Abel Tasman Coastal Track Day 4- Awaroa Bay to Totaranui Beach

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You guessed it: I started early this morning, but this time it was required. Right in front of Awaroa Hut is Awaroa Inlet, and it MUST be crossed. There is no all tidal track alternative like every other part of the track, so it must be crossed two hours on either side of low tide. In this case, low tide was around 0630. So when I woke up early, for the first time, I wasn’t alone.

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This crossing will get your feet wet, so I initially decided to cross in my beach shoes. However that quickly proved untenable, because my shoes became filled with rocks and shells. It was less painful to cross barefoot, though I had to be careful where I put my feet. Fording shallow tidal rivers was easy, but I didn’t enjoy the rocks and shells underneath my feet. My feet are rather sensitive to pain, which is a bit surprising considering how hideous they can look if they haven’t been exfoliated in a while.

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It took about 20 minutes to cross the inlet. Once across, I donned my hiking boots for the final six kilometers to Totaranui Beach, which was the final end spot for me. You can add another day of hiking out to Wainui Bay, but I elected not to when I realized that getting transportation out of that site was rather difficult. Most of the hike was again in lush coastal forests and up hills and down hills. Occasionally a sea view would emerge and then the final beach trek at Waiharakeke Beach.

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Knowing only 30 minutes of walking remained made the very last series of steep switchbacks easier to bear. The final look out was at Skinner Point, and I could overlook the promised land- or at least my final destination of Totaranui Beach.

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10 minutes later, I gratefully dropped my pack in the shade of trees as I finished and arrived at the beach. It was four days and 38 kilometers of beautiful coast walk. There are busses and water taxis for the return journey, but I elected for the bus, because it would take me back to Nelson in less time and less money than it would have cost me to take a water taxi back to Marahau and then a bus back to Nelson. The only thing that stood between me and a refreshing shower (which I needed very much) was a three hour bus ride back to my hostel. But I did it. I completed my first multi day hike and I was ready for more.

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Abel Tasman Coastal Track Day 3- Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay

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I started early again the third day, not because I had to meet some tidal timeline, but just because I woke up early and had nothing else to do. I would rather complete my daily hike early and relax at the hut rather than start late. Plus again, starting early means the weather is still cool and I have most of the track to myself.

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The tracks went up hills and down hills in the forest, and I don’t know if the hills were steeper that day, but I was definitely feeling it more. My daily walk was 11.5 kilometers and it took me about four hours. Finally, the track turned to actual beach walking for part of the way. There was a 1 kilometer stretch along Onetahuti Beach, and the last 20 minutes along Awaroa Inlet to the hut.

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I was the first one to arrive at the hut again, and this hut had the water right in its front yard. However, this hut only had the big open bunks with seven mattresses side by side. But at least I was able to stake out a wall to myself, so I was only sleeping next to one stranger, rather than two. I relaxed with lunch and a nap, and I was still on my own during early afternoon.

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Awaroa Hut is right on the edge of Awaroa Inlet, and it was here that the tidal differences in Abel Tasman National Park are the most starkly evident. At high tide, the entire beach is covered in water and most of the path along the beach was under water. However, at low tide, you could walk across the entire inlet (though your feet will still get wet, because the inlet is never entirely free of water).

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It was also fascinating how much the wind affected the temperatures. It was sunny and warm all mornings, but the previous two days were a bit cloudy, and rainy at times, and substantially cooler. Like need a fleece jacket cooler. And unless it was sunny all day, the water was too cool to swim in (for me anyway).

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Because I had the entire rest of the day to myself, I decided to make my way to Awaroa Lodge. It was only a 20 minute walk from the hut to the lodge, but it required me to cross the Venture Creek tidal flat, which could only crossed three hours on each side of low tide, unless you wanted to swim across that is.

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Over there is a HUGE, soft white sand crescent-shaped beach, which was in stark contrast to the nonexistent beach in front of the hut. The water was still too cold for me, but I just sat on the beach in the warm sun listening to the soothing sounds of the wind and the waves as I took in the gorgeous scene around me.

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I capped off the day with an absolutely delicious dinner and wine at the Awaroa Lodge. When I heard that the lodge served actual meals, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat a real, cooked meal. I had eaten trail food for the previous three days. I elected not to bring a stove, so everything I ate was cold and didn’t require cooking.  So I treated myself to a fantastic cup of sea chowder and bacon-wrapped chicken with cranberry stuffing. It was like ambrosia to the tongue and I savored every bit.

Abel Tasman Coastal Track Day 2- Anchorage to Bark Bay

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This morning , the second day of hiking, was even earlier for me than normal. It’s funny that when I am at home on normal weekends, I often like to sleep in. But on vacations, I am usually up early to take advantage of the day. Of course it is also easier, because I tend to fall asleep earlier, because I don’t go out and party. And since there was no electricity or Internet at the Anchorage hut (or any of the Department of Conservation huts for that matter), and I was hiking alone, I was down for the count by 2100 to get a full night’s rest.

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I woke up at 0530, shortly after sunrise. In fact the moon and the sun were out at the same time. This morning was earlier than normal, because I wanted to use the low tide track across Torrent Bay to shave off 3 kilometers or one hour of walking. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but my foot was still hurting from the previous day’s blister, and my body was still getting used to carrying a multi-day pack. The day’s walk was only 9.5 kilometers, which equated to only three hours of walking. But I needed to be across the bay by 0730 before the tide rose too high for me, since I could only use the low tide track two hours on either side of low tide, and I had to take the all tidal track.

