Friday, May 8, 2015

Abel Tasman National Park

A day filled with offerings, starting with Split Apple Rock, off Abel Tasman. 100 million years old, said the water taxi driver, likely split in two when water infiltrated a vein of quartz running through it and froze, expanding and contracting.

The Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's only coastal national park – and its golden sandy beaches and clear turquoise water make it one of the most popular. The sheltered bays are popular for cruising, sailing and sea kayaking. On land, the Abel Tasman Coast Track follows the coastline through lush native bush, over limestone cliffs and along golden sandy beaches. This is one of the Department of Conservation's "Great Walks". The 53km track can be walked in its entirety over three to five days. Smaller sections of the track can be easily accessed by the network of water taxis operating from Kaiteriteri and Marahau in the southern end of the park, and Totaranui at the northern end.
Friday we walked just eight miles of it, a grand trek. Crossing the street to the beach late morning to meet the water taxi, we ran into our metal-detector friends from yesterday, driving a cool RV bus we wanted to check out.

After a tour of the beautiful handbuilt interior, we got to talking again and it turns out my new Maori friend here carves greenstone. He generously gifted me with a pendant.
The Maori people are well known for their beautiful greenstone carvings. The Maori word for greenstone is pounamu and it is often referred to as Maori jade or New Zealand jade...Greenstone has played an important part in Maori history and the Maori consider it a treasure (taonga). Over thousands of years Greenstone has been used to make beautiful jewelry and due to its hardness has also been use to make tools and weapons. Greenstone is so hard that often the artist who carve it must use diamond cutting tools. 
This piece is called Totoweka, blood of the bird, or greenstone streaked with red. What an amazing start to this day. (Also, nice ink.)

Our water taxi awaits, but (did I tell you this was a small town, pop 740), before boarding we ran into Jane from yesterday, along with husband Ted, RVers from Christchurch.

They responded to my query about the earthquake with a harrowing story of the sound of a roaring train as the quake hit and his being up in a wildly swaying sleeping loft. But their home was not destroyed.

Hi Jane and Ted

Were you waiting for pictures of Abel Tasman National Park? First, check out some brief fascinating history of the man.
The Dutch seafarer, explorer, and merchant, best known for his voyages of 1642 and 1644 in the service of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). He was the first known European explorer to reach the islands of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) and New Zealand, and to sight the Fiji islands. His navigator François Visscher and his merchant Isaack Gilsemans mapped substantial portions of Australia, New Zealand, and some Pacific Islands.
Click here for a culturally signifcant story about Tasman's first meet with the Maori, keeping in mind this gigantic waka we explored in Auckland.
By the time the Dutch had rounded Onetahua into Mohua (Golden Bay) on the night of December 17, 16423 waka are believed to have followed them in the darkness.

Te Toki a Tapiri, Maori canoe carved from a single log. 
85 feet long with room for 100 warriors. 

It's time to board the water taxi and set off for Apple Tree Bay. There are just two other people on board, also being dropped off at our starting point. I climb to the top deck with my camera to record Kaiteriteri pulling away in the distance. Overhearing the two, it dawns on me that they're from the US so I say hi and ask where they're from.

Chicago, says Paul, and Denver, says Carmen. No kidding, where in Chicago? I ask Paul. Wicker Park, says he. Really! Whereabouts? (This gets better...) Division and Damen, he replies. What? Where exactly do you live (we're drilling down now). So it turns out Paul lives above Cattails, the flower shop across the street from our old homestead.

(And the universe winks.)

Magnificent split apple rock, on the way to our drop-off, is worth a couple of photos.

So here's how it works to walk all or a piece of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. You check a map like the one below (noting winter/summer/year-round hours) and the walking distance chart--believe me, this took some time--and figure out what you want to do. Most important is the right-hand column, which shows times for water taxi departure and pick-up. White is winter hours, with fewer options both ways.

