Abel Tasman Coastal Trek (Great Walk) and Abel Tasman Inland Trek loop, March 6th 2018 to March 10th 2018
(If you want to read about our last day at Nelson Lakes National Park, I’m adding that to the previous blog post)
Abel Tasman Trek, Day 1: Motueka to Castle Rock Hut, 15 km
We decided we wanted to take a break from the Te Araroa Trail to wait out some rainy weather, so we hitch hiked over to the Abel Tasman Trek.
We decided to do a loop with the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek, which is a famous Great Walk, and the Abel Tasman Inland Trek, which is amazingly less well known, and nothing like a Great Walk. What I mean by nothing like a Great Walk is that the trail is much more rugged, and almost nobody hikes on this trail. You also don’t need a permit.
We decided the direction of our loop based on the availability of the campsites on the Coastal Trek (the Great Walk), for which you need to pay $15 per person to pitch your tent, regardless of how many tents you have. We found information about the campsites on the DOC website, and we were able to actually reserve the campsites at the isight in Motueka.
So we started the loop with the Inland Trek, since the availability was better for the campsites later in the week.
We started on the beginning of the Coastal Trek before the Inland Trek broke away heading steeply uphill. We quickly left the mobs of people on the Great Walk behind, and we had the forest to ourselves.
There were birds everywhere, particularly fan tails, which followed us around in the most adorable manner, collecting bugs that we stirred up as we hiked. Many years ago I visited New Zealand with my mother, and we did a day hike here, and the fan tails are what stick out most in my memory from that time.
What I didn’t remember is how many yellow jackets there were. Maybe the yellow jacket situation has simply gotten worse over the years (they are non-native, and invasive), or maybe it has to do with the time of year, or maybe I simply have a crappy memory.
Anyway, the yellow jackets do seem to leave you alone, which is nice, but there are a heck of a lot of them about.
We got some nice views as we climbed, and the humidity was extremely high, so we were sweating like crazy. Once we were up on the ridge, we didn’t have a water source for what felt like quite a long time since I was really thirsty. Luckily, it’s New Zealand, and it wasn’t long before we hit a small stream.
We passed a tiny shelter with two bunks, and we could have stayed there, but we kept going to Castle Rocks Hut.
The trail continued through the forest, with many tree ferns, beech trees and ground ferns, and at this point almost no views of the coast. The trail was muddy, and often there were downed trees, but nothing we couldn’t handle since coming off of the Te Araroa.
At Castle Hut, we met someone from Belgium who is planning on hiking the TA in the South Island, so we traded some information with him as we made dinner.
Day 2: Castle Rock Hut to Awapoto Hut, 13km
We slept in a little bit knowing that we only had roughly a 6 hour hike today. Plus, it was very foggy outside, and when I finally got up to pee, I noticed it was raining.
We took the time to eat a big breakfast in the hut, something we sometimes don’t always do, and we took the side trail from the hut to the Castle Rocks to see if there was a view, and there was.
When we got back to the hut, it started raining a bit more. We headed out, and the rain made the trail quite difficult because the trail was covered in slippery roots, puddles and mud.
After two hours of hiking we made it to a shelter, dripping wet. There weren’t any bunks in this shelter, but it had a new roof. We took refuge and ate some food. I quickly got cold and put on several layers. The rain was loud against the metal roof, and I really didn’t want to leave, but after some moaning, I finally donned my pack and headed out again.
The rain eventually eased, and the trail got a little easier as well.
At one point I stopped dead in my tracks surprised to see a piece of trash on the forest floor when I realized that what I was looking at was not trash, but rather a bright blue mushroom. Nothing in the forest is bright blue, so I just assumed it was trash. We saw several more blue mushrooms, and we kept stopping to take pictures of them.
I was also surprised by how many downed trees there were, but mostly they had been cut out of the way of the trail- also surprising- someone here actually maintains this trail.
We finally reached the hut. The wind was blowing forcefully, but the rain had stopped. I was so happy to find that the hut was empty, beautiful, and had a wood stove. I started a fire and used a pot from the hut to heat some water. It’s such a luxury to have hot water and hot food since otherwise we’re not carrying a stove.
