Abel Tasman Coastal Track

My new favourite book…

untitled1001 Walks You Must Experience Before You Die. This book is going to become the Bible of my life, I can tell. It’s the size of a couple of heavy bricks, so I won’t actually be taking it on any of the walks, but I am in love nonetheless.

It’s gratifying to see that I’ve done a small amount already! I did the King Ludwig Way in Germany with a German friend some years ago (we went to a Star Trek convention and then went walking), and there’s a handful I’ve already done here in New Zealand. Abel Tasman Coastal Track, and Kepler, and Milford, which are three of NZ’s nine Great Walks. I’ve also done bits of Te Araroa, the long pathway running down the length of the country. It’ll probably take me years to finish, but finishing TA is on my bucket list.

Also in NZ, I’ve done part of the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk, though I had to abandon it halfway through when I fell down a bank and broke my arm. I’ve also done the Tongariro Crossing (the finest walk I’ve ever been on) which isn’t in 1001 Walks but is a day in the Northern Crossing, which is. Similarly, I’ve done the Rakiura Track on Steward Island, which isn’t listed but is four days on North West Circuit of the island, which is.

And I’ve visited Petra, in Jordan, where I spent less than an hour on one of the trails, the one going in, and all of that time I was ignoring everything about me in a desperate attempt to get into Petra itself, so I’m not really counting that one. I really want to go back for the much longer day walk.

So I’ve got incentive for some return trips. Of course there’s 1001 walks in this book so the likelihood of my completing them all is very slim. And that’s alright, because on a flick through I saw a page about a Chinese plank walk, and Hell No. I am not shuffling along that ridiculously high, ridiculously thin trail even if they do strap me on with a harness. Also, the happy predictions on some of the American walks: “If you’re lucky you’ll see a bear!”

I don’t want to see a bear. Not when I’m walking. Those fuckers eat people. You know what I could do against a bear? NOTHING. No thank you.

So with these torpedoing any possibility of completion, I feel free to skim through and pick out the walks which I want to do most.

Even then there’s far too many.

Current Count: 997 Walks to Experience Before I Die.

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Distinct lack of disaster!

It’s only a 1.5 hour walk over the hills from Whariwharangi hut to the shuttle pick up point at Wainui Bay. In December last year, this northern part of the track was flooded with heavy damage, and you can see the time and effort that has gone into making the track walkable again. Over the hills the clay track (more a road in places) is quite bare, but it will soften down in time, as vegetation grows back.

Overall, I’ve been super impressed with the state of the track. The ATCT is by far the easiest of the Great Walks, I think, and has a lot of families go over it (where tramps like Kepler ban kids under ten) and the track is very well maintained.

Beautiful track, beautiful landscape, and an end to my streak of disaster! No broken bones or helicopters come to save me from hallucinations in the wilderness. Barely even a blister. Thank goodness for that! Can tramp again with confidence. The curse has been broken.

I am not a goat

Caught a lucky break this morning. I had to wait until low tide to cross the Awaroa estuary, which would have seen me reaching Whariwharangi hut just on sunset, but ranger Glenn arrived in his boat mid-morning and offered to give me a lift across. The bay is really stunning, and I was happy to get a view close up while the water was in. “You must love your job,” I said to Glenn, and, with a slow grin, he admitted that he really did. What a wonderful place to work (and live).

With the time pressure off, I dawdled along the track to Goat Bay. Some of the track getting there was not very wide – I wondered if they named the Bay because goats used to come along this path? Still, made it easily enough, but the track between Goat Bay and Totaranui was another story. There’d obviously been some recent landslides, and had to scramble across four of them in quick order. One was quite hairy (probably not for normal people, only those afraid of heights and stupid enough to look down when they shouldn’t) but met a couple of girls (from Belgium and Poland) halfway across the first one and they were very encouraging, so we navigated them together.

