Getting away from the crowds on the Abel Tasman Inland Track

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It was time to address the balance between the number of WTMC trips I have been on and the number I have led. If I enjoy 4 trips with the club, then I feel it’s only fair I give one back. I studied the trip schedule and hatched a plan. With several trips going to the Cobb Valley on Waitangi Weekend, the logistics could work for a trip to the Abel Tasmen Inland track. This would be a level of trip that I would be more than happy leading and a superb chance to explore the lesser-visited interior of the Abel Tasman National Park.

I find leading trips very stressful. I think it’s the feeling that I am responsible for other people’s enjoyment of their weekend that gets to me. I don’t mind being responsible for my own enjoyment. If I go tramping on my own and mess up the logistics then it is only me that suffers, but when leading a trip I worry too much about whether others are enjoying themselves, and about messing up other people’s long weekend. I shouldn’t worry, people come on WTMC trips to enjoy themselves – it’s their default mode. All you need to do is to provide the backbones of the trip, and let the group enjoy it in their own way. I guess I am also aware that I just like to do things my own peculiar way sometimes…I like getting away from crowds…I like peace and quiet…I like to avoid busy huts…What if my group doesn’t buy into this?

There were around 30 WTMC-ers on the ferry to South Island on the Friday night. This is impressive and I thought it was so wonderful to hear all the excited chatter about kayaking trips and Cobb Valley adventures. One of my group secured us a colleague’s living room floor for the night, which saved us from the free campsites in the Rai Valley (tip for future leaders: avoid these – they are small and maxed out with freedom campers). The next morning the Cobb Valley crew dropped us off in the sunshine at Marahau.

The Inland Track shares the first few km with the coastal track. We were relieved to leave the crowds behind and turn off onto the quieter, rougher Inland track.

The team hit the track

The track was great: a standard tramping track, a little rooty and rocky in places, but easy to follow and well signed. I had low expectations of the views because all the track descriptions said there were only occasional glimpses of views from rocky outcrops. This is true, however, there were more of these rocky outcrops than I expected. At each lookout turnoff we dumped our packs, and climbed up the promontory to get the view out to the coast.

Inland Track

We reached Holyoake Shelter for a lunch stop. I can recommend this little shelter as a great overnight trip if you are passing the area. It’s recently been rebuilt and has a view out to the Coast. We headed on to Castle Rock Hut for the night. The hut was a little crowded for my liking, so I persuaded the team, despite the oncoming drizzle, to pitch our flies a short distance from the hut. It was cooler under the flies (they had the fire roaring in the hut), and there were some little robins and fantails fluttering around. I had brought Monopoly Deal for entertainment, and Richard’s smoked salmon pasta went down a treat (tip to other trip leaders: ask each of your group to organise a meal).

Castle Rocks
Castle Rocks Hut

On Sunday, after a visit to the Castle Rocks, we walked across Moa Park and along Evans Ridge to Awapoto Hut. The bush in the Inland Abel Tasmen National Park is pleasant, but one of the main attractions is the birdlife. Robins and fantails came to visit us at every stop and frequently in-between. I soaked up the peace and quiet and enjoyed this restful break from our world of technology, cars and time-pressures. We were so pleased to find Awapoto Hut empty. We dried off all our kit that had got damp in the Castle Rock drizzle, and settled in for some Monopoly Deal and tea.

A visit from a fantail
Airing our kit in the sun at Awapoto Hut

Awapoto hut has a great view down to the Awaroa Inlet. It was a wonderful spot to have to ourselves.

On the Monday, we had a short walk down onto the great walk at Wharawharangi. We’d booked in the campsite there, which was more than a little windy. On the way down we got some views to Wainui Bay and also across to Kahaurangi. We were sad to see the rain clouds over the Cobb Valley, and thought of our friends who were in there for the weekend, although we were thankful for the sun shining down on us. There were some great sections of bush: wonderful trees covered with epiphytes. We crossed an area of grass where we were bombarded by hundreds of cicadas.

Admiring the View to Wainui Bay
Descending to Whariwharangi

After pitching up at Whariwharangi, and having a bit of a chuckle at the amount of gear some of the walkers just starting out on the coastal track were carrying, James and I headed off to Separation Point. Richard and Juliette went for a dip in the sea. We didn’t see any seals at Separation Point, but did see the plastic gannet colony DOC have positioned here to encourage non-plastic gannets. There was even a gannet soundtrack from a loudspeaker. Surreal.

Excursion to Seperation Point
‘Wildlife’ at Separation Point

A final round of Monopoly Deal was made challenging by the wind, and then Julliette cooked up a wonderful risotto. Climbing into our flies it was not long before we were all jumping out again to cover ourselves in insect repellant – the mozzies and sandflies were terrible – and we had no mozzie net or tent inner as defence. By morning we really had been eaten alive.

Monopoly Deal at Whariwharangi Campsite
Whariwharangi Bay

From Whariwharangi it’s just a couple of hours on easy track out to Wainui Bay where I’d arranged a shuttle to take us out to Takaka to meet the bus. To my relief the shuttle showed on time and we made it out for a nourishing lunch in the dangerous kitchen.

Reaching the end at Wainui Bay

The Inland track had more views to offer than I expected, and whilst we did see other trampers, it was peaceful enough for me. The robins and fantails were great, and we saw a good number of Powhelliphanta shells along the way.

Plenty of Powelliphanta to be found

How do I feel my foray back into trip leading went? Well, the truth is that it is quite a lot of work…I count 70 emails sent and received connected with trip (enquiries, sign-ups, transport logistics, gear, intentions, etc.), but it went smoothly and I hope the team enjoyed it. You forget all the emails when you are on the trip enjoying the peace and quiet. It is only by organising trips that I will gradually learn to find it less stressful. Sitting on the ferry on the way back it was so good, infectious even, to hear all the stories of adventures had. Plenty of leaders do far more than my 4-1 punter-leader ratio: Thank you. And thank you to all the others behind the scenes who tirelessly organise transport, gear, emergency contacts, etc, often with no weekend away to bank for it.

It doesn’t matter how small you contribution is, or what level the trip is, what is great about the WTMC is that everyone can contribute something. It’s a wonderful community.

Inland Track Sign

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