Mish: Impossible Part II

There’s something to be said for going to bed and rising with the sun. Anytime I’m camping or hiking I’m always struck buy how much more natural it feels to sync your sleep schedule with daylight hours. When the sun goes down and you start to run out of card games to play, it feels so normal to head to bed around 8 or 9pm. An early bedtime on Day 1 made the 7am wake up call on Day 2 much easier. We left the hut at 7:30am sharp since it was an estimated five hour walk from Anchorage Bay to Onetahuti Bay, where a water taxi would be waiting at 12:30pm.

Perks of an early departure included a few quiet moments making the first footprints on the pristine golden sand of Anchorage Bay beach as the sun painted pale pink and orange streaks along the clouds that swept across the morning sky. It was one of those times I had to pause, take a breath, and say to myself, “YOOOOO! You're in NEW ZEALAND!” And then of course then I had to snap a few pics for Instagram, like the one below.

Morning light at Anchorage Bay. Pretty freaking picturesque.

Being a coastal track, the Abel Tasman Great Walk splits off into two routes at various places along the way to accommodate for both low and high tide conditions. With no tidal charts in tow (or even maps, actually) the only thing left to rely upon was pure backcountry instinct--good thing I've watched like two whole episodes of Man vs. Wild. The tide was low, and appeared to still be on its way out, so we opted for the significantly shorter low tide track. This cut about an hour off of the hike time, but also led to a couple of tidal river crossings. Remember how your mom always told you to bring a second pair of socks when you go, well, anywhere? Low tide tracks are the reason why. Moms always know best.

Just another peek-a-boo view on the Abel Tasman track.

While coastal tracks always bring the risk of wet feet and uncertainty of tide times, they also deliver some of the most consistent epic views of any tramping terrain. And, you get those views for less work than most other terrains demand. The elevation gain was only slight, and the larger hills never lasted for very long. On a coastal track you can be sure that you’re never very far from the next sweeping ocean view, at each turn there seems to be another lookout point. Don’t get me wrong, it was still tiring. By the time Onetahuti Beach peeked out from the gaps in the trees, I was ready for lunch and a nap, which worked out well because we reached the beach with about an hour to spare. One thing to note about pretty much any of the tramping signs in New Zealand: if you’re relatively fit and able-bodied, it’s generally safe to assume you’ll beat the estimated walking times.

The first views of Onetahuti Beach, the final destination.

The views are undeniably stunning, but in my opinion, the best part of this track is its adaptability and accessibility. Depending on your trip time restraints and fitness level you can choose to hike, kayak, or even just take a water taxi to any section of the track. The first time I went to Abel Tasman on the Kiwi Experience bus in January, Mary and I took a water taxi in, hiked for about an hour, and then caught a catamaran that leisurely sailed us back to the start. This time, the trip was split between two days, one kayaking and one hiking (otherwise known as arm day and leg day, respectively)

With leg day behind us, we hopped on the water taxi back to Marahau. Personally, I found it pretty satisfying to watch the lush green coastline fly by and see how much ground we covered in two days. Of course, the water taxi covered all of it in the span of about 25 minutes, which also makes you grateful for modern technology and transportation. 

By the early afternoon Abel Tasman was fading in the rearview mirror and Lil' Beezy (my car's name, see Mish Part I for nomenclature) was chugging her way slowly over Takaka Hill to push westward towards Golden Bay. Takaka Hill is a serious long haul of a hill that rewards those brave little Subarus who climb it with some pretty epic views of Kahurangi National Park and Tasman Bay. At a sweet lookout at the top of the hill I got to switch my perspective and look across the bay at Nelson city--usually I'm looking at those same mountains from my bedroom window on the other side.

As soon as you crest the Takaka Hill you get the distinct sense that you're entering the true edges of Kiwi civilization; you start to pass fewer and fewer cars, and more and more livestock; somehow it even feels quieter on the west side of the hill. Takaka itself is a cute little hippie town, with a population under 1,200 people and definitely way more sheep than humans.

Now when I say hippie town I mean the real deal original hippies, the kind with long gray hair who probably took a few too many tabs of acid back in the day and now live in caravans and rent out their beachside houses to tourists willing to pay a pretty penny for a night in the middle of nowhere. I'm pretty sure someone also told me there's a commune in the area, but even if I'm just imagining that, it's the kind of place that you would expect someone to start a commune, or a nudist colony, or an illicit plant-growing operation. You get the idea.

So unless you're into that kind of lifestyle Takaka is probably the kind of place you pass through for one night. Our AirBnb host gave us three or four restaurant suggestions (I’m fairly certain there are less than ten total dining establishments in the whole of Takaka) and we ended up at Roots Bar. It was nothing too special, but it was a cozy indoor-outdoor bar, and the perfect place to chill out and grab a well-deserved post-hike burger and beer (As I've mentioned before, I hike 90% for the post-hike beer, and I guess the other 10% is for the physical activity and views.)

With a happy belly full of burger and beer, and 22,000 steps logged in the pedometer I crashed hard that night. Good thing too, because Day 3 was, shall we say, shocking. I'll leave it at that, Mish Impossible: Part III is coming soon!

In the meantime, here's to hills, hippies, and hefeweizen!