The Abel Tasman Walk is part of the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand. But what are those 9 Great Walks? They are actually the nine most popular, picturesque and incredible hikes of the country. They’re well maintained by the DOC (Department of Conservation), and easily accessible for many rookie hikers. From the transportation network to the accommodation (in a hut or on a camping ground), from the drinkable water to the dry toilets all along the way, those hikes are well-thought for hikers.
As for the Abel Tasman track, it’s located on the north-west of South Island, in the National Park of the same name. That’s where Abel Tasman, the first European setting foot on New Zealand grounds, anchored his ship on December 18th 1642 (that’s exactly 344 years before I was born, such a random coincidence.) It’s the smallest National Park in New Zealand, yet worldwide famous for its golden sand beaches and its rock formations.
I can’t hide my excitement to finally discover those marvels with my own eyes. I’m glad this hike is classified as an “easy” one since it’s going to be my first multiple days-hike ever. The track is 60km long and it’s recommended to take 5 days to hike it on a slow pace. With my Italian team of hikers (Alessio, the Italian lover and Michele, the Italian guy we both met in Nelson) we decide to hike a little bit more of half the track, in 3 days/3 nights. It’s about 37km, with 3 to 4 hours of hiking per day. We booked our camping spots as well as our journey in a water-taxi from Marahau to Awaroa at the Nelson’s DOC/I-Site, packed up our bags with pasta, water and gears and here we go, baby!
DAY ONE: MARAHAU – AWAROA – BARK BAY (13.5 KM)
We’re leaving our cars in Marahau to take the water-taxi to Awaroa. For the next three days, we’re going to hike our way back to Marahau. Why the water-taxi, you may ask yourself? Well, because there is no road access to the National Park, you can only reach it by sea (how awesome is that?) From the water-taxi, we have such a unique glimpse of the landscapes we’re about to discover for the next three days. It’s wonderful. We’re able to see the Split Apple rock, a lazy massive seal and most of all… dreamy golden sand beaches.
As we land at Awaroa Bay, I can’t help being totally amazed by what I’m seeing. This beach is a dreamy beach indeed. We settle ourselves a few minutes for a cup of tea, so we can come to our senses again and finally start hiking. The path goes up, then down, and up and down, and I’ll soon find out that it’s going to be our daily routine: hiking up in the mountains to enjoy the view over the Tasman Sea and hiking down to enjoy those beaches I thought could only exist on postcards.
Our first break will be at Onetahuti Bay, one of the longest beaches of the National Park, where we devour our sandwiches like we were starving to death. On the table next to us, there’s this young blond guy hiking alone. We greet each other quickly. Today, we’re going to hike through dense rainforests, cross some suspension bridges, and spot some waterfalls. The weather is sunny and warm, we couldn’t be happier. Of course, I’m a slow hiker and it’s difficult to catch my breath, but I’m not complaining. I’m completely enjoying every second of it -even if I’m sweating like a coyote and that I look like I’m at the end of my life.
We finally arrive at our camping spot in Bark Bay at the end of the day. Drinkable water, kitchen area, toilets, this camping ground has it all. And the young blond guy is here as well as some other campers. As I’m travelling with two Italian guys, guess what we’re having for dinner? BLOODY PASTA OF COURSE! Tonight I’m going to sleep in a tent for the first time in ages. Big news: the ground is cold and stone hard.
DAY TWO: BARK BAY – TE PUKATEA BAY (11.5 KM)
Bark Bay is magnificent when we wake up. Gold sand, bright sunshine, turquoise water… Despite the cold and short night I had –in part because of those bloody birds that couldn’t help starting to chirp very loudly as soon as the sun rose, which was very early that morning. But that morning sight would definitely soothe any foggy or tormented mind.
On the beach, the young blond guy is taking a bath into the sea. The water temperature should be around minus 8000 °C but that doesn’t seem to bother him that much. I’m thinking he should be German – German people are such badass when it comes to hiking. Our breakfast will consist of peanut butter and fake Nutella to make it through the morning. We would have expected that our backpacks would be less heavy than the day before, but we don’t feel any difference. We know now for a fact that we brought WAY TOO MANY things with us.
