Sunday, December 02, 2007

Rainbow Lodge Backpackers Retreat, Napier, NZ



One long bus ride later I was in Nelson. Since funds have been, um, waning, I didn’t have anything major planned – just a night’s stopover before heading out to do Abel Tasman Park in some manner, though I hadn’t yet figured out how or where that was going to happen.

See, all the information about Abel Tasman is really confusing. It’s advertised everywhere, with these impossibly gorgeous photos of boats in water so clear it looks like they (the boats) are floating, and wee, adorable, big-eyed seals perched on the end kayaks. Everywhere. Seriously. But there’s no obvious town near to Abel Tasman to use as a base, and almost everyone does a 3+ day hike through the park, which I wasn’t planning to do, but there was some noise about permits and camping and aqua taxis and it was all terribly confusing.

Eventually I found that Lonely Planet said Marahau was a decent jumping off place for Abel Tasman, since most of the kayak/aqua taxis/whatever else were based there. So that was one thing more or less sorted. Maybe.

I asked a number of people about it, and couldn’t really get a handle on how this park thing could be done – until I got to Nelson. I stayed at Accents On the Park, which Lonely Planet says “feels more like a guesthouse than a hostel,” which is a lie. It’s pretty big, but decent enough, I guess. Anyway, one of my roommates had actually worked there for 9 months and knew plenty about this whole Abel Tasman thing.

She said Marahau was a good idea, and there are easy ways to figure out day kayak trips, which is what I wanted. Sorted.

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(Biggest danged aloe plant I’ve ever seen. See that gap on the right? I could stand under that).

Since I didn’t get into Nelson until after the info centers were closed and I prefer to make bus reservations with them than online or over the phone (I feel better with a confirming piece of paper in my hand), I ended up staying in Nelson two nights. I got along very well with L, the woman who’d worked there before, and S, who was in the bunk under mine.

Determined to not spend too much money, S and I wandered to a used bookstore, and – okay. Okay. The price of books here is outrageous. Completely outrageous. A new paperback is NZ$30-35. I’d finished my book ages ago and couldn’t bring myself to buy any more because they’re so heinously expensive. Most at the used bookstore were $10-12, which was okay. I tried to sell the one book I had bought new here (The Big Twitch, NZ$36) and he offered me $6 for it. I laughed in his face.

By which I of course mean I politely declined.

Then lunch and a good long wander. We compared educational systems – she’s German (yes, lots of German travelers here) – and GOD it’s not fair. They pay something like 500 euro for a semester’s education. That’s so little! Bah. Jerks.

We went to the beach to read in the sun, and (and I’m so tan! Whee!) I gave up after about 20 minutes, because – thanks to the breeze – no way I sat kept the sand out of my face. I watched the sand build up on my bag and on my feet before deciding to walk back. We’d taken the bus out with the plan to walk back. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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The only bonus to the walk of eternal punishment was that as I passed some waterfront bar and heard The Hobnail Boots doing a sound check for their performance that night. If I hadn’t been tight on moneys and completely uninterested in walking back I would’ve gone to the concert. But I enjoyed listening to them play “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” even if I couldn’t see them.

Oh, and I got sunburned on the walk, too. That was nice. Humph.

On Saturday morning I went to the Nelson Market, which involves lots of crafts and food. Nothing much to note about that. I had a crêpe; it was good.

I’d gone to the info center on Friday and bought my ticket, and on Saturday, a few hours before I was to leave, I realized I’d bought it for the wrong place. I’d been planning to go to Marahau, and had bought my ticket for Motueka (ma-tu-EE-ka). It wasn’t that big a deal – they were close together, and in fact, Motueka offered better hostel options, but I still felt pretty stupid.

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(Nelson)

I got myself a bed at the Laughing Kiwi backpackers and got myself booked for a kayaking trip the next day. Turns out one of the kayaking companies Had bought up the rest of them just the month before, so it was difficult to get recommendations for which trip would be good, especially since it still kept all the different companies open since they attracted different types of people. So even though it was all one company there were still maybe five options of sub-companies to go through, with 3-6 day trips each to choose from. I chose the Kaiteriteri company and their… what was it called… Full Day Royale with Cheese. Something royale with cheese.

