Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 9 (Dec 28) - Abel Tasman National Park

One of the many small sandy bays along the coastline of Abel Tasman National Park

Golden Bay lies at the northern end of Abel Tasman National Park, which was named after a Dutchman who was the first European explorer to set sight on New Zealand, anchoring in Golden Bay in 1642.

Totaranui Bay - northern terminus of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Tasman mistakenly believed he had arrived in Staten Island, Argentina at the southern tip of South America. But when he sent boats to gather fresh water on land, one of his boats was attacked by Māori in a double hulled waka (canoe), and four of his men were attacked and killed. Unable to claim the land for Holland, he decided to continue his journey and never made landfall in what he came to call “Muderer’s Bay”.
Taking a shuttle boat south along the Abel Tasman shoreline

Abel Tasman is now one of New Zealand’s most popular National Parks, best known for its turquoise bays and sandy beaches, crystal clear streams that tumble down mossy valleys, and dense native forests.
Gudrun, Julian, and Cora exited the shuttle at Tonga Quarry to walk one of the day sections of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (to Awaroa Bay)

One of the best ways to visit the park is by walking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand’s nine “Great Walks”, premier tracks that pass through some of New Zealand’s most diverse and spectacular scenery.
First glimpse of Torrent Bay Estuary after exiting the shuttle at Anchorage.  It was high tide which required taking the long route around the bay in this section.

The 51km Abel Tasman Track is considered a 3-5 day hike and I was eager to see if I could run it in a day.  The distance seemed pretty manageable, especially given the long daylight hours of summer, but there were two significant logistical challenges.  First, I would have to get to the southern end before starting the run, and second, there would be an open water crossing close to the northern end, which would only be passable at low tide during a relatively narrow time window.
Torrent River, downstream from "Cleopatra's Pool", a popular bathing spot along the trail

I decided that the best way to reach my starting point was by taking the water shuttle along the coast. The only issue was that the first shuttle did not reach the southern end before noon.  And the tidal calendar dictated that I would have to get to the water crossing around 6PM, which was the peak of low tide.
One of the many streams running from the hills into the Tasman Bay

This did not leave a lot of margin for error.  Also, I was eager to enjoy the scenery and take pictures along the way, so I ultimately decided to exit from the shuttle at the second to last stop and skip the first 12km of the track.  39k would still be a nice distance for cover.
Torrent Bay from the north side looking south.  At low tide is is possible to wade across the bay.

Gudrun, Cora, and Julian joined me on the first part of the shuttle trip.  They exited at a stop midway along the coast and walked one of the recommended day-trip sections.
One of the many pretty inlets along the shore - this one is at Frenchman Bay

The trail was expertly constructed and very well maintained.  In bay areas it would usually follow close to the shoreline, and then climb up high into the hills to cross a ridgeline before descending down into the next bay. 

Swinging bridge across the Falls River, the longest and highest bridge on the track

Overlook points provided sweeping vistas over the translucent waters in the bays below.  Several swinging bridges spanned deeper valleys and larger rivers. 

Boardwalk in Tonga Bay

Boardwalks assisted in crossing swamps and wetlands.
Crossing the Richardson Stream in Tonga Bay

Despite moving at a very relaxed pace and stopping many times for pictures, I still reached the water crossing at Awaroa Bay a little early, and had to wait for about 30 minutes until the tidal waters had retreated enough to commence the crossing.

There was no high tide track around Awaroa Bay.  The track runs straight across the bay, which can only be crossed at low tide after most of the water from the inlet has returned to sea.

The crossing was several hundred meters long.  The water was not more than thigh-deep but I was still surprised by the power of the current pulling my legs towards the sea.

Crossing Awaroa Bay at low tide

It was a great illustration of the energy that can be harvested by tidal power stations.

Wild life in Awaroa Bay. 

Aggressive behavior

This head is mine!

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