Monday, January 5, 2009

Time and Tide

The Hut at Bark Bay

A Typical Abel Tasman Scene

Yearling Seal Frolicking in a Pool

A Water Taxi

The really interesting part of the Abel Tasman, apart from the unspeakably gorgeous scenery throughout, is the tidal crossings. The tides here run 4-6 feet, and the Abel Tasman track crosses several estuaries--but only at low tide. Thus the AT tramper carefully reads the tidal charts and proceeds accordingly. Our first was Torrent Bay, about a quarter mile across. One looks at these bays and estuaries at high tide and thinks they are just more of the ocean, impassable on foot. Hours later, they are flat, wet, sandy expanses, populated by abundant marine life, mud crabs, clams, sea snails, and so on. One walks right across, trying to crunch as few shells as possible. All have rivulets that have to be forded, so at length one removes boots and puts on sandals or just goes barefoot. The largest of the crossings was at Awarua, which the Park describes as “dangerous,” but only outside the 4 hour low-tide window. It was about half a mile across. Conveniently, there were two low-tides per day, generally between 7 and 9 AM and then 7 and 9 PM. I don't think we ever lost a minute waiting for the tides. They don't wait for us, as is well known. We did have to get up a bit early for Onetahuti, which was in the middle of the day's tramp, but when you're in bed by 9:30 that's not a problem.

The days of hiking were relatively leisurely, 10-15 km, with hills less than 400 feet. Carrying a backpack on the beach gets a bit tiresome. It's interesting how the sand works a slightly different set of leg and hip muscles. On a couple days we arrived at the hut early enough for me to do an extracurricular hike, the most memorable of which was a couple miles to Awarua Lodge for a beer and a pizza, half of which I carried back to Vicki at the hut. We had had lunch at the Lodge earlier in the day, Angus ribeye for Vicki, and lamb for me, both excellent, especially for such a remote place. I also hiked out to Separation Point on our return from Whariwharangi to Totaranui, to see the seals. (See illustration). Vicki's shoulder held up fairly well through the five days, a little achey on Saturday, our longest day, but otherwise OK.

We are back in Motueka now (Monday morning), having spent the night at a motel here, washing, repacking etc. More high adventure this afternoon.

Vicki adds:

January 5, 2009-- Motueka, South Island, New Zealand

We are just back from the 5 day Abel Tasman Tramp and it was spectacular. The scenery would remind you of what the California coast must have been 80 years ago—but with more tropical vegetation. It was exactly what one would expect Hawaii to be if you could get ¾ of the people not to go there. Here a crowded beach in mid afternoon would have 4-5 kayaks pulled ashore with perhaps 6-8 people actually on the beach itself. In the morning and after late afternoon most of the coves were deserted, especially in the far Northern areas. What really appealed to me were the waterfalls with granite boulders and wonderful pools—so if you wanted to take a dip without the salt you could. Of course the water is quite cold by a native Miamian standards, but for you who grew up swimming in the Flathead it would be fine.

New Zealand is such a beautiful place that Mark and I have quite fallen in love with it. If we didn't have so many ties back to the States, I think we would seriously think about moving here. Property costs about half to 2/3 of similar US because salaries are also lower. But even though most of you think we are quite adventurous, we are too timid to leave so many friends, family, and places we love behind. However, a six month trip back here after Europe would now be high on our agenda.

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