The Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Trip Start Nov 10, 2013
Trip End Apr 02, 2014

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So the brothers and I have covered quite a bit of ground, since my last blog post, where I left off writing about Tongariro National Park in the center of the north island.  Shortly after completing that trek (which nearly killed me, I might add), we made our way down to the bottom of the north island, to wet, windy Wellington.

 The only positive thing I can say about this area (from my brief stay) is that there are some fantastic museums in the city... Other than that, the second best thing that I saw of Wellington was looking at it quickly recede into the distance, after we had boarded the Inter-Islander ferry.  This nearly 3-hour ferry ride took us across the Cook Strait, which apparently can be one of the roughest crossings in the world.  However, the day we did it, and I am sad, underwhelmed and a little regretful because of this... it was as calm as could be... while it was windy in the bay as left Wellington, we maybe had six to eight foot swells... nothing to make the ferry crossing remarkable or memorable...

 Alas, we quickly, smoothly crossed the strait to Picton, on the south island and drove straight off the ferry and headed as quickly as possible to Abel Tasman National Park and the nearby town of Marahau - the staging point for a 3-day 58km trek along the coastline.

Lucky for us, the weather was on our side for this little adventure and we had near-perfect weather the entire trek.  We began the trek early on Sunday, December 1st; it was a cool, clear, calm day, but one that quickly warmed up to cause profuse sweating. The first 12.4 km of the trail were relatively uneventful: a nice, well-maintained, wide trail was cut into the cliffside, about 200 yards up above the shoreline on the hillside.  This trail wound its way in and out of the various drainage's and valley, before bringing us to Anchorage hut.  

Most trampers end up spending their first night here, but as this 12km leg had only taken us 3 hours we continued to push onward.  However, because it was still early (and this track requires trampers to pay close attention to the tides) we were forced to take the high-tide route around Torrent Bay Village, which added an extra couple kilometers and a decent chunk of time to our hike.

Nonetheless, with me dragging my ass and huffing and puffing to keep up with the bros (who are all near-Olympic-strength hikers), we passed a number of hiking groups - all of whom were on their second or third day on the trail - and arrived at Bark Bay after just another short three hours.  Despite having covered 25 km in 6 hours with a 30-some-odd-pound trekking pack, I felt tired, but surprisingly good.  So we set up camp and then I took a walk along the beautiful beach.  The large, coarse-grained, golden-colored sand quickly disappeared as the tide once again began to rise in the evening.  The water was cold, the air temperature hot; the light sea breeze was refreshing and the sandflies that continually bit were annoying, but it was all worth it, to watch the sun set as we sat around the campfire, cooking dinner and dredging up old stories about the four brothers as young kids, late into the night...

 The next day was another big-mileage day.  And this time, unfortunately, we didn't hit the trail early, because we had to wait for low tide (which occurred about 15:20 on this particular day).  So we took our time breaking camp and hit the trail shortly after 10 AM.  En route to Awaroa Inlet (the place we had to cross at low-tide), we passed by the beautiful golden-sand beach of Onetahuti.  Here, the trail actually had us walking right on the beach for the better part of a kilometer.  As such, we walked alongside the gorgeous aqua-colored bay, before re-entering the rainforest for a short time.  Upon arriving at Awaroa Inlet, we took a short pause for lunch while we waited for the tide to drop further.  Then it was time to put on five-finger shoes and begin crossing the still-saturated sand of the inlet.  Thousands upon thousands of various bivalve shells lay scattered across the sand, as we walked (and at one point) waded nearly sack-deep through the strong receding current of the dropping tide.

 After crossing this expansive area (it really was quite an experience - very neat to see how extensive the tidal fluctuation is in this area) we resumed our heads-down-trek for another hour or so, before completing the approximately 17 km total for the day and arriving at Totaranui (prn. toe-tra-new-ee) campground.  While another large, beautiful beach, this one is accessible by gravel road, so was not nearly as private or secluded at the previous night's stay.  Not to mention that the sandflies were pretty wicked here (so it was an early-to-bed kind of night).

Day Three was another early start, as this was going to be a fast-paced day.  Out of camp and on the trail by 07:20, the boys had loaded up their gear, while I traveled comparatively light.  You see, I took only a light day-pack and had left my tent, trekking pack and gear in camp - I'll explain soon enough...

The 7 km trail to Separation Point took exactly two hours at a very relaxed, photo-filled-pace.  Along the way we ran into the local "trail crew" (see photo), as well as a few more stunningly beautiful beaches, and some local bird life.  But Separation Point was the real highlight of the day (and even the entire NZ trip thus far).  This rocky lighthouse point offered great views of the surrounding coastline and was home to about a dozen New Zealand Fur Seals that were swimming, playing and sunbathing!  Some were very energetic (playing, chasing, snarling and splashing one another), while the big ol' granddaddy just lay there and made all manner of noises.  There was also one lone, crazy little Blue Penguin swimming in the waters.

Sadly, by 10:10 it was time to say goodbye to this little plot of paradise.  The guys were to continue on along the trail towards the trek's end, while I was to return to Totaranui campground and catch the Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi.

This ~26' boat picked me up on the beach and then slowly made it's way back to Marahau (the starting point of the hike) while periodically stopping at various bays to pick up other hikers, kayakers and their kayaks.  After about 1.5 hours on the water, the skipper approached Marahau at breakneck speed, navigating between shallow spots and simply drove the boat right up on a trail, which sat unattended on the hitch of a big ol' tractor.  The skipper then hopped over the bow, onto the tractor and pulled the boat and trailor right out of the water.  At the top of the launch ramp he ditched the kayaks and then towed the boat back to the Aqua Taxi HQ, where we disembarked.

I quickly grabbed the car and made a brief pit-stop at a wicked little food-truck-esque venue called The Fat Tui, which specialized in gourmet burgers, and had a tendency to belt out classic rock tunes. Here I enjoyed an excellent, massive mussel-patty burger called The Muss, which had a large patty made of mussels, garlic aoli, tartar sauce, onions, carrots, avocado, and red onions.  Needless to say, this was the best thing I had tasted in days - hence my reason for describing it in detail here...  After scarfing down my burger, i hit the road for two very slow-going, curvy, hairpin turn-filled hours of driving to go pick up the guys at the north end of Abel Tasman National Park (the Wainui car park).

Once I had the guys and a case of beer in The Little Wing, we went in search of a hot shower and supplies to stock up for the Heaphy Track.
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