We left Kaikoura with blue skies and sunshine and headed a slightly different route north, up the Wairau Valley, then over the Richmond Mountain Range to arrive at Motueka. As we entered the Valley the clouds got lower and it is fair to say that we were lost in them for a while but it was a pretty route through some of the Ski areas.
Once we got back down to sea level on the other side of the Richmond Mountain Range the skies had cleared but the air was definitely a little fresher. We were heading to Motueka for the night to buy our tickets for the water taxi into (and out of) the Abel Tasman National Park as well as to do some last minute shopping at the butchers naturally!
Motueka is actually not too bad a town considering it is the last ‘real’ town before a huge tourist attraction. There are two reasonably sized supermarkets, a couple of camping shops, lots of cafes and bakeries and of course a butchers! As we were heading for a campsite for four nights and from Friday morning the weather was forecast to be pretty good, we stocked up on all things BBQ…… BBQ Breakfast (Sausages, Bacon, Eggs and Tomatoes), Lamb Steaks, Mince for burgers and more sausages …. we don’t normally eat quite so much meat but aren’t going to complain for a few days!
Leaving Motueka on Thursday morning we headed all of 20km up the road (albeit the last 5km were pretty twisty) to Kaiteriteri where we parked up on the Kaiteriteri Beach Camp looking out over the bay.
Not that we are used to staying on many Campsites, the Campsites in New Zealand appear to have a different approach to those in Europe. Several don’t actually have anywhere to dump waste (i.e. toilet and washing up/shower water) and the majority appear to charge for Showers on top of quite a hefty price for the site…. a little like Italy if I remember rightly. This one is a pretty average price ($23 per person per night) and I am pleased to say that it does have a dump station for toilet and grey waste but they do charge for showers. The price includes electricity, so we are actually plugged in for the first time in nearly six weeks – ironically with the weather forecast it is the time that we are least likely to need it. The Campsite is spotless, the staff are fantastically friendly and helpful and it is in a perfect location so we would definately recommend it and come back here if we wanted to do any more walking on the Abel Tasman…… its just those showers that nark me.
We had booked Wilson’s Water Taxi, which is one of the larger companies here and they offer as many boat trips as you want for three seperate days over a seven day period for a set price, so we decided to do three days walking. On the first day (Friday) we took the boat from Kaiteriteri to Awaroa, the furthest point that you don’t have to plan around a tidal crossing which we couldn’t work around with our dates, then we walked back to Midlands Beach.
So, now comes the first real blog difficulty of the trip …. which photos to add without over doing it and boring you to death …. fingers crossed I get the right balance – I am sure you will let me know!
The walk from Awaroa takes you through the only ‘hotel’ type establishment in the National Park which also offers food and drinks – after that it is very much whatever you want, you bring in and take out as well. There are a few huts and camps that have to be booked in advance if you want to stay over, as well as a handful of toilets along the route but you are pretty much on your own until you get picked up or walk out, depending on your approach. We didn’t stop at Awaroa but headed on through to Onetahuti beach before we stopped for our lunch … to be fair I was still happy on my cooked breakfast but it was less weight to carry. A beautiful beach and so nice that we didn’t have to share it with many people as it is still pretty quiet in the National Park.
From here most of the track was inland with just the odd glimpse of the coast as we worked our way up and then down again on multiple occasions.
Until we finally came towards Bark Bay when we were getting closer to low tide which for us definitely makes the views even more beautiful as you can see more variation in texture and colour … the photos just don’t do it justice.
We had however walked far too quickly. They recommend 4 hours and we took just over three so we had an hour and a half to wait for our boat back to Kaiteriteri …. ah well, I can think of worst places!
Day two started with a few neighbouring campers looking on at us weirdly as we did our morning exercise routines – not much new there then – but with the show over, showered and breakfasted we headed off onto the boat again back up to Medlands Beach to start our walk back to Anchorage Bay.
There were a couple of side walks at the beginning, the first with a look out point and then another to Sandfly bay which didn’t give us too many hopes but both were nice little diversions before we headed on to find the longest suspension bridge in the park which stretches out 40m and you bounce all the way along it….
Once again the track stayed inland mostly, climbing up before coming down again and repeating itself several times – although nothing too strenuous. Eventually we were rewarded with a lookout over the Torrent Bay Lagoon which looking at the colours of the sand and sea could have been in the tropics somewhere …
And then fairly soon afterwards the beauty of Torrent Bay itself from a high, the descent being the only thing between us and a toilet (I did say that they were few and far between at points) ….. oh and lunch!
Torrent Bay is the only place in the park where there are still a handful of private properties, some are rentals, some just holiday homes or ‘Bach’s’ as the Kiwi’s call them, all only accessible by sea or helicopter. There is another tidal crossing at Torrent Bay although they have an alternative route here for high tide which they don’t have north of Awaroa. We stopped and ate our lunch by the quay before heading on round the high tide route which provided equally beautiful views as well as a diversion up to Cleopatra pools.
