Day 5: Whariwharangi
Finally a rest day. And of course, since I wasn’t planning on doing anything that required an early start, I was up and moving before eight o’clock even struck. This just gave me more time to enjoy the warmth of the morning sun though, since by noon I was forced into the shade to hide myself from the searing intensity of the New Zealand sun. One thing to be said about the ravaging intensity of the sun though, is that it kept the bugs hidden throughout the day, and for the first time since setting foot in the campground I didn’t have to bathe myself in repellant before stepping out of my tent.
I spent the day mostly reading, though I did take the occasion to do a bit of exploring that I hadn’t gotten to do the day before. Swimming off the rocks that I had nearly been trapped on the evening before took up a few hours of the day, and I did end up doing a few hours of very relaxed walking that took me up to Separation Point – a neat little spot with an automated “lighthouse” thing set up. I’m still not actually sure what it was, since it didn’t have any real light that I could see. I assume that it was just a radio relay station, used to signal ships when they approach too close to shore.
I cooked my usual spaghetti dinner, spicing it up a bit with a can of tuna, instead of my usual chicken. Yes, I am a crazy man, I know this. But sometimes, life has to be spiced up. And so I ate a rather nice meal, chatting with the DOC ranger a bit more, about topics varying from me working as a “hut warden”, to how much I love my Kindle. Seriously… I’m starting to think that Amazon should be paying me for the amount of publicity that I’m giving them with this dang thing. If I got commission, I believe I’d be a millionaire already.
Day 6: Whariwharangi to Wainui to Takaka
My last day in the Abel Tasman started early… ish. I had intended on walking from Whari to the big carpark at the Northern end of the trail, at a small bay called Wainui (pronounced exactly as it sounds, “Why-noo-ee”). However I got a bit distracted talking with the DOC ranger again, and instead of leaving camp by 9:00, I didn’t leave until closer to 9:45. It was ok though, and I made quite good time on the trail leaving Whari behind… even though it was one of the steeper portions of the track.
Helping me out in no uncertain terms was a new walking stick that I had found the day before at Separation Point – I had found one large stick that I debated breaking into a smaller stick but I had decided against breaking it, feeling that it was too perfect of a landscape feature to be broken simply so I could have a better walking stick. In reward of this, or so it seemed, I nearly immediately found a perfect walking stick wedged between two nearby rocks; it was just the right height to be held as a cane-style walking stick, and all of the bark had been stripped away by the saltwater.
With this perfect walking stick firmly in hand I tramped up and down the hills and mountains between myself and the end of my trek, though I’ll admit that I felt a bit sad to actually be leaving the wilderness behind me. The last week had been hard on my legs, to be sure, but it’s still a quite nice thing to be in the woods alone. I think the DOC ranger put it best when he said that its a return to our roots, and that our senses are heightened while we spend time in the woods, thanks to an instinctual knowledge that we are not in our safe little homes anymore.
My plan was to catch a bus from Wainui to the small town of Takaka, a town that Mike and I had stayed in for a bit over a week while Rock Climbing at Paynes Ford. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 11:20, and since I arrived at the carpark before 10:45 even hit, I wasn’t worried about it. I sat and chatted with a couple from Eastern Europe (Poland and Slovakia, specifically) with the two best names I’ve heard in a long time – Raphiel and Vladimira. They were catching the bus too, but we all started to get a bit worried when 11:25, and then 11:30 rolled around with no sign of the bus to be had. By 11:45 I was convinced that the ranger’s information was wrong, and that the bus wasn’t coming on its own… and my worries were confirmed when I called into the bus office only to hear the dreaded words, “What? No, the bus only comes if you made reservations. No, it won’t come again today, no matter what.”
And so, we walked. Raphiel and Vladimira went first, with me following about 15min behind, hoping to hitch a ride out of the park when we hit the main road. It was a long and very dusty road that we walked down, mostly old floodplains that had recently dried out and turned to soft drifting clouds that choked the lungs and coated my pants in a fine layer of silt. I met back up with the two when the side road met the main road, and we learned the depths of our predicament – the main road was closed off in one direction, and the only people coming by would be people going to or from Wainui… people not likely to have room in their car for hitchhikers with full backpacks on.
Thankfully I had written down the phone number of a shuttle company that ran out of Takaka earlier, since they had a flier at the Wainui carpark. Unfortunately I didn’t get any signal at the road junction, and so I climbed up a nearby hill to try and get some signal. After learning, the hard way, that the hill wasn’t actually made of rock and dirt, but of pure brambles (Ed Note: this is clear exaggeration – most hills in New Zealand are only 80% brambles… the rest is prickers) fenced in with an electric fence. I was able to navigate it though, only to discover a complete lack of cell phone signal at the top. However, I saw two things that could lead to our salvation – a roadwork site a bit farther down the main road, and a car coming up the road from Wainui.
The car turned out to be our ticket out – they stopped as soon as they saw our thumbs sticking out, and even reorganized their SUV so that we could fit all of our packs in the back and ride comfortably in the back seats. We all chatted and talked for the ride to Takaka, and learned all about each other; the drivers were a German couple currently living in Shanghai, and they’d actually lived nearly everywhere around Europe and Asia, including the hometown of Vladimira in Slovakia. They didn’t know much of the Slovakian language though, and neither Vladimira nor Raphiel knew German, so thankfully all of the conversation was in a version of English that I could follow… even with the accents.
After us hitchhikers were dropped off in town I made my way to Hangdog, the campground that Mike and I had stayed at the last time we were in town. I remembered it being both cheap, and a bit of a ways outside of town. Well… at least the “cheap” part I had remembered correctly, as I learned after 30min of walking on the main road outside of town. Thankfully it took a little less than an hour of walking before I got to the campground, and learned that their prices were still the same as they had always been.
After arriving and setting up camp I took it easy for a while, reading and writing a bit before I got a bit too restless to sit still anymore. Thankfully Hangdog has a whole shed of old bikes that campers can borrow, and so I saddled up, strapped a helmet onto my head, and headed out to town for a bit of excitement to contrast with my relaxation and solitude of the Abel Tasman track.