We've had a couple of close calls with Covid escaping quarantine hotels, but it has been contained and we were free to drive up to Abel Tasman National Park for a classic Kiwi holiday.
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Abel Tasman National Park in a time of Covid… November 16 to 19th 2020  We hired a kayak from Abel Tasman Kayaks who have been in business since 1986. In 1996 I had tried to kayak with them but they were booked out. For days. But now the international tourists are gone. They’ve had to lay off 25 guides and they are one of four or five kayak operators in the park. We were one of the two overnight hires that day. A little penguin saw us off at the beach in Marahau. 15 minutes later and we were in deep water. Then a thump – thump – thump! Under the boat turned out to be a small (2 1/2 foot long) shark! It kept with us for a good 10 minutes before drifting away.
We saw another penguin and a ray, but no dolphins. Maybe they had been laid off because of Covid too… We were on a four day kayak/camping trip and our first night was at Te Pukatea Bay. We shared the beachside campground with two pairs of kayakers, but most of the trampers were just passing through. It was a beautiful beach to swim and dry off at, but two Irish women were on it all afternoon. Despite liberal applications of suntan lotion, we watched them gradually turn pink. New Zealand sun is intense. We were having a pre dinner drink when we heard them yelling for help. The camping stove had tipped over and fire was spilling over the forest floor. I grabbed the tea towel, wet it and threw it over, but the flames came through. As we fruitlessly tried to drench it with more water, my brain finally kicked in. I scooped up sand from the beach, threw it over and it was out. The girls were down a tea towel but relieved that they hadn’t burned down the Abel Tasman. I asked them what they were doing in Auckland.  “We're doctors”, they said. Heaven help us.
The next day we continued north, leaving the day trippers behind. Our campsite for the next two nights was on the beach at Mosquito Bay. Nobody was there. No mosquitoes either. The only things to bother us were wekas. After a lot of pest control, wekas were reintroduced to Abel Tasman National Park and now they are everywhere. They lurked, waiting for an opportunity to snatch a rubbish bag, or sneak off into the tent, or pierce a wine box bag… When you watch wekas, you can’t help but notice the short evolutionary step between wekas and dinosaurs. Thankfully they are a fraction of the size of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
On the morning of a third day we woke to watch a dolphin and a pot of orcas swim past. I hope that the orcas were after the rays in the park. The weather was due to worsen, so we went on a quick paddle, made shorter by the sea becoming noticeably choppier. We pulled in early at Tonga Quarry and had our worst landing of the trip. Then we read the map – it’s a “steep beach with difficult landing in rough conditions“. Ah. We got back on the water okay and made it home before the rain set in. It cleared in time for a birthday dinner of spicy noodles and Pepperjack Shiraz. Ace.
The forecast southerly didn’t materialise on our last day. We farewelled the wekas and the smartly dressed oystercatchers who were guarding their nest unconvincingly. The previous evening they deserted it for a good hour whilst they tiki-toured over at the island at low tide. I’m assuming wekas prefer wine and noodles to oystercatcher eggs.
Ta ta for now

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Copyright © 2020 Alex Hallatt's Cartoons and Writing, All rights reserved.

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