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So away I went, and it was an excellent decision. It was the first time to walk across a tidal track at low tide. I crossed Torrent Bay by following the orange disks which mark the trail in places like beaches and tidal flats when the trail isn’t obvious. But most of all, the reason my early start was a good one, was because I had the track nearly entirely to myself. Most people were still sleeping when I started walking. In fact, I only saw one other person on the track until I had nearly completed my day’s walk. It was awesome to practically have the park to myself, and enjoy the beautiful nature in peace and solitude.

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The track wended its way up and down hills and across the river. Most of the time I walked in lush, beautiful coastal forest, but every so often, the trail would open up to spectacular vistas of the sun, sea, and gorgeous coastline.

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I set out so early that I arrived at my destination shortly after 0900. In fact, I couldn’t even occupy a bunk, because the previous night’s occupants were still there having breakfast and hadn’t left yet. Another advantage of being so early was getting to pick my bed. This hut had three rooms for bunks. Two of them had space for 14 bunks, but the upper and lower bunks were wide open where all seven mattresses were pressed up against each other. A room tucked in the back had six separate bunk beds, and since I didn’t want to sleep next to a stranger if I didn’t have to, I snagged one of the individual beds.

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All I had to do all day was relax on a beautiful beach, read a book and be lost in thought. I had hoped to go swimming, but it was too cold that day. The day started out sunny and warm, but turned gray and rainy and chilly by early afternoon. That gave me an excuse to curl up with a good book (I even managed to finish the book that day).

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Later in the evening, the rain stopped and I made my way down to the beach and marveled just how different it looked at low tide. It was very peaceful to watch the waves crash gently on the beach, the tidal force inexorably drawing the waves higher and higher as the tide slowly rolled in.

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I could close my eyes and just hear the wind, the sea, and the occasional bird call, but no human beings. It was just me and nature.

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Abel Tasman Coastal Track Day 1- Marahau to Anchorage

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This day started early (like so many of my days on vacation), because of transportation requirements, since it was a two hour bus ride to the start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track in Marahau. It was my first day walking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, my first of three multi-day walking tramps in New Zealand. I first visited New Zealand eight years prior, and did all the beautiful nature and adventure sports. But I wanted to come back and do a few of the tramps that New Zealand is famous for.

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Due to scheduling requirements, I chose to do the Abel Tasman Coastal Track first. This proved to be a good choice, because this track is considered much easier than most tracks. The distance is not that excessive. While there are some steep ascents, they are always very short. This is a hike that can even be done in sneakers if so desired and not hiking boots. Now granted, I had to carry my large backpack every day, but the trail wasn’t that difficult. In fact, this trail was the perfect training for other, more difficult multi-day tramps I planned to do during my vacation. It got my body used to walking every day, and carrying a 25-pound pack on my back.

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Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national parks, but it is one of the most popular. It is located in the Golden Bay area in the northwestern part of the South Island. This particular park is filled with golden beaches and seaside forests that reminded me of the Caribbean and Hawaii.

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The Abel Tasman Coastal Track can be done in three to five days, depending on how far you want to walk and where you want to stay. Since this park is so popular (around 30,000 persons walk at least part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track per year), persons can’t stay overnight in the park unless they have reserved a place in a Department of Conservation hut or campsite. Since I am not a fan of camping, I went with staying in huts. I elected to walk 38 kilometers over four days. This ensured that I walked no more than four hours a day, which left me ample time to relax on site and enjoy the beautiful beaches and other nature.

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My first day was hiking from Marahau to Anchorage, which was only 11.5 kilometers or four hours of hiking, so I was done with my walking for the day by lunchtime. After years of hiking in Korea, this trail was a dream. It was wide, well-graded, and well-benched. There was no scrambling over boulders or anything like that. It was walking on a well-designed trail that enabled me to fully enjoy the beautiful nature around me.

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There were plenty of people on the track during my walk. Part of it was that I didn’t start walking until mid morning so more people were awake, and I was with a group of people who came on the bus with me. Plus there were a lot of people doing day walks by walking either to Anchorage or from Anchorage. Water taxis went to all parts of the park, so it was easy for day trippers to come and visit and walk part of the track if they so desired.

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At first I thought most of the track would be on the beach, but that is not the case. While small parts of the track are on the beach, most of the track is a bit inland through a shaded lush coastal forest, and every so often emerge to be rewarded with spectacular views of the lush coastline and the pristine blue water.

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Anchorage was a popular site for visitors, so when I arrived there, there were plenty of people sunning themselves on the beach and enjoying lunch. There wasn’t much else to do, but walk along the beach, swim in the sun-warmed water and relax in peace. A short 15 minute walk from Anchorage is Te Pukatea Bay camp site, which is right on a quiet, isolated beach. If you wanted some solitude, this was the best place to get it.

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My body was surprisingly hurting after the first day. Part of that was undoubtedly because I developed a blister on my heel that would plague me for the rest of the track. But even the rest of my body was a bit sore. While I’ve hiked plenty of day trips, this was the first time in a while I carried a sort of heavy pack on my back.

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While I was staying in a DOC hut, it is basically camping indoors. These huts have mattresses and flushing toilets, but that is about it. There is no electricity, no gas cookers. If you want hot food, you have to bring your own stove and make it yourself, since there is no food sold on site. There are no showers, and of course there is no Internet. So it was just me, beautiful nature, and a fully charged e-reader for when the weather turned south. It meant relaxing on the beach, which is something I don’t typically do for long periods of time.

Abel Tasman Day One-12I ended up falling asleep before the sun went down, which isn’t that difficult when the sun doesn’t set until after 2100 at night. I woke up in the middle of the night. Everyone was asleep, and it was dark and silent outside. The nearly full moon was out in force, shining its cold, pale light over the beach with the lapping waves. It made me feel very connected to the natural world. It was a good way to end my first day of hiking.