Abel Tasman Coastal Track

I left early morning on Friday 10/9 to get a bus up to Marahau to start the trek. I left most of my stuff at the hostel (I was coming back in a few days) but I was able to pack everything I needed in my big backpack. Along with my clothes and food that would last me a few days, my tent and sleeping bag fit inside my backpack. I had to strap the sleeping mat to the outisde of my bag. I brought almost all of my warm clothes because I knew it was going to be cold at night. Each day I decided to wear 3/4 length leggings with a tank top and my chambray shirt to protect me from the sun and sandflies as much as possible.

Day 1 Trek to Bark Bay 

On the first day we walked 16 miles along the coast of the north part of the south island. We started our walk at around 9:45am and arrived at our campsite, Bark Bay, at 5:30pm. It was a gorgeous, but tough, hike. I was probably carrying about 35-40 pounds on my back. On the first day, there were a few big hills, but the trek was mainly up in the mountains; it didn't go down to sea level often. 

Cleopatra's Pool

Cleopatra's Pool

For lunch, we took a 20 minute detour to Cleopatra's Pool. It looked so pristine and untouched. Even though the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek is the most popular overnight trek in New Zealand, everyone here respects it so much. You won't find any trash cans along the way, for example, you have to take all your 'rubbish' with you. When we got to the pool, there were a bunch of high school boys playing in the water. The water was much too cold for me so I just watched and soaked my sore feet. The water flowed from upstream down a big rock face and made a slide right underneath. All the kids were going down it. I happily watched them play and shiver as I warmly ate my chicken and vegetable pie on a big rock.  

The rest of the trek was just as beautiful. There were these huge ferns that looked like palm trees that made the forest look like a tropical wilderness. A couple times we walked down to the beach and through caves to take a short, interesting detour break.

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We passed a town that, I'm pretty sure, is impossible to get to without a boat at high tide. I have never seen tides so dramatic than at Nelson and Abel Tasman. When the tide goes out, you can just see tens of boats standed on the water, anchors still down.  It looks like a desert with big puddles here and there. You can't even see the ocean or bay.

Example of the extreme tides of Abel Tasman coastline

Example of the extreme tides of Abel Tasman coastline

Andy and I finally arrived to Bark Bay and I immediately spotted where I was going to set up my tent. It was right next to the beach, overlooking the water. I knew that it would be the perfect position to watch the sun rise over the water the next morning. With just a little help, I put up my tent and organized myself. I changed out of my sweaty clothes and put on comfy, warm ones. The sandflies in the south island are awful and they only get worse the more south you go along the west coast. I had my ankles exposed for no longer than 7 seconds and they were torn up by the sandflies. Sandflies look like big gnats that just surround you. Before I left, I bought a can of Bushman insect/sandfly repellent--it really works! Once I sprayed that on my skin and clothes, you'd see the sandflies fly around you but never actually land on your skin. There was also a few sandflies that got in my tent and congregated into one corner. Before bed I sprayed them and was delighted to watch them die. Sorry, that was morbid. 

There was a dutch couple at our campsite as well as the group of boys from Cleopatra's Pool. The boys were on the trek participating in Duke of Edinburgh. Apparently, it's this program that started in the UK that looks great on a resume because it shows you can commit to something and be very resourceful. Basically, you just go on all of these outdoorsy adventures and gain degrees (bronze, silver, gold) and some important person from the UK presents your metal to you after you complete a certain number of tasks. The boys were great because they were excited to make a fire for the whole campsite. We all huddled around the campfire for a bit once it got dark before bed. 

 

Day 2 Trek to Totaranui

The night was quite cold and quite uncomfortable. The inside of my tent was damp from the dew and I didn't have much of a pillow, but I was proud I did it. I got up the next morning around 6:30am to watch the sunrise. Then, I had some apple and peanut butter for breakfast, filled up my water bottles with the treated water, and packed up all of my stuff for the next leg of my trek.

View of the sunrise over the bay from my tent.

View of the sunrise over the bay from my tent.

