Our next stop was Nelson and a visit to the Abel Tasman park.
The problem I have found with writing about New Zealand is that there are just not enough descriptive words for this place and it is hard to convey how amazing but different each one is. If I describe mountains and coast I could be describing Marlborough Sounds or Abel Tasman or further on, but each is very very different. It is hard to do it justice.
So Abel Tasman, as described by the Lonely P; "the park blankets the northern end of a range of marble and limestone hills extending from Kahurangi National Park; its interior is honeycombed with caves and potholes". Get the picture?
We planned on doing a 6 hour, 20 km walk along the coastline of the park but first we needed to take a boat to get us to the start of the walk at Bark Bay and from there we would walk back on ourselves to Maheui where a bus would meet us. The boat meandered along the coast line allowing us to take in the great sights like the Split Apple Rock but by the time we finally got to Bark Bay it was a 11am and we had to be back at 5.30pm. We had two maps which gave 2 different distances (ranging from 18km to 25km) and 2 different timescales (ranging from 5 hours to 8 hours). Interesting. So with little time to waste we set off.
Accompanying me on this walk was Simon and another English girl, Lydia. The walk wound through constantly changing forest. Occasionally we had glimpses of green water and a stunning beach lurking beyond the trees. The mainly narrow path, wound up and down hill, over streams and crossed waterfalls. Sometimes we wound far inland and other times would literally be beside the sea. We stopped to take pictures of one bay and then a little later stopped to take another photo, only to realise it was the same bay and we had just wandered round to the other side.
The walk itself was fun, nicely shaded and warm enough to make it pleasant. There was only one tough uphill bit but walking in a group made you just get up it! There was also beautiful fresh, moist, earthy smell that makes you feel glad to be alive and with nature.
We stopped for lunch and tried to work out if we were on schedule or not. Giving up on the maps we just decided to carry on and enjoy the walk. Using our logic we tried to base ourselves on the distances given on signposts we passed, but then we realised that they had also lied! There was a part of the walk which at low tide you could walk across the beach and would cut off about 4 km. But when we got there it was typically high tide!
After a while we settled into the walk and stopped looking at distance and time and just went with the flow. The trees types changed dramatically depending how high or low, inland or close to the sea we were and this made it interesting. A rickety swing bridge also added to the excitement and made us feel like Indy for just a few moments! The coastal water was a stunning colour, sometimes very green, and in other places it would gradual change to a turquoise blue before becoming the deep sea blue. Some parts were obviously where the tide had flooded in as you could still see the land grass waving underneath. Awesome sights and a fabulous walk. It was one of those that I would love to do again, as next time I will appreciate it far more even though at the end of the walk we realised we had walked a total of 23.5km.
After all our worries we completed the walk in time to be able to relax at the cafe and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. The bus even got us back to the hostel in time for free chocolate pudding, and of course a glass or two of wine!