Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Tag: Great Walks

Part 4: Abel Tasman, Pancake Rocks and Greymouth

by on 24 December 2009, under Julekalender, New Zealand, Hiking

To try to make the text a bit more manageable for those who are in a hurry in these nice Christmas times I have introduced a footnote system – just look for the asterisks. Of course it would be nice if I remember to continue using this system in my later posts but I can guarantee nothing. For those who are in an extreme hurry are here some more alternatives:
1. Only look at the photos and maybe the belonging captions.
2. Read Skott’s version of the trip (often way shorter).
3. Don’t read blogs at all.

Marahau is placed by Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s smallest national park covering an area of 225.3 square kilometers. The reason we had gone there was due to rumors about it being a fairly pretty area and I can indeed confirm these rumors now. You can enjoy the nature in Abel Tasman in different ways: Since the national park contains a fairly long stretch of coast it is very popular to sail around in kayaks. However, we chose to go on a small hike instead on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks*.

Luckily it was no problem for us to book room at a camp site on Abel Tasman Coastal Track and we could therefore start out on a hike which ended up taking seven hours (25 km). As the name of the track indicates the route took us along the coast which meant a nice view over the beautiful azure water most of the time. At some points the route did bend away from the coast which changed the landscape to a dense rain forest, similar to something taken directly from Jurassic Park. We had to cross specific points at certain times in order to avoid the high tide. The water levels could change with up to six meters at some points so we had to get to the tidal crossings at a proper time before high tide.

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Ready for seven hours of hiking.

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Our first tidal crossing. The bridge may give an idea about how high the water can be at high tide.

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A small example of our view most of the day – notice the many kayaks.

In general there are no dangerous animals in New Zealand. However, the country is infested with sandflies**. The camp ground in Abel Tasman was my first encounter with these beasts (but certainly not my last). Luckily I escaped with only a couple of bites on my feet – others in the group were not as lucky.

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This is unfortunately the best photo I have (so far on the trip) to illustrate what sandflies are capable of. You can see a couple of bites on Skott’s feet although I must admit that it doesn’t seem like much at this picture. What the photo further shows is what happens when Søren gets a camera in his hands – lots of photos of random stuff.

We did not plan on walking all of Abel Tasman Coast Track’s 51 km – it is described like a 3-5 day’s walk. Instead we had planned to tramp for two days, 35 km in total. The reason we had to go 25 the first day and only 10 the second was another tidal crossing. From where we stayed the first night we had a two hour walk to a part which needed to be crossed before 9 am unless we wanted to wait until late afternoon before the crossing was accessible again. Therefore we got up early and started walking in order to get there in time. When we arrived at the critical point it was a bit anti climatic since there was no water nearby at all. However, half an hour later it would have been impossible to pass. Our fairly short walk on this second day was rewarded by a couple of hours relaxation on the beach before we were picked up by a water taxi which brought us back to Marahau. On this trip back we saw a few sea lions playing around in the sun.

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Tidal crossing.

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Sea lion enjoying the sun on a rock.

Afterwards we went back to Nelson where we stayed in a funny hostel called The Palace***. We spent the night here and continued south the next day (now we have gotten to Saturday of the first week in the story which spans almost four weeks in total). We went along the west coast, a very sparsely populated area of New Zealand which was easily seen on the amount of cars we met on the road. We stopped shortly in Punakaiki where we took a quick look at The Pancake Rocks (see below) before we continued to the “big city”**** of the west coast, Greymouth.

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Skott shows what makes the Pancake Rocks so special – the taste! A lot of people mistakenly think it is due to their shape…

We spent a couple of days in Greymouth. After the first night, Borghild, kristian and I went horseback riding in Punakaiki while the other three went surfing. While the horseback riding was fine the surf trip was apparently more action packed. Not due to crazy waves or anything else like that but due to two visits to the hospital. At first Søren damaged a sinew (I think it is called) in one of his fingers while trying to correct his bathing shorts under his wetsuit. When he returned from the hospital (with some sort of splint on his finger which had to stay there for six weeks) he could pick up Skott who, after a couple of minutes of surfing, had managed to cut up his foot with his surfboard’s fins. Caroline was the only one who got to do a bit of surfing that day.