Andy slept in his hammock which was much more comfortable than the ground. I was thinking about getting one but a hammock would have been much more expensive than the gear I bought.  

Brave dutch couple who took a morning dip.

Brave dutch couple who took a morning dip.

A few parts of my hike on day 2 wad walking along the sandy shorelines. Of course I had to take off my boots and stretch out my sore feet.

A few parts of my hike on day 2 wad walking along the sandy shorelines. Of course I had to take off my boots and stretch out my sore feet.

On day 2, Andy and I walked another 16 miles to Totaranui. This trek was much more diverse and steep. For a bit we walked along or on the beach then we would hike up the mountains and walk along the cliff looking over the ocean. Then, of course, we'd make more treks down to the beach and up in the mountains again. It would have been a moderate trek without a 40 lb backpack, but I wasn't used to carrying so much weight. Even though it was tough, we kept a good pace. 

We hit the Awaroa Inlet about half way to our destination. We approahed a sign that said "Lodge and Cafe This Way." What?!? We are in the wilderness. Granted, it would have taken us about an hour out of our way which we couldn't risk. You want to make sure you get to the campsite much before sunset. Actually, 6:30pm is a great time to arrive because it's still light out and there aren't many sandflies left at that time.  

The Awaroa Inlet is one of the most important crossings you have to time and plan correctly. There are only about 3.5 hours during the day where it is safe to cross because it is very low tide. We got there in plenty of time and decided to take a break. Andy and I grabbed a snack and took a mini nap on the dry sand that only hours before was the sea shore. 

Usually, I hate sand. But at this point, I was just so dirty and sweaty that it didn't even matter if I or any of my things got more dirty.  

Crystal clear waters of New Zealand

Crystal clear waters of New Zealand

dried up shark friend

dried up shark friend

Through the inlet we had to cross pools of water flowing out to sea that came up to our knees. My water shoes might have come in handy at this point because there were so many shells and crabs at our feet. It took us about 45 minutes to cross the inlet and dry ourselves off.

We walked a bit more and when we hit one of our last beach stretches of the day, Andy and I decided to look for mussels since it was low tide. We found 10 or 12 and carried them to our next campsite, Totaranui, where we could let them soak in fresh water for a couple hours. 

Andy and I set up our site and had some dinner. Hummus, peanut butter and crackers for me! Then later that night the boys from Duke of Edinburgh and Andy got lots of driftwood from the beach (and two huge logs for us to sit on) and made a fire. We placed the mussels on a 2x4 over the fire to cook them. Some we just put in the embers. The ones that opened we ate and they were delicious! They also had a smokey flavor that you don't normally find.  

Day 3 Lazy Beach Day 

On day 3 I had my water taxi booked to take me from Totaranui back to Marahau at 3:15pm. We were planning on doing a small loop trek but I had a couple blisters and we were more in the mood for a beach day. After watching the sunrise, I lie on the beach all day. It was glorious. 

The Dutch couple joined us. The girl had an internship in Hamilton (which she advised me not to go to because it's so boring) and her boyfriend was visiting for a few weeks. 

Andy was planning to just hike a bit further that day and hitchhike down the coast but we could see very few roads on the map. He decided to go on the water taxi instead.  Our water taxi showed up and took us around to some seal colonies. 

seal!

seal!

It was such service! Our water taxi driver pulled right up to shore on the trailer of a tractor then got off the boat and drove the tractor, with us still in the boat attached, all the way up to a cafe in town. I was craving so many different kinds of foods so I bought sea salt and vinegar chips and a Snickers bar.   

We got the bus back to Nelson and it dropped me right off at Paradiso, my hostel. Andy got dropped off in town so he could get a Burger King burger, which he was craving.

That night I met Viktor. We found out we were flying out of Queenstown the same day. I really didn't plan my route (I've rarely planned things on this trip) but Viktor had basically the next couple weeks all planned day by day. I wrote down his route and decided to go for it. I figured, I only have a short amount of time left and I want to see so much. By this point, I'm going to have to plan a little bit (or, at least, let Viktor plan for me). Thanks, V! 

