Where: Nelson (Marahau, closest town to start the Abel Tasman Great Walk)
Distance & Time: Day 3 Bark Bay Hut to Anchorage Hut (tidal crossing) 3 hours, 8.5km (exc side trip to Falls River) Day 4, Anchorage Hut to Marahau 4 hours, 12.5km
Take: Enough food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Something to boil water with (plenty of water available on track, with drinking water available at the Huts). Warm clothes, shoes suitable for walking through water.
Amenities on route: Huts, toilets, campsites, water taxis
Cost of the walk: Bus from Nelson to Marahau return and water taxi to Totaranui $47. Anchorage Hut 1 night, 1px $32.
If ever there was a day where I wish a drone would deliver me red bull into the middle of nowhere, and a host of other things to give me energy, today would have been it. A night in a hut with 25 others, rustling sleeping bags, and a body covered in sandfly bites meant my energy levels today were non existent – less than ideal for a full on day of hiking.
I had wanted to do a couple of the side trips today, in particular up Falls Track and to Cleopatra’s Pool as we only had 8.5km of walking to do til we reached our next hut. I thought we’d have plenty of time but I hadn’t accounted for the extra-gorgeous beaches we’d end up exploring, and my energy levels being nearly depleted.
There are a few wee side trips down to beaches you can do on this part of the Walk – one of which is named Sandfly Bay. I think they called it that to make people stay away, but it’s glorious. The track down there is steep and rocky, so do what we did – leave your packs near the top and head down to explore without them.
When we got to the beach we found we had it to ourselves….apart from a kayak. We were seriously tempted to take it for a quick paddle, when we realised two guys had followed us down from exploring further up the track and the kayak belonged to them – do’h!
Back in the bush, I was seriously beginning to slow. Even my candy snakes, which are normally good for a sweet six minutes of energy each (Graeme told me that years ago when he was trying to entice me to walk up a hill and it’s stuck with me since, and has since become gospel for hiking/running). weren’t doing their thing. I just kept going and hoped like heck the energy would kick in soon!
Rounding a corner we came across Torrent Bay. Now I can imagine that in the height of summer this place has a cool, beachy vibe to it, but at this time of year it felt like the place where a criminal drama is set, where every house holds a secret. It was bizarre. And the track goes right through the properties, down the streets (if you could call them that!) You can peer into people’s places which I totally did, because how could you not?!
It is a gorgeous location though, don’t get me wrong, it’s probably just my envy coming through that I don’t have a bach here!
Just out of Torrent Bay village is the low tide crossing. We’d planned to have lunch at the waterfall on the Falls River Track, so we kept walking. About 15 minutes out of the village, is the turnoff up to the track. Or should I saw the turnup, because it’s up. Very quickly, and very steeply, you’re going up!
There’s a bit of rock/boulder hopping across streams here. I was fine on the first one (photo above) but the second one involved bigger rocks and a deeper river and being off balance with a big backpack….but my anxiety was all for nothing as I got across perfectly fine without slipping or getting wet – hurrah!
We’d planned to have lunch at the waterfall thinking there would be a viewing space and somewhere we could perch to cook our meal. Yeah…not so much. We had to clamber down a bank and cross the river (again!) where we found a wee spot amongst the rocks that we could sit our cooker and chill out for a bit. I was still feeling low on energy so I had a wee nap while Paul went for a refreshing dip in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall – and when I say refreshing, what I really mean is incredibly damned cold!
We saw a couple of other people on this side walk, but the entire hour or so we were at the waterfall we didn’t come across another soul. I suppose there’s so many options for side treks that you need to be picky about what ones you actually do!
Back down at Torrent Bay Village, the tide was still on its way out. Most of where we had to walk was covered in water, but impatient me decided we should just try to walk across anyway. Worst case scenario and it got too deep, we’d just turn back and keep waiting for the tide to recede!
Amy’s Advice – When following the track along the beaches, take the time to keep exploring the beach then double back to continue up the Great Walk back up to the bush. It’ll be worth it!
So, we stripped off our pants again and waded in. It was fine and only came up to our knees….for awhile. Then it got a bit deeper, up to our thighs. Then a bit deeper still, up to just below our belly button. And that was the deepest it got and even then it was only for less than 50 metres. Thank goodness for the big orange sticks in the water though, they helped to keep us on track and heading in the right direction.
This is the biggest water crossing on the track – when you start you can’t even see where you will exit the water. And it’s super refreshing after a few hours of walking!
