Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Great Walk

We’re back from the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s nine “Great Walks.” Although we expected rain each day it turned out to be beautiful weather. Only a bit of rain after we arrived to our hut on the first night and a little bit more as we walked back to our car in Marahau – crossing our fingers worked!! The hike had some really stunning views and very interesting terrain with dense forest, coastline and beaches, as well as several estuaries that could only be crossed within a couple of hours of low tide. We hiked just over 42 km total, so it was pretty tiring too!

Day 1 was a nice, gentle hike of about 12 km beginning in Marahau, where we left our car. The trail began with a boardwalk across a large estuary at the southern end of the national park. It continued along the coastline and up through a dense tropical forest. Near the end of the day we passed through a very dry section – almost like an arroyo in New Mexico or Arizona. Finally we arrived to our first hut, Anchorage, on a pretty little cove at about 4:30 p.m. Lunch and dinner were trail mix and peanut butter sandwiches (you may start to see a pattern).

Day 2 was our longest and hardest day. We hiked a hilly 25 km from Anchorage hut to Awaroa hut. We tried to maintain a pretty steady pace throughout the day because we had to arrive to Awaroa within three hours of low tide, which was at 4:30 p.m. We also knew that there was a pizzeria associated with a fancy lodge (complete with airstrip) about 30 minutes from our hut. We were very motivated by the idea of something other than peanut butter sandwiches, which had been lunch again that day. The hike was really tough, but the pizza and Cokes at the end, as well as a really neat hut on a big estuary, made it all worthwhile.

Day 3 was a very early morning. We were up at 6:00 a.m. in order to cross the final estuary before high tide rolled in. Even at low tide we had to cross in our bare feet because the water came up to our mid-calves in a lot of places. We hiked about 6 km and ended at the Totaranui camp grounds where we waited for a water taxi to shuttle us back to our car.

The water taxi ride was awesome! About 40 minutes into the ride back to Marahau, we came across a pod of pilot whales. We think we saw about 30 whales, and we were within 50 feet at one point. It was just amazing! Even our water taxi driver was impressed; it was the first time he had seen pilot whales in 30+ years at Abel Tasman.

Now that we are showered and relaxed we can say that it was a really wonderful hike and experience! And as an added bonus we got to check whale-watching off of our list :)

A collage of our trip on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

From top left
Picture 1: A view from the trail on the first day.
Picture 2: David at Cleopatra’s Pool.
Picture 3: On a suspension bridge crossing a river on Day Two.
Picture 4: Awaroa Hut.
Picture 5: Pizza dinner at Awaroa Cafe.
Picture 6: Sara crossing the estuary.
Picture 7: Totaranui beach in the morning sun.
Picture 8: We’re finished!
Picture 9: Whale-watching from the water taxi.

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