I’ve been wanting to make it up to Abel Tasman National Park, located at the North end of the South Island, for a long time now. A few weeks ago we realized we didn’t have much time left to make it there. So Wednesday morning we piled into our little car and started making our way out of Dunedin. We didn’t get very far through the hills before the car began overheating and smoking. We got a tow back into town and ended up having to sell it for parts.
We used what little money we got from the car to pay for a rental car for the week, so Wednesday afternoon we began our six hour drive to Kaikoura. We had originally planned to have some time to see Kaikoura and kayak with dolphins, but because of our little delay we got there just in time to go to sleep. The other car rolled a couple hours behind us, we were surprised they made it at all! It was a very last minute decision for them to come with us.
We left early in the morning to finish the drive up and took a quick detour down to Split Apple Rock while we were waiting for the other car to catch up. We reserved campsites and a boat ride back to the start of the track for 3 days later.
We split up our tents and group food into all of our packs and minimized our clothing as much as possible, but our packs were still stuffed to the brim and weighed a ton. We were told there was water at the start of the track we could fill up our water bottles with so we waited to fill them up until then. I turned the faucet on and let the water run into my bottle and found just one little problem. It was brown and clearly needed to be boiled or filtered before drinking. I dumped it out, but later we got so thirsty while we were hiking that we filled up our water bottles in a cold stream. It tasted delicious. And no viruses or diseases were contracted.
We set out on our hike mid-afternoon on Thursday happy and energetic. We had 25.7 miles to cover in 3 days. The first day we hiked in about 4 hours to an amazing campsite on a beautiful sandy beach in a calm bay. We were all ridiculously unprepared for camping in the wilderness, but somehow we managed. We all sat around a campfire that night telling stories. It was such a fun group to hang out with, full of laughter.
The second day was much longer, we were on trail for 8 very long hours. The trail was incredible, we walked along cliffs, through the rainforest, past waterfalls and streams, and descended onto countless beautiful sandy beaches. It was coming back up from the beaches that was the problem…
One of the climbs up from the beach to get back onto the cliffs was never ending. At every turn I thought “this one has to be the end” but it just never was. That was the only truly miserable one, but having a huge pack on your back sure makes everything a little more difficult.
We decided to take the low tide track through one bay even though it wasn’t quite low tide yet and ended up having to wade through some pools to get across. It was nice to have such a big group so we could switch up who we were walking with and talk with everyone. We all collapsed when we finally made it to the campsite that night only to get attacked by more sandflies. We went to bed early that night since fires weren’t allowed and we had to get up so early the next morning.
For our last day on trail we had to be up at 5am to cross the tidal flat at low tide. Luckily our campsite was right on the edge of the flat so we woke up, packed everything up in the dark and headed out as fast as we could with our blisters throbbing in cold, wet boots. The sun began to rise as we ran through the leftover pools of freezing cold water.
We hiked a couple more hours to the pick up point for the boat and arrived about 4 hours early. We hung out in a shelter by the beach to hide from the sandflies and played games and ate our leftover food until the boat arrived. We stuffed our huge group onto the little tiny boat and shoved off.
We immediately spotted a seal swimming in the waves and then a minute later we stopped to watch a feeding pod of dolphins. They cruised in and out of the waves with their babies all around while birds dove into the water to fighting for the fish. It was an incredible site. We also saw a penguin bobbing in the waves all alone.
We jumped in our car and drove as fast as we could back to Kaikoura on the curvy highway. We were showered, fed, and asleep in the hostel by 9pm that night.
With the semester wrapping up, I’m so glad we found the time to take such an amazing trip. I feel so lucky to be in New Zealand this semester and to have such amazing opportunities at my fingertips. Now that we don’t have a car it’s a little more tricky to plan trips, but I’ve had so many amazing adventures already and there really isn’t that much time left. So, we’ll just have to wait and see where the rest of the semester takes me!