Tag Archives: Onetahui

Backpacking the Abel Tasman Great Walk – Day 3

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Day 3: Onetahuti to Totaranui

 

And here I am again, hauling myself down the trail with a heavy pack on my back. My original plan was to toss my pack onto another water taxi and send it up to Totaranui (pronounced “Toe-trah-noo-ee”), the campsite I was planning on staying at Saturday night. However, I ended up missing the first taxi of the day by just enough time that I saw it pulling away from shore, and then when I found another one coming through about 20min afterwards, they said that service to Totaranui was suspended, since the main road into the camp was washed out and so few people were going that far north.

“Well Ben, you’re pack is a full two-days-worth-of-food lighter now, and most of what you’ve eaten has been the fresh fruit that you packed – so thats a good portion of the weight. You’ll be fine”

“But Ben, I am lazy”

“Shut it. You don’t have a choice. Start walking before I sick the dogs on you!”

“Ahh! Ok ok ok! I’m going! Don’t set loose the imaginary dogs of imaginary mind-war!”

And so I walked on… and I was right actually – the pack was significantly lighter. For food I had packed a combination of fruits and dried food, everything from pears to trail mix to porrage, so that I wouldn’t get sick of any specific thing too quickly. I had already eaten most of the pears that this point, which I found out had taken up nearly half of the total food weight, thanks to their juicy nature. Without them weighing me down, I made quite good time along the Coastal Track, even though I did take more than a few rest stops along the way, if only to snap a picture or take a sip of water.

After a while I started walking along with a girl I met alongside the trail – a German from Bavaria named Sara. It was nice to have a hiking partner for once, since I nearly never backpack with others, and we kept a pretty nice pace going forward. In all honesty it was me working to keep up with her though; even though she looked thin as a rail she seemed to have limitless energy, and thanks to her pushing me on we set a blistering pace towards Totaranui.

Part of what I think helped her set this pace was that she wasn’t carrying that much on her back – instead of doing the usual “bring a stove to cook your food” tactic, she had went for another approach, one that I honestly haven’t really seen before; eat ham & cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Seriously… in the time that we hiked together I saw her eat two of them, and she had another dozen or so stashed away in her pack. Thanks to that, all she had on her was a tiny first-aid kit, a warm-weather sleeping bag, a change of clothes, a yoga mat, and a small tent. Huh… I am not a huge fan of the “bring barely what you need, assuming nothing goes wrong” tactic, but I was jealous of the lightness of her pack.

Either way, we walked and talked, ate and drank, and joked and laughed for a few hours, before I needed to finally take a real break from the pace she had been setting. Sara kept moving on ahead, since she had a water-taxi to catch, and so I spent a bit of time reading and taking a dip in the ocean, since I didn’t really have any reason to be at the campsite at any specific time.

We did meet up again though, when I finally did arrive at the campsite nearly exactly when her boat was about to board. I felt like I was in a romance movie – I had dropped my backpack and headed for the beach to say goodbye and get her contact info, since I had forgotten earlier and definitely wanted to have someone I could visit in the heart of German beer-country. When I got onto the beach I saw her just about to board the boat, so we re-enacted the ending scene from every single romance ever, where the guy yells out “<girls name here>, wait! Don’t go!” and she calls back “Ohh no! But my <mode of transportation> is about to leave!” and then they run to each other and kiss and hug and then have a billion babies. Well… we didn’t kiss, or have the babies (thankfully, I would NOT want to carry that many babies out of the national park, too heavy), but we did hug and exchange email addresses before she shipped off and on to her next adventure.

<everyone say “awwww” here>

After Sara left, I went about setting up camp… and soon learned the danger of Totaranui; the sandflies. They were everywhere, and they bit. And it hurt, and was annoying, and I seriously thought I was going to die. So I headed to the ranger station, since Totaranui had a fully-stocked office since its one of the hubs of the trail, intending on buying myself a big thing of bug spray. But they were closed.

