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Published: February 8th 2009
Tramping through many forests in the South Island is truly a sensory experience. The moment you enter the forest envelopes you in coolness. A constant dampness makes the forest floor spring with your every step. Surrounded by trees, ferns and mosses that have the feel of the age of the dinosaurs. The call of the bellbird make you feel as if you have heard the most beautiful and haunting birdsong in all the world. For these reasons we headed from the West Coast to Abel Tasman National Park.
Our journey took us through Buller Gorge and into the town of Motueka. After a Sunday roast (that we have been craving since we left the UK) we car camped near the beach and tide-filled saltwater pools. The tides here change the shoreline dramatically. The tidal range isn't much in metres but a lowtide exposes what seems like kilometres of beach, marshes and mudflats.
The next morning we woke early and headed straight into the National Park via Marahau. Hopped the first ferry (aka speedboat) into Abel Tasman for a hike. This one of NZ most popular parks and also its smallest. We passed Split Apple Rock famous purely for its
shape, held on through the "mad mile", cruised around fur seals napping on the rocky islands and set down in Bark Bay.
The coastal trail takes trampers from Marahau to the other side of the park on an 3-5 day walk. Lacking the inspiration and the fitness level required for dragging myself into the wilderness for a half a week hike I settled for the 2-3 hour trek from Bark Bay to Torent Bay. A good trail, swingbridge, a few private lagoons and beaches later and I arrived at my destination. Abel Tasman is a truly beautiful spot.
From Marahau we headed over the Takaka hill to the other side of the park. Another walk into the park took us to beautiful Wainui Falls. Backtracking and heading up into the Golden Bay region we picked a lovely car campsite right on the beach where we spent our evening hours pottering around on the exposed sands looking at what the tide washed in. Mussells, starfish, scallop shells and cockle-like shellfish littered the beach. With sunrise the next morning we were back on the beach for a stroll before driving to Puponga to set up camp.
From the tip
of Golden Bay we explored the Farewell Spit and at lowtide, Wharariki Beach (pron. Farr-a-reeky). Walking through farmland we crossed into the white sands dunes before we reached the wet sands of the beach. Huge limestone formations jut out of the ocean and caves carved by the sea are great for exploring (and evidently sculpting huge sand dragons in)!
South again our next car camp was at Pelorus Bridge- before we got moved on- our first time. Taking the advice of the local ranger we headed down the road a 1/4 of a mile to sleep overnight in a picnic area by the river. Up early to head for the Sounds just West of Picton.
The plan was to drive to the furthest reaches of the sounds and camp in a DOC site for cheap. So we began our drive along the twisty roads of the sounds until we spotted this perfect blue bay. Spotting a cafe sign, as Ev's eyes lit up, we decided to descend to the resort for a quick look at their view. It was gorgeous! As we stood on the pier and gazed back at the resort we started guessing at the prices
for a room and guaranteed ourselves we could never afford one. To which Ev quickly replied, "let's just go ask the price". Less than 30 minutes later we checked into a room. An unexpected and beautiful stop that didn't break the bank (just means more nights in the car ahead!). Our fully kitted out suite looked out upon the bay and after sunset we took a walk in the dark to view the glowworms that live on the banks behind the resort.
From the sounds we headed to Picton where we set up camp for 2 nights before catching the ferry to Wellington. North Island here we come!
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