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Home > Treks > ATNP > Day 4 > 4.1
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Orange Sands and Pink Cliffs

Totaranui
 
 

I GOT up at just before 6:00 AM. It felt rather too cold for summer and I guessed it would be overcast. I could see a few spots where light rain had fallen during the night.

Keen to head northward, I got up and after a quick breakfast I packed up and left the campsite. The others four tents full of people were pretty quiet with all occupants still asleep. By leaving early as I had done yesterday, I will be able to avoid most of the crowds.

My aim for the day was to get to Anapai as early as possible, then set up camp there for the night before exploring further up the coast to the rugged northern beaches. That was the plan anyway.

After a short walk along the track I reached the beach. The water was flat apart from a slight ruffling by the gentle cold breeze. A thick misty blue grey cloud cover took out most of the colour from the dark headlands on either side.

Goat Bay
Goat Bay

I walked along the coarse beach to the left heading towards the dark headland. The tide was out leaving gravely lines along the beach. Towards the end of the beach I could see a large orange marker which marked the start of the track. From here I followed the narrow track that steeply climbed around the front of the bluff. The terrain was extremely rugged here with precipitous gullies plunging into the transparent turquoise water.

Within a couple of minutes the bluff turned and I could see the long granite beach of Goat Bay spread out to the next low headland, then beyond that was the far end of Totaranui Beach with the almost black Anapai Headlands beyond filling in part of the gap where the grey clouds met the grey sea. I could still clearly see the horizon, so it didn’t look like it was going to rain here any time soon.

Northern end of Goat Bay
Northern end of Goat Bay

Upon reaching the soft sandy beach of Goat Bay, I walked along leaving the long reefs of the previous headland behind me. The Awaroa heads were jutting out a bit further behind. There were a few exposed rocky areas below the high tide line, but apart from that the bay didn’t have much character. There was no significant stream or lagoon behind it.

I was about a hundred metres from the end of the beach when I saw a man walking towards me. He didn’t have a pack on, so he must just be doing a short walk from the Totaranui campsite.

I reached the rocky headland, where the rocks seemed to come out of the forest flowing like giant buttress roots. Once more the track steeply ascended across the bluff. Although the area was covered mostly in forest, there were some good gaps through the bush where I could see back along the length of Goat Bay and beyond across Awaroa Beach. There were some very tall tree ferns here.

Upon reaching the end of the bluff, there was a viewpoint with a spectacular view across to Totaranui. Looking over the pinkish granite where the waves broke translucently across the reef, I could see the orange beach sweeping across in front of a forested plain to the Anapai Headlands on the far side. Despite the grey sky, it was very serene here.

Totaranui
Totaranui

The reef below me had sweeping patterns showing the flow of the granite batholith when it was formed deep underground around a hundred and fifty million years ago, when the dinosaurs were dwelling far overhead.

I walked down the gentle sloping track off the bluff into an area of regenerating forest. Here tree ferns grew abundantly in under the thick canopy of manuka. It was very peaceful in here. Finally I reached a place where the track broke off onto the beach. I walked onto it seeing it sweeping far into the distance to the black Anapai Headlands.

It was obvious where the tide had risen to. Above the tide line the beach was covered in the indentations of footprints laid in recent days. Below the line where the overnight tide reached the orange sand was perfectly smooth. No one had been here this morning. Looking along the length of the beach I was on the only person here even though it was already half past seven.

Guy doing Tai Chi on Totaranui Beach
Guy doing Tai Chi on Totaranui Beach

The laminar waves broke on the beach with a surprisingly loud rush, almost a deep metallic sound. Once more I could smell the distinct kelpy salt aroma only found on the sea shore.

As I walked along the beach, a couple of people all wearing black appeared. Two of them were walking along the beach. The other one was doing a Tai Chi routine. The walkers passed me and quickly disappeared out of view, leaving only the man doing Tai Chi on this remote beach. It seemed to be the perfect solitude.

As I walked further along the beach, the breaking waves grew larger. There was a point about two thirds of the way along they started breaking. Looking back I could see right across the Awaroa headlands with Stony Hill behind. In front I could see the beaches of Goat Bay, Waiharakeke Bay, and Awaroa Bay. I could see across the Awaroa heads all the way to reef rock, which was partially obscuring Foul Point behind it.

