayak and onto the boat (the kayak has many compartments to hold tents, food, extra clothing, and many other items) – went to grab the kayak to heave onto the back of the boat.
“Oh, don’t worry,” he assured us. “I have it. Take a seat.”
“Are you sure?” we asked, slightly concerned. The kayak was heavy.
But then, with seemingly no hardship, he hoisted the kayak from the ocean shore up onto the end of the boat. He deftly secured the kayak with bungee cords then took the helm of the boat, assuring us again sweetly that no one should be kayaking in these conditions.
“To be fair, they’re making like 70 New Zealand bucks off of us and this kayak, so why not assure us we’re doing the right thing?” I hissed at Tom. We knew from our kayak rental company that transporting the kayak was more than transporting people.
Just then, the boat hit big wave ,they type that instead of giving your stomach a rollercoaster type roll instead makes it feel like it just ran into a brick wall.
“Ok, maybe he’s telling the truth and not just being nice,” I muttered.
We hit a few more big bumps that were a less harsh. I giggled as my stomach jumped. “It’s like a roller coaster out here,” I whispered to Tom. Green hills and standalone, small islands several feet from the water’s edge stand out from the shoreline. I breathed in sharply as it was all the places we could have explored more in depth had we still been on our kayak.
Had we made a big wimpy mistake?
Our boat driver pointed out that we saw no kayaks out except for one lone kayak going north. “Going north is much easier than going south,” he assured us.
While traveling through the water, he continued to try to get ahold of our kayak rental company. This was standard for water taxis who picked up people with kayak since, you know, it was people with a kayak that belonged to the company in question.
“I heard back from them,” he called back to us from his helm at the steering wheel. “They won’t cover this.”
He looked so apologetic and sad by this news, we both swung into reassurance mode. “That’s fiiiine!”
“We’re just happy to be warm and safe.”
“We never expected it to be covered.”
“Don’t worry,” we said in unison and smiled placidly at him.
He still looked uncertain as he shot us another look over his shoulder. “I just think they should cover it if you can’t get back cause of weather,” he said earnestly.
As happens to me more and more as I get older (annoyingly) I felt an endearing tug at my heart that there is some young’un out there who wants to do good in the world, and told myself to chill. He could just be being nice.
Though, as I’ve discovered in New Zealand, that’s not normally the case. People really are. Just. that. Nice.
To us Americans, it seemed almost fake. But it wasn’t.
We arrived and our driver transferred us to a trailer to take us the rest of the short way to the kayak rental building. We thanked him again profusely for saving us (or not saving us…who knows…). The kayak rental place even took pity on us and docked $20 from what we owed them for the taxi ride.
The good thing that came of all our possibly wimpy kayak saving on the high seas?
We got to have time to taste Monkey Wizard Brewery and arrived in Marlborough County with enough time to grab dinner there before spending our following day wine tasting.