Abel Tasman/Kahurangi | December 2015/January 2016

New Zealand’s second largest national park.

Prior to this trip I’d had limited experience of Kahurangi. The Heaphy a few times, the Leslie Karamea twice. Oh, and scooting down the coast from the Anatori River to the Heaphy, if scooting describes the single most challenging three days I’ve had in the New Zealand hills.

I had a long hiatus getting over last summer’s 101 days of tramping, the Tin Range on Stewart Island then heading home on Te Araroa. I’d been sitting around writing, revising, starting a business, generally doing not much in the way of exercise.

Perhaps it might be advisable to start the summer with an easier trip, the Inland Route in Abel Tasman, progress into the Anatoki for a more demanding trip, then get into some considerably more strenuous adventures to really get to grips with what is New Zealand’s most diverse landscape and vegetation.

Maybe some trackless cross-country with the obscure Ministry of Works Historic Hut playing a part.

Then I was intending to return to Nelson to refresh my body before getting back to the southern section of Kahurangi.

You can’t have too much of a good thing, so they say.

I was going to find out, and as usual I’d be on my lonesome. Who else wants to do this sort of extended trip?

This is the story of the first 38 days . . .

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Day 1 | Holyoake Clearing Shelter, Abel Tasman National Park

The view over to Nelson with the top of Mount Richmond in cloud. |  Abel Tasman National Park

It was looking great for the next few days. Well, other than that 1000 m to climb.

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Day 2 | Castle Rock Hut, Abel Tasman National Park

 Yeah, that sunrise is entirely amazing. | Holyoake Shelter,  Abel Tasman National Park

OK, so I know it wasn’t so far.

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Day 3 | Wainui Hut, Abel Tasman National Park

And that's what it looks like in the Wainui Valley. |   Abel Tasman National Park

Just near the hut I spotted a couple of kaka, one seen earlier at Castle Rock and then another.

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Day 4 | Takaka backpackers

So that will be the Dragons Teeth up the Anatoki River valley. | from the Wainui Lookout, above Takaka

Suddenly I was joined by a weka, and then another one was moving up on the other side by the sound of it, except it turned out to be a lonely goat.

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Day 5 | Takaka backpackers, again

Camping out at the backpackers.  | Takaka

His top front teeth, four of them, had been symmetrically removed, abruptly I guess, and not by a dentist, which made speech somewhat imperfect, but that might have been the effect of the previous night.

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Day 6 | Beathams Clearing, Kahurangi National Park

That's Brown Cow and Black Cow up ahead. | Kahurangi National Park

I must’ve dumped 10 kg out of my pack, battery chargers, various maps, foodstuffs, it all filled a cardboard box secured at the backpackers, well, left in a locked cupboard.

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Day 7 | Boulder Lake Hut, Kahurangi National Park

For many, this looks more scary in real life. |  Cow Saddle to Boulder Lake, Kahurangi National Park

Then there was a short section, maybe 400 m, which would put many off, a large scree sidle under some bluffs, plenty of drop below, but mostly solid enough feeling with my new Meindl boots.

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Day 8 | Boulder Lake Hut, Kahurangi National Park, again

That's the hut at the head of the lake.  | Boulder Lake, Kahurangi National Park

I’ve eventually got my head around the various route options and that means I might even now have a plan.

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Day 9 | Adelaide Tarn Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Along the ridge. Yuletide Peak on the left, the needle centre, Dragons Teeth behind. | Kahurangi National Park

Today I continued with my ability to stretch out the days walking to fit the allocated time, in this case, my 4 hours 20 minutes in motion took, well, all day, with arrival at the hut around 6 pm.

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Day 10 | Adelaide Tarn Hut, Kahurangi National Park, night 2

Sunrise at Adelaide Tarn. Real nice. | Kahurangi National Park

There were two hut books to get through, some familiar names and various stories of real adventures getting from Lonely Lake Hut to Adelaide Tarn.

