Abel Tasman (according to our water taxi driver) was the first European to discover New Zealand, having just missed his target of Australia. He pulled up along the beautiful Northern coast of the South Island and was quickly scared off by the locals. Despite the fact he never actually made it on land, they named the marine conservation area after him.
I don’t know if we haven’t been paying attention, but we only found out about it by accident when planning our trip. I think that the Kiwis want to keep it secret; although there were a fair number of foreign tourists, the majority of visitors were New Zealanders. It was a bit of a detour to get to Marahau, not included on our Intercity bus pass, but it was worth it.
Base was the beach camp at Marahau, where for the first night we shared a backpackers lodge with just one other pair; a mother and daughter from Germany. We spent the day exploring the beach and reading and it felt like we were in Thailand again. The views and water quality (although not the water temperature) were on a par with Koh Phi Phi and Phangan.
On the Saturday we got a water taxi out to our start point of Bark Bay. It was the first time I’ve been on a speed boat, and it was pretty fun. We did have a joker of a driver though and he successfully got me to believe that the birds I was photographing were the only tree-nesting penguins in the world. I was really disappointed when I found out that they weren’t. Although they were the amusingly named Shags.
From our drop off point at Bark Bay we walked (and lunched and took many many photographs) for about four hours. It was mainly through the forest above the coast, but did drop down to a couple of beaches and view points. Annoyingly all of the drinking water points marked on the map required you to still filter or boil the water (which hadn’t been pointed out to us at any stage of the booking) so by the time we reached Torrent Bay we were pretty hot and thirsty. As it was high tide we had to make a detour (just over and hour) to get to Anchorage where we would be spending the night. Unfortunately I got a little distracted by the view and the thought of a cold drink and managed to fall on my arse on the last descent into Anchorage Bay. Luckily my bum took most of the shock although I got a nasty gravel rash on my wrist and leg.
That was all forgotten as soon as we made it onto our accommodation for the night, the Aquapackers boat. Our most expensive night of the trip so far, we had splurged on a private room on the boat, and were pretty glad we had when the ‘captain’ told us that we’d be joined by a school trip of about 16 teenagers. My heart sank.
Luckily (for us, not the boat owners who we felt pretty bad for) the school group never turned up, and we later found out that they had camped on the beach. We were joined then by only four other backpackers and the six of us had a very chilled out night talking around the boat’s bar while we tried to get through all of the BBQ and food that had been prepared for a group three times our size.
It was a great place to stay and was a shame to leave in the morning, but as we had not brought any lunch with us, we would have to make it back to Marahau (walking again) before our stomachs began complaining. We made to back without any problem though, and enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Park Cafe on completion of our 25km tramp (as they call treks/hikes here, much to Rob’s confusion/amusement).
We had one final night in Marahau to relax and watch the most amazing sunset we’ve seen so far (with the camera left in our room!) on a deserted white sand beach. Now we are back in Nelson, in a slightly cosier hostel than last time. Tomorrow we set out very early for our longest coach ride in NZ, nine hours down the west coast to the glacier town of Franz Josef.
Nic & Rob