New Zealand- Chapter 17- The Longest Short Walk in Abel Tasman NP

For the first time on my trip, I could tell the exhaustion of pushing myself from before sunrise to after sunset was beginning to get to me. After spending a long day of driving the previous day, I slept restlessly. So how did I address this situation? By getting up for sunrise and climbing out on a rocky headland before the day really got started, of course.

My campground in the small town of Kaiteriteri, just outside the Eastern boundry of Abel Tasman National Park, was right across the street from the beach. When I’d gone to bed the night before, I figured I was going to be able to get up and walk right over to the beach and snap off a few quick and easy sunrise photos.

What I found was, that to actually see the sun rising, I would need to hike out and around the small, rocky headland that blocked my view. This looked easy enough, but turned out to be much further away and much more difficult climbing than I had expected.

The sunrise was worth it, but I realized as I walked back to the campground that the extra time it had taken me to climb around on the boulders of the headland would mean I had to rush in packing up the campervan, getting showered & packing a lunch before meeting the boat I had booked to take me out to my scheduled hike in Abel Tasman National Park a few minutes before 9 A.M.

I hate feeling rushed, but I did manage to get everything I needed just as I saw the boat pull into the cove. Overtired, and a little crabby, I was not pleased to see a busload of middle school aged kids pull up in the parking lot. I kept thinking “Please Please Please don’t have them be on my boat”, but those pleas went unanswered. I stood at the top of the beach debating whether or not, with my current temperament  take an hour boat ride with a bunch of screaming preteens or not. I even went as far as to ask the nice lady with who I had booked this boat ride a half an hour earlier if I could get a refund if I elected not to go. I knew this was my only chance to see Abel Tasman National Park- I had a whale watching cruise booked in Kaikoura the next day and the ferry to the North Island the day after. A nice Australian couple and the woman I booked with kindly also gave me some gentle encouragement, and, with more than a little trepidation, I boarded the boat.

The scenery on the way out was lovely and the weather, so often a factor in New Zealand, was not just cooperative but pleasant.

The kids on the boat weren’t bad kids- in fact, all things considered, they seemed to be nice. The ones I talked to were friendly and, to my surprise, not very curious about me as an American as kids I’ve met around the world tend to be. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, with how many tourists New Zealand gets, I’m sure they meet plenty of foreigners.

The kids were nice and polite, but they were, as children of this age would be anywhere in the world, incredibly loud and rambunctious. I love boat rides, and had looked forward to taking pictures on this one, but I often found myself being jostled around and run into as the kids freely roamed the boat. Their  chaperones and supervisors tried to keep the under control, but soon became aware they were fighting a losing battle and gave up.

The highlight of the trip our, besides the gorgeous skies overhead, was the stop by a small colony of New Zealand fur seals. I’d seen these adorable little creatures the day before at Cape Foulwind, but their posing and lounging never gets old.

We arrived the Totaranui Campground stop after about an hour to let the kids and the rest of their group off. I had about 15 minutes to look around the area and use the restrooms while the kids unloaded a week’s worth of food and camping gear.

Kayaking the waters around Abel Tasman is one of the park’s most popular activities  and I was able to see one of these groups in action as we left Totaranui.

The boat dropped us off in Bark Bay, a few kilometers east of Totaranui. The hike east from Bark Bay could be to either of the boat’s pick up times later in the day- 6.4 km to Torrent Bay, or 12 km to Anchorage. Not sure how I’d handle the hiking, I figured I would take my time and just shoot for Torrent Bay.

The hike began out of Bark Bay with a nice uphill stretch, which, less than a kilometer in, had me questioning my ability to even hike the 6.4kms to Torrent Bay.

Upon reaching the top of the rise, however, I was rewarded with a sweeping view of the bay and the park’s famous turquoise waters.

And so I walked. And walked. And walked some more. Every little while, a landmark would present itself, such as Falls River (pictured above) and the accompanying suspension bridge.

Mostly, though, I just walked. Sometimes I walked with people, and we’d talk about our respective trips. I enjoyed these times and met some really nice people, all of which loved New Zealand just as much as I did.

Most of the time, I walked alone. There were many views of beautiful coastline, but most of the hike was through the dense, almost primordial feeling rainforest I’d come to know quite well during my time in New Zealand. There were stretches where the trail went sharply uphill (these I didn’t care for at all), but the tramping was mostly easy. When I’d left Kaiteriteri in the morning, there had been a chill in the air, and I was even a bit chilly on the boat on the way out. I’d made the decision to wear jeans to stay warm, and I’d packed a pair of shorts as a backup in my daypack. When the pack got a little too full, however, I decided to leave the shorts (as well as a second t-shirt) behind, figuring I would just tough it out.

