...... previous day next day ......
Abel Tasman Coastal Track Nelson

4th February 2012

A Second Helping of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Tonga Island Fur Seal Pup
    Leaden skies greeted the day, and mists hung like petticoats over the hills. The ground was sodden from an overnight drizzle. I checked at the campsite reception for the latest weather forecast - "possible drizzle, clearing up later".
    I packed a waterproof just in case and off I went. The routine with the water taxi was the same as yesterday, though this time people were alighting much further up the coast.
    A Kiwi bloke sat next to me, complete with his large toolbox. He was heading up to Totaranui to fix a phone. Normally he would drive up there, but the roads to the settlement had been washed away, and it was uncertain whether they would ever be replaced.
    The chap and his wife originated from Hector, which was the furthest north I travelled on the West Coast. I told him about my expeditions around the coast tracing the mining history. He went into raptures. He had actually worked in the mines in the area, and had spent considerable time at Stockton mine during the late 60s and 70s. He had fond memories of all the Welsh guys he had worked with, reeling off names from decades ago.
    "It is all opencast mining now," he said, with a hint of a sigh in his voice. "It's a dangerous job still. The large machines have a habit of falling through into old underground workings." He got out of the industry some time ago during a price slump in the price of coal, and redundancies were on offer.
Panoramic View of Onetahuti Beach Looking Across to Tonga Island Marine Reserve      (please use scroll bar)

Typical Track Through the Bush
    Just before the boat dropped me off at Tonga, it made a slight detour to Tonga Island Marine Reserve, which had a fur seal colony. Most were out hunting, but one or two pups basked out on the rocks. Apparently when they get a bit older and more adventurous, they play with the flotillas of kayaks that are always passing by, often climbing onto the tails of kayaks.
    Wildlife, as in much of New Zealand, consisted mostly of avian life, but also like much of the country, the rarest birds, such as the kiwi, were not present. Wood pigeon, weka, tui and bellbird occupied the forest. Pukeko were to be found around the estuaries and wetlands. Oyster catchers, shags, gannets, and little blue penguins populated the coast. Fur seals lounged on the rocks around the edge of Tonga Island. The park's boundaries formally excluded the estuaries, foreshore and seabed, but in 1993 the Tonga Island Marine Reserve was created along part of the Abel Tasman coast. All life in the marine reserve was protected. Much of New Zealand's native wildlife was under attack due to introduced species, and the Department of Conservation (DOC), along with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) were trying desperately to halt these attacks. Stoats were introduced into New Zealand to control rabbits in the 1880s. However, those stoats, then and today, prefer the native animal populations such as the blue penguins over rabbits or their other "normal" prey.
Hidden Beaches
    Once ashore, I wasted no time in getting out on the track. Two Belgian girls who had disembarked with me were going to take it easy along the track since they were getting picked up again by a later boat.
    The route took me past the old Tonga Quarry. Granite was extracted here and sent in scows to Nelson and Wellington. Indeed Nelson's cathedral steps and Wellington's old post office had been constructed out of Tonga granite. This flavour of granite fell out of favour in the late 1910s, and now just remnants of the old winch house remain.
    The hike now moved inland and climbed quite high into the bush. There were considerable more ascents and descents than yesterday, some quite steep. The cicadas were out in force again, but the mind possesses the wonderful capability of filtering out their random noise. Periodically I would pass through a different type of bush where cicadas preferred not to hang out. The instant silence then was amazingly crushing. All manner of birds were calling in the bush, but I failed to spot any.
Panoramic View of Bark Beach      (please use scroll bar)

Taking a Breather on the Track
    I passed a German family with two young children. It was good to see young families out enjoying these simple pleasures, and the kids seemed delighted as they ran ahead. Mam was not, and kept calling them back - a wise precaution since drops of many tens of metres fell away steeply by the track, and there are no barriers. They stopped to let me pass. "Danke!" I uttered as I passed. "Gerne," they replied.
    Soon I found myself dropping down towards Bark Bay. This was once home to Timothy Huffman and his sons, who arrived in 1870. To survive, they gathered beech and rimu bark, which they sold to the tanning industry in Nelson. I guess that is how the bay got its name. They stayed until 1904, and the redwoods they planted still remained. A single bach stood on the beach. The skipper had told us that the DOC are keen to eradicate them from the park, and once the owner dies, it will be pulled down.
    I tucked into some of my provisions on the beach, and then headed back inland towards Torrent Bay. Again the track climbed high into the bush. Being one more step removed from Marahau, there were less people using this upper section of track. The sun was bright now, and I was glad I had brought plenty of water with me. There was not a breathe of wind in the bush, and it was just the slight breeze created over my body by my movement through the air that kept me cool. If I stopped for any reason, the heat was noticeable.
    Many twists and turns, ups and downs, and clear streams later, I descended down into Torrent Bay. I was over an hour early, so I joined umpteen others in sitting on the sand, chilling out, and waiting for our own particular water taxi to turn up. As each boat turned up, a group would walk out across the sands, carrying their shoes, and wade out to their taxi.
    Our boat was full to the hilt when it left the beach and our skipper wasted no time at all in winding the revs up and hurtling us along at great speed back to base, a huge feather of spray shadowing us all the way.
    My two days hiking along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track had been exhilarating. If I could have driven up to Totaranui, I might have considered hiking yet another section of this great track, but sadly that option was no longer available. I reckon hiking 60% of the track gave me a good flavour of what it had to offer.

...... previous day next day ......
Abel Tasman Coastal Track Nelson

Uploaded from i-Site, Nelson on 7th February at 10:20

Last updated 6.2.2012