A day in and a little more experienced in the timings of the walks, we changed the return boat for today to a slightly earlier one so only had forty five minutes to spare, enough time to explore the caves at the end of the beach a little more before being picked up!
Day three was an even warmer start with the sun and the humidity giving us a warm wake up call. This was our last day in the Abel Tasman Park and as the last hour and a halfs’ walk isn’t that pretty as you come back into Marahau we had decided to get the boat back up to Anchorage bay and do a walk round the headland before continuing on the main trail to Apple Tree Bay for the final pick up.
We have found a fair bit of wildlife on our route but we hadn’t expected to fall upon wild boar, especially not a sow and her four piglets. Unfortunately for us when we came accross them, the piglets ran the opposite direction to mum so we were prepared to be ambushed for a while although she obviously was glad to be rid of them as after the initial search the piglets wandered off and she didn’t seem to be following.
The rest of the headland route after we left them behind was a little less eventful, with beautiful views and ending up on a lovely little beach before heading back to Anchorage bay. We then got back onto the main track and climbed up ……finding a not too bad a place to stop for lunch if we do say so ourselves!
There were quite a few optional ‘diversions’ on todays route …. almost all appeared to be down to be a beach – which obviously meant climbing back up again – but each and everyone delivered on views and colour.
We worked out that they put a nice little bench at the top of any steep walk down to a beach so that you have somewhere to rest when you actually manage to make it back up again …. not that we are complaining as it was all stunning and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
Despite taking all the side routes we were still slightly early for our pick up, so we ventured a little further down the path and managed to get some lovely views over Apple Tree Beach before we finally said goodbye to Abel Tasman and hopped back on the boat to get back to Kaiteriteri.
Having not thought too much about next steps for a few days we got the maps back out again and after changing our minds on our destination a couple of times, we packed everything up and retraced our steps back towards a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite at the end of the road between Kenepuru Sound and The Queen Charlotte Sounds. We had been wanting to walk a bit of the Queen Charlotte Sounds track since we arrived two weeks ago but the weather was so bad we had pretty much written it off. Bullet bitten we hit the road, stopping briefly in Motueka to get some shopping in and then in Havelock for lunch before tackling the 55km out to Kenepuru Head Camp. The first 15km of the road was old ground as we did it when we travelled from Picton to Nelson a couple of weeks ago, however the next 40km was new territory. As we turned off we were faced with a sign stating that the road was ‘uneven’ in places and that there wasn’t any provisions available so we should be prepared…… The next 40km took roughly 1hr 15minutes. Although the road is tarmac it is narrow and very twisty and falling away in places which means getting over 35km/h was pretty much impossible so we just took our time and I enjoyed the views as Keith was driving!
When we finally got to the Kenepuru Head DOC Camp ($13 per person per night) it was fair to say that we were in the middle of nowhere with only Weka’s and Tui’s (Kiwi bird’s) for company and the views were amazing. As all Brits do, we put the kettle on to have a cup of tea before we headed out to stretch our legs only to realise that the gas had run out …. of all the times and all the places it had to be when we were a long way from anywhere to exchange it. Thankfully due to the way that Geoff and Tracey have the van set up we could switch over to use the BBQ gas bottle temporarily … I can confirm that it kept us fed and washed for the two days – and I am sure that there is still plenty to spare – until we got back to Havelock… back up plan was cold showers in the morning!
We walked round the end of Kenepuru Sound and admired our surroundings, taking in the tranquility before heading back to take up our lovely viewing spot, watching the tide come back in again.
After probably one of the most tranquil nights we have had yet – or at least it was after some of our fellow campers went to bed – we headed over to the other side of the peninsula to see a bit more of the Queen Charlotte Sounds. Unfortunately the track isn’t accessible from where we were camped up so unintentionally, we took Ava on a little adventure up a dirt road to Camp Bay, it was only about 8km (5km of which were on the dirt track) but too far to walk and then do part of the track as well…. it is fair to say that Ava needed a bit of a dusting down by the time we got back to Camp at the end of the day though.
Ava parked up safely, we set off North on the Queen Charlotte Track which winds its way down to the sounds and then round each cove. Unfortunately this part of the track is quite heavy with foliage so although it was nice the views were pretty limited. There were however lots of streams and waterfalls, one of which providing a lovely little spot for lunch before we turned and headed back – all in all a nice little 20km walk.
The journey back to Havelock this morning was equally as beautiful and once in Havelock again we swapped the gas, emptied and filled the tanks and set off through the valley to Murchison, the home of the Buller river where there were Gold mines and now a lot of water sports. We have parked up in another NZMCA site in the center of town – which is tiny – and having had a quick walk round, are settled back in Ava watching the rain fall down around us …. he ho, I guess it was inevitable and is our welcome to the Westcoast!