© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Hiking into Abel Tasman National Park’s Promised Land

© NZPocketGuide.com

92 Days on the Road

Our meeting point this morning: The Takaka Hill. Yes, we are driving all the way back up the steep and winding roads of the stunning Takaka Hill complete with all its incredible rock formations to go on a tour into the “Promised Land” – a remote and lesser-known area of the Abel Tasman National Park.

The views are just as incredible on the way up as we remembered. Just the other day we saw the shift from flat farmlands to mountainous terrain as we arrived in the Golden Bay district. We need to snapshot these views in our minds because we are certainly not going to see the same thing on the way back down later…

A drive through the Canaan Downs

Robin does a great job of getting our beasty campervan up Takaka Hill and parked in the spacious Woolshed Cafe car park, where Abel Tasman Eco Tours is picking us up from.

Soon enough, Stu and Fay, our hiking guides for the day, pull up in the Abel Tasman Eco Tour van. After we sit our asses on the available van seats, we have made a full van!

Lord of the Rings scenery fit for a festival!

We pass all sorts of different landscapes on the way through the Canaan Downs, from the unusual rocky outcrops that forms some of the Lord of the Rings scenery of Chetwood Forest to big open grassy areas used for the Gathering and Luminate festivals. Fay points out a pizza oven shelter in the distance. Awesome!

Although the area is a great place to party, Fay explains how this area was once covered in forest and how it got to this state over the years. It’s a great example of human impact on the environment that can otherwise be hard to visualise.

Nevertheless, the road leads us into the remaining beech forests covered in moss and other bits of vegetation holding on.

Bossing the gravel roads of Abel Tasman

Fay gives us all sorts of advice and insider tips about the surrounding hikes in the area, such as Howard’s Hole, which is much easier to access than the bit of forest we are about to discover today. In fact, we park up right outside the entrance for a quick toilet break before taking another bit of road that you can only drive down with this tour.

Stu is killing it on the wheel, getting over the gnarly gravel road then the damp grass to the start of our hike today.

Pre-hike cake

Before we start using our legs though, we have the (really welcomed) surprise of hot drinks and cake before we set off hiking! This is how to hike in style! We munch down three slices each of coffee cake with a gooey chocolate centre, drink tea, and mingle with our group.

A foolish Frenchy

Fay and Stu ask and ask again if we have waterproof jackets to take with us as it is forecast for some pretty heavy rain. Laura is all set and mocked by Robin for taking her waterproof pants and jacket that make her look like a trash bag. Robin reckons he will be fine in his down jacket…

Fay is carrying a massive backpack with extra layers, hats and gloves for everyone – what a trooper! Laura will have some gloves, thank you.

Check out this amazing Abel Tasman forest!

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Wild tree stumps

The start of the hike is pretty exposed as we go through a grassy landscape where the eerie remains of dead trees remain. It sounds depressing, but in a way its still impressive to see. All sorts of crazy shaped tree stumps catch our eye.

As this was an uphill climb, we have definitely warmed up for hiking into the sheltered forest.

Ancient forests and eating plants

Usually on a hike through the forests of New Zealand, you pass so many plants and trees not having a clue what they are. How many times have we described forests with so much variety of plants that we can only say it looks like “Jurassic Park”? It’s really awesome to be going with knowledgeable and passionate locals who can point out all the interesting facts about the trees growing in spirals above our heads, or the properties of the horopito, which Laura eats as a demonstration. (It tastes pretty gross to be honest).

Off the beaten track… Wait, Where’s the track?

The track is much more adventurous than your well-formed Department of Conservation gravel and boardwalk tracks! We go from grass, to stones, to tree roots, to stream crossings, to river crossings. There are even times when Laura is paying too much attention to her feet that she wanders off the path (only for a second) to what she thinks is a formed track… Honestly! Can’t take her anywhere!

Cheeky birds and massive snails

We are really making the most of this ancient Gondwanan beech forest with our guides to tell us what is what, but then something else steals the show. While we have stopped to have a look at a fungus growing on a beech tree, we turn around to spot a weka that’s just about to peck at our ankles. The native flightless bird is on the hunt for the endangered Powelliphanta carnivorous land snail – a huge snail we are dying to see ourselves!

And here we are, a shell of the snail remain beside the track! Fay this is a smaller shell, as it doesn’t cover her entire hand, but man, this shell is still larger than we’ve ever seen being about the size of a golf ball. Ironically, there is a black line swirling right through the shell that we can only think to describe it as its racing stripe…

A classic Kiwi backcountry hut

To add to the more adventurous bushwalk side of things, we are actually making our way to a true New Zealand back country hut, the Wainui Hut. One of the most basic shelters situated in the middle of nowhere! What’s more, it is really needed! The expected rain finally hits us with big splatting drops – the sort of stuff that really gets you soaked.

There’s nothing more comforting that being inside a tin hut and hearing the sound of heavy raindrops on the roof. A weka has even come to join us in the doorway of the hut.

Let the rain tramping begin!

It’s the moment we have all been waiting for: tramping in the rain! With the right clothing, it can be really enjoyable seeing the forest in this different light – the colours popping under the sleek shine of the water and the streams getting more vigorous.

While Laura is looking like a trash bag, albeit a warm trash bag, in her waterproofs, Robin is soaked to the bone. In his defense, this is the only time he has been uncomfortably cold during this trip so far. We didn’t promise it would be a good defense… Be prepared for any weather when hiking in New Zealand, people!!

Offroading in the rain

Anyway, we are now back in the van and heading back to Takaka Hill, all feeling a bit giddy from the adventure we’ve just had and in part to warm ourselves back up. (And it’s pretty hilarious to see if Stu manages to get us out of this muddy field).

We say goodbye to our group and get warmed up in the campervan. Now’s the time we are thankful we have the campervan full of dry clothing!

Potluck at the Bare Foot Backpackers

As we drive on the way back to the Bare Foot Backpackers in Takaka, the view is nonexistent. We are in clouds of rain!

To put warmth and comfort back into our hearts again, there is a potluck dinner happening at the hostel tonight! This is where people at the hostel all cook a meal to share with the rest of the group. We have pizza, savoury pancakes, omelette, fried rice with sweet and sour source (our addition), stirfry, hot chocolate pudding and pavlova! Delicious! We love this idea to get the hostel together.

Tucking into a potluck feast!

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