We’re hiking up again. In a kind of lush jungle. Giant ferns, waterfalls are everywhere on our way, and… a 47 meters long suspension bridge. It’s called the Falls River Swing Bridge. I must admit that since some guys I met in Auckland had survived a suspension bridge which collapsed while they were crossing, I’m not serene at all. I’m crossing slowly, carefully, and I don’t even dare to look around me. This is quite an experience though. Like I’m a true adventurer for once.
Around Torrent Bay, there are two ways to get to Anchorage, either by the track which continues in the jungle, either by the beach at low tide. We obviously choose the second option, not only because it’s the fastest route, but also because it’s allowing us a great adventure: hiking barefoot in the wet sand! Which, in the end, isn’t as easy at it seems.
On the way, we meet the blond guy again. He’s still ahead of us with his Gandalf’s stick. He looks so much more experienced than us, with this kind of German pace (we end up referring to him as “The German Guy”). I find out he’s hiking the whole track on his own, and that he’s done the Inland Track all by himself just before. All in all, he’s hiking for about a week now. I’m so impressed by this young guy, I wish I could do the same, but somehow I feel it’s way out of my abilities.
We reach Anchorage, which, as its name suggests, is a key place for boats and private parties. As we’re still in spring, there’s none of it yet, the beach and the bay aren’t overcrowded. That’s where we find a GoPro in the sand… Full of holiday pictures of a couple we just crossed path a few hours ago… We’re keeping it just in case.
We wanted to check on the Cleopatra’s pools, but since we spent too much time at the beach instead (1 French girl + 2 Italian Guys = chilling at the beach) we don’t have much time left! We still need to hike for about half an hour to reach our campsite, in Te Pukatea Bay. After setting up our tents and dropping our heavy backpacks, we hike up on the Loop Track which rewards us with an astonishing view over the bay. Then, I just sit on the beach with Harry and the Philosopher’s Stone and I just enjoy the freaking moment after this tiring day!
DAY 3: TE PUKATEA BAY – MARAHAU (12,4 KM)
This morning, with that vision of Paradise in front of me as I’m waking up, I’m already feeling a bit sad to end this amazing adventure today. Especially since I’m not really sure how to organize the rest of my journey. I know I’d like to go to Oamaru. I know I’d like to take the TranzAlpine Train from Greymouth to Christchurch. But would I even get to Greymouth (which is like more than 5h driving from Marahau)? Oh well, I shouldn’t think about this now, right?
Back at Anchorage Beach, we see someone looking for something in the sand… Here’s the GoPro guy! We had like one chance in a million to meet him again! He’s telling us he came back especially to try to find his Go Pro because all his holiday’s pictures are inside! He’s just so happy and grateful when we give him his precious Go Pro, that he even gives some money to Alessio. We leave the beach light-hearted for making someone happy today!
The landscape is slowly changing, the heights are dry, droughty and bushy. We meet “The German Guy” again, and he’s hiking with a French/American-Swedish couple, Jean-Baptiste and Maria. We decide to hike all together this last part of the track. I find out the Lars, “The German Guys” isn’t German at all, he’s actually from The Netherlands! I just laugh at my own prejudices and clichés.
We look a bit like a summer camp group, the six of us hiking in single file. We take selfie pictures like we were friends for days. We take time to discover each other, we’re just so enthusiastic and happy together. When we cross the Abel Tasman National Park sign which indicates both the beginning and the end of the track, I’m full of contradictory feelings.
I freaking did it. I hiked my first multiple-days track. In bloody New Zealand! I took a boat, I’ve been living in a postcard dreamy landscape for 3 days, I camped, I sweat, I laughed. Now I could almost cry. I’m proud, relieved that it’s over, yet I want more. I’m happy, yet I’m anxious:
Where do I go from here?
I’m happy! I did it!
I don’t want to leave!
I want a shower!
I don’t want to leave!
I want to sleep in a real bed!
I don’t want to leave!!!
Where do I go from here?
LET’S GO THERE!:
ABEL TASMAN COAST TRACK, Marahau – Wainui
AQUA TAXI, 275,Sandy Bay Marahau Rd, Marahau
DOC /I SITE DE NELSON, 77 Trafalgar Street, Nelson