We recently spent four days and three nights hiking in Abel Tasman National Park. The hike is classified as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, meaning it’s one of the best in the country. It follows part of the northern coast of the South Island. (The South Island is way better than the North Island, by the way.) As far as scenery, it was, of course, beautiful. The path mainly went from golden beach to beach, cutting back up the cliffs and through the rain forest in between, with stunning overhead views of the bright blue ocean. Our overall experience, however, was a little more rural than I prefer.
We slept in bunks in DOC huts that didn’t have electricity or warm water. Reading by candle light, not showering, starting a fire in the wood-burning stove for heat and eating beef jerky for dinner was kind of fun the first night, but I got pretty sick of it after that. We had really good hiking weather during the days, mostly sunny and cool. At night, though, it got really cold and we didn’t have a sleeping bag. Long underwear, wool socks, sweaters, coats, hat and gloves are definitely not the most comfortable pajamas.
Another feature/inconvenience of Abel Tasman is the tidal crossings. The tides bring drastic changes to the water levels in the park. Certain paths are only accessible around low tide, so we had to consult a tide table when we were planning our hike. The first day we had to wade through knee deep, cold water on a mucky beach with sharp shells for about twenty minutes. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper at the time.
Still, the park was worth all the trouble and we had a lot of fun. We hiked about four hours a day and saw many waterfalls and streams, along with the above mentioned beaches and forest. There were many steep uphills and downhills, but it was a really peaceful walk. Winter is low season here, so we didn’t see many other walkers. Our first night we had the hut all to ourselves. The second night we shared the hut with a nice Irish girl and the third night we hung out with a really funny group of Australians. We’ve already met a lot of really cool people.
At least now even the most basic hostels seem very warm and welcoming!