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Day 11 | Point 744 campsite, Kahurangi National Park

The Dragons Teeth Upper Route charges across there.  Not for me. | Kahurangi National Park

Then it was wandering on an unmarked track, a few more moss covered cairns, little foot traffic, through a jumble of massive slices of Dragon Teeth, house-sized dental decay, that had dropped off a few thousand years ago, big trees around.

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Day 12 | Lonely Lake Hut, Kahurangi National Park

I've come down the Anatoki River, behind the ridge. The needle and Yuletide peak in the centre. | Kahurangi National Park

Every now and again you have one of those special days. I seem to be stringing together a few at the moment.

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Day 13 | Lonely Lake Hut, again, Kahurangi National Park

Drunken Sailor, with Kakapo Peak on the right. | Near Lonely Lake, Kahurangi National Park

A rest day, which meant I went back up to the saddle then branched off on the High Route around Anatoki Peak until I could get a good view of where the route went.

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Day 14 | Fenella Hut, Kahurangi National Park

She's a rugged range: Dragons Teeth, Anatoki, etc. | Near Lonely Lake, Kahurangi National Park

I could rant at great length about how you wait much of a lifetime for such great days when it all comes together: the challenge, the views, the weather.

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Day 15 | Chaffey Hut, Kahurangi National Park

The tarn that you can go swimming in, well, in the middle of summer near Fenella Hut. | Kahurangi National Park

And here’s me mooching along on Day 10.

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Day 16 | Takaka backpackers

Looking back up the Cobb River Valley. |  Kahurangi National Park

I had plans for the day, heading to Takaka an important component, but what was the rush, still a bit to see.

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Day 17 | Takaka backpackers, once again

 The only photograph that I took for the whole day.  | Takaka

Some washing. Plenty of conversation. All that organisational stuff.

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Day 18 | Kahurangi Keepers Hut, Kahurangi National Park

My ninth ride for the day on the back of a quad bike. | near Kahurangi lighthouse, Kahurangi National Park

Just as I was unloading my pack from the back of his ute, a couple of quad bikes came by, dad and his son, and I sat on the back of dad’s bike blatting down the beach to the Anawhata River from where there was no immediate crossing possible.

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Day 19 | Kahurangi Keepers Hut, Kahurangi National Park, night 2

Those cliffs are way bigger than they look. | Kahurangi lighthouse, Kahurangi National Park

Passed a few seals doing their sack race to the water, where they are immediately transformed into graceful ballet stars.

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Day 20 | camping near Kahurangi River tributary, Kahurangi National Park

The view is great prior to entering the confines of the forest. | near Kahurangi Lighthouse, Kahurangi National Park

Once the pink ribbon finished it was just straight bashing, crashing, smashing along, creating my own path through the shrubbery.

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Day 21 | camping at unnamed creek near Juno Creek, Kahurangi National Park

My only photo on a very damp day.  Do I care? Apparently not. |  Kahurangi National Park

I packed up early for once and started my marching. The rain was coming down and while it varied in its intensity during the day it continued for about the next 34 hours.

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Day 22 | Ministry of Works Historic Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Out in the middle of nowhere there was a lichen covered cairn.  |  Kahurangi National Park

I had left my cup outside and in the morning it was full, that was the second time, there sure been a lot of rain. The West Coast was living up to its legendary status as a particularly damp corner of the world.

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Day 23 | Ministry of Works Historic Hut, Kahurangi National Park, night 2

The red tussock on a rainy old day. |  Ministry of Works Historic Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Not much activity on my part other than reading the extensive hut literature and hut book, kinda dating back to the hut’s construction in September 1970. There is also an historic assessment of the hut which concluded that it is close to original condition.

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Day 24 | Ministry of Works Historic Hut, Kahurangi National Park, 3rd night

 My sleeping bag and pack have been hung out to dry. |  Ministry of Works Historic Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Overall, the distance between the Kahurangi Keepers Hut and the Ministry of Works Historic Hut is a big 7.6 km. I’d say anybody would be doing well to average 500 m in an hour.

