Sunday, 29 April 2018

Inland Track, Abel Tasman National Park...kind of....20-21st April 2018 aborted attempt at the Inland Track in the Abel Tasman...

I've been wanting to get back up to the Abel Tasman National Park for a while now. After walking the Coastal Great Walk last year I was really keen to complete my explorations by tramping the lesser known Abel Tasman Inland Track

The side track to the Abel Tasman Inland Track above Anchorage

The Inland Track is Abel Tasman National Parks lesser known and less visited cousin...the tracks are hardier, the people more scarce with older and smaller huts.

Beautiful Kaiteriteri beach the day before the walk
I finally decided to just do it and quickly organised my self and my gear for a foray into the park a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately my plans hit a snag when at the end of the first day I re-injured an old Achilles complaint and had to turn for I give you my aborted attempt to walk the Inland Track.

View towards Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds from Kaiteriteri beach
I stayed in Kaiteriteri the night before the tramp so I didn't have to start driving at 1 am in the morning to catch the water taxi at 9 am.

Day One: Marahau to Totaranui

My plan was to catch the Aquataxi from Marahau to Totaranui camp ground, I would then walk the Abel Tasman Inland Track in reverse order and end the trip with a night at Anchorage Hut. From there a water taxi woud take me back to Marahau.

 As I stated before things didn't quite work out that way.

Little Kaiteriteri Beach from the near the camp ground

As usual I started with a water taxi ride from Marahau, on the way north we visited a number of points along the coastline and covered in an hour what I was expecting to cover in three days of tramping.

Approaching Split Apple Rock in Towers Bay, Abel Tasman NP in the background

Split Apple Rock with its resident Shag colony, Abel Tasman NP

...yes, it is a rock that has split in half....Abel Tasman NP

Split Apple is actually quite big, Abel Tasman NP

Beautiful weather at Totaranui when I arrived, it gradually deteriorated over the rest of the day but I managed to get to Awapoto Hut on the Inland Track without getting wet so that was a positive. Still a lot of tourists and other assorted people in the park but it was the school holidays so I wasn't surprised. Almost all of them were on the Great Walk of course...

My Aqua taxi unloads passengers at Totaranui Beach, Abel Tasman National Park

Golden Totaranui Beach, the Abel Tasman Great Walk heads that way...

The Abel Tasman Inland Track:Totaranui to Awapoto Hut via the Gibbs Hill Track

The Gibbs Hill tracks starts at the front door of the DOC visitor centre in Totaranui, it goes down the camp ground access road before heading into the hills which back this part of the coast. The first flat part of the track is good as it gives you some warm up time before the hill climb begins.

On the Totaranui camp-ground road heading for Gibbs Hill, on the Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP

Map: Totaranui to Pigeon Saddle

Gibbs Hill Track starts out as a 4 W/D track at Totaranui, Abel Tasman NP

Raupo Swamp alongside the Gibbs Hill track, Abel Tasman NP

An extremely fat Weka waddles past me on the Gibbs Hill Track

The Gibbs Hill track is an off shoot of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track to Whariwharangi Hut. The northern end of the Abel Tasman Coast Track is currently closed as one of the cyclones last month damaged sections of the track between Anapai Bay and Mutton Cove.

Map: Anapai to Whariwharangi Hut...damaged track is highlighted

For the foreseeable future, if you want to visit the northern end of Abel Tasman NP you need to come in from Wainui or go up and over Gibbs Hill to get there.

Start of the Abel Tasman Coast Track to Whariwharangi

Excellent Great Walk style track heading to Whariwharangi
As you can see there was a clear sign explaining the damage to the Coast Track near the turn off to the Inland Track. Climbing up and over Gibbs Hill only adds about an hour to the trip but is a LOT more difficult than the gentle coastal route. The track is steep, muddy and rough in places, not Great Walk quality at all.

Notice warning of the closure of the Coastal Track at Anapai Bay

Not a Great Walk Track...the lesser used track to Gibbs Hill...

Gibbs Hill is just to the right of centre in the photo below, at 400 meters asl it is not big but the track takes a while to get there as it zig-zags slowly up the ridge to the top.

Gibbs Hill is to the middle right of this photo...

You start getting some nice views of the coast from half way to the top of Gibbs Hill.

View down to Totaranui from the Gibbs Hill Track

View towards Awaroa Head from the Gibbs Hill Track

The Gibbs Hill track is actually an access road for the power lines snaking down to Totaranui, once you get near the top of the ridge the climb gets a lot easier.

The reason for the Gibbs Hill Track... power lines heading for Totaranui

Once at the top of the track you go left for the Inland Track and Pigeon Saddle, right to head to Whariwharangi. Once I turned off for the Inland Track the only people I saw for the next 16 hours were a lone kiwi hunter and a trio of young Kiwi trampers I encountered just before I reached Awapoto Hut.

There are very few people walking the Inland Track, all the action is down on the coast for the obvious reasons: flat tracks, beaches, nice huts and lots of fit looking tourists in their bikinis/budgie smugglers.

