Friday, January 12, 2018

Abel Tasman National Park: Gypsy, Tramps and Thieves

If you are going to New Zealand, you must tramp. Be you young or old, local or visitor, it would be unthinkable not to. Fortunately, the list of opportunities are as extensive as any you will ever see. You have long, short, easy, difficult and everything other kind of tramp in between.

To clarify, tramping is Kiwi for hiking/ trekking/ going for long walks outside. When you have a country with such an overabundance of natural beauty and a population that perpetually looks like they just stepped out of a REI catalog, it is to be expected that this would be such a thing. And what a thing it is. From the list of Great Walks, ranging from 2-6 days and covering all kinds of terrain to thousands of shorter options, it feels like everyone is always minutes away from grabbing their walking sticks.

Not wanting to feel left out, I decided to do a portion of one of the great walks. Mind you, it would not be any of the ones that involved glaciers or things like "cold weather gear". That just sounds torturous to this Floridian. Descriptions like "Blessed with a mild climate, golden beaches and lush coastal native bush, the Abel Tasman Coast Track has it all" sounded more my speed.
From Christchurch, I took the bus to Nelson, the city closest to the park. As per the NZ usual, the drive was gorgeous.

The town itself was small but endowed with a notably high number of art galleries, cool bars and hip restaurants.

The Free House: An old church turned craft beer bar

East St Cafe: All vegetarian menu, dj and perfect afternoon hang.

 "Animals are my friends and I don't eat my friends"

The only disappointment  I found was the tourist information office. I went by to book a boat/ walk combo for the park and can only assume that 98% of their visitors are either doing the same or coming in with other Tasman-related questions. The fact that the girl I spoke with had only the most minimal knowledge of the park and the distances within was confounding. I wanted to see the entire park by boat and then walk the most scenic part, Medlands to Anchorage but was told that the boat schedule did not allow time for me to do that.

The next morning, I lamented to the boat captain about their tight schedule and he looked at me like I had just besmirched the good name of tramping.  While the printed timetable showed that doing it the way I wanted would only leave me 4 hr 15 minutes to do a 4 hour  hike, he assured me that it was doable. The fact that the majority of the boat was doing the same thing led me to believe that he was onto something.

We boarded the boat in Kaiteriteri, which incidentally is going to be the name of my next cat.  This stop is the last sign of "civilization" before you enter the park, meaning if you want any food/ drink/ sunscreen, you best get it here.

Probably the most photographed spot is Split Apple Rock.  It is so popular, that to my knowledge it is the only boulder to have it own wiki page. Scientists believe that water seeped in through a crack and during an ice age, the water froze, expanded and cracked open the rock. The more enjoyable Maori legend says that two gods wanted it. To end the fighting, they decided to snap it in half like a Kit Kat bar and each take half.

For the next two hours, we cruised all the way up to Totaranui, stopping at all the beaches along the way. Per the Captain's insistence, I remained on board the first time we stopped at Medlands.

Once we got to Totaranui,we doubled back and within an hour, were back at Medlands Beach. It was now tramping time (also the name of MC Hammer's lesser known hit).

Based on their estimates, I had 15 minute to spare before I missed the last boat  that could get me to the bus back to Nelson,
I was a woman on a mission, running up the trail and only stopping briefly to say hi to red pantsless dude.

The 7 mile wonderfully marked and maintained trail went past forested areas,  rivers, lookout points and one swingbridge.

The 47 meter bridge crosses Falls River

By the time I got to Torrent Bay, I was nicely ahead of schedule, enough so that I sat for a while digging into the hearty supply of snacks I had stuck in my backpack.

Once back on the trail, I was faced with two options. I could continue the way I'd been going or take the low tide option, meaning now that the water had receded, I could simply walk across the bay, cutting almost an hour from the return.

I'd asked the Captain if this was going to be an option and he'd assured me that it would be but suggested I continue on high tide route to enjoy a bit more of the scenery.  In other words, when in doubt more tramping > less tramping, particularly if you have the time.

I followed his advice and took the long way back and was rewarded all the way with spectacular views. Even with what had become more frequent stops, I reached Anchorage Beach with an hour to spare and stripped down for a celebratory swim. I then dipped one toe- just one- in the water and declared "Oh hell, naw..." It may be summer in NZ but no one told that to the water.

But I had not come there to swim, I had come there to tramp and tramp I had. And I loved it. New Zealand had turned me into a happy tramper.

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