Walking the Abel Tasman Track

Last
Thursday we went to a burlesque show put on in one of the clubs in Wellington,
at which one of Ian’s colleagues was performing as a pole dancer. This was
quite fun, though not terribly risqué, and was largely attended by friends and
family of the performers. It would be interesting to know how many UK civil servants
list pole dancing as one of their hobbies.

 

On
Friday we were off for another weekend adventure.  Since last April, when we walked a small
section, we’ve wanted to walk a substantial chunk of the Abel Tasman Track,
which runs along or near the coast of the South Island west of Nelson. This weekend
we put into action our planned two-day hike along the southern part of the
track. We flew into Nelson on Friday evening, picked up a hire car, and drove
to Motueka, the nearest town of any size close to the national park. We had a
meal there in a converted Methodist church call the Gothic restaurant, with
interesting decor inside and out. Later we strolled along the main street and
had some bubbly in a pub rejoicing in the name of ‘The Dodgy Ref’.

 

On
Saturday we got up fairly early and drove to Marahau, the little village which
is the entrance to the park, and boarded our ‘water taxi’. This involved
climbing on board while it was still on a trailer on dry land, and then being
driven down the beach into the water. The trip itself was rather rough and
jolting, as it was more of a speedboat than a taxi. We dropped off our case at
the ‘floating backpackers’ where we were to spend the night, and eventually
were deposited ourselves at Onetahuti Bay, ready for a two day walk back to
Marahau. We were lucky with the weather, which started cloudy on Saturday but
brightened up during the day and was really sunny in Sunday, though never
really hot.

 

We
started walking south, sharing the track with a few other walkers, but far
fewer than in Tongariro. A lot of them were heavily laden, carrying food and
bedding for several nights, as there is little in the way of accommodation
except for huts and campsites on the track. We also encountered flotillas of
kayakers on every beach, with their craft drawn up in serried ranks on the
sand, or else saw them bobbing about perilously out at sea. We walked steadily,
stopping at Bark Bay for lunch, and reaching Torrent Bay mid-afternoon.

 

From
there you can take two tracks: the longer high tide one or the low tide one
which crosses the estuary more directly. At first we though we’d play safe, but
then we saw other walkers on the sands and decided to try the shorter route.  This proved to be a mistake: we soon found we
were sloshing over mud flats and wading through streams. We had to take our
boots off and by the time we got to the other side our feet were disgusting. We
trekked on and reached Anchorage Bay, where the catamaran which was to be our
home for the night is moored. We jumped up and down on the beach and waved,
until eventually a dinghy came to pick us up.

 

The
boat had 22 people on it, with just two loos between us. The worst thing was
the dormitories, which were squeezed into the two hulls, and slept 7 people
each side. We had a double bed, but it was squashed up under the ceiling with
hardly room to turn over. Sandie (who is claustrophobic) turned pale when she saw
it. Our strategy was to stay up late, drinking copious quantities of wine and hoping
that we wouldn’t notice the surroundings when we finally went to bed.  We spent a pleasant evening chatting to other
folk on the boat, until the skipper came and told us to be quiet because we were
keeping others awake! After that we carried on watching the stars, and when we finally
turned in the plan had worked and we went straight to sleep. We didn’t need
much encouragement to get up in the morning, and after breakfast we were
deposited back on the beach while our case waited to be shipped back to
Marahau.

 

We
started with a bit of a detour to see Cleopatra’s Pool, which probably wouldn’t
have met that luxurious queen’s high standards, and then carried on walking
south. We stopped at Akersten Bay for lunch and a spot of sun bathing, though
the weather was not really hot despite being sunny. We visited a couple of
other beaches (Apple Tree Bay and Coquille Beach) on the way back to Marahau.
Once we reached the park entrance we collapsed in a cafe and indulged in a real
Kiwi muffin. We also visited a quirky local sculpture park before picking up
the case and the car and driving back to the airport for our flight back to
Wellington. We enjoyed the coastal path, despite a few downsides, for its great
coastal scenery and attractive beaches, although it probably doesn’t rate as highly
with us as the Tongariro Crossing.

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