Our visit to Abel Tasman National Park on the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand (got all that? :D) was a special one. We broke from our standard hiking pattern, as well as from the huts, and rented kayaks and reserved spaces in the beach-front camping grounds. The three-night, four-day trip involved two days of kayaking, then two days hiking back.
Abel Tasman is probably the most heavily visited of New Zealand's national parks, with as many as 5-7000 people on the water, beaches, and trails on a peak-season day. I could see why (and was glad that we were a bit off the peak).
On the drive north from Christchurch, we spent 5 or 10 minutes waiting while this crew figured out how to get their very oversized load around the curve at the end of the one-lane bridge. New Zealand driving has its own challenges!
After getting into camp in Marahau just at dark, we grabbed a quick dinner and a night's sleep. Our trip began early on the first day, with a quick orientation from the rental company, and an even quicker on-water test to see if we could paddle the kayak.
|Our first effort went well, but we were missing a crucial element.|
|Photos on the water are all done with my somewhat antique cell phone. Apologies for the quality!|
A short time later, we stopped at Adele Island to enjoy a snack, the bird life, and a little psyching up for the "Mad Mile" we'd have to traverse to get to camp.
|Making sure the boat is well above the tide, which in fact was going out.|
The Mad Mile proved well within our ability, and we soon landed at our night's lodging. The campsite at Te Pukatea was small, so it had a wilderness feel we got nowhere else in the Park.
|Te Pukatea Bay was about as perfect as you could get.|
|In the forest|
|Sunrise from camp|
Day two saw us back in the boat early. The idea was to do the paddling in the mornings, before the wind picked up in the afternoons, and it worked especially well the second day. We enjoyed cool temperatures and calm water (especially appreciated when we were doing our awkward landings and launches).
Our route to camp 2 was not that long, so we had plenty of time to explore some beautiful lagoons on the way. Happily, Sandfly Bay didn't live up to its name, and we enjoyed the calm water.
|Deep into Sandfly Bay for a preview of the trail we'd hike out.|
Another hour of paddling, and we rounded Foul Point and crossed more open(ish) water to circle Tonga Island. The law said to keep 5 boat lengths off to protect the seals and birds, but that was close enough to enjoy the wildlife. The rocky shore didn't exactly beckon for a landing in any case! Finally, after our longest span in the boat, we drove right in to Onetahuti Beach for our camp, and managed our most graceless landing yet. My bum had gotten so stiff sitting on the hard kayak seat and pushing the rudders that my legs wouldn't work right! I narrowly avoided taking a swim right there (which wouldn't have been that bad except for the embarrassment. The water was nice, but there were too many witnesses).
This campsite was quite a bit larger, and much busier, though we got there before most people (in time for lunch) so got our choice of tent site.
|I always like a room with a view.|
|A little sad to see it go. We enjoyed the paddling, and it was much faster than hiking.|
|My camera couldn't pick up Siberia, so I stuck with Awaroa Bay. That's the last pick-up for water taxis, and as far as rental kayaks are allowed. I suspect the coast, and the track, get a lot wilder from there.|
|Avoiding a wade across the end of the estuary.|
|A weka pulling snacks from an unattended pack.|
It was interesting to walk back along the coast we'd paddled. Particularly fun was crossing the high bridge and taking the trail around the back of the lagoon at Bark Bay.
|We'd paddled into this just 24 hours before.|
We bypassed the chance for a 4-mile RT detour to Cascade Falls (by this point in our NZ trip, we'd seen a LOT of waterfalls!), but dropped our packs and took the shorter trip to Cleopatra's Pool. Lots of folks dayhike there from Anchorage after boating in, so it wasn't a solitary spot. If it had been, I'd've been skinny-dipping in there!
Even with the detour, we managed to reach camp by early afternoon, and were able once again to pick a site with a water view. It was a bit of a madhouse for much of the day.
|Serious kayak parking lot.|
Once the last water taxis left, however, things got a lot quieter and we enjoyed a peaceful night--aside from periodic weka attacks, which fortunately ceased with darkness. In the morning, the beach which had been teeming the previous afternoon was utterly deserted when we started off at 7.
For a coastal walk, we found that the track did a lot of climbing and descending. One of the biggest climbs was up from Anchorage (the other biggest was just before dropping into it at the end of the previous day), but the view back was worth it.
|Looking back in the early light.|
The last day's hike was the least scenic, but it was still worthwhile as we circled above one cove after another. Nonetheless, we were happy to reach the trail's end (or beginning), though we had to flip a coin to see who'd walk another 3/4 of a mile to get the car (actually, I volunteered, as my husband was having foot issues).
Another trip successfully concluded! The kayak rental included showers at the end of our trip, even though our boats had been returned two days before. So we were able to eat lunch in a civilized manner before driving to Picton to catch the ferry for the North Island.
|Half fish & chips, half vegetable sandwich. Our last meal on South Island.|
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!
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