We departed Kaiteriteri at 12:40, disembarked at Apple Tree Bay at 1 pm, and then walked 7K or so north to Anchorage, which they calculate takes 2.25 hours. (With a snack break and a quick peek at the overnight hut at Anchorage we used all but 6 minutes.) At Anchorage the southbound taxi picked us up at 3:45 for the return.

Happily, the boat guys go over your itinerary as you board to ensure you get it right. If you missed your return, you'd have no supper and have to bunk in at an overnight hut without a bedroll (pictures to come)...unless you were like Paul and Carmen, who planned to stay in the Anchorage hut, hike north the next day, and get picked up from a spot farther up the coast.

The run-up to Apple Tree Bay was glorious

Art takes the retractable hydraulic ramp, which keeps feet dry upon disembarking.

Heading for the trailhead.

So let's walk

A sheer drop-off there on the right...and everywhere on this trail.

The path went up and down, twisting left and right, providing occasional peeks out to the water. See the tiny kayakers (Bruce, is this what you did?)?

Over streams and through dense foliage we walked, meeting a couple dozen people coming the other way, a virtual UN of accents greeting us hello. In the summer these tracks are packed and you must reserve at the overnight huts, which dot the trail north.

The scale is virtually unphotographable, and the clear birdsong unforgettable in the perfect quiet.

After about two hours, my body was screaming for food. Finally, a bench with a view.

And more unimaginable history...

Plus hiker-worthy snacks

Back on the path at a stunning elevation, we're heading for our meet-up with the boat at The Anchorage.

A glimpse the sandy arc of Anchorage cove.  
Were this summer, we could hang with the kids on the beach for a couple hours before meeting a boat back, but with the slim boat schedules we don't have much time. In order to view the hut we need to push hard to walk the beach and back up into the trees.

The gorgeous new hut was built in Oct 2013 for NZ $720,000.

The bunkhouse

Common area


Reading in public

Bunkhouse interior (no snuggling here, apparently). It's BYO everything--food, wine, sleeping bags.

Time to head for our pick-up

With a few minutes to spare, we boarded, followed by everyone else...except two people. The captain scanned the beach for them.

Meantime, the boat hovered, its ingenious ramp folding and stretching.

The last two passengers were finally spotted, running like crazy down the beach, chagrined when they boarded just a couple minutes late. We sped home.

***US$36 per person for the round-trip water taxi, extremely fair, we thought.


  1. Nice recap. Yes, I paddled along the coast just like those people in the photo. After a few days of it I got bored and decided I'd rather walk the trail. Glad I was on the water for a while, but don't think I would have liked spending the entire time there.

    Keep the posts coming! Very interesting to see it through your eyes. The trail looks as I remember it - lush, green, and hard to capture in a photo. I also recall seeing the occasional white lotus type orchid along the trail.

  2. Probably you were there in summer for the orchid. It's really ideal weather now, high 60s, low 70s. I thought you kayaked the shore! After my last kayak voyage on Lake Superior in a lightweight plastic kayak, with my sister, being blown by a rogue wind out into the vast lake and not being able to make any distance toward shore, my kayak urges have been quelled. However, I would like to ride a horse here.

  3. Ooh...brings back such vivid memories. We took the boat to the last stop, went to the hotel and started our trek with cappuccino and dark chocolate/apricot muffins. Needed fuel for the trek! Then we hiked a while, stopped at a beach, changed into bathing suits and luxuriated in the peaceful waters. After lunch, we tied our wet suits to our backpacks and hiked some more. Didn't miss our return boat but sure do miss Abel Tasman National Park.

    Love your posts, especially the pix of the fruit. Mmmm....

  4. Hi Jane! What a gift Abel Tasman is, and your day there sounds perfect. We tried to take a second hike, starting at the hotel you mention, but were told it was closed for restoration. Plus other timings didn't work for us, so we just walked everywhere else in Kaiterteri. A warm dreamy place.