Thursday 14 August 2014

Abel Tasman Walk- Part 2: The Walk

Once off the boat (Part 1) we had a short climb out of the Medlands Bay to the main track junction. We would be meeting the boat again at Anchorage at 3:30pm, it was now 11:30am and 11.5km seemed a very long way after watching the contours of the hills from the boat as we travelled up the coastline.

Taking the amount of time we had available and the distance we had to cover on board, David was off at full stride ahead of me. I lingered to take a photo of Medlands Bay, the walkers that had raced off the boat to paddle in the water, still exploring by the rocks. It was a steady climb for the first kilometre or so and then the track levelled out and wound it’s way in and out of numerous narrow gullies.

We passed a couple of side tracks along the way, one down to Sandfly Bay where the Falls River snakes around the dunes to the sea. The golden sand, clear blue water and deep green of the bush made for some beautiful vistas. As wonderful as the boat trip along the coast is, you really don't get an idea of how stunning this coast is until you’re walking alongside it. The section of the walk that we are covering is also the most varied.

The 47m long Falls River swing bridge is one of the interest (highlight) points along this section of the track. It was also the area where we met 3 or 4 groups of trampers coming from the other direction. A lot of walkers have probably never encountered a swing bridge before and we could hear quite a bit of hilarity going on as we approached, shouts and laughter filled the air as some rocked the bridge as others crossed.

It was a bit like Piccadilly Station with all the comings and goings. We passed, & were passed by, quite a number of people walking the track in both directions. For us this was a small negative point; we have been too spoilt by having many of our walks to ourselves. I’m not sure I’d like to walk the track in the height of summer when there would be dozens of people walking the track from both directions. And having now seen dozens of swing bridges the Falls River Bridge failed to impress although the river looked interesting with it’s large piles of flood strewn logs and emerald green still waters.

Stunning Frenchman’s Bay lagoon was next to come into view. Unfortunately we couldn’t have the best of both worlds on this walk; we wanted it to be low tide so we could cross Torrent Bay estuary further on but it would have been great to have viewed this lagoon at high tide. When the tide is in, the lagoon is a very beautiful clear mint green colour. Nearly all promotional & a lot of advertising material for the Abel Tasman National Park feature people kayaking on this lagoon.

Half Way Pool would look very inviting if it was the middle of a hot summer but today it was an ice cold deep green pool tucked into the shade under the ferns. I’m assuming that the pool is roughly half way if you’re walking the whole 55km track.

Finally after three hours we found ourselves at the top of a bluff overlooking Torrent Bay & the estuary with our destination Anchorage in the top left of the photo. In the previous post I mentioned the 5 metre tide range along this coast, our skipper told us to take note of where the water level was as we motored along just off the beach. At the time the estuary was full of water too.

As you can see there’s quite a large holiday settlement at Torrent Bay and the track runs through the village with plenty of “keep out”  & “private” signs to make you feel welcome. I suppose I shouldn’t be so cynical, all of these holiday homes (that can only be accessed by boat) are closed up for winter & I’m sure there are plenty of trampers who may try to take advantage of the decks & BBQ tables available in the yards to take a rest or in fact they may even have more sinister intentions in mind.....comfy beds?

The two young ladies in the photo were from South America and had caught up to and passed us on the track. I’m not too sure whether they saw much of the track though, as they were talking non-stop the whole way. We could hear them approaching us from a good distance & once they passed we could hear them for a long time afterwards. We were stopped searching for a bird when they passed us. I couldn’t help myself and asked if they had seen any birds. “No, no we haven’t” one of them answered. I wonder why!

Much later these two decided they’d walk the remainder of the track back to Marahau, the southern start point of the walk and another 4hrs further on, after finding out when they boarded our boat in Anchorage that is was returning to Kaiteriteri. Other water taxis had already left Anchorage. This would have been fine, earlier in the day but it was 3:30pm & getting very cold. It also gets dark around 6pm so they would have been walking the track in the dark without torches. The skipper was concerned, he radioed up other boats but they were already full or not in the area, but the girls insisted and off they went.

