Since I arrived in Takaka a day early, I spent the extra day exploring all of the little shops and galleries in this tiny hippie town. In the evening I cycled down to the Hangdog campground (a climber's Mecca), where Dave and his students are staying for their 10 day south island trip. Hangdog lies right next to a river with some excellent swimming holes and a short walk from what is said to be one of NZ's best outdoor climbing areas.
As I am writing this (and talking about it) someone at the cafe where I'm sitting just asked if Hangdog is opened again or not. Apparently they had some problems with the city council and the Department of Conservation regarding the quantity of facilities for the number of climbers that flock there during the summer months. They are not open for camping, but have fortunately allowed Dave and his students to use the bunkhouse for their annual trip. This is a hot topic around town, as the managers of the backpackers (and several other randoms) have asked about it - trying to anticipate the increase of climbers patronizing thier own establishments if the Hangdog fails to reopen for the summer.
The crew had just arrived and I headed to the swimming hole with them before cycling back to the backpackers. I met them at the supermarket and joined in to make pizzas in the campground's outdoor brick oven. I headed back to the hostel for the night (since all of my belongings were still there) and met up with them again the next day.
Along with Dave, a couple chaperones, and about 10 students, is another couchsurfer who had also stayed with Dave. We were both invited to join the group in a similar manner, and decided to take him up on the offer. Louise is a climber from Scotland who is on a round-the-world trip and happened to take a couple weeks to work at one of Dave's summer camps. She spent six weeks climbing in Africa before she came to NZ and is headed to Australia and a few other places before working her way back home. Her trip, like mine, adds up to a year in total, but I imagine our experiences will be - and already have been - very different! Then again, we have found a lot of common ground relating to traveling solo and have already become fast friends.
The "south island trip" as they call it, consists of climbing, swimming/rope swinging/bouldering at the swimming hole, slacklining (over land and water), cycling into town, caving, day trips to another climbing area, nighttime movies, rainy day walks, and other sorts of adventures to amuse ten eighteen-year-olds (and those of us a little older).
I spent one climbing day hanging out with Dave and some of his students who had never been climbing outside, and helped to teach them some essential skills. There were two other climbing days I spent with Louise (an excellent climber who definitely challenges me to push myself) and some other swimming or cycling adventures we also took together. Louise had planned to take a couple days away from camp to tramp through Abel Tasman National Park and invited me along.
We left on Monday afternoon and took the bus (which we organized to pick us up right from Hangdog) to Marahau, the Southern tip of Abel Tasman. The plan was to do the costal track from south to north in order to reach the tidal crossings at the appropriate times. Most people take 3-5 days to do the tramp, but we decided that 2 full days would be plenty. We arranged to stay over at two different campsites to break up the tramp (and accommodate sparse bus times) and were on our way down the track shortly after 2pm.
The first day consisted of about 4 hours of hiking and one tidal crossing (walking barefoot through a squishy bay that is filled with water during high tide) in order to reach our campsite.
The views were filled with stunning beaches,
and tropical forests,
and the path was "undulating" (as they describe it around here) with some hills and flat parts, utilizing the beach itself at times.
The weather was "fine" but quite humid and warm. We settled in to our campsite the first night and had a look at our map to plan our departure time in the morning. Somehow, the tides were not in our favor and whatever plan we had worked out with the helpful girl at the information center was flat out wrong. Instead of the anticipated 7am start the next day, we would have to aim for 5 or 6 unless we wanted to wait for the evening low tide and find our next campsite in the dark. A fellow camper also happened to mention the forecasted rain that night through to the next afternoon. The plan was to hike all morning anyway, and hopefully enjoy the beach in the afternoon.
We hit the track by 6am on Tuesday and kept up with the fairly brisk pace we established the day before.
We never hesitated to stop for pictures or to take in the view, but didn't waste time taking long breaks either.
Before we knew it, we were at the first tidal crossing that really mattered (no alternative way around!) and (besides the walk through the sand) probably didn't need to ditch our walking shoes as there were stepping stones over the only watery bit. We continued with our fast pace so as not to miss the next tidal crossing, one that has a shorter crossing time on either side of low tide. We made it just in time and enjoyed lunch on the rocks after we crossed.
After the second tidal crossing of the day, we knew we didn't have too much longer until our campsite. We had chatted with a few other travelers who asked where we were headed that day and we never really bothered to look up the name of our campsite since the track is very well marked and it's hard to change directions without knowing it! "North of the Awaroa tidal crossing" seemed like enough information, and so that is where we headed.
It was somewhere on the beach at Goat Bay, about halfway between the Awaroa tidal crossing and Totaranui (the north end where we were headed) when we realized that we had passed the only campsite before Totaranui.
The plan had been to save the last 1-1.5 hours for the morning before catching the bus back to Takaka. We had made it that far and decided to instead go ahead and finish the 40km, which delivered us to Totaranui around 3pm the day after we started. That's right, a 3-5 day tramp in about 25 hours!
Well, the timing of the weather couldn't have been more perfect - humid, overcast, and cool in the morning, but once we hit the beach in Totaranui there were blue skies and sunshine! Beautiful.
We had fun taking a dip in the water, exploring the rocky coastline, resting on the beach, people watching, playing in the sand, and of course taking lots of pictures.
We had a picnic dinner on the beach and Louise spotted a killer whale playing in the water in front of us!
We hung out on the beach, watched the sunset, and did some yoga.
We camped at the Totaranui campsite that night (nobody bothered to check for our permit, which happened to be for the Waiharakeke Bay campsite) and got up to see the sunrise Wednesday morning.
After a nap, a morning swim, and some breakfast, we packed up the tent and waited for the bus to take us back to Takaka. The bus ride was lovely as it wound around through the mountains along the coastline and we had a nice driver who acted as a tour guide to show us around and talk about the area. It was a great little adventure and I was happy to have Louise for company!
Back at basecamp (Hangdog) we had an easy afternoon and Louise and I discussed future travel plans we might take together. Thursday included a caving adventure there was no room for me to join, and lots of drizzling rain. I got a few dry climbs in with a couple students (under an overhanging rock that served as a good awning) but somehow motivation is lacking when the rain is constant.
The rain stuck around through the night into today, which can drive rock climbers who are stuck indoors to make up unique bouldering problems... so we escaped into town for an afternoon of library visiting and cafe sitting.
The south island trip may not have happened exactly as I expected (I was a bit bummed to miss out on the caving expedition, and rain always seems to edit outdoorsy plans), but adding my adventures with Louise and a nice introduction to NZ climbing, it has certainly been worthwhile! After checking the upcoming forcast for a rainy weekend, we are working on plans to move on back to Nelson a bit early and figure out what is next on the agenda. It's quite nice to have a companion like Louise since she has a habit of staying very active and encouraging you to join in, so here's to more adventuring to come! Cheers :)