The plan; 4 adventurers, 5 days, 2 Great Walks
We hatched a plan sometime back in the winter when we were craving sunshine and adventure. Not that we don’t always have adventures but this one was special. We wanted to do the Heaphy Track but thought that once we had paid to get down there we might as well also fit in the Abel Tasman and get our plane flight money’s worth! The way the hut availability went meant that we needed to do Abel Tasman first and then Heaphy. The way that the flights worked out meant that we needed to travel down on a Saturday morning and come back the following Friday. A bit of a squeeze but we thought we could do it. We are fit and used to walking/running long distances.
Sunday morning saw us waiting for the HeaphyBus to take us to Marahau and the start of the Abel Tasman. It was a beautiful day, we were ready to rumble. We had decided to get a good 10km under our belts before stopping for ‘Hobbit’s Breakfast’. This was going to be a long day as our destination was the Awaroa Hut 35km away.
Apple Tree Bay proved to be a beautiful spot to break for food. A cheeky seagull seemed to think that he needed some too! We found some shade and whilst the sea beckoned, I resisted as I didn’t want to get sandy and salty so early on in our walk! The weather was due to turn to rain by the evening so a swim was definitely planned for later in the day! Unfortunately, Amie already had a blister on her wee pinkie. This was unexpected as she is used to walking in her boots and doesn’t usually get blisters. She dressed it and we carried on.
On we went, tummies and hearts full. What a beautiful place to be! Stunning views at every bend, birdsong, sweet smells of blossoms and great companions. Between Anchorage and Bark Bay we took a wee side trip up to Cleopatra’s Pool. Another inviting swimming spot in freshwater but pretty chilly. We wished we had more time to linger but we decided it was better to get a few more kms done before stopping for lunch.
We crossed the Falls River by way of the 47m long swingbridge and carried on through lush forest. We were entertained on the way by quail and weka as well as fantails, tūī and other birds.
Onwards to Torrent Bay where we aimed to have lunch. It was teeming with flies when we went down to the boat ramp to get water from the toilets and look for a lunch spot. So we carried on and came around to another bit of beach that was much more pleasant. We put the stove on to make coffee to go with lunch. Couscous and salami for me with nuts and raisins for dessert. Our friendly seagull seemed to have followed us!
From Torrent Bay to Bark Bay the track climbs up and over headlands, leaving the coast for a while. We could see down into the turquoise blue of the ocean, along the coastline and out to sea. It was so inviting as we sweated it out up those hills. Soon, I promised myself, just a little bit further until we are within striking distance of the hut. I didn’t want to slow everyone down by taking a break to swim. Cheeky weka popped up all over and kept us company.
We descended into Bark Bay and along the beach. Hot and awkward on our feet and Amie was really starting to feel it. Her feet were sore. The weather was starting to close in, the wind came up and the sky darkened. The threatened rain seemed to be on its way earlier than expected. Selfishly, I decided that swim time was going to have to be Tonga Quarry or never! As our pace grew slower, I said to Jo that I’d run on ahead and have my swim while the others came on behind. Jo came with me and then Paula and Amie carried on over to Awaroa as I got changed. It was a wee bit chilly as the wind was quite strong by now but once in the water it was lovely. I splashed about for a bit and then went to the freshwater stream to rinse off and get dressed. The beach at Tonga Quarry has shifted a bit since that fateful Christmas Day when Aonghas was helicoptered out after scalding himself. The stream was very low and may well have not been enough to cool his burns now as we did then.
Paula and Amie had about a 20 minute headstart on us so Jo and I set off at a good pace to try to get to Awaroa Lodge not too long after them. We were still looking forward to beer and pizza! Up and over from Tonga Quarry to Onetahuti Beach was not as far as I remember but that trudge along the beach seemed to go on forever! Somehow the relentless climb up from the beach and over to Awaroa had been erased completely from my memory but maybe that’s because I’ve only ever been down it!
Finally, we made it but sadly too late for pizza! We went into the luxurious Awaroa Lodge to look at the menu but decided the food was a bit rich for us after a day’s walking. We found a space outside in what ended up being the last of the sun for the day. Beer and bread and dips with chips went down well though!
It was hard getting moving again but it had to be done. Only 3km to go but it was slow going and we’d forgotten that we would have to cross the stream. We spent some time trying to find the narrowest part to avoid getting our feet wet but by now the rain had set in and it really made little difference! Those last few kms were done with heads down, one foot in front of the other at snail pace!
It was good to see the hut and walk through the doors! We were the last to arrive and had to find 4 beds in amongst the bodies already collapsed on the bunks; we slotted in where we could, Paula joined the collapsed ones and the three of us set to tending blisters then making tea!
Up and out early as we have to be at Wainui by 1.30pm for the shuttle. The tide times fell nicely for us as it was at its lowest at 6.45. We opted to wade across in jandals which was ok apart from the muddy sections when jandals stuck and the pull between my toes added to the grittiness was a tad painful! I remember last time I crossed the estuary I wore my walking sandals which was much better!
We took the time to clean and dry our feet carefully and thoroughly on the other side before continuing. We made steady progress and were soon at Goats Bay. We had already shed our rain jackets as there wasn’t enough rain and it was quite warm. Now the sun was trying to sneak through the clouds. We were aiming to get to Anapai Bay before stopping for second breakfast which was about 10km. Amie trooped on at a reasonable click despite her sore feet and on the whole our spirits were high. We were, however, starting to wonder whether we were going to be able to do the Heaphy given the state of Amie’s feet and the impending weather conditions. Totaranui was our first gauge of the progress we were making – well under the 2h20 suggested by DoC and on target for shuttle pick up.
The section from Tõtaranui to Anapai provides a change of scenery and flora and the grey started to lighten. The lower level bush is softer but also more dense and despite the sun trying to break through, it was quite chilly.
The track over to Mutton Cove and then onwards to Whariwharangi where we had scheduled our last stop rose up again and we had beautiful views down to the places we had left and glimpses of places we were yet to arrive at!
Whariwharangi is a beautiful beach with huge pines behind it. The hut here is an old homestead with an interesting chimney. We stopped briefly for a snack but decided that we’d rather just push on. One more hill – the biggest on the trail – and then it was all down hill to Wainui. Just 5.7km to go! We had built this climb up to be more than it was! In the end it didn’t seem so bad and we found ourselves looking down at Wainui before we knew it!
The problem with being able to see your destination is that it seems a long time coming. And so it was! But eventually we saw the waharoa marking the start and the end of the walk. We made it but not without sacrifice; Amie’s feet were a mess and there was a severe weather warning out for the next two days so later that evening we reluctantly made the decision to review our plan to walk the Heaphy Track. Plan B was put into operation!