Saturday 21 October 2017

Abel Tasman Coast Walk- Awaroa to Totaranui

Real-time (although we have moved on from Totaranui)

We have visited the Tasman Bay area and the Abel Tasman National Park numerous times over the last 4 years, stopping for extended stays at Kaiteriteri, near the southern end of the Park and visiting the Golden Bay end a couple of times also. Although we've not walked the complete 60km 3-5 day  Abel Tasman Coast Great Walk, we have walked the Medlands Bay to Anchorage section on a previous visit after doing a boat tour right along the coast to Totaranui.

This time I was thinking that David could run me to the Awaroa Inlet in the boat and I'd walk the 7km section from Awaroa back to Totaranui but in the end we decided we'd drive to the Awaroa carpark and I'd walk from there. The carpark is at the end of a very narrow, winding road, the last time we explored the road we came across a rental motorhome that had slipped off the road. There are a number of holiday baches and a few lodges on the far side of the inlet near the beach, the carpark is where owners and visitors leave their vehicles. They then either use dinghies to cross at high tide or walk across (or around) the estuary at low tide.

From the carpark I crossed the estuary to that tiny island and then headed towards the track entrance which is around that little finger of land and across to the far left. The Awaroa DOC hut can be seen on the shore on the right. Trampers cross directly from there to the track entrance on their way north.

The water, in places, was deeper than I'd hoped for but I'd commandeered David's socks off him at the last moment in case mine got too wet. I wasn't going to take my boots off; while it's lovely to walk on the sandy parts, much of it was sharp shells and mud. You can then spend half an hour trying to dry your feet and get rid of the sand between your toes before you can start on the track.

David waited until I rounded the island; can you see him above the dinghies? (click to enlarge the photo- use your back arrow to return to the blog)

He's taking a photo of me taking a photo of him! 

Walkers can cross the estuary 90 minutes before low tide and up to two hours afterwards, and as I neared the crossing point, I spotted a group making their way across from the DOC hut.

I decided to let them go ahead of me, that way I could take my time once I got onto the track proper and not have them breathing down my neck (and nattering away disturbing any birds). I wanted to walk down towards the beach anyway but decided not to cross over as the river got deeper towards its outlet. 

Awaroa Beach is world famous in New Zealand; it's the beach that over 40,000 Kiwis bought through a crowdfunding campaign when it looked liked it would be lost to private ownership once again, you can read about it here. There are also some lovely aerial photos of the inlet in that link too.

As I walked alongside the streams and channels that criss-crossed the inlet, I once again found dozens of shoals of whitebait fighting their way upstream against the current. As soon as they spotted me they turned tail and were swept downstream, only to turn and head back up over the same ground as I stepped back.

Someone else was keenly following their progress; a Kotuku/White Heron, and I'm guessing the same one that we were seeing in the Totaranui estuary on a regular basis.

The group of trampers hadn't made much progress, there was much laughter and squeals of surprise coming from them, some had taken their boots off and were struggling across the broken shells, while others that hadn't, had sunk to their shins in mud. A few other walkers were crossing in the opposite direction and having the same problem. 

I stayed with the white heron for awhile, waiting until they eventually disappeared up the track and then made my way to the track entrance where I met another two couples heading across the estuary. I guess low tide at the estuaries along the walk are always going to a bit of a bottleneck as walkers time their crossing to suit the tide. 

The first section of the track is a gentle climb over the inlet headland to Waiharakeke Bay, the wide and gravelled track was very easy going, passing through beautiful bush and running alongside two crystal clear streams, one exiting into Awaroa Inlet, then once over the top, the other running down to the beach. 

There's plenty of evidence of pest control in the Abel Tasman Park (and in many of the parks we visit)- wasp bait stations and stoat and rat traps on the ground but this is the first time I've seen this type of trap (below left). I think it's for possums, they'd climb up on the board and put their head in.....well, no need to give you any graphic details. The Abel Tasman Park has the added bonus of Project Janzoon to help with predator control, a privately funded trust, working in conjunction with DOC to restore the local ecology. And in case you're wondering; 'Janzoon' was Abel Tasman's middle name. 

Once over the headland I take a short detour to check out the Waiharakeke Campsite, it's tucked up in the bush just behind the beach. I decide to have my lunch at the picnic table listening to all the birdsong and watching the antics of a couple of tui chasing each other and anything else that dares to land in a nearby tree. 

After lunch I walk back to the track and out onto Waiharakeke Beach, there's no missing this entrance if you're coming from the other direction.

The group of trampers ahead of me have spread themselves out along the beach to sunbathe and explore. 

Awaroa Beach can be seen in the background here.

I carry on my way, up the stairs at the far end of the beach. It looks like the group will be here for awhile and I can get a jump on them. Perhaps this is as far as they'll be going and they'll pitch their tents in the campsite.

There's a short steady climb after the stairs and then the next section of the track follows a part of the rocky coastline around Ratakura Point. There are peeps of the ocean here and there and also a view across to Awaroa Head through a tangle of bush.

Photos clockwise- 1) Awaroa Head, 2&3) Punga/Tree Fern, 4) Awaroa Beach(zoomed in), 5) Bush Lawyer/Tataramoa flowers (a scrambling thorny native climber, with sharp backwards-curved hooks that grab and rip clothing and skin. Once it seizes hold of you, it doesn't let go, presumably the reason for it's English name.), 6) Nikau Palm

And then the view opens up to something more spectacular; Goat Bay, the next beach on the walk. The tour boat in the background is heading into Totaranui.

I step down from the rocky platform at the end of the track...

...and out onto Goat Bay beach where no one has gone before me (yeah right). There are obviously a few walkers in a hurry because I have the whole beach to myself.

I stop to say hello to a Variable Oystercatcher/Torea Pango, with leg bling that looks a might uncomfortable. Variable Oystercatchers are mostly all black in colour (I know, it used to confuse me too, 'variable' means, well, variable doesn't it, not all black, right?)  This is an intermediate morph adult (it was with an all black mate- haha no pun intended!). They are not to be confused with a South Island Pied Oystercatcher who looks similar but has distinct black and white markings with a white breast and underpants, and who is also a larger bird. 

I leave the oystercatchers to their foraging and carry on to the far end of the bay, to where the next section of the track begins up and over Skinner Point. The cloud formation certainly makes for some fab photos.

I put my camera in my pack (very unusual for me) for the next climb, it a steep steady haul, with many switchbacks. I wonder when I'll reach the top. This is a reasonably new section of the track. If you look at the photo above (click to enlarge), you can see two slips on the point; they wiped out the old track which was just a very short climb to that low section on the point. The new track enters the bush at the base and then does a hard left before weaving back and forward to the top which I think must be close to the left edge of the photo. From the top it's a steep descent down the other side with lovely views through the manuka of Totaranui below- can you see the 'Grand Entrance' trees?

Half way down I take a short side track to Skinner Point Lookout, it's where the old track used to pass by and thankfully they have kept this part open, who'd want to miss this fabulous view of Totaranui.

On my way back to the main path I watch as a water taxi arrives at the beach...

...and zoom in on a long line of trampers waiting patiently to board; the owners of all those footprints perhaps? 

Then it past the sign board and home to have a much needed cup of tea; 3hrs 30mins and 9.5km later (inclusive of all photo stops, snack breaks and up and down the inlet). Job done!

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