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The End of the Trail

Islets at Stilwell Bay
 
 

THE MAIN trail winds its way around Yellow Point, named after the lichen that grows on it. From there though there are two tracks heading out towards the point. There is a rough track heading towards the end of Yellow Point and a steep track heading down to the left towards Ackersten Bay, which was directly below.

Looking north from Ackersten Bay
Looking north from Ackersten Bay

I took the track down to Ackersten Bay. It was quite steep, but not precipitous like it used to be. It eventually arrived at a campsite perched on a ledge near two metres above the beach.

I rested on the beach for about half an hour. From there I could see across back to Watering Cove, with Observation Beach and Cyathea Cove nearby under the blackened headlands of Mad Mile. If there had been a track from Watering Cove, it would have taken me perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes to get here. Instead it had been about an hour.

Yellow Point
Yellow Point

Looking to the right the distinctive headland of Yellow Point was just seventy metres away from where I sat. The point was named due to the yellow lichen that used to grow on it. There was still some there, but very little now.

Beyond Yellow Point was the forested Adele Island. I could see the long sand bar that protruded a couple of hundred metres out from the middle of it. A fairly steep peak rose about a hundred metres at either end with a long gradual saddle linking them.

Rough trail to Yellow Point
Rough trail to Yellow Point

I stayed at the beach for about half an hour before returning up the steep path and taking the short route to the end of Yellow Point. The track was rather rough negotiating its way around huge protruding boulders. It only took a few minutes to reach the end of the point, but it was rather too scrubby to get any descent view.

Upon my return to the main track, I continued walking. The track here quickly became narrow negotiating its way around perhaps some of the roughest terrain of the entire coast. The banks rose very steeply out of the bays and the forest was full of supplejack, a climbing vine. Supplejack is common here, but here it was a very thick maze. Fortunately I had the track to walk on. Any attempt to go cross country here would have been almost impossible though the thick matted maze of supplejack.

Stilwell Bay
Stilwell Bay

Below the steep bank was Stilwell Bay, probably one of the most beautiful of the entire park. Shame though as it had now been designated a water ski area, and there were several boats roaring down there. There were several small beaches with the tide now coming in, but at low tide it all clears into one large beach. The water now covered a large shallow area.

The track crossed a couple of small streams dripping down over the foliage towering above me.

After passing the steep bluffs I finally reached the back of the small valley where Lesson Creek came tumbling out of the steep gorge above. The stream cascaded over moss and epiphyte covered boulders. On the other side of the stream was a side trail heading steeply down the dark forested gully towards the beach.

Stilwell Bay
Stilwell Bay

The main track quickly ascended providing good views across the beach to Yellow Point. There were a couple of tiny islands each housing a couple of small trees on top that jutted out just offshore on the other side. A long sandbar submerged just beneath the surface extended from these across the entire bay. It was a stunning view.

Looking out over the sea I could now clearly see Fisherman Island, the southernmost of the islands in the national park. From here the trail mostly went through thick forest clinging to the impossibly steep bluffs. I was a good forty metres above the water, but the cliffs below the track plunged directly to the rocks or sand below. Moss and lichen covered the sides of the bluff and at one stage there was a tiny gully where a nice little stream plunged.

Appletree Bay
Appletree Bay

About ten minutes after leaving Lesson Creek the terrain eased and I reached the junction of another side track heading down to Appletree Bay. The track descended steeply through the manuka scrub forest before suddenly arriving at the northern end of the beach.

Despite its name, there are no apple trees here. There is a row of very old pine trees though along the top of the sandbar to shelter the campsite underneath. Below the sandbar the beach spreads out to about two thirds of the way to Guilbert Point, which was only a couple of kilometres away now.

Passenger launch
Passenger launch

The launch suddenly passed being full of people on cruises or hikers who had been picked up from Totaranui.

A pair of oystercatchers was foraging the beach nearby. I crossed the sand bar to where the small tidal estuary of Simonet Creek flowed across the back of the beach to where it came out near the other end. The water was blocked up to perhaps knee deep with reeds growing on either side. From the beach Adele and Fisherman Islands were very clear. Beyond them was a low bank of cloud over the Richmond Ranges obscuring the summit.

A large group of kayakers came along the length of the beach no doubt heading towards Anchorage for the night.