From then it was an easy three three hour walk to Whariwharangi hut. Now, this is the hut I had been most looking forward to – a converted homestead from the early 1900s. You can see the photo from DOC’s website here:

whariwharangi223Cute, eh? But totally infested with mice. (Rats too, from the comments in the hut book, but I didn’t stay long enough to see any.) Seeing the wee mice run along the common room floor was bad enough, but when I toddled off to bed, there were more crawling across my bunk! Good thing hut was empty – let out a screech that could have awakened the dead, grabbed my stuff, and went to sleep under the stars. Cold, but preferable. Lots of birdlife about – saw plenty of weka, and that made up for it.

Awaroa Bay

Didn’t wait for low tide this morning, so took the all-tide track around the estuary at Bark Bay (it only adds a few minutes) before a short steep climb to a saddle covered in manuka, where I couldn’t see the sea any more at all. That only lasted briefly, though, before descending to the old granite works (there’s only a few scattered foundations left) at Tonga Bay, then on to a lunch stop at Onetahuti Bay. There’s a tidal stream at the far end, but I’d timed it for low tide-ish and barely got the top of my boots wet.

Then it’s over Tonga Saddle and down to Awaroa Bay. The hut itself is half an hour along the beach from a rather more swanky lodge with cafe and restaurant, and foolishly I didn’t swing by there for ice-cream. By the time I’d made my way to the hut, over half an hour of sand in the boiling sun (and it’s quite difficult to walk on sand with boots and a big pack) I was too lazy to go back. Besides, I would have had to cross another tidal stream to get there (and back) and it was nearing the edge of the safety zone, time-wise, so didn’t bother.

Awaroa hut is, I think, the pick of the huts on the ATCT. Right on a very large estuary, the view from the front deck is stunning – either long stretches of sand or water that comes only a few metres from the door. And the hut is a veritable sun trap – warm and sunny, I barely needed the fire. This is also the first hut on the track I had entirely to myself – both Anchorage and Bark Bay had a handful of people, but Awaroa was entirely deserted, and very close to paradise.

Crossing to Bark Bay

Bloody camera battery given out again.

Got a bit of a sleep in this morning, waiting for the tide to be low enough to cross the estuary at Torrent Bay. Had fun squishing through the mud, but when it came time to take my boots off I skittered though the water as quickly as I could – it was freezing, despite the sunny weather, and cockles were scratchy underfoot. Saw quite a few little crabs about, and was careful not to step on them – poor things don’t deserve that!

There’s a tiny little village at Torrent Bay – reminders all over the track that it’s going through private land so not to stray. I know it’s winter, but the place was deserted – didn’t see a single soul. Slightly creepy, like Children of the Corn. Baking hot – I would have paid good money for an ice-cream if someone had been entrepreneurial enough to sell ‘em. Maybe they do in summer?

Then it’s through the bush and a couple of valleys to Falls River, where swings the 47m suspension bridge I have been looking forward to all morning. I love swing bridges, and so do a lot of people – as so often happens, you could hear the bridge before seeing it, at least, hear the delighted shrieks of trampers bouncing over it. Then down through the bush to Bark Bay hut, which sits on another estuary.

Third time lucky…?

After my last two disastrous outings, this is make or break time for me. Three accidents in a row and I am hanging up my boots. So, in an effort to stack the odds, have picked a relatively easy tramp to hopefully get back into the swing of things: the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of DOC’s Great Walks. Am taking it slowly, over the maximum five days (only about 4 hours walking per day) and everything’s looking good – the previously awful weather has suddenly broken into what looks like a week of perfect sun. It’s distinctly un-winter-like, but I’m looking forward to a peaceful track with few people or insects (the ATCT is buzzing with both in summer).

I caught a shuttle from Nelson to Marahau, the beginning of the walk. Crossing the wooden causeway over the estuary, it’s then an easy, pleasant hike through bush and over golden beaches to Anchorage hut. I mean, just look at this scenery:

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