Hey...just saying...that's one of the reasons people come up here....

Track junction at Gibbs Hill, Abel Tasman NP

Heading along the power-line corridor towards Pigeon Saddle, Abel Tasman NP

You break out into farmland about 20 minutes past the track junction, from here there is a marked route with awesome views down to Wainui Inlet and north to Golden Bay.

I passed a Kiwi dude out pig hunting along here...dogs and rifle at the ready!

Wainui and Golden Bay from the Abel Tasman Inland Track

Looking down on Wainui Inlet from the Abel Tasman Inland Track

You pop back into the forest for the last 15 minutes walking to Pigeon Saddle, the track immediately turns into a real kiwi tramping track: dark, wet, muddy, overgrown and indistinct. I bet the tourists who venture this way get a real shock when they strike this...a first taste of the next three days. 

The edge of Abel Tasman NP, the Inland Track from farmland abutting it

Real Kiwi tramping...the Abel Tasman Inland Track

Approaching Pigeon Saddle on the Abel Tasman Inland Track

Pigeon Saddle to Awapoto Hut on the Able Tasman Inland Track

After an hour and 45 minutes you finally reach Pigeon Saddle, it is approximately 3-4 hours from here to Awapoto Hut, almost all of it up hill.

Map: Pigeon Saddle to Awapoto Hut, Abel Tasman NP

The entrance to the Abel Tasman Inland Track is very innocuous...probably reflecting the fact that it is not the focus of this National Park. The track climbs to the top of the ridges and then sidles along until you drop back down to the coast further south past Anchorage.

Three more hours to Awapoto Hut, the Abel Tasman Inland Track

Start of the Abel Tasman Inland Track at Pigeon Saddle

It is a slow steady plod to gain height for the first hour and a half, then the gradient evens out a little.

Dense scrub alongside the Abel Tasman Inland Track

You pop out of the bush after an hour or so and have some spectacular views down towards Wainui Inlet and the coast. 

As you can see cloud started to drift in as the day wore on and it was a bit cool with a strong wind blowing up off the Tasman Sea and across the ridge.

View of Wainui Inlet from near Pt. 540 on the Abel Tasman Inland Track

Wider angle shot of Wainui from near Pt. 540, on the Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP

View back along the Abel Tasman Inland Track to Pt. 543 and Gibbs Hill

View of Golden Bay from near Awapoto Hut, the Abel Tasman Inland Track

I was literally 200 meters away from the hut when I tripped over a root and re-injured my left Achilles tendon. I have periodic problems with this since twisting my ankle about 10 years ago, every so often I wrench it and it stops me from tramping for a couple of days-weeks.

In this case it meant I had to make the hard decision to abandon my tramp and head back down to the coast. I still had three hard days of tramping ahead of me with no opportunity to bail out enroute so I really didn't have a choice.

I hobbled the last couple of hundred meters to the hut and took some Ibuprofen and rested my leg for awhile.

Arriving at Awapoto Hut on the Abel Tasman Inland Track

I finally got to Awapoto Hut at around 5 pm just as it was starting to get dark. The hut is very nice, it is a variant of a 1970's Lockwood building, with a porch out the front, and sleeping platforms for 12 people inside. Lots of varnished wood...

I had the hut to myself that night, I hobbled around cutting up wood from the mountain of wind fall around the hut and had a nice fire going for most of the night. The hut is exposed sitting as it does up on the top of a ridge-line so the fire is a god send. 

It got very windy later in the evening and there were a few patches of rain overnight but I was quite snug inside the hut.

The scenic toilet views at Awapoto Hut, on the Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP
There is plenty of firewood around the hut, a wind event a couple of years ago has blown over most of the trees and provided wood for the next decade at least.

 Day Two: Awapoto to Totaranui

After the morning mist cleared away the next morning was a real cracker, beautiful clear weather with only a little cloud in the far distance. It sure gave the hut and its surrounding clearing a totally different look...much brighter and more welcoming.

On the Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP: Awaroa from Awapoto Hut in the pre dawn

Awapoto Hut looking much brighter and cheerful on the second day, on the Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP

Awapoto Hut: view of the sleeping the varnished wood look!

I was able to get enough cell coverage to book myself on a water taxi from Totaranui to Marahau at 2.30 pm, so I had to quickly boogie back down to the camp ground so I was in time for my ride.

I had a breakfast of Absolute Wilderness bacon mash and black tea and started back down the track I had climbed the previous day.

An Absolute Wilderness Bacon Mash packet

Those Absolute Wilderness meals are very fine...

Awaroa Inlet from the clearing surrounding Awapoto Hut, on the Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP
The trip back down to the Pigeon Saddle was much quicker than the previous day. I left the hut a little past 8 am and was standing on the road at Pigeon Saddle by 10.35 so that was approximately 2.5 hours to cover what had required nearly 4 hours the previous day. 

Wainui Inlet from the Abel Tasman Inland Track

The Takaka-Totaranui Road at Pigeon Saddle, on the Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP

Abel Tasman Inland Track terminus on the Takaka-Totaranui Road

I started walking down to Totaranui from the saddle, passing an old derelict road-man's hut on the way. 

