2008-02-06, Abel Tasman National Park. Day Twenty-one.

I slept until 10am. The campground is barren save for our Pacific Challengers and two late rising kayakers. My shade tree kept me cool well past sunrise. I awoke to the buzzing of a giant Kiwi bumblebee that was trapped between my rain fly and tent. I swatted the bee with my pillow a few times and it was able to find its way out.

Last night the camp was full of enthusiastic people from all over the world. Kiwis, Brits, Canadians, Staters, Italians, Dutch, Swedish, German, French, Japanese, Israeli, and possibly more tourists of other nationalities were present.

There is a two night maximum stay in this campground and there is no fear of anyone stealing your things as the only way to get here is by two hour kayak, four-hour tramp, or by a $25 water taxi. It seems to effectively keep out the worst of the hooligans.

In this campsite there are six picnic tables, two water spigots of non-filtered water, a filtered water tap under a gazebo that is a cooking area, and a set of four flush toilets and a waterless urinal accompanied by two wash sinks. There is no mirror here.

There is only on designated camp area that is about an acre in size. Part of it is shaded with brush trees while about 1/3 of it is open field and exposed to the sun. There are two fire pits and where you camp is determined by a first come first served basis. No one here will sweat you for putting your tent up directly next to his or hers.

The Pacific Challengers decided to tent in the unshaded area last night and the majority of them were up at day break due to the intensity of the sun and the microwave effect that it has on tents with rain fly’s. By the time I awoke several of them had moved their tents nearer to mine in the shaded area.

The camping area is about 30 meters from the beach, which is on a bay that is host to anchored yachts and sailboats, seagulls, mussels, crabs, and sand flies.

The water is a wonderful sea green colour and the bay is affected by the tide offering different lengths of beach at different times of the day.

The toilets here are flush toilets and you do not have to pump the water spigots to get water to come out. Also – the toilet paper is provided. There are hoses that you can use to bathe under and also a shower on the beach.

My legs and feet are feeling fine today after the three and a half hour hike in yesterday. Tomorrow I walk out, alone, as the group is catching a taxi back to Marahau.

Last night I photographed the stars using my tripod and 30-second exposures with a 200 speed ISO. According to my 2.5-inch LCD preview, I was successful in capturing Orion and The Southern Cross. I did this between 9.30pm and 10pm when these two constellations were the most prominent in the sky. At 10pm they disappear into a sea of stars. By the time I went to bed at 10.30pm the Milky Way was prominent and the Clouds of Magellan were beginning to make an appearance. The clouds of Magellan are the next galaxies nearest to ours.

The most common critter in this campsite is the sparrow. Flocks of them are busy cleaning up after sloppy campers.

Today, I intend to hike the 45 minutes to Cleopatras pools during low tide in order to photograph the natural water slides, pools, and waterfalls.

The common sounds of Abel Tasman; buzzing bees, chirping sparrows, airplanes, trampers, the waves on the beach, and the wind through the trees.

My thoughts are coming and going sporadically, at times I am lost in the moment of the present, consumed by the birds, bugs, and the breeze, at others I am overwhelmed by the thoughts of family and friends back home. I really miss my dog Hatch and am sure he misses me.

I miss my love of my life, my girlfriend Shell. Her birthday is in two days time. I hope to ring her for her 21st birthday, which I will be celebrating with her on a belated date.

I do not miss my cell phone or my computer, however have traveled to this campsite with many unnecessary electronics that are mostly unnecessary; an iPod, a digital SLR camera, a video recorder, a multifunction watch, and a GPS unit and with all of this I have extra batteries, seemingly too much unnecessary weight.
I do not know what I will do tomorrow after leaving the Anchorage camp, as I will be on my own schedule until I catch my flight back to Los Angeles.

I am pleased with the thought of returning to fish the stream that flows through Canvastown as I know the trout there are large and having one of them in my hands would make for a great photo. I am convinced that I must throw smaller flies at these spooky fish. Nothing larger than #18’s on the surface and #16’s as a dropper. I am convinced that 4x tippet is required even though the smallest fish that I spotted in this creek was 20-some inches. I will stick with the Winston LT six-weight and Ross Cimarron 2.

I will need to find a place to sleep for the night as the drive to my next destination, the Peel Forest Campground, will be a long one and very tiring,

I have decided to cut out the Aussie leg of my journey for numerous reasons to include; finances and lack of enthusiasm, as well as having the chore to rely on public transport. I put in a request to switch my flight back to LAX from March 16 to Feb 25. I may have to spend sometime in Los Angeles before returning to Minneapolis hover I believe that it will be fine with Shawn and Bridget.

I should be able to find camping at Mount Richmond Park, which is just outside of Canvastown, and with any luck catch one of those down-under Browns.

