Middle Earth Day 19: Getting the Hell Out of Nelson!

Last night, I talked with a couple of Germans and a really cool, laid back Frenchman at dinnertime who was cycling around New Zealand. The cool German gave me some sound advice on what to see in the North Island, which got me excited about what lay before me. I had been getting worried that I would be spending too much time in the North Island after speeding through the South with the little amount of time I originally thought I had. Now, the outlook looked much more promising. After that, I tried to scrap some plan together to see Abel Tasman National Park after not hearing from the German up until this point. I would at the very least hitch hike there; I didn’t really care as long as I never spent another night in the city of Nelson. Towards the end of the night, I checked to see if the German somehow contacted me and sure enough he did. He could leave tomorrow morning, which I was game for but at the same time I wouldn’t put much faith in him since he killed my last plans. In the early morning when I planned to wake up anyways to leave to Abel Tasman I saw a new message from the German. Apparently, he hurt himself playing soccer the night before and chose not to tell me earlier. Regardless, I was going to Abel Tasman with or without him and I could not have been happier to be getting out of Nelson. The bus left Nelson with me having no legitimate plans for when I arrived in Marahau, the last “town” just outside of Abel Tasman National Park. My one and only goal on the bus was to sleep. With a restless night rolling around on a one inch thick foam mat and a plane head rest as a pillow, sweet dreams were hard to come by. Plus, a 6:30 a.m. alarm did not make life any easier. Sleep deprived or not, I was finally headed to Abel Tasman, the park I kept hearing about over and over when I asked for suggestions as to what to see as I traveled northward. Abel Tasman was in fact one of the reasons I pushed off my flight since this side adventure could not be fit into my 12 day plan. Once at Abel Tasman, I had formed a somewhat half-schemed plan as to what I would do. I booked a water taxi package for tomorrow that would allow me to see the northernmost stretch of coastline that the Brazilian told me was the most beautiful part of the track. Before I could get started doing anything productive for the day, I needed to find a place to stay the night. My initial thought was to camp at a nearby site on the track that had barebones accommodation (no clean water, no showers, and just a port-o-potty for a bathroom). A campsite called Old Macdonald’s happened to have a site available for cheap. My somewhat ill advised decision to buy a tent was beginning to pay off since most dorm rooms were beyond booked during the holidays. With just a daypack strapped to my back filled with the necessary provisions of a swimming suit, iPod, camera, and peanut butter and granola, I began the walk to the trail head. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track is one of Nine Great Walks in New Zealand and brings much foot traffic to its paths along with the rest of them. Since the projected time to reach my utmost destination, not including an intriguing side trip to Cleopatra’s Pool, would take a generous four hours in one direction alone, I needed to quicken my pace. Charging past the low tide beaches, I cut into and through the fern laden forest. Amongst the oxygen enriched tropical wildlife, my legs felt lighter while I weaved and cut through the many switchbacks and forged on along the flat stretches that provided relief. With exception to the trees and ferns and of course the many hikers carrying their all too heavy packs, I did not cross much else. A certain species of bird strutted across the dirt path quite frequently out of curiosity. I have no idea what the bird is called but it puffed out its chest and belly into the shape of a softball while an Alfalfa Mohawk extended outwards, making the bird look further ridiculous. I found the ferns to be another peculiarity; most of them stretched out with crisp evergreen leaves while some recoiled like a rolled up yo-yo. The beginning of the hike/jog was mostly hidden by the aforementioned rainforest but every once in awhile I was to peak out into the sea and find tree laden islands in the swimmable distance and not so secret beaches hugging the coastline. I took a break to eat a sad mixture of peanut butter and granola (I am easily one of the biggest proponents of peanut butter but good heavens am I getting sick and tired of it; I have found out one cannot live off of the good ol’ PB alone). Eventually I had made it to Anchorage Bay. Before descending to the beach for a swim, I savored the bay from this heightened position. On a clear sunny day such as this one, I saw what Milford Sound should have looked like at its best, perhaps a bit shorter and deprived of the magnificent mountains and peaks. Densely packed forests and sandy white beaches blended so well together, an almost too perfect and scenic habitat. Down at ground level where my feet first sunk into the sand, I found a beach beyond compare. The beach was a sight out of a travel magazine one might see in the Caribbean; it was a mixture of white and cornmeal yellow (with emphasis on the cornmeal as it had those gritty tiny yellow flakes mixed in). The water matched the beach in terms of its purity and beauty. I soon wished I had brought my snorkel gear along for the ride as any glance could permeate the salty solution all the way to the sand base below. Swimming along riding the rhythms of the water, I felt so peaceful. Although you may think these types of moments eventually would lose its uniqueness and power, I have been put into a peaceful trance quite often in disbelief of where I am and how much it took me to get there. These kinds of moments you wish could stand the test of time letting you breathe in its freshness and soak up its liveliness. I explored some wave formed caves near the shore and checked out the booked out huts before continuing my journey. Next stop: Cleopatra’s Pool. I knew nothing about the place but for some reasoning the name alone is enticing. The sun began drifting from its utmost position so I needed to move quickly. The Pool itself seemed like any other rock strewn stream with a few miniature waterfalls to boot. However, a singular spot added intrigue. Amongst the many rocks and flowing water rests a natural water slide. With water worn and smoothed rocks and enough moss to grease the surface, one could ride the gush of water into the bottommost pool. The slide itself wasn’t overly long or steep but at the end of the day I slid down a natural water slide! From the outpouring of a waterfall at my back, I was forced through the chute and down the slick moss rock face. On the way back to my campsite I had enough time to enjoy a swim and float on my back for the first time in my life. Looking up into the clear blue sky and relaxing in the silent void without a thought in mind. Sounds pretty nice, right? Every kilometer or so I would take a look out into the bays and beaches and take stock of how crazy good life can be. I departed the path with nothing better to do but go back to the campsite. Instead of going there earlier than I liked, I wandered off onto a free wood carved sculpture path. I didn’t get far along the path when I noticed a peculiar man give me a weird grin. He was setting up the same hippy activity I had seen countless times on college campuses and parks all over: a slack line. Before getting back to the odd German, let me enlighten those unfamiliar with slack lining. A slack line made of a thick rope is attached to usually two trees to make the rope taut. People try to balance and walk along the rope kind of like a trapeze artist at a mere two to three feet off the ground. The best slack liners perform tricks such as bouncing off the rope and doing flips. The German, clearly a hippy and extra friendly, welcomed me over. He started to walk along it and, due to my curiosity, I needed to know more about it, how to do it. With some pointers about balance, something I clearly lack, I awkwardly found myself standing on the rope holding on for dear life to the wooden Indian sculpture to my right and his outstretched arm to my left. As I have said, I am willing to try just about anything once. I gained freedom to try to balance on my own and found myself quickly on the ground. It was a thrill that I had to try a few times over. I never quite got the whole balancing deal sorted out but I would absolutely recommend it to anyone and if I see another slack line around, you can be sure to expect me to give it a go. Back at the backpacker/campground I talked with a couple of German guys (no surprise there; I swear that half of Germany is on holiday right now in New Zealand. The population of Germany is easily halved during the winter). We chatted about the usuals such as where we’ve been and the almighty travel bug that all the people I have met caught. Being Lord of the Rings fans, we discussed the many LOTR sights in New Zealand included Mount Doom at the Tongariro Crossing that I plan on hiking in the north. After a sometimes lonely day hiking by myself, it was nice to talk to someone besides myself. Tomorrow brings an aqua taxi adventure and hike to the northern circuit of the hike.

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