Adele Island
Adele Island

It was time for me to be continuing. With over an hour go to Marahau and the bus arriving in less than two hours, there wasn’t much time to spare. I returned up the steep narrow trail to the main track and continued walking until crossing the twin bridge over the Simonet Creek tumbling over boulders too big so I thought. Looking downstream I could see over the silent estuary to the sandbar covered in huge pine trees overlooking the sea.

From here the track gained a little more altitude before going backwards and forwards into deep gullies and out onto near vertical spurs. A couple of the gullies had small streams, including one where I used to always get a drink from until the mid-1990s when the park became infected with giardia bacteria. Until then it used to be perfectly safe to drink the water from any of the streams without filtering or boiling.

Appletree Bay
Appletree Bay

The track going in and out of the gullies made for a far longer walk than if I had just walked along the beach and taken a steep side track. Eventually though the beach did end and I was walking along the tops of steep cliffs plunging straight into the water. Another five minutes passed before I reached Guilbert Point.

Once around the point I could see out into the sweeping sand banks around Marahau. This was where I was heading. Once around the point the black beech forest quickly disappeared to be replaced with scrub regenerating from where a pine forest had been planted but removed a few years ago to allow the native forest to eventually return.

Waterfall above Coquille Bay
Waterfall above Coquille Bay

The track followed high above Coquille Bay, named after one of D’Urville’s ships. It was a very peaceful little bay, just visible through the scrub.

The track wove in and out of deep gullies as it had done over Appletree Bay. At the back of one of the gullies was a small waterfall. This will be the last I will encounter on the track. Shortly afterwards I passed the entrance to Coquille Bay but continued onwards as there wasn’t much time left.

Coquille Bay
Coquille Bay

Here the beaches suddenly changed. Coquille Bay was the last of the beaches in the park with soft golden sand. Ahead the beaches were either made of rock or they were huge sand banks. It was essentially a large tidal estuary with no sand bar out the front. Perhaps it was because it was part of a wide bay, but the same thing happens in Torrent Bay and Bark Bay. Perhaps the angle here wasn’t as much.

A few minutes later the track rounded the end of a spur. This point marked the start of the inland track which goes up the ridge to the Pikikiruna Range and follows it for about four days to eventually reach the coast track again between Whariwharangi and Wainui Bays. It was a rather narrow track in comparison to the coast track, and a lot less well known or frequented.

Marahau
Marahau

From here the main track quickly descended to a large grassy camping area at the edge of Tinline Bay. The beach here was very rocky unlike most other beaches I have seen here. The scrub that surrounded the beach made it very dull. I had been so used to seeing beautiful golden sandy beaches with forested hill backdrops up till now. Obviously I was approaching civilisation again.

The track continued for another twenty minutes going over low bluffs alongside the large sandflats going across Marahau until finally the sand flats gave way to reeds. At this point an elevated boardwalk jutted out perpendicular to the edge of the bay and crossed over the swamp towards the small buildings that marked the start of the track.

Marahau
Marahau

The Marahau Valley extended a long way back to the base of the Pikikiruna Range. The line was very straight indicating it was a fault line.

Eventually I did reach the buildings at the end, where I had been about a week ago. By now I was exhausted.

I had arrived at the end of the track about half an hour before the bus was due, but I was too exhausted to go anywhere. This had been quite a challenging trip not in the walk itself, but the fact that I hadn’t eaten much. Sure I had packed my pack full of food, but I had rationed it in such a way as to be expending far more energy than I had consumed.

Hut at end of trail
Hut at end of trail

The bus finally did arrive and it was rather strange to be sitting down on a comfortable seat after all this time. Finally upon my arrival in Motueka I saw just how ragged I looked. I had been battered by the elements of strong sunshine and heavy rain over the past six days. I had walked about a hundred and ten kilometres over the trails, and a good forty more exploring the estuaries and beaches. That had been a hundred and fifty kilometres eating less than I would have done in my usual life sitting in an office all day.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise at all that I had lost eight kilogrammes in the six days. I had a strong appetite though and managed to put it all back on again in just a matter of a few days. I guess a long walk does that.

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12 January 2007

 

Abel Tasman Nat Park

New Zealand

 

40°59'S
173°03'E
0 - 90m ASL

 

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