Abel Tasman: Our third Great (failure) Walk

To kick off our month of travels, Gordon and I decided on another great walk – Abel Tasman. It’s a 3-5 day, 55km track along the coast of the Tasman Sea on the South Island. It’s a stunning area and people visit by foot, kayak, car and sea taxi. We planned to walk north from Marahau on a three day, two night hike, sleeping in DOC huts along the way, then taking a water taxi back from Totaranui to the start.


The unique thing about the Abel Tasman great walk is the track’s high and low tide paths. Several “shortcuts” are accessible only at low tide, and one section – Awaroa – is only available at low tide, period. So the day before we left, we checked the tide table. 5:55 am and late afternoon. Our water taxi was set to pick us up at 3:15, so the late afternoon wouldn’t work. We could potentially wake up super early for the am crossing, but it would still be dark, and with heavy rainfall in the previous days, the DOC agent warned us it could be flooded and dangerous. After some debate, we disappointedly changed our water taxi pickup to Awaroa and decided to cut out the last part of the track.


The night before we left, a friend in Blenheim suggested that maybe we should consider checking out some hot pools and bypassing the walk, since the weather would be horrible. Checking the forecast, we saw she was right, but we’re stubborn and decided to go ahead with our plans, but leave early enough to beat the 34mm of rain coming at 3pm.


The start of the track


When we got to the start, it was absolutely pissing. Visibility was poor and rain was coming down sideways. But it was only 4 hours, so we knew we could push through. At the first bridge, two egrets were hunched over on either side of the rails. We joked that they were warning us to turn back. Little did we know…


One of the great views, with lots of rain.


Despite rain gear, within  5 minutes, the whole left side of my body was soaked, and within the first hour, my “waterproof” shoes were soaked. The positive side of this though was the incredible waterfalls. Falls and creeks that are normally just trickles were rushing waters. The Tasman Sea looked awesomely angry, and even though we couldn’t see very much, we could tell that it would have been amazing if we could.




You can’t really tell, but the waterfall was even rushing over the walkway at points.


Still in high spirits, despite the weather.


Since we didn’t stop to put down our packs even  once, the hike only took us 3:15, so we made it to our hut with plenty of time to kill. Anchorage Hut was built in 2013, so it was super flash. Running water, flush toilets, and multiple bunk rooms. Since the weather was so miserable, the hut was pretty empty and there were only three people in our room. There were drying racks set up in front of a raging fire, so we quickly changed into dry clothes and got comfy in the lounge area. We had our lunch we had skipped, the usual sausage cheese and crackers snack, boxed wine (of course), and a tasty dried meal. We read our books, Gordon took a nap, and we learned a card game (wist, it’s similar to yuker) from some new friends.




Sweet Digs!


Though there were only three of us in the room, we learned a very valuable lesson… Avoid the lone old guy. No offense to old guys, and no offense to loners, but they should come with a warning… A snore warning. Woof! The next morning, this guy even asked me if I slept well. Yeah, right dude.




We started our second morning prepared for an eight hour walk to Awaroa. After a slight “detour” where we lost about 20 minutes, we were on our way. Unfortunately, after about  45 minutes, our hut warden caught up to us with some bad news. After the heavy rains, there were a couple slips and the track was out. He said it was up to us, but we could either stay at the Anchorage Hut again, turn back completely, or check out the slip ourselves (with a warning that it was four hours away, so it would be a total bummer to get there and have to turn around).




We were counting on eight hours anyway, so we took our chances and kept moving. Unfortunately, after about two hours of walking, we ran into another ranger clearing the way. His story was different. Yes, the track was completely out; yes, the weather was worsening, thus more dangerous; and no, we could not continue.






So we turned back. After some debate, we decided that it wasn’t worth it to stay in the hut a second night. So after a bit of whinging and disappointed cries, we hoofed it back to our car. As a farewell gift, Abel Tasman dumped us with yet another torrential downpour for the last hour and a half of this day’s walk.


I call this one “Gordon, forlorn”




By the time we made it back to our car, we were soggy, soaked, and totally done. Next time, we’re checking (and minding) the tides and forecast.



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