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Setting the bar high in Abel Tasman! June 3, 2013

Posted by rrpalumbo in Travel Log.

Our first weekend in New Zealand was one of adventure. It really set the tone for the rest of the trip! We split our group of 50 into a few smaller travel groups to make things easier to coordinate and I ended up spending my first weekend with 10 people I barely knew. Its amazing how quickly we all became friends and its one of the wonderful things about traveling. It brings people together unlike any thing else! We took a ferry from Wellington to the South Island and drove to Abel Tasman National Park. Driving on the left side of the road was an interesting experience that we were all getting used to! It was the landscape though that took the most getting used to. New Zealand is an incredible place. It seems like around every corner there is something spectacular to look at. Just when you think it can’t get any more picturesque, there’s something new and different that is just as breathe-taking. In our first drive, for example, we saw rolling green hills and pastures, followed by acres of vineyards and small wineries right out of a Tuscan scene. Next were pine forests and the road began to wind around steeper slopes. And finally we reached the beautiful coast with the bluest water I had ever seen. We pulled the cars over and anxiously began our first hike. We hiked to Apple Tree Bay, about an hour into the park. We were filled with so much excitement and the 11 of us simply sat and looked out across the water.

We drove back towards the small town of Nelson, where we were staying in a hostel for the weekend. We stopped and ate a very late dinner, but it was certainly worth the wait. We ate some of the strangest, but most delicious pizza I have ever had!

The next day, we met up with another group and we all went sea kayaking! Kaitlyn and I jumped into our big yellow kayak and set off. Paddling was exhausting, but it was worth every bit of effort. First we kayaked to a beach where we all ate picnic style lunches. Afterwards, we kayaked closer to the rocky coast and were able to kayak into caves that dotted the coastline! It was very nerve-racking to kayak into a pitch-black cave with no idea of how deep it was or what was lurking at the end of the black tunnel. It’s safe to say that Kaitlyn and I were not the first ones to enter any of the caves! After the caves, the group made its way across the bay to Adele Island. We had heard that it was the place to go to see seals….We were not disappointed! We kayaked around the island and saw groups of seals sun bathing on the rocks, playing on the beach, and zigzagging through the water. We found a small patch of beach to land on, and the group took a much-needed break from paddling on the beautiful and deserted island. While exploring this small piece of coastline, we came across a baby seal! Amazingly the young seal was not scared away by us, it was even playful and interested in us! We wanted to stay on that beach all day but we had to return our kayaks and begrudgingly began our paddle back to shore.

The next day, we went on one last hike before heading back to Wellington. We saw a beautiful waterfall and hiked to the top of a ridge that provided panoramic views of the park. We came across a family who were lingering on a bridge over the river. We watched as the father jumped off the bridge into the water and pressured his daughter to jump in as well. Even the 6 year old boy seemed ready to scramble over the railing and jump into the water! We accepted the challenge and one by one, each of us made the jump into the chilly water. It was a perfect ending to the weekend of adventure. After that, we returned to the marina and boarded our ferry with only moments to spare! We returned to our dorms in Wellington at 3 in the morning and immediately crashed. We woke up the next day for our 8 a.m. class and what we lacked in sleep we more than made up for with memories.

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