25 March 2017

Along the coast on the Abel Tasman Track

Three and a half days of hiking along the Abel Tasman National Park alternating passages in coastal forests and white sandy beaches.
Abel Tasman Track, South Island of New Zealand © Claire Blumenfeld

After reaching Richmond, I join Motueka, a small quiet town where I leave my bike and my excess belongings. I set off with only my backpack and my tent for three and a half days of hiking along the coast. The beginning of the hike is very beautiful alternating between tropical forest by the sea. And drier vegetation made of cypresses, making me think of the Alpilles, in France, when the path goes up on the small hills of the seaside. At times, the route joins small bays or beaches covered with sand with golden reflections. But contrary to what I thought, the Abel Tasman Track is not a “wild” hike at all. The first two days are packed with people on the way. It is almost a highway. There are also shuttles that constantly crisscross the coast to drop off and pick up people from the beaches just a few kilometers from the path. Groups of kayakers are present at almost all bays and beaches and the trail crosses several small tourist villages accessible only by boat. The three campsites where I spend my nights, Anchorage, Awaroa and Whariwharangi, although nice, are located next to huts. There are too many people and I find it hard to immerse myself in the hike.

The afternoon of the second day I spend three hours without seeing anyone! A miracle. That feels good. Just the sound of my steps, the song of birds and cicadas and smells. I am almost worried about meeting someone. The moment seems so perfect, like a privileged moment. Just me and nature. The birdsongs are extraordinary. Bellbirds keep singing their melodic notes. And little Fantails fly in front of me, uttering little cries. The most beautiful part of the path, or the one offering the prettiest views, is revealed when arriving at Awaroa Bay. After a big climb in the heat, the bay at low tide is revealed before my eyes. It is absolutely splendid. The reflections of the water in the estuary added to the late afternoon light paint a sublime landscape.

During the trip, I cross several estuaries at low tide. It is exciting to be able to cross where the sea is normally. Lots of shells line the ground and small crabs roam the wet sand. Remaining water is still present in certain areas and it is therefore necessary to remove the shoes and put up the pants. I see some fur seals at Separation Point and many Wekas ​​accompany my progress. On the third evening, a very cheeky Weka tirelessly tries to come and eat my shoes! These large birds that do not fly and look like large hens are very funny to observe.

I reach Wainui Bay on the morning of the fourth day. It is the end of the journey already. I can hardly believe that I have already finished. Sixty kilometers traveled. The trail was really not difficult. I spend a long time observing the landscape and the sea that sparkles in the sun. The weather was beautiful throughout the four days. It is still very hot despite the close arrival of Autumn. The excessive presence of tourists spoiled the trip a bit. After several quiet weeks on my bike, I find it hard to cope with the noisy presence of others. Fortunately, the beauty of the coast, with its turquoise water and white beaches comforts me a little and leaves me with a nice memory.

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