Abel Tasman [Inland] Track

Beach near Whariwharangi hut
Beach near Whariwharangi hut

This should have been a trip report on the Abel Tasman Inland Track, but serious windfall just before Easter made DoC close the track late April. We considered our options, took into account the logistics of a van key swap with Gareth’s group walking the coastal track south to north, and decided we might as well do a coastal north to south. With 3 ½ days to walk it, it might not be the medium trip we had aimed for, but it is seriously scenic and we had not yet walked the full length of it.  Although just before the trip date the Inland track had been reopened, one half of our tramping party was recovering from a recent fever so we just stuck to the coastal version.

One of a dozen of golden sand beaches
One of a dozen of golden sand beaches

On Thursday afternoon the club van pulled up at the usual platform 9, while we were still sorting stuff to put in our backpacks. Actually, we missed the van and also the ferry departure, and we couldn’t care less…the joys of living on the South Island (obviously we don’t do a lot of North Island trips nowadays).

The original coastal walkers made good progress via Picton, arriving well before midnight at our house in Nelson, and positioned themselves on various mattresses after agreeing 7.30AM would be a good departure time on the Friday. The van ride to Marahau went smooth, but after that our small team of two had to crack some difficult decisions on where to have a decent coffee while relocating the van to the north end of the track. We agreed the Wholemeal Cafe in Takaka would be a good place for hippie-spotting and indeed a few interesting specimen were present, although these were outnumbered by the over-70 ladies who all had taken their knitwear.

Crossing Awaroa inlet late afternoon
Crossing Awaroa inlet late afternoon

A short drive east of Takaka leads to Wainui Bay where we parked the van and shouldered the backpacks. Mika was travelling light with her pack well under 10kg, and for the next day or two every meal or snack-break had me calculating how much load I’d lost. An easy and enjoyable track leads from the bay up to a saddle, where MTB-ers can turn right to follow the Gibbs Hill Track and walkers can drop down to the historic Whariwharangi Hut (well documented in the ‘Shelters from the Storm’ book).

View from Anchorage lodge
View from Anchorage lodge

We still had time up our sleeve to make a little side trip east to Separation Point, where some shags and fur dotcoms were soaking up the winter sun. The views up the coast to Farewell Spit and east to D’Urville Island were great, as they would be for the next few days. The great thing about the coastal track is that you don’t have to slog up serious hills to get views above the treeline; there are regular small cliffs, viewpoints and many beaches with unobstructed views. Certainly the track north of Awaroa inlet was not busy, although the sunny Queen’s Birthday weekend certainly drew some non-trampers onto the track using the water taxis at the Marahau end.

Green, blue, turquoise sea
Green, blue, turquoise

On day 2 we had a late afternoon appointment with the low tide, which conveniently was located at the end of our day itinerary.  Our five tramping hours were spread thinly between many photo ops, enjoying breaks with hot brews, or just listening to the bellbirds, fantails, and tuis. Move over, greedy seagull, you can’t sing anyway! Reaching Awaroa hut after a knee-deep crossing we were just a few minutes later than the “other Easies” so we could contribute our meal ingredients which were processed into a perfect dinner – thanks guys! Unfortunately the low tide didn’t wait till 9AM the next day, so the recovery from our strenuous walk was briefly interrupted around 6AM by eager northbound punters keen to wade into icy water in the darkness.

From Awaroa lodge we had a ‘big’ day to reach the new Anchorage lodge, and again good timing with the tide allowed a shortcut through Torrent Bay rather than a one hour detour. It was great to see Totaranui without hundreds of summertime campers, and their speedboats and jetskis. Always makes me wonder if there should be a hunting season on jetskis in national parks? Apart from that, the walking was easy with a bare-foot crossing of Torrent Bay and subsequent stretch of beach towards Anchorage lodge to round off the walking session for the day.

Beautifully located and well designed, the new lodge is totally different to any backcountry hut we ever have used.In case you haven’t been there either: imagine the club’s lodge at Whakapapa relocated on a beach, with separate sleeping quarters (4 rooms of 8 bunks each). Enter some cheerful and loud people with a few bottles of wine (Aucklanders perhaps?), two DoC rangers with guitars handing out songbooks, and an international crowd singing their way through Yellow Submarine, Wonderwall and The Gumboot Song. Not your typical backcountry hut experience!

The walk out from Anchorage is really cruisey; no serious hills left to climb and we could resist the temptation of walking up the Inland Track – leave that for another opportunity. All together we felt really lucky with four days of sunny and calm weather, beautiful beaches and seaviews, and yes, there are a few other people on the track and in the huts so don’t expect solitude all day but it’s well worth it. We’ll try the Inland Track another time. Hopefully that time the Park Cafe at Marahau will be open so we can trade in our expectations for real coffee and cake.

Oh, and one lesson learned: don’t just search on the net for the Golden Bay tide table– the one on Stewart Island is a few hours out of sync.

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