 

Cheers, 

Shelly  

Interislander Ferry & Nelson

On the morning of Wednesday, 10/7, I left Nomads Capital Backpackers in Wellington early in the morning, but just in time to make a free pancake.

Fortunately, a few of my hostels have offered free pancakes in the mornings. Unfortunately, I have yet to create an editable one.

The shuttle bus picked me up at my hostel at 7:20am for the 9am departure. The final check-in for the ferry was 8:15am. I had a bus booked from Picton (south island ferry terminal) to Nelson but it was supposed to leave 15 minutes after the ferry was supposed to arrive in Picton. I was nervous I'd miss my bus so I asked if I could keep both my backpacks with me on the ferry. The woman said no, I had to check my big one. After giving her some worried looks, she said she'd put my bag under priority luggage so it'd come out of the carousel first in Picton.  

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I got on the ferry and it was huge! I think the maximum capacity said about 1,000 people. There were cafes, restaurants, lounges, a playground, and movie theater. I decided that I'll pick a seat near a window and just camp there for the 3.5 hour trip. An older couple sat next to me and it sounded like they had American accents. After about an hour we started to make conversation. Apparently, they used to live in Media, PA, my home town!

We were talking about our routes and where we were hoping to hit while in the south island. Les and Dianne were going to Montueka which is just passed Nelson. When I told them my concerns about catching my bus, they told me to not count on catching the bus and go with them in their rental car. They said they'd drop me right off at my hostel.  

View from the Interslander ferry from the north to south island

View from the Interslander ferry from the north to south island

Well, this will be easy.

The ferry ride was quite gorgeous. I didn't realize how many tiny islands were between the north and south island of New Zealand. It was quite exraordinary.  

When we got off the ferry, my bag, like promised, came along the carousel first. I could have easily made it to my bus but I figured it'd be nice to talk to Les and Dianne more. Plus, they'd drop me off right at my hostel and I had no idea the distance between the bus stop and hostel or how to get there.

Driving with the couple was actually hilarious. Les drove and Dianne backseat drove. They had to use "teamwork" as they called it to navigate New Zealand on the left side of the road. At every intersection or roundabout, Dianne would say, "OK, look right, look left, look right, stay left," without fail. They basically said everything Les had to do outloud to make it clearer to him how to drive on the left side of the road. I'm just glad I'm busing it everywhere. 

Again, like promised, Les and Dianne dropped me off right outside Paradiso Backpackers. I walked in and the receptionist asked my name. I had booked two nights but I asked, like I always do when I show up to a new town, "So, what is here to do here?" 

Her response was basically, "Nothing." Great. I asked if I could only stay one night but it was too late to cancel my other booked night. Well, I guess I'll make the best of it. I spent that afternoon by the pool, laying in the sun and trying to figure out what I could do for the next couple days, as well as researching flights via Skyscanner from Queenstown to Auckland so I'll be able to catch my flight to Brisbane about 2 weeks from then.

To my surprise, along with the free serving of instant noodles they gave me at the time of check-in, Paradiso hostel also provides free breakfast and vegetable soup for dinner. By 6pm, everyone was crowded into the big kitchen to grab their bowl of vegetable soup, side of bread and dessert (usually cake or cookie). It wasn't the best soup I ever had, but it was free!  I sat down next to a girl staying in my dorm, Jen, and another guy, Toby, both from England. It is so easy to make friends in hostels, especially when traveling solo. 

Later on in the night we got in the hot tub with a couple beers and just relaxed. There were 4 other American girls studying abroad in New Zealand and were on their school holiday. Let's just say, they didn't represent the States in the classiest way. But, hey, you win some, you lose some. America needs as many travelers as possible to get out there and show that the States aren't full of dumb, helpless, fat people who want to shoot up the place.

(Like I said in an earlier post and may elaborate in a later one, foreigners are not very happy with the American gun control system right now and they make it very apparent).  