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Day 25 | bushes 2 km from Heaphy Hut, Kahurangi National Park

About to head down Monument Creek  to the main track.  | Kahurangi National Park

I was following the map, due to the numerous octopus–style valleys it’s quite confusing, no track marked on the map of course, and only a few cairns to follow.

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Day 26 | Karamea, Rongo backpackers

The track is great, the weather less so. |  Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park

Then, whammo, it’s Kohaihai, the bridge, the campground, site of some images of mine featured on the DOC website.

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Day 27 | Karamea, Rongo backpackers, night 2

A gloomy day after the heavy morning rain. | Karamea

In the afternoon I walked the 1.3 km to the Foursquare supermarket to get some supplies for my homeward leg, 10 days should do.

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Day 28 | Belltown-Manunui Hut, Kahurangi National Park

After the rain the river is up substantially. | Little Wanganui River, Kahurangi National Park

I wasn’t entirely sure if I was getting a ride right to the start of the track, the car park, it’s 7 km up from the road to Westport but P veered off without asking, through some cows on the road wandering back after milking, gave a rabbit a few hundred metres exercise down the road and then I was out with the sandflies.

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Day 29 | Belltown-Manunui Hut, Kahurangi National Park again

A rather wet tui.  One of the few photos I took for the day. |  Belltown-Mananui Hut, Kahurangi National Park

This morning was gloomy, drizzly, mizzly and I considered, briefly, moving on.

Nope.

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Day 30 | Taipo Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Just about to pop out onto the open tops.  |  Little Wanganui Saddle, Kahurangi National Park

The highlight was a flyby of a whio/blue duck, they are surprisingly fast fliers.

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Day 31 | Helicopter Flat Hut, Kahurangi National Park

In the 1890s blokes smashed a pack trail through the granite. |  Near Helicopter Flat Hut, Wangapeka Track, Kahurangi National Park

Once I crossed the Taipo River on a loose swing bridge there was a brief climb and it all became much more recognisable as an historic benched packhorse track. Some extensive chiselling of the granite although in general the track has rather fallen into disrepair.

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Day 32 | Trevor Carter Hut, Kahurangi National Park

It's pretty clear that not so many people use this track. | Climbing to Hidden Valley, Kahurangi National Park

It’s super peaceful, on my own again. But this is one hut where it’s okay to be on your own.

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Day 33 | Venus Hut, Kahurangi National Park

It might be hard to tell but that trout is a huuuuuuuge. | near Thor Hut, Kahurangi National Park

At one point I looked down through a gap in the foliage and there were three decent sized brown trout wafting about in the current, cruising in circles just below me. I sat for an hour just watching them float around.

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Day 34 | Crow Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Yeah, the crown fern and red beech tree trunks  go well together. |  Near Crow Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Man, I think I’m fairly inclusive in my conversation, as a long term solo traveler you understand how to provoke some dialogue, but this time I had to admit defeat. I retired to my bunk and read my book, despite my lack of human contact that was just way too hard work.

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Day 35 | Karamea Bend Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Yeah, that's a whio/blue duck just outside the hut. |  near Crow Hut, Kahurangi National Park

I tell them about the blue duck in the Crow River I saw while crossing the swing bridge next to the hut, it was sitting on what looked like a very slippery rock in the middle of the river, preening, eventually it did a few dives in the swift flowing river water. That was worth the price of admission.

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Day 36 | Salisbury Lodge, Kahurangi National Park

Looking fairly stormy once up onto the Tablelands. | near Salisbury Lodge, Kahurangi National Park

They have an excess of venison sausage pasta and hand the pot over, I’ve already eaten but man, there is some flavour there, and a finger of scotch in my plastic mug, then three fingers more. No third round though because they have demolished the 40 oz bottle.

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Day 37 | back in Nelson

The whole morning was very foggy, making the forest very mystical. |  Near Growler Shelter, Kahurangi National Park

All in all I was lucky to make it out.