The Abel Tasman Track: A Great Walk of New Zealand

I’ve just completed a four-day trek through Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand, along the stunning Abel Tasman Track. I wasn’t going to go all the way to New Zealand for GeyserCon, where I was an author guest, and not fit in some tramping!

We flew into Auckland, sent our convention luggage (books, costumes, normal clothing, etc.) on to Rotorua, and immediately caught a flight for Nelson, where we stayed in a cozy studio (referral link to save $25 anywhere) hosted by the delightful Kate. It was just upon our arrival to Nelson that Jon informed me our cookstove, meant to give us hot food over our four days of late autumn hiking and chilly wading, had also gone on to Rotorua. Oops. Kate was kind enough to give us a 7 am ride to a local store to pick up a cheapo model before our trailhead pickup.

We got a ride into Marahau, a town at the southern edge of the national park, from Abel Tasman Aquataxi. We confirmed the time and location of our next pickup four days later and crossed the street to pick up a local walkway that would lead to the national park entrance.

Obligatory starting selfie.

Our first day from Marahau to our Anchorage hut was 10 miles or 16 km. That was a little further than the map suggested, but it includes our start in Marahou instead of the park trailhead. Unfortunately, that was the only day I had an exact mileage, because I did not expect to have electricity and so did not bring my Garmin’s charger, and it died about two-thirds through our second day.

We actually had plenty of power, though, thanks to our portable solar panel, so our phones stayed fully charged. No signal, of course, so we used them primarily as cameras, but they were cameras with full batteries.

You’ve probably heard of New Zealand’s famous silver fern? Here’s a photo. The bright underside could be used as waymarkers even at night.

Anchorage Hut was the largest we stayed at, and it was nearly full despite the off season. Quite a number of people had boated in instead of hiking or had hiked it but had boats drop off their gear instead of carrying it. Convenient, that.

We had a long way to go on Day 2 and we needed to make a low-tide crossing, so we set out at 6:30 the next morning and watched the sun rise as we walked along the beach.

We crossed a wide estuary while the tide was out, leaving only a few streams of water to ford. Jon stripped his shoes and waded, while I calculated a rush and ended up with only a bit of damp on one foot. Not to worry, there was plenty of wading in my future.

(In the writing biz, we call that foreshadowing.)

Then we walked through a small village of baches (small houses) and began to climb. The Abel Tasman track has exactly two modes, beach and hilltop. Both are lovely, but there are a lot of transitions between them.

We spied some day-hikers being dropped off at a lovely little beach to begin their own trek.

But it was the off season, being late autumn, and so for the most part, we got to enjoy the trail alone, which was fantastic.

We stopped for breakfast, heated in pouches in boiling water (which took a while longer in our replacement stove, but at least we had one), and promptly attracted a weka. Weka always know if there’s food. Always.

And then we had another estuary to cross. Though we’d missed low tide (we hit the first at that time), it looked fairly passable, so we set out.

As you can see, it was almost entirely open! But at the far side, there were two straits of water. They weren’t wide, so we decided it was preferable to cross instead of backtracking and going around, so we waded in.

Oh, hey, in case you wondered, walking through ocean water in lower latitudes a week before the official start of winter is cold.

I’m not proud of this video.

Look, I admit I’m a bit of a wimp about cold water. I was never that kid who loved getting in the unheated pool to swim. But this really was cold! The deepest part was just above my knees, but at least the crossings were relatively short. Still had time to get past numb to that physical-burning-pain of true cold, though. But then we got to start climbing again to more scenic views.

After roughly 16 miles or 26 km, we arrived at Awaroa Hut, smaller than Anchorage and still full, and braced for the big daddy of crossings in the morning.

The Awaroa Inlet can only be crossed within 90 minutes of low tide. I’d planned our entire four days around hitting this one spot at an ideal crossing time. We knew we were going to get wet, and we’d brought shoes to sacrifice so we could have warm, dry feet the rest of the day.

We set out across the 1-kilometer-wide inlet.

My feet went numb about 15 steps into the first water crossing. That was the good part. When feeling came back, further in, it was that deep burning cold pain for which there is no cu