Thankfully the rangers in Kiwi National Parks are amazing, and I saw one and asked if there was any way I could convince her to open the shop for a few seconds so that I could buy some repellant. She obligingly did so, and after $17 I had my very own thing of anti-bug-spray. (Note: I’m not dumb – I did pack a bottle of spray before I left. Unfortunately it sort of… exploded. Literally, the bottle cracked and sprayed goop all over. Thankfully I’m not stupid, see above, and had put it in a plastic bag, so no real harm was done besides me not having a thing of bug spray)

Once the repellant was applied I finished setting up camp, and immediately took a nap. It was excellent, and to make it even better I woke up slightly sweaty, and so I immediately jumped into the ocean for a quick swim / bath before dinner.

Thusly refreshed, I cooked up another amazing meal of spaghetti and cheese and chicken, ate a cookie, and relaxed for the rest of the night. And by “Relaxed”, I mean “wandered around the beach ’till it got too dark to see”. See, it was Friday, and this would be the first Friday that I missed Capoeira class back in Christchurch since I started going, and I felt a bit bad about that. So, to make up for it I spent most of the post-after-dinner-relaxation evening practicing on the beach. Sand is an interesting thing to play capoeira on, I learned, since its a bit harder to keep your footing thanks to the lack of friction, but it makes the spinning moves much easier to perform, again thanks to the lack of friction.

And so I practiced on the beach ’till the sun went down, and it was time to head back to camp and my very warm sleeping bag for some well-earned sleeping.

Backpacking the Abel Tasman Great Walk – Days 1 and 2

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This entry is one part of several that log my hiking of the Abel Tasman great walk in New Zealand. See the other entries for the rest of the story, or the “Index” at the end for my “trail notes”, appended as an abbreviated version of the trip.

 

Day 1 – Marahau to Te Pukatea campground

 

Why, exactly, do I have this much STUFF?” I found myself asking, barely 20min into the trail. I had packed as light as I thought I could get away with – yes there were a good bit of “extra” things, but that was only because I wasn’t planning on going back to Christchurch before the Capoeira meetup in Montueka the following weekend. However, I still found myself carting a pack around on my back that weighed in at nearly 40kg (roughly 80lbs).

My first day on the trail was thus a rather hellish one, though the struggle in itself wasn’t actually half bad. To be honest, I missed the test of willpower that backpacking can turn into. Trying to convince yourself to walk just a little farther before you take that break. Making deals with yourself, “the next actually good rest spot I find, I’ll stop at. Not that one, its not good enough.” and so on. And so, I walked. On and on.

The Abel Tasman Great Walk is one of the official “New Zealand Great Walks”, a series of scenic trails that encompass the majesty of New Zealand itself. The Abel Tasman was named after the dutch explorer named, aptly, Abel Tasman, and it runs from the small town of Marahau to a wee little carpark at the northern end of the peninsula called Wainui. My plan was to walk the “Coastal Track”, the official Great Walk of the trail, and then head inland onto the (again aptly named) “Inland Track. The total distance was measured to be about 95km, or a bit less than 45miles – should be easy, especially since the Coastal Walk is extremely well maintained and quite level. While it has some steep parts, it never reaches above 400meters high (about 700 feet). The Inland Track is a completely different beast though – ranging nearly untended through the mountain ranges, rising upwards of 1200 meters into the New Zealand sky.

My plan was to start on the Coastal Track, since I’d have a pack full of food on my back, and then move Southbound onto the Inland Track after crossing over the Northern-most portion of the trail. That way I’d be rolling down the easy portion of the trail with the heavy pack, and the hardest portion of the track when my pack was getting lighter on my back, thanks to eating up all the food, and burning up all of the fuel for my stove.

I had woken up a bit too late to catch the bus from Nelson to Marahau (Pronounced something like “Maar-a-how”) that I wanted, but fortunately I had another bus that would take me into the same spot only two hours later. So armed with my backpack and a subway Meatball sub I jumped onto the bus… after helping the driver lift my pack, since he couldn’t do it on his own. That… should have been a warning to me. That, and the fact that I had been barely able to close the pack over all of the food that I was carrying. See… I don’t pack light, and when I pack food I make sure that there will definitely be enough… so I had enough food for the maximum stay that I was thinking of – 8 days, instead of the intended 6.

I think I either overestimated the strength of my back, or underestimated the weight of food however, and once I got off the bus and onto the trail the going was slow, even though the trail itself was quite well packed down. I had found a walking stick on my way that helped out a bit, but I still found the going nearly as difficult as I had on Mount Hutt… and that’s saying something, since Mt Hutt was an extremely steep grade.

But I did make it through to my planned campsite, Te Pukatea (pronounced “Tey Pook-ah-tee-ah”). It’s situated at the spit end of a spur of rock jutting into the Pacific Ocean – right off the beach but in a slight lee so that its sheltered from the wind. I wasn’t exploring the campsite alone though – to get to Te Pukatea I had walked through another campground and Hut called Anchorage Hut, where I had met a pair of Kiwi girls named Dani and Angela, who were originally going to camp at Te Pukatea with me, but had decided to stay at Anchorage thanks to an injury to Angela’s knee. I had met them thanks, of all things, to my hiking boots. It seems that not many people feel the need for sturdy hiking shoes on the Abel Tasman, and thus the girls couldn’t find anyone to help them hammer the stakes for their tent into the hard-packed ground. I had helped out with my water bottle instead of boots, thank you Nalgene for being unbreakable, and so we had all decided to hang out for a bit before cooking dinner and turning in for the night.

After the girls had left my campsite for their own dinner, I pulled together my fishing gear and started weaving my way into a good fishing spot. That’s right – this adventurer had bought himself a collapsible fishing pole, some hooks and bait, and now envisioned himself a real wild-man. Unfortunately for me, the truth is that I am not quite a true wild-man, and thus didn’t know the dangers and tricks of fishing off the coast. Instead of catching fish, I caught rocks. And by “caught rocks” I mean that I got the hooks stuck somewhere under the surf, and had to cut the line after a single cast. Not once, but three times in a row.

Thus, I was quite unhappy when I finally headed back to my tent; wet and empty handed. Instead of coming back with fish (and hopefully extra to bring up to Dani and Angela) I came back missing three of my five hooks, with not even a bite on the reel to show for it.

And even worse, the night did not go any better from there. I was, understandably, in a fairly foul mood thanks to the loss of my gear, and when I tried to make smalltalk with the people set up near me I was brushed aside rather coldly. I assumed it was because their English wasn’t very good, since everyone nearby was speaking French to each other. However, as soon as I lit my stove I learned just how good their English was, because they came over and started asking if I knew what I was doing, if I knew that fires weren’t allowed, and that I should probably get my stuff under control.

Now… if you don’t know how Whisperlite stoves work, it goes like this: you put a wee bit of White Gas fuel into a small catch-pan, and light it on fire. That flame heats up the fuel line, which then causes all further fuel to vaporize, and make the small blue flame that you use to cook on. The larger orange flame dies out after half a minute or so, since its only needed to “preheat” the main element.

It seemed that the Franc’s didn’t know this though, as they continued standing around and “checking up” on me until I shut down the stove and went into my tent to eat my dinner in peace and quiet.

And on top of it all? Someone had stolen my walking stick while I was fishing. Damnit.

Obviously, my first day had not gone nearly as well as one could hope.

 

Day 2: Te Pukatea to Onetahuti

“Well now, this is more like it” I thought to myself, as I relaxed by a small bend in a stream that’s called “Cleopatra’s pool”. To get here, I had taken a shortcut straight across the river that Cleopatra’s Pool runs into, skipping over rocks and wading ankle-deep into the river to get across. Of course, there was a bridge not 100meters down the trail, but I was feeling good, and wanted to make a bit more of an adventure out of the walk today.

The reason for this happiness and excitement was two-fold. One – I had woken up quite refreshed from the previous nights annoyances, and found myself packing up and leaving before any of my “friendly neighbors” had even woken up. Secondly, I didn’t have my full pack with me – instead I had taken the small sleeve used to hold my camelback out of my pack and was using it as an impromptu daypack; carrying with me the bare minimum for a day hike – my first aid kid, water, snacks, maps, my Kindle, and my notebook.

My pack itself was already at my next destination, thanks to a unique facet of the Abel Tasman that Dani and Angela had told me about – the water taxis. The combination of the Abel Tasman being fully coastal and the fact that so many tourists come here means that many “tourist service” industries have sprung up. Namely, in this case, a series of boats that can take people, packs, or food from one campsite to another for a nominal fee. I had gladly spent the $15 to have my heavy pack find its way to my nights camp on its own, thus freeing me up to take the long way around and visit a few side stations like Cleopatra’s Pool.

Since I didn’t have my insanely heavy pack, I made good time that day… even though I made an effort to take every side trip and most of the “long way” tracks. Thanks to these sidetrips I found myself meeting a whole host of people – stopping to talk to a retired couple from Auckland who were sailing around New Zealand on their own special “self-sufficient” solar boat; helping a group of girls and their quite-over-her-head mother set up a series of pictures; and even stopping to chat with a man who actually lived on track itself in a small town called Torrent Bay. I had a great time taking it easy and chatting with most people I met along the track, and even stopped for nearly an hour at lunch to read a bit from my book.

Once I did arrive at the campsite of Onetahuti (pronounced Ohh-Net-Ahh-Who-Ee) I found my backpack waiting for me at the main campsign, propped up as if to say “Hey man, I’ve been here all day. Where’ve you been?” After setting up camp and having a quick Peanut butter and cheese sandwich I relaxed and read a bit more on the beach, listening to the waves. For a moment I thought I was going to have another horrible night, since I saw the French group from the night before sitting at the sight next to me, but thankfully they were just being creepy and randomly hanging out at someone else’s campsite – it turned out that the site was inhabited by a couple from New Hampshire who were spending their retirement traveling around random countries. When I asked, they had no idea who the French group was, or why they had been sitting around the tent. Double-creepy.

Either way, I had a good time relaxing, cooking dinner, and talking with the NH people next to my camp that night. I had brought a good bit of canned chicken and pasta with me for meals, and so that night I cooked up some Linguini, smothered it in cheese-shavings, and tossed in nearly four servings of chicken – two can’s of “chicken in may”, and two cans of “smoked BBQ chicken”… to put it plainly, the combination was stellar, and I wolfed the whole thing down in less than 15min; not bad for eating down a dinner for four, am I right?

 

A quick side-story from my walk, about how not to act if you’re an American tourist:

While I was relaxing at one of the many bays on the track (this one was called “Bark Bay”, thanks to the tree-bark that the Maori had used to make their boats, or “Waka”) I noticed a confrontation of sorts getting rather heated down the beach. I walked over to make sure everything was alright, since the peoples voices were getting rather loud, and I heard the following conversation:

Obviously stressed-out American woman: “What do you mean you’re not going South? I need to go South! To the next campground!”

Kiwi Boat driver: “Ma’am, I know. You’ve told me this. But the Boat you’re looking for already left”

American: “But they didn’t stop! I was sitting right there waiting, and they didn’t stop!”

Kiwi: “Right, but you have to wave them down. You didn’t make a reservation, so they didn’t know that anyone was waiting for them. The next boat will be here in two hours, you’ll just have to wait”

“But I’m meeting people! They’ll be worried! You have to fix this NOW!”

“I can’t. I need to leave now, just wait and make sure to wave down the next boat”

“But… They didn’t pick me up! You have to fix this! Why can’t you just take me there yourself?”

“Ma’am, we’ve been discussing this for 20minutes. You just need to suck it up and wait. Yes, next person please”