As we took in the views we spotted our boat making it’s way into Anchorage, where it anchored waiting there until we all arrived at the beach. The buildings in the trees behind are the new DOC hut and the staff quarters (with the solar panels).

In the estuary photo below, top right, you may just be able to see a tiny dot crossing the sand flats. That’s where we were headed, taking the short cut across the sand to re-join the track on the other side. Before then though, we made our way down the track and out onto the beach before walking through the village and finding a picnic table beside the empty estuary to have a leisurely lunch at. Because we were going to take the short cut across the estuary, we had about an hour and half up our sleeve before we were to meet the boat.

High & dry in Torrent Bay estuary.

After lunch we headed off down the village “road” to locate the track that branched off the main route for the estuary crossing. I must say that there is plenty of informative signage all the way along the track with good indications of how far and how long you have to walk to get to various points.

I had chosen the Medlands Bay to Anchorage section of the Able Tasman Great Walk because I wanted to walk across the estuary and luckily the tides were in sync with the day we did it, you can cross the estuary two hours either side of low tide. Many walkers don’t have a choice and have to walk the high tide route adding another 3.7kms to the walk. The extra distance wasn’t the reason I wanted to do the estuary, I just thought it was a chance to do something a little different on a walk.

Even though the tide was out, the estuary would still involve crossing two shallow streams. We rolled our pant legs up and crossed in our water proof boots but the woman ahead of us had the right idea. After finding out that my boots weren’t waterproof afterall, I suggested that David might like to do the same for me for the next stream. I can’t repeat what he said! I’m not sure these two had the right footwear on, we caught them up as she doubled her distance walked by trying to dodge all the muddy & wet patches on the way to the hard ground.

Finally 3.5 hours (including stops along the way) & 7.8km later we made it to the beach at Anchorage. We saved ourselves 3.7km by crossing the estuary and had about 30 minutes to wait before our boat picked us up. Of course if we had to have walked the high tide route we would not have stopped so long for lunch.

There were quite a few small few groups of people dotted along the beach, resting up & waiting for their water taxis, including the group that had been on our boat with the kayaks this morning. We’d dropped them at Apple Tree Bay earlier and after they had done their kayak tour around Adele & Fisherman Islands they had walked over to Anchorage.

While we were waiting I walked around the bay to check out the new (Oct 2013) 34-bunk DOC hut that replaced an older 24-bunk version. It’s located in a fabulous spot, north facing, tucked into the lush bush, a few steps from a beautiful golden sand beach and surrounded by native landscaping & grassed areas with plenty of deck space and picnic tables in the grounds, it has many more features than all of the huts we’ve seen put together! What more could you want……for us, private ensuite rooms. We just don’t fancy bunking down with dozens of unknown people for the night, hence the reason we do day walks only.

The Abel Tasman Walk is one of the country’s most popular Great Walks (there are 9 in total), last year it was walked by 29,000 people and Anchorage Hut is the first and busiest of the four huts on the 54.4 kilometre track. Of course not all 29,000 people stay at the hut but many visit it on their way past or while waiting for water taxis.

One of the smaller water taxis collecting walkers from Anchorage. No wet feet today but I wonder how they would fare boarding in a rough sea.

Not long after, our boat pulled in and we boarded along with about 15 others all heading back to Kaiteriteri. With the sun gone it was a cold wait for these two kayakers who we stopped to pick up in Apple Tree Bay, they had stayed out longer than the others who had walked over to Anchorage.

I’m pleased I’ve now walked a section of the Abel Tasman Track. I can see why it is so popular, it has beautiful golden beaches, stunning coastal scenery, lush fern laden native bush & thick manuka forests along with many tidal estuaries & coves and while we both thoroughly enjoyed the day, it would have been even nicer to have not shared it with so many people. Selfish aren’t we?

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