We warmed up and dried out our gear over the wood stove. I enjoyed many cups of hot milk (I’m carrying powdered milk), and I’m sure it will mean I will have to get up to go pee several times in the night.
Day 3: Awapoto Hut to Waiharakeke Bay Campsite, 13km
We hiked out from our lovely hut through dense forest until we came to a gravel road, which was Pigeon Saddle. We continued on and were slightly surprised when the trail went over a stile and onto a cow pasture. After trying to avoid cow poop for some time, we reached the cows themselves, who were sleeping in the middle of the trail. They weren’t exited to get up, and they barely took a step aside as we approached.
We found out that on the coastal trek there had been a slippage north of Anapai Bay, and so we wouldn’t be able to hike that way. Instead we took a cutoff via the Gibbs Hill Track in order to arrive at the Coastal Trek. After not seeing a single person besides the Belgium guy for two days, we were surprised to start seeing people on this trail. They were all trying to avoid the slippage on the Great Walk. This trail was perfectly manicured, and actually a bike trail, so it was fast going down to the shore.
Along the way we saw many Pukake, a type of rail that is mostly black, and slightly more shy than other New Zealand birds, making it challenging to take it’s picture, although we tried.
At Totatanui there was a DOC center with toilets, a car park, camping, etc. We peered around and then headed south on the Coastal Trek. The going was easy, and we walked along the beach around Goat Bay, taking off our shoes and enjoying the ocean waves between our toes.
Before we knew it we were at our campsite at Waiharakeke Bay. We set up our tent and then I attempted to do some repairs on John’s shoes using dental floss. Afterwards we took a nice long stroll down the beach, combing the beach for shells as we went. Since we didn’t want to carry the shells any further, we set them up on the beach and took a picture.
We got back to camp and had dinner, watching the wekas wandering around bothering people here and there.
Day 4: Waiharakeke Bay Campsite to Anchorage Campsite, ~25km
In the morning we fairly quickly walked onto an estuary that was only crossable during low tide. Luckily, low tide was around 9am, so it was quite well timed.
On the low tide beach I found several sand dollars.
On the other side of the bay we got a little disoriented because the trail basically goes past a town. Having not done much research before heading out on this trail, we didn’t realize that there was any civilization along the way. In fact there is plenty. Besides the frequent beaches with water taxi access, there are a couple of small towns along the way, accessible by trail if you so choose, including places to have pizza or a cup of coffee, although we resisted.
The trail was very well maintained, and traveled through forest from one beautiful bay to the next with kayakers and beach goers enjoying their time in the fairly calm blue waters.
Unfortunately some of the beach walking hurt my hip, which made the walking a bit less pleasant for me, and after a while my ankles and feet hurt quite a bit too.
We noticed someone who was out setting bait traps for the yellow jackets, and that made me quite pleased. The yellow jackets seemed to be going for it. Apparently the yellow jackets bring the bait back to the nests and it kills the whole hive.
We took a couple of side trips to view points and to Cleopatras Pool, which had a funny little rock slide into a clear pool from a stream.
We were surprised when some of the campsites that we passed had flush toilets and already filtered drinking water – definitely a luxury compared to what we are used to.
We got to our designated campsite, Anchorage, which is also the largest campsite in the park, accommodating 50 tents. I was surprised to see how packed it was with people and tents everywhere. Also, there were a lot of wekas wandering around, looking to steal people’s things. Luckily we found a spot under some trees, but I have a feeling that some of these people will be staying up late, and of course I just want to go to sleep early.
Day 5: Anchorage Campsite to Motueka, 12.5km
We woke up to the sound of wekas crying. It didn’t take us long to pack up and start hiking, and because of that, we had the trail to ourselves for quite some time. The coast line was beautiful with the early morning sun.
I am continuously impressed with how much work has gone into this walkway – it is practically a sidewalk for the entire length of the trek, some 60km long.
We finally passed the turn off to the inland trek, and stopped at the last beach which we could now walk on because it was low tide. A cave, and rock with a tree that had been sticking out of the water when we passed it on the way were now accessible, and we walked through the cave and up to the tree to take its picture.
Finally we reached the parking lot at the end of the walk, and found a ride to Nelson.