Abel Tasman National Park contains one of New Zealand’s Great Walks – which is a group of nine walks throughout the entire country that the NZ government rates as exceptional, and maintains the walkways, huts and other facilities for anyone to walk along.
The Abel Tasman coast track is a 50km stretch, located in the Northwest portion of the top of the South Island, which most people complete over three days.
Having learned how painful 19.4km was during our Tongariro Crossing (the volcano one) we rationalized that the Abel Tasman track didn’t have the same climbs and disorienting moonscape atmosphere, and therefore wouldn’t be as difficult.
Is it arrogance? Or garden variety delusion?
A: Probably both.
But the one point I won’t fault us on is that we decided to sign up for a PORTION of the track, which we’d walk in a single day.
50km would be crazy. But 20km?
Well. The truth is that is also crazy. The unfortunate part is that we only fully realized it at about the 16km mark.
So, with that, won’t you please join me for a second tale of our gruelling encounter with New Zealand’s wilderness.
The track started off in a boat, which thankfully we had no responsibility for, or this would be a story about a Great Swim.
Called Aquataxis, the small boats run up and down the 50km stretch of coast, dropping people off at the various points that they want to begin their track.
The bonus was that you get to see things you wouldn’t by foot like “Split Apple Rock”.
Plus these guys basking in the sun, exhausted from their previous performance for tourists (Seals. Photo’s hard to tell):
Before getting off the boat, we chatted with some other passengers about the track we were about to walk from our getting off point.
One person said: ” Yeah, I heard it was 8km return walk”. “Really?”, I said. “The woman at our backpackers said it was 6hrs tops, and even that was factoring in a lot of pictures and taking a break to eat”.
To which someone else said: “Yeah, I’d also heard 7 hrs”.
I immediately looked overboard, thinking I should start swimming to the shore to get this epic underway.
Thankfully we made landfall soon after. As people got their bearings, Rose and I waved at everyone over our shoulders as we hustled on to the track, hoping to make it back without the help of a search party.
Once again, New Zealand scenery didn’t disappoint:
The tracks were in really good shape, with a lot of bridge crossings over turquoise coloured water:
And the occasional burst of colour from a local flower
The other interesting thing we learned was that the tide had the highest fluctuation within a single day of the Southern Hemisphere.
Low and high tide could change 10 metres between morning and afternoon, which made for dramatic shots that could easily be construed as a drought. It made me think that environmentalists, if they were devious enough, could easily use as marketing shots for global warming:
About halfway through, we reached a spot of the track which required us to walk across a lake bed to the other side, revealing what seemed like an endless amount of clams and other shellfish for easy snacking by seagulls.
It was shortly after this portion that we hit a steady decline. Couples we’d past en route were now passing us, as our strides turned more into shuffles, and I began to consider asking the next person who passed if I could borrow their cellphone to put in an advance order for a helicopter rescue in about 2hrs when we would surely collapse.
Hungry, I kept seeing shapes of food wherever I looked, like this pig:
which made me think of BLT sandwiches, and how someone could really make a good living by having a BLT stand set up on the side of the trail.
As exhaustion took hold, other ideas that occurred to Rose and I – have a marching band walk down the path in marching band gear, blowing on tubas and trombones purely for the sake of it.
While we were having difficulty, others looked like they had it harder:
Yet, despite our fatigue, the scenery stayed bright and sunny. It got to be a joke that Rose, walking ahead of me, would come to a clearing that had a stunning view of the beach and hills, and I’d reply:
“Whoo. Let me guess? Another screensaver?”.
Improbably, the whole track eventually came to end, just before we did:
That night we slept 12 hrs, and I don’t remember a single dream. It was only when I stood up from bed the next morning that I remember what happened.
Next stop Franz Joseph Glacier + Fox Glacier on the windy roads of the West Coast.