8 March 2012

Tall Order [Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand]

Off the Cook Strait ferry into Picton, Julia and I didn't muck around; heading straight out toward Nelson. Wandering across a small park just outside the town center we got a ride without even trying! Someone saw our backpacks and guessed we might need a lift. If this continues, getting around New Zealand is going to be too easy.

Only problem was that they were only going a short distance, and soon we were out on the side of the road again. It took a while, but we managed to get through to the small town of Havelock. The weather had been bad all day, but as soon as we got into town it started p*ssing down! We tried waiting it out for an hour in a cafe, but the weather only got worse. We attempted to get a ride in the pouring rain but had no luck, no one wants a soaking wet person in their back seat. So we bit the bullet and found the local hostel. The place was pretty standard, and had decent facilities, but seemed to charge a lot. It cost $50 for the two of us. I have since learned that this is pretty average for New Zealand. I didn't expect it to be $5 a night like in Asia, but I didn't expect quite that much. Let's just say I'm glad we bought the tent.

The following morning we got a ride through to Nelson without too much trouble. We spent a few hours wandering around the city, checking out the cathedral and a few other local 'attractions'. One more interesting - the 'center of New Zealand', a small park with a lookout over the surrounding area. The only thing was that we were carrying our bags, so couldn't really be bothered lugging them all the way to the top of a hill. We then managed to get a ride to Stoke (only about 10 minutes away) to visit the Macs Brewery, but missed the tour by about 30 minutes. Doh!

From Stoke we managed to get a ride with an old woman coming out of a retirement home, who took us through to Richmond, and the main turnoff to Motueka. And from there we managed to get a ride to Mapau Beach, a long, sweeping expanse of sand which was completely deserted. About an hour later Erica - an old friend from Gisborne, came to pick us up. That night we had an awesome BBQ a few beers and good catch up.

The following morning Erica dropped Julia and I into the DOC office in Motueka. The plan: Abel Tasman National Park, one of New Zealands great walks. I had heard it was a little difficult to secure a camping site or bed in a hut, but we gave it a shot. The only camp sites with space were either a couple of kilometers into the Park, or 24kms in at Bark Bay. We didn't want to camp just one hour in; we would see hardly any of the track! But 24 kilometers with our backpacks seemed like a tall order. We thought about it for a minutes, then said what the hell, and booked the campground Bark Bay.

We hitched over the hill to Marahau and the start of the Abel Tasman track. Not surprisingly we spent the rest of the day walking. This area is truly spectacular! Like nowhere else I have seen in New Zealand. Crystal clear waters and golden sand beaches are surrounded by thick green forest. The weather was a little cloudy and we got a bit of rain, but on the whole it was pretty good. There are a couple of spots that are tide dependent; you can take a shortcut which cuts about 3kms off the walk at low tide. Unfortunately we were a little early on the way up, so decided on the long way around. It wasn't until we were half way around and finally got a view of the ocean that we saw that we could have easily made it across. Oh well, after 24 kilometers what's a few more?

We arrived to Bark Bay early evening, tired and starving! But glad we had made the long trek; Bark Bay is one of the most spectacular bays in the park. One of the most spectacular places in New Zealand! That night we relaxed our sore muscles around the fire and shared travel stories with other travelers.

The following morning we woke up to beautiful sunshine. We could have taken the easy option and jumped on one of the water-taxis back to Marahau, but that was about $50 per person. The other option was to continue on to the end of the track, but the north end of the track was badly damaged and there is no way out, meaning an even longer walk out or a more expensive ferry. We decided we had seen a big chunk of the park, and that we would toughen up and walk the 24kms out. Which was a mission and a half! We were already really freakin' sore from walking in the day before, now we had to do it all over again.

Late that afternoon we arrived back in Marahau. I don't think my muscles have ever been so sore. As soon as I stopped moving my leg muscles seized so bad that I could hardly walk! That night we stayed with Erica again. We relaxed over a beer and Erica made an amazing dinner, exactly what we needed.

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