Disclaimer: This post wasn’t in the slightest bit sponsored, unfortunately. (I did get a hot lunch on our flight to Enzed but I think everyone got one.)
We enjoyed our New Year’s 2016 in one of my favourite places on the planet; Abel Tasman National Park, on NZ’s South Island. Unlike our previous South Island beach holiday destinations it’s right at the northern end, and a lot of its appeal lies in the fact that it has more sunny days (and therefore less hail, storms and freezing cold) than anywhere else in New Zealand!
The Gold Coast of Enzed? Not exactly; there is sun, golden sands and rainforest but the wild life’s a bit different – Abel T’s is more the fur seal and little blue penguin variety as opposed to the schoolies and toolies that migrate to the GC. (I’m kidding! I kid! Come on down to our beautiful Gold Coast, bring the whole family.)
We rented a bach (holiday house) in Mapua, about halfway between Nelson and the entrance to the national park at Kaiteriteri and had a fantastic outdoorsy holiday with the boys. As I’ve mentioned, the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (ATCT) is one of Enzed’s nine Great Walks (a tenth will be opened by 2019) and one of the reasons it’s so great is because it’s so accessible – perfect for day trips! We went via Wilson’s water taxi and cruiser to Tonga Quarry for an easy walk to Medlands Beach; a distance of a bit over 4km. Totally manageable for a 7 year old and just-about-5 year old! Easy peasy! …Right?
We boogsed seats up the front because you get more air time there. Our first stop was to see the egg of a (nice) sea monster.
We also stopped by Adele Island, which has been cleared of introduced predators and is being used by Project Janszoon with the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, the Department of Conservation (DoC), local iwi and the community to help reverse human impacts on the park’s ecology and reintroduce and protect native species. Nice one! Our boat was one of several operated by the Wilson family (locals since 1841!) and part of every ticket sold goes towards funding these programmes.
As we crossed the ‘Mad Mile’ the swell grew and our speedboat bounced across it, sending up plumes of spray at every impact. The boys loved it, yelling out ‘SICK!’ and laughing as they slid all over the seats. c/- Rory: “This boat would make a good plane Mum!” We passed Monkey Rock – I couldn’t see a monkey. It looked more like Darth Vader to me, or maybe Dark Helmet. Our skipper reckoned it looked like a womble. (Don’t let Darth hear you say that!) We hopped onto a larger cruiser at Anchorage, which dropped us at Tonga Quarry for the start of our walk.
Right, let’s go! Toilet: check! Suncream: check! Hats: check! Rory’s shoes… shit.
We left his shoes in the car! We’d got on the boats barefoot and each of us thought the other had them. D’OH. Roars wasn’t worried, was in fact quite chuffed he didn’t have to wear shoes, being a bogan and all. Luckily for us the ATCT is a very well made Great Walk and could possibly be the flattest, easiest, least rocky/gravelly/rooty/prickly tramp in Enzed. Spectacular parenting fail redeemed by the spectacular work of DoC! Woohoo!
This optimism lasted as far as halfway up the first hill, when Finn said it was boring and Rory said he was sooo tired. GAH! You were happily running around on the beach 5 minutes ago! I told them that we were nearly to the top, and that we’d be going downhill again very soon. Finn grumbled “Why are we even going up it then?”
Finn, after about ten minutes: “I hate tramping! I hate walking!” moan, whinge, etc.
I asked him if he hated cricket too… he said no of course; he’s a fiend for it at the moment. I asked him if he’d feel better if he was holding his cricket bat (which Daddy was carrying in case of emergency innings) and he said yes he would. And like magic the bitching stopped!
I warned him not to hit any plants or the path as this was a national park – he didn’t, but as he walked along he practised a few shots. On one backswing he nearly hit my camera, as well as my face which was right next to it. I reminded him he wasn’t allowed to damage anything in the national park, and since I was in the national park that included me. He asked what about him? And I said well don’t hit yourself with the cricket bat either. The boys thought this was hilarious.
As we walked through the peaceful, green dappled sunlight, the boys chilled out a bit and practised their conversation skills.
Finn: “Do trees like it when they hit themselves?”
Rory: “Does it hurt trees when people call them names?”
Finn: “Mummy, how special is Mr. Abbott?”
Rory: “A pickle, standing on a pretzel, and a teapot in a tree, and a pretzel smoothie, standing in a butt crack – that is ridiculous.”
After a while they went quiet, except for humming the opening riffs of Thunderstruck by ACDC which they always do at home when they’re drawing or building Lego or doing something thoughtful. I think they ‘get’ tramping now. They also got excited when they recognised a black fantail from a brilliant Kiwi storybook they were given as littlies.
(40 minutes in, from both of them): “When’s lunch?”
Within sight of Bark Bay the track split – the inlet crossing (low tide only) was 650m as opposed to the high tide track which was 1.4km. Cue fight: Finn insisted we do the shorter one but we’d been advised to go the long way, probably because the boys didn’t have quite enough leg to wade properly.
We did see some people walking across, but I’m glad we went the long way because we found this;
We heard the waterfall from quite a long way off, and on the way passed trickling springs, mossy rock faces and person-sized sinkholes, which hint at the hidden cave systems in the area. (Harwood’s Hole at the western edge of the Abel Tasman NP is a 176 metres deep vertical shaft and scary as hell! Experienced cavers only.)
Upon investigation the waterfall was blasting out of sheer rock; a resurgence, ie where an underground stream’s suddenly aboveground, or vice versa. Pretty cool! I caught up with the boys at the next bridge, where we had lunch.
Back on track, it wasn’t long before we arrived at the Bark Bay campsite, and not two minutes after that the boys had some beach cricket going. I went exploring.
At the end of the beach I found an overhanging tree with half a dozen nests in it. On the cruise we’d seen some seabirds and Skip informed us they were pied shags. They’re called cormorants everywhere else in the world, but shags here. They are unique in that they have webbed feet but choose to nest in trees. So it’s fair to say that only in New Zealand can you get a shag in a tree.
Meanwhile, beach cricket had attracted more boys like a magnet and they all had a nice little game going.
We played for as long as we could, then had to head off so we wouldn’t miss our boat back to Kaiteriteri.
We all walked the last half k together barefoot which Rory thought was awesome, and once we arrived at Medlands Beach the boys got in some last minute explorations.
I found out later that this beach is named after an awesome old coot named Vern Medland who built a squatter’s bach here in the 1970s. He was ordered to remove it, and complied, by blasting it to smithereens with a stick of gelignite. Pieces got blown into the treetops, and they found the oven 60 metres away! Then Vern lived on his boat in the bay. Typical Kiwi hardcase.
Sadly, our boat arrived and it was time to go. I could very easily have stayed for another week.
The boys were knackered after their big day, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be up for it again! Can’t wait. The trip back was smooth and relaxing…