A Gorgeous Walk Along the Coast

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
Trip End Jan 23, 2010

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Where I stayed
Meddy's Beach & Te Pukatea

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, December 25, 2009

Prepare yourself for a long one here... too many beautiful places not to go a little photo crazy!  You may want to start the water boiling for a cuppa.  Once it's ready, take a little break, then come back for the rest :)

On an almost empty tank and only a few minutes before our water taxi was scheduled to arrive, we pulled into the estuarine town of Marahau.  It was low tide, so a tractor towed our water taxi out over hundreds of meters of sand and into the water, a bit of a bizarre launch.  I'm always pleasantly surprised when a water taxi captain decides not only to get to get us from point A to point B, but also to provide a little history of the area and stop to let the passengers watch a seal colony on a tiny island from a safe distance.  It was an exhilarating ride with the ocean wind blowing over us.

We took off our shoes and climbed over the edge of the boat into clear, shin-deep water on the side of Awaroa Bay...an idyllic place.  In a minute, the sound of the boat was gone, and we were standing there, putting on our shoes in a tropical beach paradise.

A short distance onto the trail, we passed the Awaroa Lodge--to us, an unusual sight along a backpacker trail.  There was a posh looking outdoor restaurant adjacent to a spot where folks "tramping" the track could have a suite for the night (for a mere NZ$495).  Alongside the lodge was a fantastic organic garden, another unusual but pleasant surprise.  A final surprise: a trailside flush toilet inside what looked like a port-a-jon.  These novelties aside, we were on the trail and familiarizing ourselves with the native bush, dominated by Kanuka trees in blossom, Manuka, smaller, and also in bloom, and ever-present varieties of ferns at our knees, the occasional miniature orchid, and punctuating the vegetation here and there, the a red-flowered pohutukawa tree or tall spike of a flax plant sending its flowers to the sky.

It was warm and sunny, a nice treat since rather cool early summer has been hovering over New Zealand before.  And soon we stepped over a ridge and were looking down on a bay of perfect shades of turquoise and aquamarine.  The water was cool but not cold as we stepped through an ankle deep iron-bottomed stream and onto the golden sand of the Able Tasman Track at Onetahuti Bay.  We followed the beach from one end to the other, stopping for a lunch of fresh fruit, nuts and cheeses, then back into the bush for a while, only to look down onto the next brilliant beach, Bark Bay.  Tide had moved in, preventing the low-tide crossing of the beach, which was a gift to us.  We walked the longer, high-tide route, passing Waterfall Creek where a bridge took us over the creek looking directly up at the falls.  Toward the ocean, the back bay was filling with the fresh and salt waters, clean and clear, catching reflections of the sky.

We continued beyond Bark Bay to a small and quiet inlet, Medlands Beach, big enough for a handful of tents, sheltered from stronger winds, but with views to the far side of Bark Bay.  We met a couple of interesting characters, then cooked up some noodles & peanut sauce with some fresh veggies, sat on the sand in the last late rays of the sun, and crawled into our tent just as darkness enveloped the bay.

Another beautiful day greeted us the next morning, perfect for a walk in paradise.  It was a beautiful balance of being startled again and again by unbelievably brilliant waters and coarse golden sand, then walking into the cool, diverse forest.  Our eyes were constantly tantalized by new sights.  Again, we came to a large bay, Torrent Bay, and took the high-tide trail.  This took us to a side-trail 10-minutes off the main track to Cleopatra's pool, a clear and sheltered spot, and a natural playground.  Just as the main drop of the falls poured over and into a couple of boulders, it was diverted into a rock funnel about 5 or 6m long, covered in soft green moss, and just wide enough to make a perfect slide.  Mark was quick to discover the potential and take a few runs before others caught on and followed, with lots of hooting and laughter.  It was one of those perfect moments in life, where nothing else existed but cool water, warm sun, gentle breezes, and laughter.

Further on, we walked up the steepest ridge of the trail, and looked down on Anchorage Bay, a place of shallow waters where the deeper blue pales first to aqua, then to no color at all.  We paused for a bit to admire some fantastic clouds, and again to watch a momma duck herd her fuzzy ducklings up a creek.  Then we walked over a short ridge, and down to a perfect little cove, Te Pukatea.  The beach was crescent shaped and with striped golden sand.  On one end there were fantastically fractured granite boulders, perfect for us to continue being big kids for a while.  We ate a good pasta dinner and went for a Christmas Eve sunset hike to a point beyond the cove called Pitt Head.

We walked through a kanuka forest with ferns dominating the understory, a rather magical scene.  At the peninsular point we could see clear across the Tasman Bay to the Malborough Sound on the far side.  The evening light was casting gold on the rocky bluffs below us, and softening edges in the distance.  We were somehow sheltered from the strong breezes we'd experienced on other coastal points, and sat watching sea birds soar on the wind, laughing together.  Walking back, we passed a solitary tree amidst the Kanuka, and dubbed it a Christmas tree.

Christmas morning was sunny and cheerful, just asking to be saluted with sand between the toes!  We walked once more to a lookout where we could gaze down over the clear crescent bay.  

The final day of our fantastic tramp was spent deeply breathing in the moist air, letting our eyes stop on new and unique, or now familiar specimens of New Zealand's botanical treasures. We played in the sand at Akersten Beach, a quite little spot where mussels were still abundant on the rocks (they are harvested in some places, protected in others).  We found a place to soak up some sun, then go for a dip at Coquille Beach.  And continuing past more views that would make most anyone take pause, we eventually reached the wide estuary of Marahau and the end of the trail.  

Back at our hostel, we had a nice warm shower (Mark) and bath in a slipper tub (Wynne), then fixed up a great Christmas dinner of a beautiful fresh salad (including some of Ruby's garden greens & herbs), and some pasta with sage picked from the hostel's herb garden, sauteed pumpkin, and gorgonzola cheese, and finished off with a good NZ syrah, which we toasted to other holiday makers with their champagne and Scottish-style Christmas dinner.  

The next day, we got on Skype to wish Mom & Lissa a very Merry Christmas and see their smiling faces.  Aside from missing loved ones back home, we couldn't have asked for a better Christmas.

Wishing you all peace and beauty...



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Heather & Tomas on

Nice pictures as always. Thanks for sharing! You guys look relaxed, and we hope to follow suit in a few weeks

Roberta Motter on

Gorgeous people, gorgeous place...the enjoyment shows!

kahanastreet on

Thanks for posting these photos, videos and narratives. I am really enjoying them. and i like them in segments as you go. One doesn't get overwhelmed and can view at my leisure.

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