31 Mar Canyoning Abel Tasman
There’s a canyon within Abel Tasman National Park, and not many people get to explore it. Even fewer get to jump off its cliffs, slide down its waterfalls, abseil down its rocks, zipline through its rainforest, and swim in its jewel-like pools.
Read that again. See how that sounds? We absolutely had to go canyoning in Abel Tasman.
God, it was.
Canyoning Abel Tasman
Like every single day of our New Zealand road trip, we had to wake up before the sun was even out. But since the day ahead of us vowed to be so exciting, it was difficult to mind. I was worried about one thing, though. Ever since I pulled my shoulder in Franz Josef Glacier, it’d been bothering me more and more, and the day of the trip it was especially sore. I knew a lot of physical activity would be involved (that’s why we wanted to do it so bad), so I just hoped my shoulder wouldn’t be a problem.
We met our guides and the rest of the group at the water taxi bay in Marahau. We immediately knew it was going to be a fun day. Pure good vibes going all around.
The first thing we did was try on our wetsuits. There’s no better way to get to know someone than watching them try put on a wet suit. It’s hilarious.
The wetsuits were dry (THANK YOU!!), a rare occurrence in New Zealand, and fit a little too tight, which was absolutely fine by me. The tighter, the better. We’d heard stories about the temperatures of the water inside the canyon and it sounded terrifying. Something I was definitely not looking forward to.
We took the water taxi to Anchorage and even though we’d been there when we did an Abel Tasman Day Hike , the views still amazed us. Also, the tides change so much inside the park, the split apple rock, which had been floating the day before, was now completely out of the water.
Once in Anchorage, we shouldered our wet suits and began hiking to the entrance of the canyon. We walked for about one hour, most of it uphill. Our legs were burning by the time we reached the canyon. We suspect it’s just their way of getting you so tired and hot that you’ll willingly jump into the freezing water.
Ha! It didn’t work for me.
We had lunch on the rocks by the river (our vegetarian sandwiches were pretty good), and then it was time to put on our wetsuits again.
The first thing we had to do? Yes, jump into the water. Whatever we tell you, whatever you’re imagining, it’s not enough. It’s f*cking cold. Also, I kept stumbling and falling into the water because the rocks were seriously slippery (not because I’m awkward and unbalanced, duh). It was like a million knives piercing my body each time I fell.
We got out, and the wetsuit did its job, and kept us warm. Thank God.
After an abseil (rappel) down a small cliff, we got to do a practice jump. After I landed on the water, one of our guides, Lee, told me that I’d jumped really close to the edge of the rocks, that I had to leap a lot farther.
And just like that, fear creeped up inside me and settled in my head, and I started worrying about the rest of the jumps. And believe me, when an idea gets stuck to my head, it’s almost impossible to shake.
So when we reached the 6m jump, my legs shook. My mind kept asking, what if you don’t clear the rocks? What if you hurt your shoulder even more? What if you fall flat on your face?
I don’t know how, but I silenced them. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. That it’s true, that everything you want is waiting for you on the other side of fear. So I ran, and without turning back, I jumped.
There’s little that feels so good as knowing that you’re stronger than your fears.
The guides had shown us a landing position and had stressed I should do it, to protect my shoulder. In the thrill of the moment, as I was falling, and laughing, and totally patting myself on the back, I forgot to do it. My shoulder was starting to get really angry, and I couldn’t cry victory just yet. There was still the 8m jump.
Isaac leapt and, of course, his form was graceful and his landing perfect. Show off.
We swam, and walked some more until we got to a rock that we ziplined down of. It was so much fun to travel down fast, slicing the air of the granite-lined canyon.
There was also a lot of sliding involved. And that was probably my favorite part. I mean, how often can you say that you slid down a natural waterfall, inside an astonishing canyon, in one of the world’s most impressive national parks?
On the tallest one, there was a point where the rock ended, the impulse propelled your forward and you fell to the river. After most of the group had gone down, and they were all waiting, and watching below, it was my turn. I felt the rock beneath me disappear and my body began turning forward. I fell flat on my face. At least the blow didn’t hurt as much as my ego.
It had to happen. It just had to.
We even got to do a group slide!
A couple of zip lines, and abseils later, we reached the 8m jump. As soon as I saw the cliff my resolution faltered. I’d told Isaac that I couldn’t leave without jumping, but the uneven formation looked intimidating. The 6m had been an easy jump. It’s flat, and straight down. This one, however, had no space to run. There was room for only two steps on slippery rock, and then you had to jump as far as your body allowed if you wanted to clear the rocks.
Isaac went first and even did a 360° turn mid air. I looked down (first mistake) and all my doubts rushed back to me. I hesitated. I doubted a minute too long and, then, I simply couldn’t do it.
I climbed down, defeated. Isaac told me that it was fine, that I had nothing to prove, but to me, not jumping didn’t feel okay at all.
A bit further down the river there was a group of rocks that we could jump off of. We took turns, splashing around, and doing tricks. Isaac did a back flip and I learned that he had taken gymnastics a long time ago. 9 years later and I’m still learning interesting facts about him. (He also keeps impressing me, but don’t tell him I said that.)
The end of the canyon was as fun as the beginning. Bonus: we got to slide down a water chute and swim in the famous Cleopatra’s pool. The downside? My shoulder was hurting worse than ever.
The last part was epic as well. Once out of the canyon we lied on (warmer and salty) water where we held on to each other’s feet, while the guides carried us back to shore. We got to relax, look up at the bright skies, and float down the ocean.
It was one of the best days we’ve ever had, and surely an unforgettable experience. Now, we can’t wait to go canyoning again!
Still, the fact that I didn’t jump has stayed with me. Someday, somehow, with all my limbs in perfect condition, I’ll have to go back and conquer that cliff once and for all.
Have you ever gone canyoning? Where? Has fear ever stopped you from doing something you really wanted to do?
Thank you to Abel Tasman Canyons for the pictures.