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south island trip, part 3

more abel tasman

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days two and three of the abel tasman track boasted stunning weather. abel tasman gets the most sunshine in new zealand, and it didn't disappoint. after being unlucky with the weather on excursions nearly all semester, it was such a relief to finally have perfect, perfect weather. it was sunny, dotted with white cloud. there was a fresh breeze that kept us cool for hours and hours of tramping. the water was a blue that, as kirstin noted, you'd normally associate with the caribbean.

the second day on the track was a day on a deadline. we had to cross the awaroa and onetahuti estuaries, which can only be crossed close to low tide (10:26 that morning). the awaroa took about twenty minutes of picking our way across seas of small sharp shells, multitudinous, literally unavoidable -- and wading through water that at times rose past our knees. by the time we crossed it we were quite tired and hungry, but didn't have time to stop for lunch because we needed to make the next crossing within three hours past low tide. we cracked open the jerky and trekked on.

of course, after a couple of hours of worrying and hurrying and panting, it turned out that the onetahuti crossing was tiny, and not even worth being concerned about. we flopped down on the beach just past it, settling on a log for lunch. a duck sidled up to us to make friends. zack tossed it a crumb, and next thing we knew, it stole zack's sandwich while we weren't looking (making us ultimately one slice of bread short of having even sandwiches, stupid duck). we relaxed our sore muscles on that beach for a good long while.

went on a mini-spelunk of a small cave at one end of the beach. it was a wide crack in the rock that narrowed quickly to a crawl space; i brought in my flashlight, and kirstin and i wriggled in. at the end of the crawl space was an even smaller hole that i decided to see if i could squeeze through. when i got close, i realized that a) i couldn't, and b) there was a living creature inside it: a white duck's head blinked at me in the flashlight's beam. fuck. would it attack if cornered? i backed out right quick. when we told zack about it, he stole the flashlight, went in, and threw things at the duck, but poor bugger didn't move. so i guess there was no danger.

we also scrambled around on the rough rocks to peer down into a water cave and to clamber up on a rock shelf above it.

there is one event that i have to mention, although i can't remember what day of the trip it happened on, or where, just that it was on one of the beaches. it involves this freaky motherfucker,


the toreapango, or variable oystercatcher, i am almost certain. one of them was standing on the beach, a striking sight with his blood-red beak and legs and his shining black feathers. he was perched on one leg, and zack came up close to take a picture. close -- closer -- closer -- always expecting that the bird would get scared and fly off.

instead, it was joined by another bird. the two stood shoulder to shoulder, lurking bullies on the sand. suddenly, they both flew at zack and kirstin, squawking. they are not small birds. now we were just trying to get past unscathed. they didn't like that. they didn't like our look. they didn't like our voices. they didn't like anything about us, basically, and they wanted us dead. we got off that beach right quick and couldn't shake the feeling that they were following us through the undergrowth.

zack: "those birds hate everything living and life itself."

we spent our second night at bark bay, where we met a girl named emily from philadelphia and her british friend whose great-uncle owns three pubs in harvard square. "how long have you guys known each other?" -- expecting the answer to number in the years. "oh, about four...four nights? days?" emily, stoned, had picked up the other girl, who was hitchhiking, and on the spur of the moment they decided to do the track. they'd each hauled a giant bottle of wine in with them and emily could no longer feel her right hand. they were hilarious to talk to but unfortunately we were too tired to be truly social.

instead, we made a sad fire that lived long enough to toast our sandwiches and melt some chocolate on our crackers (and infuse my shirts with a smoke-salami scent that still lingers). and then, ahh, slept.

Posted by ctamler 11:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking

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