While staying in Nelson, we took a day trip to Abel Tasman National Park. It is a land of golden sand beaches that can only be accessed by hiking, kayaking, or boating there. It’s like a cold-water Caribbean, if you get my drift. Buy a wetsuit if you’re accustomed to the bath water of the Gulf of Mexico. 😉 Oh, and enjoy Clay “butting in” to give you the backstory to one of the photos.

To me, nothing represents New Zealand more than this fissured rock. How crazy? How quirky? How did this happen? To me, New Zealand is God’s pièce de résistance. It’s like he said, “Welp! I done did it all! Let me throw some enormous rocks and mountains outta my back pocket and see where they land!”
Highly recommend Wilsons if you head to Abel Tasman. Five generation family-run tour boat biz. Notice everyone besides me is ready for a 10-mile hike and five straight days of camping. I’m all cover-up, string bikini, and straw hat.
This is Dolly Varden Island. I mean, seriously. We’re buying it and building a castle turret on it. It’s only a matter of time. And maybe a matter of money. Maybe just a wee bit of money.
Doooon’t worry…we’re not gonna buy Dolly Varden Island in the background there. It ain’t for sale, and we couldn’t afford it if it was. One can dream though!
Overlooking Te Pukatea Bay.
We enjoyed some R&R here. In case you haven’t noticed, New Zealand, compared to the rest of the planet, is so…what’s the word? Pure. 
Those bugs are like MONSTROUS cicadas. As peaceful as our time here may look in the photos, those bugs were SUPER loud and intruding the peace.
Hey everybody… Clay here. Sorry to butt in, but I really need to be the one to caption this one… Let me start by saying that showing you this photo is like showing you a movie beginning with the last scene. So let’s back things up a bit… Because Molly and I only had one afternoon at Abel Tasman, we had just two things on our see/do list. After the 30 minute boat ride from Kaiteriteri to Anchorage Bay, our plan was to go on two relatively short out-and-back hikes before taking the last boat back to Kaiteriteri at 6pm. No problem, right? I mean looking at the map, this seemed totally doable given our 4 1/2 hour window of time. So after lathering up with sunscreen, and letting the rest of the boat-goers hit the trails, we had a wonderful hike out to Te Pukatea Bay. We stopped for a nice little break under the canopy of a Manuka tree. It doesn’t get much better than hearing and watching turquoise water crash onto golden sand in 75 degree weather. Pretty perfect. But by the time we got back to Anchorage Bay to start our next hike to Cleopatra’s Pool, we looked at the time, and it was already 5:15! According to the sign at the trailhead, this next hike was supposed to take an hour and a half round trip… Now let me pause for a sec… Those that know Molly understand that she likes to accomplish EVERYTHING on her list. And given that our list only had two things on it, the thought that she would only be able to check off 50% sent her reeling. Before I could blink, she began storming up the trail. I yelled, “Molly! Stop! It’s going to take an hour and a half to hike this, and the boat will be here in 45 minutes. We simply don’t have time. Let’s just relax here on the beach and enjoy ourselves.” “I’m GOING to see Cleopatra’s Pool,” she said as she continued up the trail. “We’ll probably never be back here ever again! This is our one chance! Now you can come with me or not!” I chose the latter option, knowing that she’d think about the consequences of missing the last boat out, and she’d change her mind. The consequences of missing the boat were spending the night on the beach, with no food, water, bathrooms, spare clothes, or cell coverage. These aren’t things she’s usually cool with. But after standing at the trailhead for about five minutes waiting for her to come back around the bend, that sinking feeling began to set in. ‘She’s actually doing this… She’s going to hike all the way to Cleopatra’s Pool, turn around, and hike back only to find that we had literally missed the boat.’

In my head, I was weighing four scenarios. First, I could stay put, watch the boat leave without us, and try to find a suitable spot for us to ‘rough it’ until the next morning when the boat came back around for its morning drop-off. Second, I could plead with/bribe the boat captain to make a special trip back to pick us up after he dropped the sane tourists off at Kaiteriteri. If he refused to do that (which seemed likely considering Kiwis are a tough bunch that don’t seem to have any trouble roughing it for a night or two), then I’d just tell him that we’ll be waiting on the first boat the next morning. Third, I could board the boat, go back to Kaiteriteri, and try to convince the Wilson’s office or another water taxi service to take me back to Anchorage Bay to get Molly. To me, this plan had ‘backfire’ written all over it. What if Wilsons refused to take me back? What if there aren’t any other water taxi services? Then Molly would be alone on the beach with no way to reach me (there was no cell service). The last option was for us to hike five hours through the woods back to our car at Kaiteriteri. While this seemed possible, I wasn’t too keen on hiking through dense woods in the dark with only the little flashlight on my iPhone. Probably not smart.

So while we should’ve been relaxing with our toes in the sand, I was pacing back and forth imagining what the next several hours might look like. I decided that the best option would be to plead with/bribe the boat captain. And if he refused, we’d just spend the night on the beach. Now I must admit that a part of me really loved the idea of having to rough it overnight. Molly would have to suffer the consequences of rejecting common sense, and I’d get to be Bear Grylls for a night. Devising a survival plan is something I’ve always want to do since reading Gary Paulsen’s novel Hatchet. Could this finally be my chance?

By the time I’d gathered sticks suitable for manually starting a fire, it was 6pm. The boat was due any minute. Still no sign of Molly. 15 minutes went by. No boat. No Molly. Five minutes later, at 6:20, I could see the boat heading around the peninsula toward the beach. At that point, I made my way to the pickup point where the small hoard of happy-go-lucky tourists were yammering on about how perfect their afternoons were. Yeah yeah yeah. How lovely.

As the boat got closer and closer to the beach, I’m sure everyone thought I had a couple loose screws. My head was swiveling back and forth as if I was watching a ping pong match. I’d look left toward the trailhead, then right to the boat. Left. Right. Left. Right. Trailhead. Boat. Trailhead. Boat. Still no sign of Molly. At last, the boat came to a stop in the surf, extended it’s ramp, and the annoyingly jolly crowd began to board. I stood back, head still swiveling, and began to pray that Molly would emerge from the trailhead in the next 90 seconds. Considering how much fun these folks apparently had, they seemed very eager to get on that boat! Part of me hoped someone would trip going up the ramp, requiring at least 30 minutes of medical attention. Nothing serious. Just a delay… But that didn’t happen, and when the line got down to about 8 people, a miracle occurred. Molly, as if on cue, bolted out of the trailhead and began power walking toward the boat. I almost fell to my knees and lifted my arms to the sky. I was so happy and relieved that crisis was averted. At the same time, though, I was fuming. So instead of falling to my knees and lifting my arms to the sky, I snapped the photo above and proceeded to stand there, arms crossed, with the classic “what were you thinking???” gaze. When Molly finally got up the ramp, there was just one person in front of us in the line. It was unbelievable. Her timing could not have been more perfect. We didn’t say a word to each other. I just handed Molly her boarding ticket, thanked the attendant, and followed Molly up the ramp.

“Congratulations, Molly. I’m so glad you accomplished everything on your list. But WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING???”
“What??? It all worked out, didn’t it? Now where we goin’ for dinner?”

This is our Abel Tasman song, except I’m the singer and Clay is the gal in it. I break out into full singalong mode when I hear it. Clay gives a big sigh, looks out the window, and shakes his head, remembering that absurd afternoon.