When we got back on dry land after the crossing, the signpost told us we had less than 1km to go until we reached Anchorage Hut. We decided to flag putting on pants again and just kept walking in our underwear….according to this famous Kiwi ad we were fine though, as we could always see the water!
Anchorage Bay. Holy sweet baby deity, this was the definition of a picture-perfect golden sand beach. Stunning. And what made it even better? We had the WHOLE beach to ourselves. Seriously – our timing on this walk was absolutely spectacular as we very rarely had to share beautiful scenery spots with anyone else!
We followed the Bay around until we reached Anchorage Hut – right on the beachfront and bathed in sunshine. There were a few people chilling outside when we arrived. I soon found my key reason why this hut was the best – four separate bedrooms sleeping eight people each, rather than one or two large shared rooms!
We got a spot on the grass and it was enjoyable for approximately three minutes….until the dreaded sandflies made their appearance again. They had obviously become immune to our insect repellent as they had no qualms about latching on to us! So even though we wanted to be outside, soaking up the Spring sunshine, inside we went.
There was probably 15 or so of us at the hut, so plenty of room to spread out. A few had walked in from Marahau and were catching the water taxi out the next morning.
After another early dinner and bedtime, we woke the next morning to rain. And fog. And cold. After having arrived at the hut yesterday in a singlet, bare feet, and a towel, I left this morning in trousers, three layers, a rainjacket, and wool hat.
It was kind of a nice bookend to our Abel Tasman adventure though – starting in the rain, two days of warm sunshine, then a final day of rain. There weren’t too many beaches to explore on this section of the track. My one regret is that we didn’t make it up to Cleopatra’s Pool – ah well, a reason to come back here again!
We did a couple of the side treks, primarily because we were trying to fill in time as our bus from Marahau back to Nelson wasn’t going to leave until 4pm. And with the weather being dismal, it wasn’t a nap on the beach to fill in time kind of day.
I really noticed the people who were just doing a day walk today, primarily because so many of them seemed to be underprepared: the girl who was carrying nothing but a water bottle, the guy doing it in canvas shoes from The Warehouse, the couple wearing $2 shop ponchos in an attempt to keep the rain off. It’s like they think this is a stroll around Central Park! I had to bite my tongue on several occasions to ask what in god’s name they thought they were doing out here when they were so obviously unprepared.
We even passed a youth group who were booming out rock music from their bluetooth speaker in their backpack – guys, way to appreciate the sounds of nature!
Emerging from the hill, it was a muddy walk across several bridges back to Marahau. When the tide is out, passing walkers spell out their names or humorous messages in the sand below.
We came to the carpark and official start/finish point of the Great Walk, but we still had a couple of kilometres to walk to actually get back to Marahau. Even though there was no signage you couldn’t get lost – just follow the road and you’ll get there eventually! The rain had not let up so when we arrived back at the Marahau store, we were absolutely drenched. We had to be on a plane to Wellington in four hours and we both had a change of clothes we’d left at the store but what we really both wanted was a hot shower. I can’t name who it was that showed us complete kindness in letting us use their business shower, as I think it was against company policy, but let’s just say they are an awesome individual who deserves all the high fives. And the beers we brought them to say thank you!
The company we’d booked our transport through only had four of us to drop back in Nelson, and as the other two were already there, they were willing to take us in earlier rather than having us wait around in Marahau for too long. This was incredibly kind and meant we weren’t cutting it so fine with our flight times. Not only that, they showed how absolutely cool they were when we were sitting at Nelson Airport, 10 minutes away from boarding our flight when I realised I’d left my jacket on the bus! No worries, after a quick call to the company head office, she rang the driver, who said he’d be at the airport in 10 minutes to drop it back to me. Meanwhile, my flight had been called. Everyone was boarding. I was pacing anxiously, waiting for the bus. My name was called over the intercom. I asked the lady to please just wait a little longer as my jacket should be here soon….she said she was waiting on one more person but would have to shut the gate as soon as they arrived . Then my bus pulled up! I raced outside, grabbed my jacket from the driver, said a quick thank you, scanned my ticket and raced out to the plane! Paul had waited for me to get through the gate in case I didn’t make it on the plane, but I made it, just! That’ll teach me for not making sure I have everything before I leave a vehicle.
A turbulent trip back across Cook Strait and we landed in Wellington – home to do loads of washing and to sort through the 400 plus photos from our four days doing the Great Walk, only a small selection of which made it onto the blog! I saw online that a friend of mine has just completed this race along the Abel Tasman which looks incredible, perhaps a good reason to head back next year?
Photo credit: Paul, who took most of these incredible photos.
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