Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Zealand Day 16: Abel Tasman North, AKA Brynna is a Badass and Hikes 10 Miles

The reason we went to all the trouble yesterday to get to Totaranui is that it gave us car access to walk the northern section of the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk. The Abel Tasman is ranked as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and it is also a family-friendly one. It is swamped during true high season, which ended basically as we arrived in NZ, with every one of the 850 sites at Totaranui requiring months-ahead prebooking. Luckily, that was not true by the time we made it to this corner of the country. The recommendation from the NZ Frenzy guidebook was to walk north from Totaranui, on the least busy section of trail. Originally we planned an out-and-back to Separation Point, but then I looked further at the DoC leaflet and realized that it was about the same distance to just carry on to the northernmost trailhead and car access at Wainui Bay. Based on the DoC leaflet, that would be 13 km or about 8 miles. This would certainly be a long day for B, but the track is generally gentle and I thought that over the course of a morning and early afternoon, jollied along by frequent snacking and the lovely views, that she would be able to do it.

Walking one-way instead of an out and back required staging the car, and since I had driven us in the night before, and Alex had had a day on the Tongariro Crossing, it fell to him to do the morning driving and walk back to meet us.

B and I left our campsite around 9:30 AM.

Earlier would have been better, but after the late night, and with a lot of walking to do, we wanted to let her get some rest! We left Alex battening down the hatches to drive the van back along the bumpy/windy road to the Wainui Bay carpark.

The walk is a combo of beaches and well-tromped dirt track over the hills in between the beaches. With this in mind, I put B in her Keen sandals, which she has done a lot of comfortable walking in on this trip. I carried her Crocs for wading and asked Alex to bring her heftier hiking shoes back with him in case wet feet or overall comfort necessitated a change partway. I wore my Tevas (in hindsight, my hiking shoes would’ve provided much better arch support, but the sandals were comfy through the day and shed the sand on the beaches very easily). We were both wearing quick-dry pants and tech T-shirts, no socks (though I brought socks along for both of us). I carried a pack with close to 2 liters of water, one of them flavored with Nuun, which B especially likes on long walks, and Alex carried another couple liters back towards us. We brought PBJ and lots of snacks, including gorp, pears, blueberries, chocolate, and Picky Bars.

I had talked to B the day before about the hike itself, and brought along the map to show her each point as we walked. She was in a very upbeat mood as we left the camp and walked along the dirt road towards the first small hill. There were a bunch of swamp hens (puheke) in a field to watch, and we chatted and played an alphabet game and she did quite well on the way up. Then, partway down the other side, she abruptly turned into a total grump! I’ve learned on past hikes with her that this is often a sign of hunger and can be fixed by some glucose, so I pulled out the bag of gorp and she snacked as we walked down to the first beach. That did seem to fix her mood. Whew, first crisis averted, only a few kms in!

Here we are arriving at Anapai Bay (1 hr 15 min from Totaranui for us):

We sat on the beach in for what I was hoping would be about a 10 minute break, but stretched to 20 since B announced that she had a hot spot on one pinky toe and I dressed it with some moleskin. We had a lovely walk along the beach and watched a sea kayaker cast off from the beach. There are campsites on many of the beaches along the Abel Tasman that are accessible either by walking in or by boat.

Then it was up and over the second hill. B was clearly not loving the hills but stayed pretty positive. I think it was on this hill where she picked up a stick and was shooting bad guys—hey, whatever works. 

Finally we came down to the beach and campsite at Mutton Cove (about an hour from Anapai Bay for us), which was really lovely. There was a toilet which we expected to be a pit toilet but turned out to flush (still have no idea how they got that all set up!), a huge shade tree with rope swings hanging off of it, and some nice picnic tables. We agreed to a ten minute break, mostly on the swings!

Our hope was to get to Separation Point for lunch, which is about where I thought we might run into Alex. However, we were running a bit slower than I’d hoped so really I started looking for him when we left Mutton Cove. This was a bit problematic, as a sign pointed us down the beach to get to Separation Point, but when we scrambled around a head of land, we realized that there was also a trail through the woods that ended up at the same place, and if Alex had gone that way, we’d have no way of knowing it. (We did not have cell service at this point.)

