Monday, April 21, 2014

Long Walks on the Beach

First, we stopped in Nelson to resupply. Nelson was the biggest city we had seen on South Island, at a whopping 45,000 people. We arrived on a Saturday night and began what turned out to be a frantic hunt for a hostel-- eleven hostels later we learned that Nelson is popular on Saturday nights. Just after we had resigned ourselves to hiking a mile or two outside of town to camp for the night, we decided to stop in at one last hostel, where the proprietor told us that the couple who reserved the matrimonial suite hadn't shown up. Perfect! What a honeymoon! (It would have been the sketchiest honeymoon ever...but we were grateful for a place to lay our heads).The next day, we went for a hike in the hills above Nelson (I know, I know-- we're addicted)

and down to a brewery (Founders), where we enjoyed a tasty refreshment.

And then on to another brewery (Stoke), for another tasty refreshment.

One day and one job interview later, we began our hike-- four nights on the Abel Tasman Track, two on the inland track and two on the coastal track. Things started out beautifully:

And we promptly began an ascent,

up to Holyoke Shelter, the smallest place we stayed in at just two bunks-- cozy and well-built.

We were excited to take in the view from the shelter, but fifteen minutes after we arrived, clouds abruptly rolled in (what is this, San Francisco?) and that was the last we saw of the sun for 36 hours.

The next day, we hiked in the clouds all day, arrived at a full hut (full of loud Aussies), and spent an oppressively hot night in the upper bunks: 12 bodies + a fire in the stove + hot air rising = sweltering. Things quickly got more enjoyable the next day:

Blue skies and sweet views. We hiked over a saddle and then down 1,500 feet to the Whariwharangi Hut for lunch. From there we began the world famous coastal part of the trek. And wow.

We hiked down to Separation Point to take in the views and the seals! You can just barely make one out between the rocks in this photo (maybe).


And of course:

Although Jared was supposed to wait until after I parted the sea to take the photo. Oh well- hats off to him anyways.

Even better, we then hiked down to our campsite at Mutton Cove Beach, where we had an entire beach to share with just one other group. One advantage of huts is that people tend to be funneled into them-- the huts are completely full basically every night; meanwhile we had a whole beach practically to ourselves. The view from camp:

After setting up camp, we took a walk over to the nearby cove where found a seal pup! Aww! (we kept our distance-- apparently parents will abandon pups if people get too close). Still adorable.

We even had a romantic swing in camp.

Did I mention that the view was sweet?

It would have perfect if it weren't for the sand flies. Still worth it though. The next morning we hiked along more beaches,

until we were stopped by the infamous Awaroa Tidal Crossing-- a tidal inlet that can only be crossed one and half hours each side of low tide (and there's no way around!). Dun dun dun.

You can see some specks crossing in the photo above. With this much water (see below), it's clear why you wouldn't want to be here at high tide...

That afternoon we encountered a pleasant surprise when we came across a "Cold Beer" sign. Uhhh....yes please? It turns out that there is a resort inholding tucked into the national park and not shown on any official maps. One ice cold beer later, we continued the day's theme: walking on beaches.

That night we stayed at Bark Bay Hut, a crowded sand-fly infested hut in the middle of the trek. We still met some cool people at least (including an eccentric former economics professor from Ole Miss). We also began to hear ominous word of Cyclone Lusi, supposed to bear down on New Zealand the next evening...

We had one more night camping booked, but after discussing things with the ranger, we decided to hoof it and back to the trailhead the next day. Our campsite that could have been...

At least we got a few more good views on the way out.

Unfortunately, after getting to Nelson that afternoon we remembered it was Saturday night again. Doh. 

After six hostels we managed to find a place that would let us pay to camp out back. So, just to be clear, we hiked out to avoid camping in a cyclone on the trail....and ended up camping in a Cyclone in Nelson instead. Luckily, the rain held off Saturday night, and we merely had to put up with the incessant flapping of the tent in 40 mph winds. Thwackawackawackawacka...

The next day we (wisely) had a hostel booked. And it was a nice place too. Sadly, the washer broke just after we started our laundry, so I ended up carrying 80 pounds of soaking wet clothes a half mile to the nearest laundromat. Oh, and did I mention that Cyclone Lusi had arrived? It was POURING. It was a bit surreal.

The next day we were up early to catch our shuttle to our final backpacking destination (sad face), the spectacular Nelson Lakes National Park:

Stay tuned!

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