This afternoon I made the 45-minute walk to Cleopatras Pool. It is a section of the Torrent River that features several waterfalls with pools below them. Given this year’s drought, the water was very low.
I packed in my DSLR, tripod, and camcorder and entertained myself by laying with 10 second exposures, f/22, and ISO 200, shots with my Sigma 28-80mm lens with circular polarizer and neutral density 8 filters on shaded waterfalls.

My left heel and ankle are weak and sore.

Our group opted to cut across the tide flats instead of returning on the track we took in to Cleopatras Pool. The tide was low revealing millions of shells throughout the 15-minute walk that we took along the Torrent River flats to the Tasman Sea. Half of the group scrambled the coral and mussel covered rocks of the seashore back to the Anchorage camp. This return route took 1 hour and 15 minutes. I suffered a few knicks from the sharp rocks of which the sand flies have become very enamoured with.

I have started a fire to dry my wet shoes prior to my 3.5-hour walk back to my rental car parked at The Barn in Marahau.

The Anchorage.

I believe the Anchorage to be called so because the ay that the site is on is only mildly affected by the tide. This being so, boats are able to anchor in the bay allowing their crew to ferry ashore to enjoy Abel Tasman National Park.

The park is pristine, without road, and features flush toilets, running water, and counter tops under roofs to cook at. There is a hut for visitors to stay at if they choose.

To get here one must walk, four hours at most, hire a water taxi, hire a sea kayak, or drive their own boat. Please take your pick and get here and you will surely enjoy it.

The clientele and other visitors you will share the site with will be friendly and more than likely as foreign to New Zealand as yourself. This place truly permits the opportunity to live in the present, to be aware of surroundings and to have new experiences regardless of your previous experiences or memories of sharing with foreigners as each and every individual visiting this park will succumb to the challenges that New Zealand’s most visited national park has to offer.

Marahau.

Marahau is one of the gateways to Abel Tasman. The other is Kaiteriteri. Marahau is not congested with traffic or overrun by heaps of tourists however is seemingly a quiet fishing village on a tidal bay in a remote part of the South Island New Zealand.

Marahau has two campgrounds, two water taxi services, a grociery/conveinience/information store, a few kilometers of shoreline, a small resident population, one main road, a few kayak hires, is on a bus route, has no gas station and thousands of tourist traveling though it every day.

Marahau is not choked with garbage or crime or unfriendlies however is nearer to seaside paradise than one could imagine.

The Water Taxi’s.

I have twice now experienced the Abel Tasman water taxi services. One with the Water Taxi’s and once with the Aqua Taxi’s. Two different brands offering the same service. The boats are the same save for their decals. They are 23 or so feet long with 225 horsepower four stroke motors and can hold about a dozen people and their gear within bus style bench seating. Some drivers go fast while others go slow however they all follow the same buoy marked taxi route along the shoreline from Marahau through Abel Tasman and vice versa.

The boats are similar to any regular boat, with a small cabin; in style however seem to be reinforced with steel in the shape of a raft. They handle the sea swells very well.

If you are thinking that you board the boat at a dock then you are incorrect. At Marahau your boat is pulled to the front of the building that you book your service through, on a trailer by a tractor. The tractor is your typical big wheels two wheel drive farm tractor. To load the boat; the trailer is tipped and the ladder lowered so that guests may easily board the vessel. After boarding the tractor pulls the loaded boat to the landing ramp on the sea in order to launch.

At times when the tide is high you will be dropped at the ramp. When the tide is low you will be towed across the tide flats to the nearest deep water.

When arriving at Marahau your captain will taxi you to a waiting tractor-trailer. Again the level of the tide dictates this. After the captain trailers the boat he drives the tractor to the building where the taxi service operates out of to drop you off.

When being picked up at the beach in the park the driver backs the boat to the shore as far as possible and drops the ladder so that depending on the tide, you may not have to get your feet wet.

Me.

I held my feet too near the fire for too long melting that soles of my shoes. My right knee is weak, my left ankle is sore, my feet are badly blistered, I have a sinus infection, I miss Shell and my dogs and my family however am in good spirits enjoying the air and the smells it brings here.

I have 19 maybe 20 days left on the South Island to catch that fish of a lifetime. If I leave this country without experiencing that fish then it is fine with my as just being here is an amazing thing.

I smell very bad and am in need of a bath, would like a cigarette, a slice of pizza, and a make out session with Shell and a hug from Hatch and Bella.

I do not miss the hustle and bustle of back home, the politics, the low-grade food, the televisions or the garbage in the streets, however I do miss the cold and snow and the river valleys that I am acquainted with.
Who will I be when I return to the States? To Me? To my family? To Shell? To my friends? To my dog?
What am I becoming? How is it changing my life? Where will it lead me? Will I lead it?

Changing everyday yet the same sun is still shining.