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Kristian, Borghild og me on the horses which we were let around on by a Swedish and a German girl (random info once again).

The second day we went kayaking, once again in Punakaiki. It was more fun than I had expected, especially because the river was a bit more aggressive than I thought in the beginning.

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The kayak rental place had some amazing 80-90’s cloth that we simply couldn’t resist putting on. In the confusion caused by my extreme enthusiasm I managed to throw away my watch which I miraculously managed to get back a couple of weeks later (now I at least have one loose thread to pick up on in a later post).

That’s it for this post (unless you haven’t read the footnotes yet and wish to do so. You should have done so as the references to them appeared in the text – maybe I should have mentioned that in the beginning but that is how I usually read footnotes so I didn’t think it would need an explanation). Notice how I have not spent four (fairly long) posts to almost get to the same point as Skott described in a single blog post about a month ago. But you have (among other things) seen a photo of a ninja in Wellington – Skott hasn’t been able to deliver anything like that on his blog!

For those who just can’t get enough are here the mentioned footnotes:
*About The Great Walks:
The Great Walks are routes through some of New Zealand’s most beautiful areas. As a lot of natural areas in New Zealand they are maintained by New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC), who also runs the huts and camp grounds on the walks which often take 3-5 days to complete. If you are interested in a close encounter with New Zealand’s gorgeous nature these are the walks you should go on. Unfortunately they are so popular in the summer periods and the space in the huts and on the camp grounds so limited that you often need to book far in advance to be able to spend several days on the tracks. More than a month before our trip, Skott and I had talked about doing the Milford Track, which literally has gotten the nickname “The Finest Walk in the World”. All huts on the walk was booked far in advance, though, so it wasn’t possible for us to do that trip. Some may recall that I wrote about the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which I walked a while ago. That was actually my first encounter with one of The Great Walks since this one day trip is a subset of the four day Great Walk, Tongariro Northern Circuit.

**About sandflies:
Sandflies are small devils which made me miss the cute small Danish mosquitos which seem like the most lovable pets in comparison. Sandflies are the most annoying insects I have ever met: They attack in giant mobs, you can see and feel the after-effects of their bites for several weeks, more sandflies are attracted if you start scratching the bites and then they seem to especially enjoy Scandinavian blood for some reason. The Maori people believed that the sandflies were introduced in New Zealand by an angry god who was tired of looking at the lazy people stand around, enjoying the beautiful nature surrounding them. Sandflies behave in a peculiar way: If keep moving they won’t touch you but as soon as you stand still they attack you, 1000’s at a tie. They are therefore a very effective method to keep people moving.

***About hostels in New Zealand:
During our travels in New Zealand we did encounter a couple of peculiar hostels. A lot of them were “special” due to their shape, furniture, decoration and staff. The palace was for example a giant villa with enormous rooms and bath rooms which were shaped and decorated in typical Hundertwasser style (you do remember the famous public toilets, right?), changed into a hostel which was even fairly cheap to live in. Later on I might put up a post with photos from a couple of the hostels we visited during our travels.

****About calling Greymouth a “big city”:
“Big city” is here in quotes since an area with a population of about 14k wouldn’t be called that in many countries. Still, it is the sparsely populated west coast’s biggest city. In the middle of the 1800’s gold was found on NZ’s west coast which of course attracted a lot of people to the area. When the gold reserves had been emptied out most left again (a decision which was probably made easier by the awful weather – there is a reason the area is nicknamed “Wetland”). Greymouth is now one of the few proper cities left in the area. Less than 1% of NZ’s population lives on the West coast which covers an area of about 9% of the total area of New Zealand according to my Lonely Planet book. Don’t say that you do not learn anything from reading my blog!

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