Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The South Island

Picton to Abel Tasmen National Park



The ferry ride over was relatively quiet, with some great views as we approached Picton. After several coffees on board, we returned to the car after several hours ready to continue our journey. After our stay in Wellington, we were both keen to get camping again, mainly to save money, so we decided to head north to the Abel Tasman National park, as we had heard great things.

The location of Abel Tasmen


The drive itself to the park was not too dissimilar those we had done previously, although the weather was exceptionally good as we arrived in the park. As we began to pack our bags for our walk into the park, as there was no car access, I realised how the car had become a cluttered mess, as throughout our time in the north the carefully planned organisation of the boot had first become merged, before mixed and the result was a free for all including everything not essential for living in the city spread all over the place.

After packing everything we thought we might need, it became apparent, especially in my case, that we were going to have to carry a lot of the camping gear by hand. The only access to the park from the car park is by foot so our plan was to leave the car, pitch the tent at one of the camp sites along the route, leave it the next day while we walk around the park before staying the following night and then moving the following day. However, there were several complications.

We bought a camping pass for the park, the proceeds going to the parks upkeep, which is a huge task considering its size, and while in the office asked the assistant how long the walk to the first camp site was. She said it was about 15 minutes, but highly recommended the second site along the trail, about a 40 minute walk, as it was on a beach, so we decided to take her advice and headed back to the car to grab the stuff. 

Just after passing through the first campsite, I realised why the ‘briefcase’ style camping cooker we had bought was so cheap, as the handle had started digging into my hand. I spent the following half an hour switching rapidly between admiring the sun setting along the scenic cliff line which the path followed and changing hands between my sleeping bag, roll mat and the cooker.  Unfortunately my bag had all my clothes in as, due to the anticipated cold night in my poorly insulated sleeping bag I had pretty much packed all the clothes I could find in the boot of the car, along with several cans of food. As you may imagine, this, accompanied by a terrible hat led to disapproving looks from many returning walkers.

The walk was well worth the location



After arriving, however, the memory of the pain soon left me as we put up the tent just before sunset on the beach. The weather was great when we put up the tent, so we chose a scenic pitch over a potentially more sheltered area along the wetland behind the dune of the beach. 

Then the storm came. 

It was a combination of  heavy wind and rain which led to us having to get up in the middle of the night and drag the tent from our original spot to a new pitch under a nearby tree. The wind had also stopped us cooking as the flame on the stove couldn't handle the winds which had built up gradually and had led to us eating a dinner of tinned salmon and salad, which was actually surprisingly tasty, although by that stage I was quite hungry so I have chosen not to repeat it since. 

Luckily, the next morning the rain had gone and it was sunny again, and we spent the day walking up the coast into the park, which was full of wildlife and great views.

A view from the cliff top trail


Due to the weather conditions, and an extended walk to make the most of the park, we returned to the tent later than anticipated, ready to eat dinner. Pasta and pesto was the allocated meal, but disaster struck when, due to the prolonged attempt to boil some water the night before, the gas canister for the cooker ran out. 

Unfortunately I had decided, after a lengthy debate while packing the night before, that there was plenty of gas, and that there was no need to bring a spare. This left the choice of returning 40 minutes each way to the car, or eating an alternative meal. We chose the latter, and after a questionable meal of cold baked beans and pesto decided to call it a night at 7.30.

We left the beach early the next day. After trying to pack the tent with minimal sand inside it, we returned to the car, which was right next to a cafe where we both destroyed two large fried breakfasts in record time. It was glorious.

I would highly recommend anyone who has some spare time on a trip around the country to make a stop in the park as although it wasn't initially meant to be a key part of our journey, I am very glad to have added it in and my only regret is that I couldn't go on one of the longer trails. If I ever return I would definitely put try to spend three or four days here to really appreciate the whole area.

Our original idea had been to head to the northern most tip of the south island, but after reading more on the subject and talking to other travelers we decided to head for highway 6 which would lead us south down the west side of the island and towards the mountains.

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