The derelict Pigeon Saddle Roadmans Hut, Abel Tasman National Park
After walking for about 20 minutes I was really lucky to snag a lift to the Totaranui camp-ground from a passing German couple. They were on their way to the camp grounds to start walking the Abel Tasman Coast Walk and saved me a good two hours of walking.

The road to Totaranui is gravel but it is in a good state of repair so it was a reasonably nice trip as we  chatted about New Zealand, Germany, tramping and their adventures since coming to New Zealand.

I got to the camp grounds at around noon so I had a couple of hours to wait for my water taxi. I immediately started getting hassled by the local bird life, Pukeko's and Weka.

Judging by their weight they do al-right scavenging from the campers.

One of the Totaranui camp ground residents: Phil the Pukeko

Phil the Pukeko makes off after an unsuccessful foray at the Totaranui camp grounds

I set up camp in the Great Walk camp-site kitchen and dug into the rations I didn't need for my defunct trip. I had a tasty Outdoor Gourmet Company de hydrated meal (Butter Chicken) and a big mug of Dutch Curry and Rice Cup-o-soup. Both were damn delicious by the way.

I really like those Outdoor Gourmet meals, I've had five menus so far and they are all top quality...much nicer than the more pedestrian Backcountry Cuisine range.

Cooking lunch in the Totaranui Great Walk kitchen shelter

My Totaranui lunch: Outdoor Gourmet Butter Chicken and Maggi Curry and Rice soup

I also took the opportunity to set up my Copper Spur UL 1 tent to give it an airing and to take a couple of photos. I inflated my air mattress and had a lie-down and read my book for a couple of hours away from the sand flies.

My Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 set up in the Totaranui camp grounds

My Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 set up in the Totaranui camp grounds

Close up of my Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 set up in the Totaranui camp grounds

Totaranui camp grounds: Pierre the Pukeko tries his luck too....

This dude below is the resident king pin of the Weka mafia at the Totaranui camp grounds. He spent most of the afternoon seeing off intruders on his patch....I was looking at Woderick here and thinking...hmmmmm...lots o' good eating there!

Weka (or Bush-hen) was the primary food source for the early European explorers in New Zealand, there are numerous tales of people lost in the bush surviving just fine eating these buggers.

Isn't he a fine, fat, sleek looking fellow...I bet he would taste good!

Word to the G...his majesty, King Woderick III (aka Weka-Fatboy W) at the Totaranui camp grounds

Map of the northern end of Abel Tasman NP outside the Totaranui camp ground office

The DOC visitor centre at the Totaranui camp ground

The water taxi arrived on time and all 45 people waiting for transport managed to get onto one of the four boats there to collect people. It was an uneventful trip back to Marahau and from there to Christchurch.

Access: Water taxi to Totaranui and then onto the Inland Track via Gibbs Hill Track or various access points at the southern end of the park leading to Rocks Hut and water taxi from Totaranui to Marahau at the end
Track Times: 12-14km's or 4-6 hrs to Awapoto Hut (if starting at Totaranui).
Hut Details: Awapoto Hut: Standard, 12 bunks, wood burner, water tank, toilet;Totaranui camp grounds: various charges (it costs $15 NZ dollars for a camp site in the Great Walks section), cooking shelters, toilets, filtered drinking water
Miscellaneous:The Abel Tasman Inland Track is NOT TO GREAT WALK STANDARD!!! It is closer to a proper kiwi tramping track; steep, muddy and overgrown in places. You require good outdoor equipment and backcountry skills on this track. There are no exit points from the track except at Totaranui/Anchorage/Tinline campsite

A few notes on the trip

 As always, the water taxi service up here is legendary...multiple companies and lots of drop off/collection points. I always go from Marahau but there are also boats from Kaiteriteri if that suits you better.

Kaiteriteri sea shuttle unloading at Torrent Bay, September 2017

The Totaranui camp grounds are awesome, nice flat sites and lots of shelters for cooking in. The water in the camp grounds is filtered so fill up before heading out to Whariwharangi or the Inland Track.

Awapoto Hut is also great...nice views, tidy and comfortable and you could have the fire burning 24 -7-365 and never run out of fire wood because of the numerous wind fallen trees around the hut.

View out across the Totaranui camp grounds from near the entrance to the Great Walk

 I wouldn't recommend walking the Inland Track my is probably better to tramp the track from Marahau to Totaranui. That is the direction most parties will take while on the Inland Track. Although the first day would be longer I don't think the gradient would be as tough with a 3 day pack.

Starting at Marahau means you can start at first light and arrive at Rocks Hut mid afternoon.

Abel Tasman Inland Track, the main entrance point near Tinline camp site

Alternately start at Anchorage climb to the Great Walk Coast Track  and take the side track from there up to Holyoake Clearing.

The section of the Abel Tasman Inland Track I tramped gets three thumbs up on the Jon-o-meter.