We might need to graduate to a bigger car…or at least a roof rack. After a masterful pack job (thanks Jeremiah!), we all wedged in and drove north from Christchurch to the Abel Tasman. Milo was super proud–he didn’t throw up once. Naomi, on the other hand….let’s just say that New Zealand roads aren’t kind to the faint of stomach.
Last time we were up at this far north end of the Abel Tasman national park was our first Christmas in NZ, when we walked the Abel Tasman track with Milo on our backs. This time we met our friends Laura and Jordy with their two kids, Audrey and Noah for a slightly more sedentary vacation– to camp at Totaranui camp ground.
My tent buddy!
In lieu of a mantle….
Laura took the kids for rides on the NOLS paddle board–her husband Jordy is director of the National Outdoor Leadership School NZ branch, and we enjoyed use of the school’s paddle board and kayak.
We camped right on a low bluff next to the estuary, where, depending upon the tide, our back yard was either a calm shallow lagoon or a low stream perfect for minnow hunting. Jeremiah was flushing the poor fish out from under their hiding rock and into Milo’s waiting net. When the full tide turns the exit of the estuary turns into a quick flowing river, and all the local kids ride it giggling out to the bay. I’m really scarce on photos of this fun, since camera-phones don’t mix so well with sand and water.
The notion of car camping baffled us at first–why drive a long way to set up a tent next to hundreds of other people? But it’s perfect for the kids. Scores of tents pop up to make an instant village, with little people zipping around on bikes and splashing in the ocean. When kids are happy, parents can relax and enjoying one another’s company.
Success! We ate a delicious big blue cod one night, thanks to Jeremiah’s spear fishing prowess.
At the end of our Totaranui stint we packed our backpacks and walked up to the last hut on the Abel Tasman. We’d been prepping Milo for this hike for months–every time I took him for a walk I told him I was exercising his legs for our big Christmas tramp. It’s 10 k (6 miles) with hills and beaches, and Milo did it all on his own two feet. Here’s one of the more successful tactics to pass the trail cheerfully–tickle fern monsters! Milo never failed to giggle when his fern made contact with the back of Jeremiah’s knees, resulting in a satisfactory jump and squeal.
The other really successful tactic was hide and seek. Jeremiah would trot ahead a decent distance, drop a clue on the trail (a purple flower in this case), and tuck himself discretely into a nearby bush. Hours of amusement.
Another trail game we owe to good old DOC, poisoning non-native wildlife. There were more than 150 numbered yellow bait stations for wasps, and we sang their numbers to the tune of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
I also gave at least five spirited renditions of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, interspersed with Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks.
One charming feature of the trail is that between every hill is a pristine beach. A beach for lunch, a beach for tea, a beach for the day’s end.
The native NZ forest here feels almost tropical–giant tree ferns reach three stories above us, vines twine up into the trees, and blue water laps calmly at the shore.
“Look Milo, we’re almost there!” We reached the high point on the last hill and grinned to the backdrop of the bay where our hut was nestled in the forest.
“Whariwharangi hut” it’s truly a mouth-full.
A festive Christmas tree at the hut–beach style.
The hut was originally a settler’s home, and DOC has restored it as a tramper’s hut. It looks homey and welcoming.
I think this is the only DOC hut I’ve stayed in that has a second story.
After dinner we strolled down to the water to stomp the waves in the last warm light before the sun scooted behind the hill.
They were ready for bed, those tired kids!
Another family with two kids was staying there too, and they were absolutely lovely with our kids. After ours hit the sack they played Eucher together.
We returned via the same track, and arrived back at Totaranui just as Milo was beginning to squat in the trail and draw pictures in the dirt. Two days of hiking was enough for him, and we’re really proud that he did it….and even had enough umph left to climb the giant stump for a victory photo.