One of the best things about living in Motueka was its proximity to the Abel Tasman National Park and Coastal Trail. The park is NZ’s most visited, and the track is classified as one of the country’s Great Walks. The three-to-five day, 51km track winds along the coast just north of Takaka (20 minutes drive from Mot), and is famous for its acres of native bush, golden beaches and crystal blue water. In the summer the park is crawling with tourists – it’s the most famous walk in NZ, next to the Tongariro Northern Circuit! – but thanks to our busy work schedules my housemates and I were only able to explore it much later in the season. Good thing, too – we were blessed with good weather, cool temperatures, and (best of all) a park almost completely devoid of tourists!
On our first short trip to the Abel Tasman (April 15), Max, Jeff and I took advantage of the warm weather and spent a full day sea kayaking along the coast just outside of Marahau. Kayaking for the first two days of the track and then continuing on by foot is a popular option for many walkers, but we had only one day free thanks to our busy work schedules. Instead, we rented kayaks from a local company and explored the coastline all the way up to Stilwell Bay (approximately an hour and a half by paddle). Along the way we stopped at Adele Island, where the local seal colony is known for its friendly inhabitants. The timing was perfect to see baby seals (usually if you sit quietly enough they climb onto your kayak to investigate you!), but unfortunately we had no such luck that day :( Instead we had to content ourselves with the absolutely glorious weather, golden beaches, azure water, and Jeff’s incandescent joy – he had never seen a seal before! He said he dreamed of them for days afterwards… :) (A quick reminder: click on the photos to enlarge them!)
Our second trip to the Abel Tasman involved far less arm strength, but far more time than our first expedition. After our contract at the orchard ended, Jeff, Max and I celebrated our freedom by packing our bags and spending three days hiking through the rolling hills of native bush that make up the Coastal Track. (We left half of our belongings in Mot with our friendly, fantastic neighbor Manea, who saved us a mountain of grief and weight by offering to store them for us!) We decided to hike the track from the top down, beginning in Totaranui and spending three days and two nights in the park before finishing back at the start of the track in Marahau.
We began our hike on May 6, just one day after we finished working. A water taxi dropped us off on a completely deserted beach in Totaranui, and we immediately dropped our bags and spent a good hour enjoying the total isolation. Eventually we had to start moving again, though not by any choice of our own – the Tasman Track has several tidal crossings, two of which have no alternate routes and can only be crossed at low tide. Awaroa Inlet (approximately two hours from Totaranui) is one of these, and we had to make it in time while the water was low and the sun was still shining. We stripped off our socks and shoes to walk barefoot across the shell- and crab-strewn sand, while the late-afternoon tide set cross the water. That night we slept at Awaroa Hut, with just the full moon and the sounds of exotic birds calling across the water to their mates to keep us company…
In the morning, we started the longest portion of our trek and spent a good seven or so hours walking down the coast towards Torrent Bay and Anchorage Hut. Along the way we traversed the tidal crossings at Onetahuti and Bark Bay, and took some time to enjoy crossing the massive swing bridge erected across a thundering river. We also sufficiently exhausted ourselves by taking the (many) uphill sections at breakneck speed, thanks to Jeff’s seemingly superhuman motivation. By the time we reached the final tidal crossing at Torrent Bay, the sun had almost completely set and we found ourselves wading across a kilometer of ever-deepening frigid tidal pools in near total darkness, praying that our headlamps would show us the way out. Eventually we made it to the other shore though, where we spent a relatively sleepless night in the hut thanks to a particularly terrifying fire alarm. Nothing like a little excitement to make it a memorable trip!
Our last morning in the park involved a comparatively short walk along the remaining few kilometers of the track. We wound our way through increasingly popular sections of the coast (we saw more people in one morning than we had over the past two days!) and had our exhausted bodies cooled by the increasingly cold, grey weather. We eventually reached Marahau by the early afternoon and hitchhiked our way back to Mot, where we ate six large pizzas (not even kidding) and started planning our next travel adventure!
Tips for those wanting to hike the Abel Tasman Coastal Track:
- BRING SANDFLY REPELLENT. Believe me, you’ll regret it if you don’t!
- Remember that none of the huts have cooking facilities – all of your food and cooking supplies, including cookers and extra gas, need to be brought in with you.
- Pack in, pack out – take all of your rubbish out of the park with you! There are no garbage facilities inside.
- Really good shoes and a light backpack will take you far!