But, there was nothing I could do about that. B and I were moving much more slowly than Alex could move, and if he had indeed missed us, he would just have to get back to Totaranui, figure out that we hadn’t turned back, and turn around himself. Not too pleasant…but he’d survive, and B and I just needed to keep moving.

The scramble around the point was fun: B loves to scramble, and as we got close to the rock pile we also realized that it was covered with little black things. I thought seaweed originally, but as we got closer, we saw that it was little tiny mussel shells. Cool! We managed to find a route that avoided stomping on them.

Then we walked along another beautiful beach, then back into the forest for the climb to Separation Point. This went very quickly and soon we were at the turnoff for the lookout, after looking back at the beautiful route we'd already taken.

We’d planned in advance to go out to this point so I didn’t need to worry about missing Alex here by taking the side trailw. We headed out on the path, quite excited because the sign had indicated that there might be seals. In fact, as we walked out, we were pretty sure that we could hear them barking!

We came out to a lovely viewpoint about 50 minutes after leaving Mutton Cove below. There were people sitting way down below us on the rocks, and a sign warning that the track downwards was steep and rough and recommending that we leave our packs behind. We peered over the edge and saw neither seals nor Alex. I convinced B to save her energy rather than going all the way down and back up, and we turned back towards the main trail for some lunch.

As we headed back, a nice couple stopped us and showed us where the seals were hiding down below, and the gentleman even hoisted B up so that she could see. Awesome! There was one floating around with one flipper in the air...maybe snoozing? The pics from my phone (Alex had the camera) don't really do it justice.

As we sat there at the trail junction unpacking our food, we heard a very funny whistle from up the trail. Not a kiwi—Alex! Much excitement, as well as relief that we hadn’t missed him. He went off to check out the viewpoint while we spent about 20 minutes having our lunch and re-applying sunscreen.

He went all the way down to the rocks and got some cute seal video. We are still lacking enough data oomph to upload any video. Someday…

As we headed further along, B got to tell Alex all about our morning adventures, and he told us a bit about the track ahead. We went uphill for a bit and then caught our first glimpse of Whariwharangi Bay, where we were planning to have a short stop at the hut.

We had a lovely beach walk just before arrival at the hut, which took us about an hour and 40 minutes from Separation Point.  As we sat on the porch at the hut, I saw a sign pointing towards our endpoint of Wainui Bay…6 km away, about as expected. But then I saw another one, pointing back towards Totaranui via Separation Point…10.5 km away!!! What? The brochure had shown that walk as 7.5 km, and we then realized that though the elevation map had shown Separation Point, the trip distance had not included the extra trail loop out towards the point. No wonder we were behind schedule.

Then it was time to head up and over the last, and largest, hill. We were anticipating about an hour of steady climbing, and Alex and I were both nervous about it for B, given how far we’d already come. We all had a snack at the hut and then headed up. I invented a very long Angelina Ballerina story that entertained her for about 20 minutes, and then Alex told her the first chapter of the Hobbit, which took us up and over the last peak in pretty good spirits and just about book time (50 minutes). Whew! 

We sat at the top for a few minutes and enjoyed the view, and I finally got some phone service and managed to connect with my parents, who had just flown into Nelson.

Then we headed down down down, curving around the side of the hills. As usual with any hike, this run-out was the worst part. We were tired, it was hot and exposed, and we were ready to be done. B was getting pretty desparate - to the point where neither stories nor food could jolly her along.  But we eventually made it! It was 45 minutes that felt like 45 hours.

The first order of business was to take a photo of B's shell collection and then place them carefully on the fence leading to the track.

Then—and this is the tremendous advantage of a campervan with a shower—we had showers. Right there in the parking lot! Delightful.

We headed back into Nelson, up and over the windy pass we had crossed the night before nearly in the dark.  We came blowing into town in the late evening, and met up with my folks at the excellent Freehouse pub for a drink, and then camped at a park right in the city. Originally we were at least going to get a start towards Punakaiki on the West Coast, but given that our walk had taken so long and it was approaching dark, that was definitely a no-go.

Alex and I were really proud of Brynna today! It was a super-long day, about seven hours (including breaks), and she just kept plugging along. She was only cranky for brief bits, she paced herself well, she remembered to drink and snack throughout. She's got the makings of a very strong hiker!

No comments: