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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 241: Abel Tasman Trek: Day 1

NEW ZEALAND | Thursday, 3 July 2008 | Views [779]

Crossing the freezing cold inlet at Awaroa

Crossing the freezing cold inlet at Awaroa

Thursday 3rd July

I set the alarm for 06.30 and got up almost as soon as it went off as I knew I had a lot to do, and we were on a tight schedule that morning. I made breakfast and some sandwiches for lunch that afternoon, packed my bag and we eventually set off at 08.40. We had booked a water taxi that would take us from the Abel Tasman park entrance at Marahau to Totaranui Beach, about 40km from our finishing point.

It was a horrible day; it was cold, wet and grey and didn't look like it was going to let up. But, we didn't let it dampen our mood, and we were all excited about heading into nature for a few days. We stopped off at the 'Aqua Taxi' office and left the car in the parking lot for the couple of days that we were going to be away. The boat that was to take us to Totaranui was waiting for us outside, and we climbed aboard, drove to the jetty, and set off on the choppy waters around Abel Tasman. The boat driver was a funny guy, and he showed us a few interesting sights along the way, best of which was a colony of seals that were sitting on rocks and swimming in the freezing cold sea. They are heavily protected in this area after years of being hunted and their numbers are now very much on the increase.

By the time we were left off at Totaranui, the sun had come out and it was starting to get warmer, and this brightened our mood. Once we got off the boat, we were raring to go. It took us a while to get ourselves and our gear together, and we headed off on our trek at about 12.15, a bit later than planned but we were just grateful that the day had cleared up so well. We had planned that it would take five hours for us to walk to the Bark Bay Huts, our destination for the night.

It took us an hour and half to reach our first milestone at Awaroa, a large inlet from the sea that we had to cross in order to carry on south on our planned route. We needed to cross about two hours either side of the low tide, and this window had just about opened for us when we started our crossing. It required us to take off our shoes and socks, roll up our trousers and wade over the stones and the vast amount of tiny white shells that layered the seabed, through the cold waters to the other side. There were several people crossing from the other direction and it seemed as if it would go no higher than knee height. However, just before I succesfully got over to the other side in reasonable shape, I hit a stretch of deeper water that went up to my thighs; I could have turned back and searched for a more shallow section, but my legs were getting numb and my feet sore from the shells against my bare feet (others who were crossing were aware of this and had put on a pair of socks for extra protection), so I surged on, more keen to get to the other side that to stay dry. I eventually got onto dry land, and recovered in the warmth of the Awaroa Huts.

However, there was no sight of Danika and Tom; they were further back than me, taking their time and I had seen them take a greater diversion when they saw me getting soaked almost up to my waist. I spoke to one of the park rangers and asked him whether he thought it was feasible for us to make it to our destination at Bark Bay that evening, considering that it was a 3-4 hour journey, and we had about three hours daylight left. He was pretty confident that we would make it, and that we could use our headlights if necessary.

Danika and Tom arrived at the huts at about 15.00 and we headed off shortly after on the next leg of our treck. They were also keen to stick to our original plan of making it to Bark Bay. We passed over the beach at Awaroa and made our way up a steady incline towards Onetahuti Bay. It was quite tiring (it felt good to get some decent exercise), but the views over the sea were worth it. We got to Onetahuti Beach at 17.00 and left there about half an hour later as the sun was just about to disappear. It was at this point that we had to don our headlights, which was fine, the only problem being that Tom didn't have one and we would have to share the light of two people between the three of us.

We were expecting a further walk of about an hour before we got to Bark Bay, but we weren't anticipating such a difficult and long journey as the one that lay ahead of us. We had to negotiate another steep climb up a hillside, and then it started to rain quite heavily, but still we tried to maintain a positive mood, and make light of our situation. We had to guide Tom over some fairly bumpy and wet paths, and it felt like we were never going to get there. He was also getting very frustrated and it became clear that he was really enjoying himself (although his sporadic curses and outbursts in German gave Danika and me a few laughs along the way!). The last half hour of the walk, when we were expecting to reach our destination at any minute, was starting to grate, and all of us were starting to get fed up with the cold, the dark, and not knowing when we were going to get to the huts.

We eventually got there at 19.15, and walked into the warm, dry hut to find a group of about ten people playing cards and sitting by the fire. We were very happy to take off our heavy rucksacks, get some warmth from the fire, and have some dinner. We were all very tired after a walk that took longer than expected, but glad also that we had stuck it out and made the progress that we did. As is the case on treks like this, it wasn't long before we were settling down for the night, and I had my eyes shut and ready for sleep at 21.00.


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