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(Rewinding to April) If there was one place I can say that I loved most in South Island (along with Wanaka), it would be Abel Tasman National Park. Despite it being New Zealand’s smallest national park, I found it to house the most beautiful hiking trails I had ever done (thus far).
Since the national park is pretty remote (no cell service and no other way to reach it other than via the water or walking), I took a water taxi from our campgrounds to Bark Bay. From there, I hiked solo (GLORIOUS SOLITUDE) to Anchorage, which was roughly about three hours nonstop.
The water taxi (basically a mini boat) was a unique experience in itself. We basically had star treatment and got picked up from each of our camp areas, then were dropped off to check in and board the water taxi (which was on a large tractor). From there, the tractor drove us out into the murky water (it basically looked like brown sludge… mosquito heaven), and off we went.
I was toward the back, which meant I was able to get some cool GoPro footage of everything we whizzed by. The scenery, again, was nothing short of extraordinary. We passed red, green and orange foliage in between the usual green thick forestry. Our driver drove us out to a seal colony (Marahau/Kaiteriteri), where we even saw some baby fur seals hopping on the rocks and being lazy. Definitely fed my seal obsession even further.
When we leapt off the boat, we had to trudge through some water in order to reach the beach – and I thought it was fine to hop off in my running shoes. Thus, I hiked for three hours in squishy socks and shoes – resulting in large blisters. It was quite unpleasant. The trail from Bark Bay to Anchorage was clear-cut and easy to keep continuing on and on – not a hard track at all. The trail yielded some spectacular views from above of Sandfly Bay (I steered clear, but apparently it’s not ridden with sandflies after all) and Pinnacle Island. When I reached Torrent Bay, I finally was exposed to another beach (not very stunning, but it was a beach).
But then the worst was ahead.
Apparently, Torrent Bay is home to a low tide crossing – which basically consists of thick, muddy waters and quicksand-like sand. I’m not even kidding. To all travelers who are doing this hike: research the trail before you go. If I had known I was about to get stuck in the mud for a good 30 min, I would have gone the easier path (I believe it’s the Cleopatra’s Pool track). I looked in every other possible direction, but seeing the other hikers ahead of me trudging through, I figured this was the only (and fastest) way to reach Anchorage.
It was a pretty miserable experience, especially with a heavy backpack, sweaty back, and exhaustion. By the time I reached the continuation of the trail to Anchorage (thankfully only 10 min. away), my shoes and socks were caked with mud and my feet were blistering.
I also decided to be more adventurous (or stupid) and hiked another 45 min. in the opposite direction to find Cleopatra’s Pool, since it sounded like a neat photo opp. I passed some more really neat bridges, small waterfalls, and trees, but was ready to give up every time I rounded a corner and there was no signage. It ended up being further out and more hidden than I thought. By the time I finally found it, all I found was a large stream filled with large rocks and orange arrows that clearly pointed to the direction you were supposed to climb the rocks.
Eh, cool, it yielded one or two cool photos, but then I sludged back another 45 min. to Anchorage and was ready to collapse by the time I reached the sand.
The Anchorage Beach was beautiful – either this was the one shown in photos or the weather cleared up during this time and provided the best lighting. I explored some caves toward the edge of the shoreline which was really neat – the sand was so soft and white. Surprisingly different from most NZ beaches I’ve been to before. We stayed on the Aquapackers – a floating backpackers boat, essentially. It was the COOLEST – no seasickness involved at all.
A few of our tour mates talked me into jumping off the top of our boat. Well, I was excited about doing it and climbed up first – but when I got to the top, I kept hesitating. For some reason, I feared slipping and banging my head on the boat.
I ended up jumping twice, but not without the loudest, shrillest, bloody murder-esque screams I’ve probably ever emitted. My nose burned from the water, my feet ached from the slap of the water, and my thighs also felt bruised after the first jump. Either I was a huge pansy or was just falling apart on the 11th day of that tour.
A few of us sat on the front of the boat and watched the sunset again while looking back out to the shore (we were only about 50 ft from the coastline). We were surrounded by the edge of the bay – mountains of green were everywhere.
Again, in that moment, I felt so blessed – to be on that boat, to be in South Island, to be experiencing some of the most beautiful places ever known to the world. Again, I felt infinite. I was incredibly content.
It was our final night in South Island on that boat – and we celebrated with a bang as pirates. Thanks for all the memories, guys.