This hike was spectacular. It's new Zealand's smallest national park and it's most visited national park.
We woke up early to run across the street from The Palace backpackers and catch the shuttle at 7:15am. It was probably and hour and half to 2 hours of a drive, picking up more hikers along the way before we arrived. The sun was shinning bright and we knew we picked a perfect day to hike!
We got some group instructions before unloading from the bus. We waited outside for the water taxi's to arrive the cool morning air paired with the warm sun was just enough to keep us awake. I thought we were waiting for another small shuttle bus to take is to the water. I was a bit surprised when tractors (one at a time) started driving our way with the water taxi boats hooked behind them! It was definitely a sight to see; these (on the shorter side) kiwi men with deep tans, barefoot driving tractors with boats attached.
Everyone loaded into the boats. The tan kiwi men continued to drive the tractors until we were launched into the ocean. They parked the tractors up above and jumped into the boats to start our tour.
Alicia and I sat up front behind our driver. Across from us was a couple who didn't speak English very good, at all! and their little girl who was maybe 8 to 10 months old. She wasn't very excited to have a life jacket on and didn't like our boat driver much, either. The kid lover in me immediately started in on distracting her and making her smile. We quickly became best friends as she LOVED the clicking noise I was making with my mouth. She picked up on how to copy me and we clicked back and forth with each other for the duration of our taxi ride. We waved, smiled and bonded as much as we could in that short time. Her parents seemed surprised when she repeated the clicking sound and the dad (sitting closer to me then his wife) looked at me a few times wanting to say something to me with a smile but his lack of English vocabulary kept him from speaking. It's sad how much language can separate us from one another and that some people will just give up; instead of try to at least gesture what they want to say.
The taxi tour was fun and worth the money. We cruised along beautiful blue waters and got a little history lesson as we went. We saw a large rock only accessible by boat that had been perfectly split in 2. We watched some seals and their pups play along the rocks of an island and then we were delivered to our trail head. Not everyone was doing the same hike so we all took off in different directions. Some were doing one day hikes like Alicia and I and others were hiking over the span of a few days.
Alicia and I started our hike off barefoot, walking along the sandy shorelines until we saw the turn off to head into the trees.
We met a really nice German couple (Alex & Joanna) around my age at the start of the hike. We would later run into them again, at the end of the hike.
The Able Tasman had breathtaking views as we winded along the trails that followed the coast line. This was how I pictured New Zealand. Blue water, white beaches, warm sun and... warm water? Well they have everything but the warm water going for them. We took a detour from the main trail to walk down and check out apple beach. There was a floating (boat) hostel anchored just off this beach. The beach could have held our attention for a few hours of sunbathing and ocean swimming. Sadly we had a bus picking us up at a certain time do we needed to stay on schedule. We had 5 hours to hike this.
Then we met Steve!
I had to fill up with again with water and we both needed a bathroom break as well as a lunch break. One of the overnight lodging facilities was just off this beach so we used their facilities.
I was trying to figure out if the water I found was drinkable when Steve came along in his green uniform shirt. He was basically a park ranger who worked and lived on site 8 days a week and 4 days off. He had a killer job! He was a very kind and very handsome kiwi.
The 3 of us fell into a conversation about his job, where he's traveled (a favorite topic of mine & Alicia's), the layout of the land we were hiking and why Alicia and I weren't staying the night out there.
He practically had us convinced, well he did have is convinced To stay the night. He told us he could book us for $15 each on our credit cards and either give us a tent and sleeping bags or we could stay in one of the nice bunk rooms.
Keep in mind, at the time we had no set accommodations for that night. Our main packs were still at that hell hole of a hostel and this wilderness proposal was sounding good!
We just needed to make sure that if we stayed, missing our bus that we wouldn't have to pay more for another bus the next day.
Steve asked us if we had extra clothes with us and we said no only our swimsuits and what we had on. Then he asked if we had food and we said, no we just ate it for lunch! He smirked and said well I suppose I could find you food. We needed to get wifi connection to contact the bus about our ride out. We weren't so worried about our packs at the hostel as we had all our valuables with us. Steve told us of an area with wifi that was just up this other trail. Alicia and I found it weird that we'd be able to find free wifi out there but we thought we'd give it a shot. Sleeping out there under the stars and next to the ocean sounded incredible!
Her and I hiked like speed walkers, poppin' our hips from side to side and pumping our arms, to this supposedly free wifi area in the wilderness. When we arrived and asked another man we crossed paths with we realized Steve misunderstood us. It wasn't a wifi hot spot it was a place where we could reception for the phone plans that we did NOT have! Oh boy! Our time was getting shorter now.
We hiked back to Steve's area, didn't see him so we kept going and got back on our main hiking trail. Time to high tail it to the end or we might have really missed our bus!
Back on the trail after more time passed, we ran into the German family who picked us up hitchhiking to Nelson. I passed the girl first and only saw her. We walked past each other saying hello and then we both turned back a few steps after, together realizing that we new each other. Then her parents turned the corner. They were hiking the opposite direction of the trail then we were and were happy to see us. We said a few words and carried on.
The hike continued to impress us with its beauty. From breathtaking views to desert like area with interesting plants and low tree canopies this hike had it all.
We managed to finish the hike in 4.5 hours when we were told we would need 5 to 5.5 and we figured out it was 12 miles we hiked.
Our legs and feet were filthy from the dusty areas of the path at the end of the hike.
We celebrated the end of the hike by splitting a ham and cheese panini at the trails end cafe. Mostly because we wanted to use their wifi but were told we had to order food to get a code. After ordering we were told it was $5 for 30min of their wifi use! So we just enjoyed our sandwich and rested our tired legs.
I made the comment to Alicia a few times along the hike that the hike felt like being in a cruise ship. Being dropped off by a bus (or ship) and only having a certain amount of hours to see and do all that you wanted before the bus (or ship) left without you!
The water taxi was fun and worth including as part of the trip.
If we had known a local we could have hitchhiked to the trail head on our own and taken our time along the way. Regardless it was a great hike and we have no regrets!