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I went to The Warehouse – NZ’s equivalent of Wal-Mart – for a sun hat, bug repellant (which was on the same shelves as the insecticide, which made me a little concerned), and water. The Warehouse ("where everyone gets a bargain") sucks, but I needed cheap and there it was. I’m so ashamed.

OH! I didn’t get any sunscreen (I had some already), but that reminds me – their sunscreen only goes up to SPF 30. Nothing higher. Weird.

The bus picked me up at, oh, 8:30am or so from the hostel. I boarded and was struck by some of the surliest holiday faces I’ve ever seen. I’m not really a morning person either, but crikey.

If you’ve ever had a teenager you know the morning face. Teenagers can’t really recognize it among their peers, but if you’ve been an adult and faced with a teenager before 10am then you know the face I mean. And – oh. They looked like… how to put this… They looked like the type of people for whom MTV, reality shows, and "bacardi breezers" are made. They looked like they came from the Kiwi Experience bus– and, it turns out, some of them were.

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The Kiwi Experience bus caters to… the more… social 20-30-something crowd. Rumor has it – and this is just a rumor, emphasis on rumor, though I could totally see it being true – they sometimes have kegs on the back of their busses. Because the best way to spend a vacation is drunk.

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ANYWAY. I was sitting there, fairly bright-eyed (I think I just heard my parents snort derisively at the thought of me being bright-eyed at that hour), terrified that I would have to spend the day with these people. As we checked in and paid whatever we had yet to pay they stood around with their giant sunglasses (okay, I have a pair of those too, though not with me, which is a shame because the sunglasses I have look really dreadful on me) and short shorts and hangover chic, making me tired just to be around them.

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Maybe I’m a little cruel; I can’t be sure.

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By miracle of miracles they weren’t on my trip. I was sent over to the beach where I met the two guides, What’s His Face and That Other Guy, who was decked out in pyjamas and a flow-y, flowery robe. They handed me a cricket bat (those are heavy) and tossed a tennis ball to me until two others on our trip showed up.

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We hopped onto an aqua taxi and took off for Bark Bay, where we unloaded and met the other three members of our crew. One of them was a woman I’d met in Punakaiki. I’m really glad she remembered where we’d met, because it would’ve driven me absolutely insane.

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Kayaking is hard. If you were wondering.

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It was a really nice trip – What’s His Face and That Other Guy were really excellent guides and very funny. After lunch they had us hit the tennis ball again with a half an oar (they didn’t bring the cricket bat).

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Lunch was catered, and the drinks were pretty fancypants – they foamed milk for my coffee, and then sprinkled chocolate on top. I’ve been to coffee shops that haven’t done that much.

There were only eight of us – guides included – in four double sea kayaks. In the second hour or so we had a good wind and ended up sailing for a while. We got all the kayaks together (“rafted up”), then the front outside two held the bottom of a tarp, the other ends of which were tied to the ends of oars and held up from the back outside two. The inner folks had the task of holding the kayaks together.

I wish I’d gotten a picture, but I was busy holding the end of the tarp.

It was a gorgeous day, I didn’t get burnt, and only got bit by bugs a little bit (sandflies, for the record, are evil, evil creatures). We saw – and smelled some seals (none got up on our kayaks, dang it) (I think that happens 1. very infrequently, and 2. only when there are young, curious, and not terribly bright seals around) (it’s getting near mating season, which explained the extra pheromone-based funk that we smelled) and a bunch of cormorants.

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Interesting facts: Shag = cormorant, which is one of two or three web-footed birds that can land in trees.

We saw split apple rock, which… you know. Was good. Big.

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And boy did I sleep well that night.

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2 comments:

Janice in GA said...

Oh man, I LOVE sea kayaking, even if all my trips have consisted of little guided "adventures" off the coast of South Carolina and (once) in Alaska. If I thought I could haul one around by myself (and if I had the $$) I'd TOTALLY have one, even if it was for splashing around in Lake Lanier.

Are there just a bazillion hostels there? It's different from here, yes? Not that I would know where any hostels are in the Atlanta area. There could be 20, and I wouldn't know it.

miss said...

Wow. The water is amazing. You aren't kidding.

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