Planning the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek

I met another person from Yorkshire (Oh, you're a Yorkshire lad!) named Andy. We started calling him Bear Grylls because he was explaining how he has been sleeping in trees and on picnic tables with his hammock and sleeping bag, using his solar powered charger for electricity. That night I was trying to research how to experience Abel Tasman but it seemed very difficult and expensve. Nakedbus wouldn't go there and you could either do the 5 day trek and camp out, or you could do expensive day trips to see the national park. I was nervous I wasn't going to be able to see Abel Tasman at all. That's when Andy invited me to do the whole Abel Tasman Coastal Tek with him. He said he'd help me get the supplies I needed and we could plan it out the next day. I haven't camped out in years so I wouldn't trust myself to be prepared and to do it on my own, but Andy seemed very experienced. So I said sure! 

Andy figured we could do the whole trek (32 miles) in two days. We'd take a bus up to Marahau to start our trek, make our first camp at Bark Bay and our second at Toturanui. Then I could take a water taxi back to Marahau so I'd be back at Nelson in 3 days. 

The next day, a few of us went into town to do some shopping, Andy and I focusing on gettin prepared for the trek. I found a used sleeping bag at a thrift store for NZ$2, a tent for NZ$16, and a sleeping mat for NZ$10. All very cheap! We then headed to the Nelson i-SITE to book our campsites and transportation. After that, we got all the food we would need. This included a loaf of bread, crackers, peanut butter, hummus, brie cheeese, beef jerky, meal replacement bars, apples, oranges, nuts, tuna, etc. I was a little nervous about the trek--we'd have to walk about 16 miles a day!  But I was committed now!

Check out my next post and experience the Abel Tasman Coastal Trek with me! 

 

Cheers, 

Shelly

Tauranga & Mt. Maunganui

The best thing about backpaking and not having a definite itinerary is that you can change plans within minutes and it's OK. I was in Rotorua but decided to take a trip back up north a bit to Tauranga so I could see Mt. Maunganui, a destination that was highly recommended to me.

I booked one night at Harbourside Backpackers which had a gorgeous view of the harbor right in town. I arrived at my hostel before check-in time so I decided to do my Mt. Maunganui experience right away! I dropped off my big backpack and took my day bag over to the i-SITE (NZ information centers in each town) to wait for the next bus to Mt. Maunganui (buses 1 or 2).  

On my way there, I heard a kiwi woman talking to two girls around my age. She was giving them tips on where to eat and the best way to hike the mountain. I couldn't hear the conversation too well so when we got off the bus, I asked them their plans. Their names were Mel and Diane. They said they were going to eat before the hike and invited me along. 

We went to this small garden cafe/restaurant right in town called AstroLob. I realized that I hadn't eaten a single vegetable in about a week so I ordered a huge spinach salad with pulled pork (of course not as good as NC pulled pork, but still good), candied walnuts and apples. The other girls ordered beers but I stuck with water because 1, we were about to hike a mountain, and 2, NZ beers are awful from my experience. 

After lunch we started the walk. It wasn't an intense trek but some parts were quite steep. The view all the way up was gorgeous, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. It took about an hour or so to climb to the summit. I had my hiking boots on (which I normally do), but I could have easily done this hike in sneakers. At the summit we could see the whole penninsula and islands surrounding it. We walked up to the summit, back down the other side, and around the base. Sometimes we were passing the ocean crashing on huge rocks on the beach and at other parts, we were surrounded by sheep grazing in huge rolling fields. It was all so diverse. The gils and I made great conversation, as well. Mel is from England and Diane from San Paulo. Diane was a bit older than us and explained that she was in New Zealand trying to get a visa for her and her 11 year old daughter who was back in Brazil with her mother. Basically, her whole goal of coming to New Zealand was to find someone to marry and aquire a visa for her and her dependant. She said she wanted to go to the States to do so but the process is much more complicated and expensive. 

Before we got the bus back into town, we grabbed a coffee from a cafe along the beach. Chai Latte for me!

