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Published: February 5th 2010
(Day 662 on the road)
Tastes are different, for sure. Or maybe I have already seen to so many stunning coastlines and beautiful beaches on my trip that they just don't do it for me anymore. Whatever it may be, the Abel Tasman Great Walk didn't feel that great somehow.
Taking the spectacular ferry ride through the Queen Charlotte Sound over from Wellington on the North Island to tiny Picton on the tip of the South Island, I had been pondering what to do next. Walk the Queen Charlotte Trek, the Abel Tasman Great Walk, or skip both of them and focus on the alpine hikes further south (as the guy in the DOC office in Wellington had recommended)? In the end, the "Great Walk" label of the Abel Tasman influenced my decision; on the previous three Great Walks I had done in the north I had always been duly impressed.
However, the Abel Tasman walk is, in my opinion, way over-hyped. Yes, there are some amazing spots along the way, and looking back at my own pictures it does seem indeed pretty great. But the path does not follow the coast very much at all, and the few lookouts
are few and often far in between. Instead, large sections of it are simply through forest away from the coast, without any views whatsoever. Swarms of sand flies and mosquitoes everywhere - especially near the huts and campgrounds - didn't quite add to the overall experience, and forced me to stay in my tent most of the time in the evenings. Being outside was just unbearable.
Now, I know that I am more of an alpine hiker, enjoying grand mountain vistas considerably more than other landscapes. So my expectations weren't terribly high, but after three days of walking (together with hordes of other people), I was disappointed. 30.000 people trek here every year, making it the most popular hike by far in New Zealand. I don't quite understand why though, as there are much nice hikes in this country. But the Abel Tasman walk is very accessible; it is possible to walk just for a day or even a few hours and be picked up by water taxi in the evening. So I guess that adds to the allure. The nicest part of the hike for me was the very last section of the hike on day three, near
Wainui Bay. There were considerably less people there as well, as the water taxis (the main way to get back to the start of the trail) do not service the area, making it a bit adventurous to get back to my car.
But there was no need to worry. Within two minutes of getting to the end of the trek I had secured a lift with a Anne and Bob, a lovely couple from Hawaii, who were also touring New Zealand in a camper van. They even offered me to look them up when I will get to Hawaii in a few months time. Nice! They dropped me along the main road, and a few minutes later an Australian couple picked me up and later dropped me right by my van, even though that meant a 20km detour for them. Double nice, thank you!
One good thing however that came from the three days was bumped in American Lilia again on day two, who was just as disappointed with the hike as me. We had met briefly a few weeks earlier on the Whanganui River Journey, and walking with her on day three made the walking a lot more interesting. And when I told her of my plans to trek the Travers-Sabine Circuit in the Nelson Lakes National Park, she didn't hesitate very long and decided to join me for that one.
Next stop: Travers-Sabine Trek (South Island, New Zealand).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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