Bark Bay

Abel Tasman National Park

In which Miles walks two days of the Coast Track in Abel Tasman National Park.

To view the full gallery of 46 pictures on imgur, click here.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is a 60 kilometres (37 mi)[1] long walking track within the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. It extends from Marahau in the south to Wainui in the north, with many side tracks. It is one of two main tracks through the park, the other being the Abel Tasman Inland Track, which stretches for 38 km between Tinline Bay and Torrent Bay off the main coastal track. The coastal track is well sheltered, and with mild weather in all seasons, it is accessible and open throughout the year.
Wikipedia

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

I didn’t make it To Abel Tasman ten years ago when I visited the South Island.  It sounded like an investment of 3-5 days would be required, and I only had a month for the entire island.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

As one of the New Zealand Great Walks it is busy during the summer, so I waited until mid-April for my first visit to Abel Tasman.  For multi-day walks it is necessary book a campsite or a hut.  Even outside of peak season, I waited until too late to book a bed in a hut, so I booked a campsite.

Weka on Abel Tasman Coast Track
Weka on Abel Tasman Coast Track

I had managed to avoid using my large pack the whole summer so far.  I had never needed to prepare to stay overnight anywhere without having my campervan, with all of my stuff, close by.  This would just be two days and one night, but I put some time into planning and packing.  In spite of this, I learned a few things the hard way that should mean that I’ll be better prepared next time.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

This was my first of New Zealand’s Great Walks.  I noticed right away how well formed and maintained the track and facilities are.  I would guess that this is the case on most or all of the more high-profile parks and walks.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

I had become friends with a young Māori guy at a campground in Richmond, and on returning there met his cousin, who was staying with him.  They both decided to come with me to Abel Tasman.  There was a lot of partying, and it took a lot of work to get us all packed and to the start of the track.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

We got a late start, and since NZ was now on daylight savings time the sun set by 6:00pm.  We walked fast and hard, although we did take long breaks.  I must admit that I was impressed by our ability to keep that up for four to five hours with loaded packs.  We arrived after dark at the Anchorage Bay campground.  Of course we didn’t enjoy the views below until the next morning.

Anchorage Bay
Anchorage Bay

I had checked my flashlight while packing, but somehow failed to notice that the batteries were nearly dead.  A companion’s light was pretty dim, so we ended up relying on the flashlight app on my phone to set up the tents they had brought – I had no tent myself.  It was cold at night, so they gathered wood and started a fire.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

They brought no food at all.  Fortunately I had brought OSM bars, nut bars, various nuts and dried fruit, and apples.  Good thing it was only one night!

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

Later I was telling a friend about the walk, and the fact that my companions hadn’t brought any food.  He made a joke about them eating me, and I recalled that the Māori were cannibals long ago.  He said “I think that’s the first thing I’d ask those guys if I were going camping with them – are you guys bringing any food?”  I laughed, but I didn’t share that joke with the guys.  I wasn’t sure how they would take it, but I’d guess they’d probably have a sense of humor about it.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

On the second day I continued north toward Bark Bay.  I only had the two days, so I had booked a water taxi from Bark Bay back to Marahau.  The guys didn’t want to pay the $40, so they walked back the way we had come.

The Torrent Bay estuary crossing, from the north side
The Torrent Bay estuary crossing, from the north side

The timing was good for crossing the Torrent Bay estuary, which should only be attempted within 2 hours before or after low tide.  This is meant to save 1-1.5 hours over the alternative high tide track.  The estuary is very wet however, even at low tide.  I took the time to find a route that would leave my hiking boots mostly dry on the inside, if not on the outside.

Torrent Bay
Torrent Bay

Having booked the water taxi for a specific time, I was on a strict deadline for arrival at Barks Bay.  I found myself once again in the position of needing to walk fast, and spent most of the day walking hard, although with breaks, and plenty of brief stops for photos.

Torrent Bay
Torrent Bay

Once a trail marker assured me that I had plenty of time to make it to Barks Bay, I found that it was actually an effort to break myself out of forced-march mode, and take a more leisurely pace.

Swing bridge over Falls River
Swing bridge over Falls River

The swing bridge above does swing quite a bit when you’re in the middle.

Abel Tasman Coast Track
Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Coast Track offers some nice bush and interesting rock formations.  But most notable is that you pass one beautiful white sand beach after another after another.

Bark Bay
Bark Bay

It is possible to kayak the coast.  This offers the benefit of encountering the abundant sea life along the way, including seals, who are a lot more friendly when they’re in their element.

Bark Bay
Bark Bay

I caught an earlier taxi at Bark Bay, and was able to meet the guys at the van exactly when we had planned.  We were all exhausted, but quite happy with our weekend.

I’ll return to Abel Tasman for the remaining 3 days of the Coast Track, and also for kayaking along the coast.  The Abel Tasman Inland Track sounds worth looking into as well.  It would undoubtedly be a better experience doing all 5 days consecutively, immersing oneself in the place, and preparing better to allow for a more leisurely pace and greater comfort.

To view the full gallery of 46 pictures on imgur, click here.

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