Having finished our travels on the east coast, Lee & I turned northward to explore the northern tip of the South Island. We headed to Abel Tasman National Park, a beautiful stretch of beaches and native forests named for the Dutch explorer who was the first European to visit NZ in 1642, and home of one of the country’s nine “Great Walks”. Since only the two ends of the 60K track are accessible by car, we joined a host of other day hikers and backpackers and boarded a water taxi just outside of the far end of the track at the Motueka, and headed out for Torrent Bay to do a ~15K “tramp” (Kiwi-speak for anything from a day of casual hiking, to weeks of remote backpacking).
En route to our drop-off point, we passed more spectacular scenery along the way, including “Split Apple Rock”, a huge granite boulder split neatly down the middle by two gods, according to local Maori legend. After arriving at Torrent Bay, we headed out for a spectacular day of walking, crossing golden sandy beaches, passing through temperate rain forests, past rocky streams, and over dramatic cliffs – just a sampling of the magic of Abel Tasman.
In visiting the park, we were struck once again with the amazing commitment that NZ has made to preserving its natural beauty – not only with its 13 national parks, but also the seemingly-endless number of tracks, reserves, huts, and campsites supported by the Dept of Conservation – a national investment that now attracts more than 3.5 million visitors per year from around the globe (a number even more impressive given that the population of the entire country numbers only 4.5 million).
And of course, since all those trampers need to camp somewhere… they appear to have covered the country in the most amazing collection of camper vans we’ve ever seen. In addition to the ever-present and flashy purple and green”Jucy” vans, as well as the standard issue of Britz, Mighty, Maui, and Happy Camper brands, the country seems to be blanketed in a wild array of camper vans of all color, size, and decor. It’s been almost enough to tempt us into trying one (until we remembered our 56yo bodies are very fond of a real bed at night – especially after all that tramping). Maybe our next trip to NZ!