A few days and misadventures after Kaikoura, we found ourselves at the top of the South Island, in the beautifully lush Able Tasman. After several nights of camping and one horribly long drive we were ready for some luxury in the form of The Resurgence Eco Lodge. I have mixed feelings about this place. On the one hand, the setting was gorgeous, the cabin (“bush chalet”) was charming, and the food was delicious, but on the other…none of these things seemed quite on par with their price. And I’m really not sure what they meant by “Eco,” besides the fact that the lodge is located in the bush outside of the tiny town of Riwaka.
We were very excited to explore the Able Tasman National Park, however, and our hosts helped us book a trip which included a 12 mile hike into one of the park’s bays, from where we would be picked up for a catamaran sail back. Sounded like heaven! Unfortunately for us, though the Tasman is purportedly the sunniest place on the South Island, it was grey skies and drizzle as we hit the trail.
Though dreams of sunbathing onboard were quickly slipping away, we stayed optimistic and let ourselves be wooed by the beauty of the forest.
It may have been the grey dampness, but I felt we were in a sub-tropical version of our own Hoh Rainforest. Gorgeous tree, ferns of every description, and wet, wet, wet.
Every few miles we would round a bend and be presented by one soft-sanded, or rocky cove, after another.
The Able Tasman Coast Track is one of the New Zealand Great Walks, and as such is well maintained, with several campsites along the way. We made quick work of our section, even with me stopping for photos every 2 minutes…
In the last mile, the trail emerged onto the crest of a hill, offering a dryer, scrubbier terrain and a beautiful view of Torrent Bay below, and Anchorage, our destination.
The bay was a gorgeous sweep of soft, yellow sand, bracketed by sinuous stone outcroppings.
All hopes of lounging in a bikini now thoroughly dashed, we settled down with our lunch and looked about for our vessel.
Soon enough, a sleek (if utilitarian) cat swung into the bay, ejected its passengers and lay waiting at anchor for the next batch. We boarded a short while later, along with a dozen or so other hikers. Everyone was soon bundling themselves in whatever clothing they possessed, against the damp chill and wind off the water.
We were fortunate to have set out at a plus tide (I am way out of my, ha, depth here, so I presume that is the correct term), making it possible to enter an adjacent lagoon inaccessible at other times.
It was mesmerizing. Deep turquoise waters were set off by the white arabesque of rocky cliffs beneath the boughs of emerald feathered brush.
Petrels, cormorants, kingfishers, and even a lone stingray traversed the lagoon, and in the trees above the beguiling song of the tui could be heard.
The name of our noble vessel was Alley Cat, and her captain was appropriately scruffy and gruff.
A man of few words, he spent most of the voyage sipping (tea? whiskey?) from a mug, and rolling cigarettes. He would look up on occasion and give the tiller a nonchalant push or tug (he can be seen below, steering with a leg), expertly coaxing the cat on the right course.
This wasn’t difficult since most of passage was spent without wind. A sad state of affairs when you’ve chartered a sailing vessel.
Still, we made the best of it, visiting a seal colony, attempting to chase down a pod of Dusky dolphins, and visiting the local oddity: the Split Apple Rock, which I’m afraid to say I was too cold and put out to photograph.
Sadly after landing, we had to wait nearly an hour to be shuttled back to our car, and in the last hours of daylight, plans of cooking back at our lodge went by the wayside in favor of hot-food-right-now.
Often when traveling, one must put aside expectations and hopes or become caught in a snare of disappointment, sulking through whatever the actual experience has to offer. We were both teetering on the edge by the end of this somewhat challenging day, but agreed that the hike was simply wonderful and all else would have been so with just a little sun and wind.
To be continued…