After a couple of quick nights in Auckland, we said goodbye to our first campervan and hopped on a plane to Christchurch. While we had the option to get to the South Island on a ferry, it was easy and cheap to fly. It is also much less expensive to drop off a campervan rental where you picked up.
The flight to Christchurch was quick. We got an AirBnB our first night right by the airport and then headed the next morning to pickup our new campervan, “Pebbles.”
Pebbles is definitely an upgrade from our first campervan. The best feature of Pebbles is the locked compartments under the bed. This was going to be great to store our bags while we completed our multi-day hikes. While you would think all campervans have a locked compartments, this is definitely not the case.
Our first plan for the South Island was to head up the East coast toward Nelson before starting our first multi-day hike, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track!
The would be the first of two “Great Walks” we would have the opportunity to complete, out of a total of nine, in New Zealand.
The drive along the East coast was beautiful! From rolling hills and green pastures to magnificent mountains and turquoise waters. The South Island was proving quickly that it had it all.
The drive ended up taking a little longer than we had expected as I had to keep pulling over to take photos.
Yes that is right. “I” had to keep pulling over..
I finally got behind the wheel in New Zealand! And I did pretty well too! You can even ask, Kevin. It’s true.
Sure, the route was on the same highway the whole way which meant there was almost NO lane changes involved.
But it is a start! Not to mention, the roads constantly curve along coastal inlets and bays. I am determined to become as competent a captain as I am a co-captain. For the record, my navigating skills are top-notch. I don’t think I could be a better co-captain if I tried! (Once again, you can ask Kevin).
That night on the drive from Christchurch toward Nelson, we made it to a small DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite at Marfell’s Beach near Blenheim to spend our first night.
The campsite was great, right on the coast. Not to mention, it cost only $12 for the night. Also, the DOC officer that took care of the campsite was awesome and helped us plan out some of our routes. Oh and gave us each a shot of scotch as well!
The next morning, we were off for the remainder of our drive to Nelson through the Marlborough wine region after a quick stop for breakfast.
The drive through the Marlborough region continued to be spectacular! Kevin got some more great shots of our journey along the way.
Yes, I was still driving..
When we reached Nelson, we headed straight to the iSite center to plan our next couple of days.
iSites are located all over New Zealand and are the most amazing places to go to get assistance organizing trips. As we had the Abel Tasman Track starting the next day, we still needed to figure out how we were going to get there, where to stay tonight, and how to go about booking some kayaks. Not to mention general questions about what to expect. I mean the track was 4 days, 3 nights. We needed to be prepared!
Anyway, this place makes organizing unbelievably easy!
They got us booked into a campsite in Marahau for that night. They advised us that if we wanted to rent kayaks, the best way to do it was tomorrow, leaving from Marahau to just before the Anchorage hut. They took care of that as well.
But then I asked, how would we get our bags to the hut? They would be too big to bring in the kayaks. Well! They informed us that we could get our bags shipped up from Marahau to the Anchorage hut on the water taxi for $15 only.
First of all, NO WHERE did I read that this was an option. Apparently, you can have your bags pre-booked to be shipped the whole way along the trail, from hut-to-hut or campsite-to-campsite!
Brilliant. Lazy … But brilliant.
While I was tempted to go the pre-booking route for the entire length of our trip, I declined. After all, I was in training for other hikes on this trip. I had faith I could do it!
Finally, they asked us about needing to book our water taxi back to our car on our last day finishing in Awaroa. I was under the impression that there were non-stop water taxi’s throughout the hike and you could easily get a ride when needed. Apparently, this was not quite the case in busy season. They recommended that we pre-book them to ensure we had a spot.
Oh and they did that for us too!
Then we had some questions about the trek. Well, conveniently, The Department of Conservation has a desk inside the Nelson iSite. They informed us that there was purified water at the Anchorage and Bark Bay huts which we did not know. This was great for planning how much water to pack.
That would definitely lighten the load. I mean… We needed the space for our wine as well!
After leaving the iSite, picking up supplies for the hike and eating some lunch, we headed to Marahau for our last night of camping in the van.
In the morning, it was go time!
We arrived at R&R Kayaks and got all checked in. They then organized to have our bags shipped up to our first hut right in their office. We were also able to park our car for free in their parking lot for the next couple of days. After some demonstrations and walk throughs of how to use the kayak gear, we were off!
I was so excited to get out on the water – this was my first kayak experience. I was also excited that they were two-man kayaks…. I figured that would make things a little easier…
Kevin and I were pros in the kayaks! Once we got into our momentum, we coasted through the waters at ease taking in the views. The mountains and the turquoise water were a perfect backdrop to the afternoon. Oh and the seal pups were a highlight as well.
We spent 3 hours on the water with a quick break on a vacant beach along the way.
At the end of our kayaking adventure, we docked for lunch and got ready to hike the remainder of the way to the Anchorage hut.
The hike to the Anchorage hut was only about 30 minutes. This was great because it was getting HOT outside. It also gave us an opportunity to see what the trails were going to be like over the next 3 days.
When we finally arrived on the beach, we headed to check out the hut where we would be staying for the next couple of nights. Because of how quickly some of the huts booked up, we decided to do two nights at Anchorage to extend our time on the hike. Luckily, there are lots of side tracks to do in the area, so we definitely would not be bored.
The hut was great! In all of my readings, it talked about how basic the huts were but this hut was really nice being constructed in only 2013.