I faced a bit a dilemma when I reached the overlook above the tiny community of Torrent Bay. I’d hiked the 6.4 kms in a little under 3 hours, and it was another 5.6 kms to Anchorage, the second of the two pickup points for the return boat. As I mentioned, I was wearing jeans and had gotten comprehensively sweaty during the hike to Torrent Bay. Had a been able to change in to shorts for the second leg to Anchorage, and had the trail been shorter due to low tide (during low tide, hikers can walk across the inner bay and cut 4 kms off the hike), I would have carried on to Anchorage. As it was, I decided to relax on the beach, soaking my aching feet in the cool waters of the bay and watching the birds as they waddled up and down the beach looking for food.

High Tide at inner Torrent Bay- Look for the markers that show where the trail leads during low tide
Calm, peaceful Torrent Bay

I sat on the beach at Torrent Bay for almost two hours, one of the first times on the trip where I had truly just relaxed. It felt weird not to be in motion, and I actually had to force myself to try and relax. I enjoyed watching the oystercatchers, a black shorebird with red eyes, as they moved up and down the beach in search of food. I also, much to my surprise, fell asleep for an hour in the late afternoon sunshine, something I would later be thankful for, since I had a couple hours drive that evening,

The boat finally returned, blessedly free of the throngs of noisy children, for the short ride back to Kaiteriteri.

Nelson in the distance

I talked to the people I’d hiked with during the day and found that the trail from Torrent Bay had been easier than the one from Bark Bay to Torrent Bay, meaning I probably would have made it for the rendezvous with the boat no problem. I didn’t regret my decision  though, I’d needed to rest and was thankful that, for the first time on the trip, I’d chosen to do what my body was telling me to do, instead of listening to my brain’s constant quest to see more. 

Upon arriving back in Kaiteriteri, I didn’t linger. I had a reservation the next morning for a 10:45 A.M. cruise in Kaikoura, 330 kms and 6 hours drive away. When I’d planned these last two days on the South Island, I knew this long drive at night was going to be unpleasant, but necessary if I wanted to squeeze these last two destinations in. My goal for this evening was to drive as far as I could, to shorten the drive the next day. I ended up driving for 3.5 hours and making it as far as the YHA Hostel in Havelock, a little more than halfway. I knew I’d be up early to complete the trek to Kaikoura, but I knew what awaited me was one of the largest mammals on the face of the earth….

NEXT: Chapter Eighteen- We’re Looking for the Whales


Day Seventeen Photo Gallery-   Facebook   Flickr

Other Links:

Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman Sea Shuttles

Torrent Bay



The New Zealand 2012 Series:

New Zealand 2012 by the Numbers

Chapter One: Christchurch in One Word: Broken

Photo Essay- Sunrise outside Christchurch

Chapter Two- The Banks Peninsula & Hector’s Dolphins

Chapter Three- Washed Out at Tekapo

Photo Essay- Moeraki Boulders Sunrise

Chapter Four- The Secret of Dunedin

Photo Essay- Speight’s Brewery Tour, Dunedin

Chapter Five- The Otago Peninsula

Photo Essay- Otago Peninsula Wildlife

Chapter Six- The Edge of the World in the Catlins

Chapter Seven- Southern Scenic Route

Chapter Eight- Cruising Doubtful Sound (Pt.1)

Photo Essay- Lake Manapouri Cruise

Chapter Eight- Cruising Doubtful Sound (Pt.2)

Chapter Eight- Cruising Doubtful Sound (Pt.3)

Photo Essay- The Two Faces of Doubtful Sound

Chapter Nine- The Milford Sound Road

Chapter Ten- Milford Sound and The Hollyford Road

Photo Essay- Milford Sound Cruise

Chapter Eleven- Onward to Queenstown

Chapter Twelve- In, Above & Around Queenstown

Photo Essay- Sunrise over Queenstown

Chapter Thirteen- A Soggy Drive to the West Coast

Chapter Fourteen- Above and On the Glaciers (pt.1)

Photo Essay- Glacier Scenic Flight

Chapter Fourteen- Above and On the Glaciers (pt.2)

Chapter Fifteen- Meandering Up the West Coast

Chapter Sixteen- Through the Buller Gorge to the North

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