Stream at end of Totaranui Beach

It was about 8:00 when I reached the end of the beach. A small tannin stained stream meandered in a braided path from the edge of the headland behind. It was the first flowing stream produced from this bay.

The stream came from a small estuary behind which was mostly dried out from the low tide. I stopped on a drift log to rest but rain started falling within a couple of minutes. I didn’t want to stay here, so I moved on and started crossing the estuary in the hope of finding a way across to the main track.

There were numerous footprints here, so I followed them to where they met a track entrance. This was a part of the Anapai Headlands walk. Here I had the decision between turning left and going to the main track which went over a low saddle heading towards Anapai Bay, or turning right to do the Anapai Headlands track which I had never done before.

Forest on Anapai Headlands
Forest on Anapai Headlands

The track moderately rose through the thick undergrowth of silver tree ferns and manuka. The vegetation was quite striking here on the shady southern side of the bluffs. Interspersed in amongst the bright green fern foliage was the distinctive jet black trunks of the black beech tree with its sickly honeydew smell. The leaf litter was largely undisturbed on the ground and the track itself was quite soft indicating it wasn’t used very often.

The track rose became quite steep rising along a small ridge still adjacent to Totaranui. I finally got a reasonably clear view of the coast after quite some time. From here I could see the sweeping beaches of Totaranui, Goat Bay, Waiharakeke, and finally Awaroa in a small break in the trees.

Totaranui, Goat Bay, Waiharakeke and Awaroa beaches from Anapai Headlands
Totaranui, Goat Bay, Waiharakeke and Awaroa beaches from Anapai Headlands

The track continued uphill for a little way, then started going up and down with no views. I was starting to get quite tired and wondered if I should have gone the other way to the saddle and hidden my pack before coming up here. It was difficult going walking through here carrying a pack.

Shortly afterwards the track turned to follow another ridge downhill gradually approaching the main track. The descent briefly became quite steep but continued moderating. As the track went further away from Totaranui, the black beech and tree ferns gave way to kanuka scrub and scraggly ground ferns. I saw a small wooden stoat trap. They were apparently laid everywhere in the park in a desperate attempt to bring the bird life back.

I recalled in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the park was teeming with all sorts of birdlife. There were millions of native birds of all species then, many visible and certainly an entire orchestra of birds audible. As the years went on, starting in the mid 1990s, I had noticed a gradual decline in the birdsong in the park. I had not been here for several years, and this time it was starkly obvious that there were almost no birds. The silence was deafening, a silence in the past only occurring in the hours preceding an earthquake. Was there one coming?

Finally after quite some time heading inland off the Anapai headlands, the main track suddenly appeared in front of me. I was at the saddle. I continued along the main track which was quite narrow now. Most hikers hike from Totaranui southwards. The track up here was considered an extra day or two for the really keen. I was obviously one of those.

The track descended into a long valley running almost parallel to the long track I had just come off. Down here the vegetation was quite different. For the first time I could see Nikau palms, the locally growing palm tree. This was their southern limit in Tasman Bay, although they do grow down the West Coast, particularly along the Heaphy Coast giving a most interesting juxtaposition of a tropical looking jungle right next to the violent Antarctic ocean.

Anapai Beach looking north to Separation Point
Anapai Beach looking north to Separation Point

Finally I could hear gentle waves breaking ahead, and sure enough within a minute I was standing on the coarse golden sand of Anapai Bay. The steep rocky headland to the right was pretty indistinct compared to the long headland at Totaranui.

Looking the other way the beach abruptly ended about two hundred metres away by an almost vertical grey granite rocky headland. Beyond the headland were two more headlands, the larger more distant one being Separation Point, where I had only ever been to once before in 1988.

In the middle of the bay was a flat area in the forest where the campsite was located. The campsite here was quite small, given not many people stayed here. It was about ten o’clock. I had been hiking for four hours and was already quite tired. Fortunately it had not rained apart from the short shower at the estuary in Totaranui. The ground here was quite damp though, but I found a place to pitch my tent.

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09 January 2007

 

Abel Tasman Nat Park

New Zealand

 

40°50'S
173°01'E
0 - 60m ASL

 

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