As we were early, we had our pick of the beds. While booking a hut guarantees you a spot, it does not guarantee where those spots may be as the beds are first come first serve. After getting a spot, we went to look for our bags being dropped off on the beach. By the way, when they say they “will just be on the beach when you get there,” they mean it. There is no stand. They literally, just put them in a pile on the beach.
I guess there is no real concern of a hiker picking up an extra bag on the track. I definitely was not looking to pick up any more weight.
For dinner that night, we broke into the first of our “Back Country Cuisine.” I don’t know if it was because I was hungry and I was basically camping, but I thought it was delicious! I had Mexican Chicken and Kevin had the Roasted Chicken.
Better yet, we got to enjoy our wine. Before the hike, I had the brilliant idea of packing a bag of wine to reward ourselves at the end of each day. The bag was great because it is minimal waste and shrunk down to nothing when finished. On the trails, everything is pack in and pack out, therefore, you want to minimize waste. Bottles of wine would not work well because even once emptied, you would need to pack the bottles around.
I had found the solution.
The next day, our plan was to enjoy the beaches and check out some of the side trails around the Anchorage area. But first, we got up early to catch the sunrise.
After breakfast, we were off on the hour long loop of Pitt Head. It was a perfect way to start the hiking portion of the Abel Tasman. We figured in the morning we would tackle Pitt Head and, in the afternoon, we would explore Cleopatra’s pool.
After a great little hike, we decided to hang out on the beach. The beaches are gorgeous with fine sand and perfect turquoise waters. The only issue was the water… It was… Well… COLD!
After wading in for a few minutes and some coaxing from Kevin, eventually, I submerged my body. I mean, I couldn’t come all this way and not get into the water. But I could not dunk my head… I decided that I was not that hot when I was shivering in the water.
Such a shame.
After lunch, we headed back out to the trails to view Cleopatra’s Pools. It was another great little hike off of tomorrow’s route to Bark Bay. But it was much steeper than what we experienced this morning. As we were walking it, I was thankful that tomorrow with my huge backpack I would know how long the incline would last. It’s always more motivating to push through the pain when you know when it is going to be over…
Cleopatra’s Pools were great! We waded through the stream to catch a good view of the area and spot the natural water slide on the rocks. You could not have paid me, however, to go down it. I thought the ocean was cold…. This was freezing.
After a great last night in our bunks, we got up early ready to tackle the 12.8 km trip to Bark’s Bay. I strapped on my pack and was ready to go!
There are two routes to get from Anchorage to Bark’s Bay. One for low tide and one for high tide. When we walked to Cleopatra’s Pools the day before, we caught a view of the low tide route in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, the tide times did not work out in our favour. To take the low tide route, we needed to either leave before 6am in the dark or at 1pm in the heat. By the time we left at 7am, it was high tide.
While taking the high tide route extends the trail by an additional 2 hours, we thought it was a much better option that waiting to leave in the peak heat of the afternoon.
And like I told Kevin, we are here to hike, aren’t we?!
I am ready for this!
It was a beautiful walk between Anchorage and Bark’s Bay. The trees on the trail kept us cool from the heat and the views of the ocean continued to amaze us each time we saw them!
After four hours, we reached Bark’s Bay hut. Once again, we were one of the first to arrive and got our pick of the bunks for the night. This hut was a little bit more rustic than the Anchorage hut with only two rooms sleeping 14 each. Side by side.
Once we were settled and washed some of our clothes, we headed down to the beach to enjoy the afternoon.
While the beach was beautiful, I was getting totally fed up with the sand flies that seemed to be in love with me! My feet had been the most recent victims of these small insects the last couple of days. I started taking anti-histamine’s daily to control the unbearable itchiness. Eventually, I told Kevin I was heading back to the hut to grab my thick wool socks to wear at the beach.
Judging by the look on Kevin’s face, he thought this was a little ridiculous. I decided to settle for some bug spray instead.
The next morning, we were up early and ready to go for our last stretch of the hike. The walk from Bark’s Bay to Awaroa was supposed to be 4 hours and 20 minutes. Totally do-able! Not to mention, there was a cafe near the water taxi pick-up, so I was extra motivated to get there to eat some real food and enjoy a drink at the end!
The hike was going along great! I loved how a 4 hour hike was starting to seem like no big deal to me. If you knew old Tori, you would know a 4 hour hike was not quite on the list of things I would do for fun. I had hiked Knoxx Mountain once in Kelowna in the 6 years I lived there and I think it was only an hour hike.
You could imagine how surprised we both were when about 2 and half hours into our hike, we walked past a couple signs indicating we were almost to the cafe and boat pick-up. Instead of having 5.3 kms remaining, we had only 1.3kms remaining.
This was excellent news! I was getting really thirsty for something other than water..
The cafe is part of a private hotel, Awaroa Lodge, located along the Abel Tasman. We were so excited to get there. We celebrated completing our first Great Walk with some champagne.
Let me clarify – a bottle of champagne!
After our drinks and a bite to eat, we headed down to catch our water taxi.
It was an amazing four days on the Abel Tasman. We felt like we got to experience New Zealand’s spectacular coastline in the best way possible!
Tomorrow we would switch things up and head South toward the glaciers to catch a different side of New Zealand.
The South Island was turning out to be steep competition to the North Island! I could not wait to see if and how it would get any better!