CAMPERVAN HIKING NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand | Abel Tasman National Park

July 14, 2011

In the Northern part of the South Island, along the coast where it seems warmer than the rest of the island, many familes and retirees had set up camp for what seemed like quite possibly the entire summer. Holiday parks were a lot more crowded, and basically consisted of a large lawn – no private spaces in this park! The huge trade off was that we were at the beach! A warm beach! Most holiday parks were all inclusive – when you paid the camp fee, you pretty much received access to everything except free internet – kitchens, hot showers, bathrooms, etc. At the park we stayed, I’m guessing because it was so close to the beach, the hot water was coin-operated. That would have been a nice little detail to have known BEFORE taking a shower. For the longest time, I thought all the showers were broken…and then I noticed a strange control box on the opposite side of the bathroom with blinking lights, a coin slot, and a bunch of numbers and buttons. Duh, coin-operated hot water, and no coin exchange machine. Ugh. It was just one of those mornings where I did not feel like taking a cold shower…so I walked across the park, got change from the front desk, walked back, and took my hot shower. Grrr.

Meanwhile, Sly was busy feeding all the resident ducks.

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After a quick breakfast, we walked to the beach, and boarded a water taxi from Kaiteriteri to Bark’s Bay in Abel Tasman National Park. One of the good things about this park was that the main trail through the park – the coastal trail – was accessible via water taxi, meaning you could take a taxi to a start point, hike to another point, and be picked up by another taxi before heading back home. In layman’s terms, you had the option of a one-way hike, rather than making it round trip and twice as long. Point to point, the hike should have only taken us at most 6 hours. Sly and I weren’t worried. We took the earliest taxi, and took our sweet time hanging out at all the beaches, taking lots of photos, and trying our best to avoid other people on the trail.

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Above: Split Rock – that’s the actual name

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We detoured off the trail about a zillion times to get to all the private pools and beaches like these. We were tempted to cross over to that little beach on the other side of the water, and spend the rest of the day there, but I was too scared. Instead, we hiked to the swing bridge at Falls River, getting there just in time before all the other tourists arrived out of nowhere. Even though it was only the beginning of Summer in NZ, there were quite a few people in this area, and by mid-morning, the trail became congested with tour groups and lots of people. It was a somewhat gentle hike, that could be made as difficult as you wanted. That, combined with spectacular views, the promise of private beaches, and warm(er) weather, made it a very popular place to visit. That being said, we loved it here, and once again made promises to return to do the entire Coastal Track hike.

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Check out the shadow man in the water!

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We heard/read a lot about the tide tables for this park. I really didn’t comprehend what that meant, or how it mattered. I thought that the tide was an issue only if our water taxi needed to get to and from the beach, and that if we made it to the beach before the end of the day, we were more or less fine. Like most things in life, my lesson on high tides and low tides had to be learned the hard way. We reached our halfway point, Torrent Bay, around lunch time. During low tide, you could potentially cross the sandy bar to the other side, shaving off over an hour of time from the hike. When we got there, the water was shallow, but looked scary-deep. We watched several other tourists try to cross, before giving up. We waited it out for about an hour, and then made the executive decision to take the high road trail around the bay. This meant we had to back track, and then hit the trial for another hour and a half, before getting to our pick up location. At this point, we started to cut it really really close in terms of time, and making it back to our boat for pick up. Word to the wise, if there is ever a mention of tide times, and you’re not sure what they mean, make sure to clarify with someone who knows more than you. Of course, just as we started to head back to the trailhead, the water rushed out of the bay so rapidly, that it kind of freaked me out. I thought we were going to be hit by a tsunami or something, the way the water receded so quickly. Clearly, I know very little about water, the ocean, and pretty much anything that has to deal with tides.

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Above: high tide. The Abel Tasman coast has one of the largest tidal ranges in New Zealand with up to around 15 feet between high and low tides. During low tide, this lagoon turned into a sandy beach. We only know because we were able to watch the tide as it went out, from trail around the bay, where we were running to make up for lost time. We ran through the trail so fast, that by the time we hit Cleopatra’s Pools, we actually had a little time to spare to take the detour and visit these amazing pools and rock slides. Once again, things worked out for the best.

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We cut the average time on the trail in this segment to about half, running most, if not all of the way. My calves were on fire. When we finally saw Anchorage Bay in view, there was never a sight so sweet. We continued our pace, but were so relieved to know we wouldn’t have to walk all night to get home if we missed the last taxi. As luck would have it, our taxi was late, so we had some time on the beach to just enjoy the rest of the day, play on the beach, and sit in the warm sun with our feet in the sand.

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(of all days to have a good hair day)

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After returning to shore, we walked around the beach town trying to find a place to eat — again, same problem: nothing open, and everything extremely expensive. We gave up, went to the grocery store where food was normally priced, bought a bunch of New Zealand green mussels (ridiculously cheap), a nice grass-fed steak (surf n turf!), fresh asparagus, and a bottle of local chardonnay from nearby Marlborough Sounds. Chef Sly cooked it up in the holiday park camp kitchen, while I played around with a little kitty outside that kept following me. A nice, relaxing, “home-cooked” dinner — perfect ending to another great day.

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  • Jay December 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Hey nice looking trip.
    I’ll take heed of the warning about the water suddenly rushing out when I do the trip in 2 weeks time.
    cheers
    Jay

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