So much for this campsite not being crowded. After we had already gotten into the tent, a huge family arrived from somewhere (I can’t imagine where given the hour) and started pitching camp in the next spot over. I couldn’t see them, but based on the talking (loud and incessant) there must have been eight to ten of them. There was even another crying baby. It took a while to fall asleep that night. I thought back to when we arrived at the second hut on the Milford Track back in November. A group of fellow twenty somethings were talking rather animatedly on the hut porch. The hut warden came over and advised them to speak quietly. Since we were out in nature, not in a busy city, there was no need to yell everything. We could also enjoy the sounds of the birds more that way. The thought stuck with me, but it was a far cry (heh heh) from that situation on this night.
Eventually I did sleep and just like that it was time to get up for breakfast. Today we had to cross the Awaroa Inlet which could only be done within about two hours of low tide. There was no high tide track, so if we missed low tide we’d have to wait another ten hours or so. Not that there was much chance of us missing it. Low tide was around 9:30 that day, and the crossing started right after the campsite.
Even though it was almost exactly low tide when we started the crossing, there were some areas with streams running through that were about knee deep. We swapped our boots for sandals and set off across the swampy sand. We hit a particularly mucky patch, the kind that clings to your shoes and makes a sucking sound when you pull your foot free to step forward. I powered ahead, as Alana complained about her flip flops getting stuck in the mud.
I’m sure I had something smart to say in response, but as I turned around to say it the sand clung to my left sandal so tightly that when I next lifted my foot the straps tore clean off of the sole. I forgot whatever it was I was about to say. That’s what I get for not being more sympathetic to Alana’s plight. I went barefoot the rest of the way, which really wasn’t bad apart from a few areas where the sand was covered in a carpet of shells. We made it across without any further incident.
There was a huge group of guided walkers doing the crossing at the same time. It was their smell that identified them, or the lack thereof. These people had all definitely showered in the past forty eight hours. They reached the end before us, and despite our best efforts to overtake them, they still started up the trail ahead of us. We followed along behind them at a painfully slow pace (I guess I can’t complain after the last post though). Fortunately it wasn’t long until the guide stopped them for a talk and we were able to squeeze through the perfume scented press.
We soon crested our first hill of the day. The Abel Tasman trail is more or less a series of alternating hills and beaches. The beach on the other side of this hill was really beautiful. The white gold sand seemed to glow and the clear blue waves sparkled in the sun. The dark green forest rose sharply opposite the ocean. And we were all by ourselves. It would have been nice to stop and hang out for a while, but we continued on up and over the next hill to an even bigger beach. It was remarkably similar to the previous one, but increased in scale. There were some large rocks sticking out of the sand here and there. We made our way across the sand, savoring the longer break before our next hill.
This hill was steeper than the previous two. Even though the trail never continued upward nearly as long as any of the other Great Walks we’d done, due to the higher temperature I think this was by far the most I’d sweated on any of them. The trail eventually turned downward and the breeze picked up. I breathed a sigh of relief at the respite from the heat. The next stop on the trail was another departure from our Great Walk norm: Totaranui Village.
The word campsite isn’t quite adequate to describe the sprawling city of tents, cars, RVs, campervans, caravans, and trailers. Totaranui is capable of hosting a whopping 850 campers, most of whom are just there for a weekend of car camping by the ocean. A wide dirt road (also our trail through the camp) is flanked on one side with a series of large grassy parking lots. These are filled with all of the above mentioned camping abodes in every size (though decidedly skewed towards the large, oversized variety). It put the palace tents of the first nights campsite to shame. Needless to say, we didn’t linger here any longer than necessary.
We paused briefly to look at a map and saw that there was another low tide crossing at the opposite end of the camp. We still had about half an hour in which to make it. There was a high tide track as well, so it wasn’t essential, but we decided to go for it anyway. We quickly made our way down the trail (road) through Totaranui, dodging cars and cyclists the whole way.
When we got to the crossing at the other end there were a few streams of ankle deep water running across our path. Alana (with her newly purchased high-ankle-support boots) decided to forgo any change of footwear and just wade on through. Turns out that her boots had decent water proofing as well. I (in my several year old, ankle high, worn down boots) decided to take a more circuitous route, hopping from one sand bar to the next.
At the very end of the crossing there was one stream that was just too wide to jump across. Fortunately there was a log spanning almost the entire width, barely an inch below the water. I wasn’t about to just jump on any old log though, so I reached out with one foot and tested it to make sure it was stable and wouldn’t sink down any farther. It passed my test, so I carefully stepped out, gently placing one foot in front of the other. I made it across and had made it almost completely over to the other side when my foot slipped and I ended up with both feet in the stream, water running right over the tops to fill them up. I was none too pleased as I stepped my sopping wet boots up onto the dry sand, though Alana found the whole thing endlessly amusing. Next time, I’ll just take my boots off again.
We had two more hills to climb over before we reached our campsite. At an estimated total of five and a half hours, this would be the longest day of our trip. They were still relatively small hills (not that that makes it seem any easier in the moment). We continued on, wet boots and all, eventually arriving at a tunnel through some trees and bush that led right to the campsite. I took my boots of right away, but it had gotten cloudy and looked like rain. So much for drying them out.
We set up the tent before heading down to the beach. The clouds were growing heavier and a strong wind was gusting in from the ocean, driving large waves crashing into the beach. I thought about taking another dip, but the rough surf and cold temperature dissuaded me. It wasn’t getting any warmer, so we headed back to the campsite. After we returned it started raining, so we spent the afternoon staying dry in the tent.
This campsite didn’t have a cooking shelter (all the others did, basically a roof over some sinks and tables), so when it was time for dinner we set up our canister stove outside of the tent and I squatted under a flap to hold the pot in place. We had boil-in-bag noodles that night so I only needed to say out for the five minutes it took to heat them up. Some curious weka (New Zealand flightless bird) must have smelled our food and kept peeking in our tent, only to dash off as soon as we so much as looked in its direction. By the time we finished eating the rain had let up enough for us to go out to rinse our pots and use the toilet before turning in for the night.
While the weather wasn’t much fun, everyone hiding inside their tents made for a very quiet campsite, and as we were going to bed we were serenaded by some very unique sounding birds.