Walking across the sandy shore, the estuary is exposed at Sandy Bay. Bella and I took our shoes off and rolled up our pant legs as to not get our clothes wet. The water immediately sent a shock through our system and before I knew it I couldn’t feel my feet. Mallards lay next to a large washed up log and were startled by us. At least 20 flew off.

As we continued the water level kept getting deeper.

We made our way to the other side of the bay and a shag poked up from out of nowhere and kept diving for shells embedded in the coastal floor. Playing a game, we guessed how long it’d hold its breath and where it’d pop up next. Further along, a gaggle of geese were laying out and as I got closer they remained calm, unlike the other ducks that immediately got spooked, these geese seemed familiar with me. And for those wondering, is gaggle really what they’re called?

According to Google: The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump.

I tested how close I could get as they casually waddled about. I followed them and their leader. It felt like they accepted me as one of their own and we were on a mission.

I’m surprised at how close I’ve been able to get to birds here in New Zealand and think to myself that that’s probably why a lot of the native land birds are endangered or extinct. They haven’t had a need to be on the defensive, as there are no real predators here.

A few days later, I would stop by Coquille Bay to take a break and rest on a log after collecting cockles for dinner. A lone Weka pecking at shells came to hang out and curiously poked its head near my phone and went through my backpack. Not a care in the world.

The lowest of low tides today and Bella and I are trekking along the coast towards Apple Tree Bay.

The sand ripples that were once underwater, extend out and form a unique pattern up to the rocks. Porous and exfoliating, volcanic, these rocks and stones are used by oystercatchers, seagulls, and Cormorant to find food.

As we continued along, the shaded part of the beach was blanketed by a thin layer of white frost, enough to scoop up into a snowball. Yet out in the sun, the temperature was warm. Two polar opposites, dark and light, cold and warm, ice and sun. Once we reached Coquille Bay we continued past the driftwood teepee and stumbled upon tons of white basket fungus. One was solid enough to kick around like a soccer ball.

The tide was at its lowest I’d ever seen it before and we continued climbing over the rocks lining the coast. By going this way instead of taking the coastal track we were able to shave off 45 minutes. Hopping from rock to rock, I spotted a bright orange butterfly chiton that caught me off guard.

What I encountered next was even more of a surprise.

A fur seal had been tucked between a couple of rocks and I nearly stepped on it. Before I could though, we locked eyes and had a split moment of interspecies telepathic communication. It let out a shrieked, high pitched, half-growl, half-yell then darted straight for the water sliding over the rocks and swam gracefully to another part of the bay.

Keeping an eye out for any other fur seal family members we ended up making it to Apple Tree Bay.

The sand was coarse and the water was a pristine blue and green. There was a private house on one end of the bay and the occasional boat to Anchorage made its way past Fishermen’s and Adele island. We sat on the beach, ate our picnic, and laid out in the sun. I set up my hammock between two pine trees and we chilled for an hour or so, daydreaming about living on a houseboat and having the view as our backyard.

The temperature began to drop and we quickly packed our belongings and took the trail route back to Marahau. We didn’t want to double back the same way we came and risk being caught on the rocks as the tide came back in. I prefer dry socks too. We made it back to the car and finished the trek just before sunset. An eventful day. Nothing gets old here in Abel Tasman and every day is a new adventure.

Sunset at the Abel Tasman entrance near Marahau; heron off to the right

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