I’ve been offline for a few weeks because I was off galavanting in the bushier areas of northern South Island. We spent a few days hanging out in Nelson, which is a very cool little city.
Nelson also claims the “Centre of New Zealand”, which is a small plaque on top of a big hill that marks the exact middle of the country.
After a few days in Nelson, I headed north-west-ish to the ity bity town of Tasman. Situated right on the estuary of Tasman Bay, the town boasts a corner store, and one gas pump. I think it is or used to be where the apple packaging facility was for the surrounding orchards. They also host a Kiwi Bird the size of a Grizzlar. Don’t worry, he’s not some mutant form of the reclusive bird, but a wooden sculpture. It seems that every small town in New Zealand has a claim to fame. Manaia is the “Bread Capitol of New Zealand” – home of the largest bakery in the country. All the bread went to Subway so you couldn’t buy a ‘tourist’ loaf, but to make up for it there is always the photo op under the massive loaf of bread that welcomes you to town. I believe this Kiwi bird serves a similar purpose, but the bus driver wouldn’t stop for us.
What would take me to Tasman Home of the Biggest Kiwi Bird? WWOOFing. I spent a week wwoofing on a property just above the estuary, and perched on a cliff overlooking Tasman Bay. The woman who owned the property bought it 25 years ago, and has been slowly building it up and growing an organic orchard and veggie patches. The property was gorgeous, and we were lucky enough to have fantastic weather. There were two other wwoofers staying there as well – and English bloke and and Aussie girl – very nice folk! It was a lot more fun weeding with friends around.
Conquering the Abel Tasman
After WWOOFing, I headed out for the Abel Tasman Great Walk. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has created eight or nine Great Walks across the country that are easy to access, and well maintained in an effort to make the ‘wilderness’ more accessible. All the great walks have hut accommodation available, so you don’t hav to camp. This was great for me because I wasn’t particularly interested in buying a tent or carrying it for five days.
From end to end the track is about 55Km, but I think I ended up doing closer to 70Km because we took a few side trails and looped back in the end to catch a water taxi.
I met up with an English guy, Bruce, for the hike. The first day of the track followed the coastline closely and dipped down on to beautiful golden sand beaches. The coastline is all granite rock, and iron oxide (rust) tints the beaches golden. The water ranged from an incredible turquoise blue to deep green.
The first night we stayed at the Anchorage Hut. I guess I’ve been away from Canada too long because when I saw the crystal clear and turquoise water in Anchorage Bay, I didn’t think, “pretty, but glacier cold.” I thought, “a refreshing dip in the ocean would be so nice after a long day of hiking.” SOOO cold!! Take your breath away cold!! It was definitely invigorating, and luckily the sun was out to warm me up when I got out of the water.
The next morning we had a tidal crossing first thing. We had hoped we wouldn’t have to get our feet wet, but in the end the boots had to come off. From there we hiked up to some pretty water falls, and even got to cross a suspension bridge over Falls River.
Bark Bay was the destination that evening. More beautiful beaches and turquoise water!
The next morning it had already started to drizzle as we left the hut, but we hoped that it would hold out for a few hours.
It didn’t. By the time we got to Onetahuti Bay it was pouring. We braved a big jump to get across the tidal crossing at this beach. At this point my feet were already wet so it didn’t really matter that they got a little soggier when I missed the bank. Ooops!
By the time we reached the Awaroa Hut we were both soaked to the bone. I had my camera wrapped up in a plastic bag in my jacket pocket, but either the bag or my jacket leaked because the camera ended up having a bath. Luckily I’ve dried it out now, and it works most of the time!
When we got into the Awaroa Hut there were a couple of guys standing in their boxers by the fireplace trying to dry off and warm up. After a while they started to put all the gear back on, and said they were headed to Anchorage Bay… over 20Km and two tidal crossings away. I have no idea what time they ended up getting to Anchorage, but I know they made it because I saw them walking around Christchurch yesterday. The funniest part was that they had all their gear and jackets back on when we realized they still weren’t wearing any pants. When we jokingly told them not to forget about that vital piece of clothing, they shrugged and said there was no point in wearing pants because they would just get wet. Yes, they had extra dry clothes to change into, so they didn’t have to worry if one pair got wet. I suppose they just wanted to be able to say they walked the Abel Tasman in two day without pants on.
The next morning, the sun broke through again! I turned my camera on and blindly took a picture – at that point the screen wasn’t working and I wasn’t sure if it would ever work again. I got a good shot of the estuary though!
Low tide wasn’t until 1:30pm, so I had to wait until 12:30pm to set off across the inlet. Despite it being in the ‘safe zone’ to cross, the water in some of the channels still came up to mid-thigh.
Hiking through Anapai Bay and Mutton Cove was beautiful, but walking on the beach is also very tiring. The seal colony at Separation Point wasn’t very populated, and they didn’t care much for my attempts at seal barking. I suppose I’ve got the wrong accent down here.
The next day back tracked 7.5Km to Totaranui, where I caught a water taxi back to Marahau. The water taxi ride was lots of fun, and the driver was an excellent tour guide. I was the only one on the boat all the way to Anchoarge Bay, so he took me over to the Tonga Island seal colony, showed me where the Blue Penguins come ashore at night, and shared a few Maori legends of the area. I even spotted two penguins swimming!!
That night I made it back to Nelson, Miranda and I left for Christchurch the next morning.