By the time I got back to the hostel Nicole, the Swiss girl I met in Rotorua, was checking in. It was so nice to see a familiar face. We settled in to our (cramped) 4 bunkbed dormroom and went up to the terrace overlooking the harbor. There, we met some people from South America, Marco from Argentina, Lupe from Chile, and Papu from Uruguay. Nicole and I wanted to get a bottle of wine for that night but the nearest grocery store was at least a 15 minute walk away and it was already getting dark. Lupe said they needed to go to Pack'n'Save as well so he offered to give us a lift. While I was there, I grabbed some apples and fruit so I didn't have to rely only on Cliff bars like I have been. 

The rest of the night was full of red wine, mate and dancing to Latino music (I've missed it all so much since I left Argentina).

The next morning I had a bus to Taupo. Sorry I did these blog posts a bit out of order. I already posted the Taupo post but it's OK! As long as its all there for me to read later.  

View from the summit of Mt. Maunganui

View from the summit of Mt. Maunganui

Do you like my incredibly awkward stance?

Do you like my incredibly awkward stance?

Sorry for the sideways photo. I'm speed traveling and don't have time to fix it right now.

Sorry for the sideways photo. I'm speed traveling and don't have time to fix it right now.

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Where green meets crystal blue

Where green meets crystal blue

Lambs everywhere!

Lambs everywhere!

Taupo

In every town I visit, I wish I could stay longer. 

Taupo was definitely one of those towns. I arrived in Taupo by bus from Tauranga on Monday 10/5. I knew I needed to get down to the south island as soon as possible so I started planning out my ferry tickets.  

When I was researching Nakedbus trips and ferry trips, I realized that they didn't work out with the times. I wanted to stay an extra day in Taupo to do the Tongarriro crossing but I decided to start south instead. The Tongarriro crossing is a bit dangerous this time of year and you need a guide that will provide you with equiptment like crampons and an ice pick. The cheapest one I could find was NZ$170 (there were no discounts for backpackers). I knew it would be amazing; it's considered in the top three day treks in the world. However, I knew I wanted a full 2 weeks in the south island so I decided to book my tickets.  

The next day, my Nakedbus to Wellington wasn't until 3:30pm so I decided to do some exploring in Taupo. I took a public bus to Huka falls and walked back to town.

Huka Falls is a must-see when visiting Taupo. The power of the water is mesmerizing.  

About 500 feet upstream from Huka Falls

About 500 feet upstream from Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

About 200,000 liters of water plunge nine meters over the great rock face of Huka Falls every second. All of that water rushing so fast creates a dangerous undertow at the bottom of the falls. I read that this has claimd the boats of many river users foolhardy enough to try to navigate the falls. The falls pick up masses of tumbling air bubbles which create breathtaking colors and give the falls their name, after the Maori word for `foam'.

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As I walked upsteam back to town, the Waikato river looked crystal clear and reflective. The flow over the falls is so strong it prevents the upstream migration of trout and native fish such as eels which is why there are no eels to be found in Lake Taupo.

I heard in town that there were thermal hot pools on the way back to town from Huka Falls so I brought my bathingsuit just incase. Thank goodness I did because the hot pools looked irresistable.  

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The pools were so warm and inviting. I just relaxed for about an hour. 

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I got back to town in time for my 5 hour bus ride to Wellington, the capital. I stayed in Wellington for probably a total of 12 hours because I had my Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton (south island ferry terminal) the next morning at 9am. I do wish I could have stayed longer in Wellington. Apparently the nightlife is amazing. However, I was extremely tired and really needed a long shower after my day of walking. On the bus, I met a girl named Holly who was born in England but now lives in Wellington. She graciously offered to give me a ride to my hostel because it would be dark by the time we arrived and it would have been a 20 minute walk. I truly have not met one mean or ignorant person in New Zealand. It's very refreshing.

Check in for my next post about the ferry ride to the south island and my adventures in Nelson/Abel Tasman Costal Trek!

Cheers, 

Shelly