In less than a month, my time in New Zealand is coming to an end. My Australia visa is approved, my flight is booked, and on 27 November Steve and I will be heading off for our next chapter in Melbourne. We’ve done so many incredible things in New Zealand, stretching from our first overnight tramping trip in the Tararuas to our upcoming final trip next week to hike the Milford Track (known as one of the best walks in the world). We’ve seen a lot of what we’ve wanted to see in this beautiful country, especially now that we’ve been down to Queenstown and the surrounding area with my family (more on our family trip soon!).
Think of the main tourist attraction in your city or town. When was the last time you visited it? Maybe you actively avoid it (cough, Times Square), maybe you checked it out when you first moved but you have’t been back, maybe it’s “on your list” but you haven’t quite gotten around to it.
Sometimes its nice to play tourist in your own town and hit all of those sites that “locals never bother with,” but one of the great things about Wellington is that the main tourist attraction also happens to be a lovely nature walk with the best views of the city. Hiking up Mount Vic was one of the first things we did when we first moved here, and I’ve been up four or five times since then.
I haven’t written a journalistic-type article since… I was a journalism major? But I’m pretty proud of this one. In honour of Women’s Equality Day, a US holiday commemorating the (98th anniversary) of the Nineteenth Amendment, I spoke to four women in different countries (USA, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand) about women’s rights in their respective countries, and their hopes for the future. I’m hoping to do more with their words because they had such amazing things to say—maybe a series of some sort on my blog? But for now, I’m delighted to share this piece I wrote for Harsh Reality:
August 26 is Women’s Equality Day in the United States, commemorating the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. In the USA, women’s rights have seen huge strides forwards (as well as some big steps back). But how do women’s rights in the States compare to other countries around the world? Four women — from the United States, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada — weigh in.
What do you do when two of your favourite people fly to the other side of the world to see you? Go to some of the north island’s most amazing sites of course! My bestie Erin and her husband Jason came to visit Steve and me last week, breaking up their Australian holiday with a few whirlwind days in New Zealand. Because they only had two weeks total, their time in NZ was brief—only four full days—but I think we managed to squeeze a whole lot into that quick trip.
They arrived in Wellington late Sunday night and we immediately got down to business with a long-overdue catch-up (and some of our favourite local wine and beer). I hadn’t seen Erin and Jason since the end of last summer, and the four of us hadn’t been in the same place since their gorgeous wedding last May.
Despite staying up until nearly 3am (an especially impressive feat for me since I’d run a half-marathon earlier on), we got up early the next morning—so much to do, so little time! Because Wellington weather is unpredictable, we took advantage of the decent if a bit overcast day and as soon as we picked up the rental car we drove up to the Mount Vic lookout for a view over the harbour.
The main beach of San Sebastián, Spain, is called La Concha due to its shape resembling that of a seashell a seashell. In the centre of the harbour is an island, appropriately named La Pearla, the pearl. Matiu/Somes is Wellington harbour’s pearl, a not-so hidden but underrated gem of a tiny island between Wellington city and Lower Hutt. Yesterday, because the sun was shining and Steve had a random day off work, we took the ferry out to visit this interesting and beautiful place.
The Matiu/Somes ferry runs infrequently, only three times on weekdays, so we took the earliest ferry at 10am and after a brisk 25 minute jaunt through the harbour we arrived on the island. The island’s main appeal today is that it has been a mammalian predator-free zone since the 1980s—e.g. no mice, rats, etc.— and is also free of a number of invasive species that are found elsewhere in Wellington, so when you get off the boat the first thing you have to do is go through a biosecurity check. Go through bags, empty pockets, clean the soles of your shoes. Once that’s finished, you’re let loose to explore the island.
Abel Tasman National Park is one of the busiest spots in New Zealand, with upwards of a quarter of a million visitors per year spending at least a day in the park in recent years. However, the vast majority of these visitors come in summer, to enjoy the beautiful golden sand beaches and warm water for kayaking and swimming. Last week, in late autumn, it was nearly empty, and it was a wonderfully peaceful way to experience one of New Zealand’s most stunning regions.
Our trip started with a water taxi from Marahau to Totaranui Bay. We decided to go from north to south because it offered more flexibility; we could take the morning boat and when we got back to Marahau three and a half days later, we’d be back at our rental car and ready to return to Nelson. The water taxi trip was great, taking us to the famous Split Apple rock as well as to see baby seals playing in rock pools near an island just offshore.
I already wrote plenty about our experience between Totaranui and Awaroa hut, but even though the rest of the trip wasn’t as dramatic, there was still so much to see and do. Abel Tasman is full of flora and fauna, beautiful vistas and lush forest, and to be there in such a quiet time (there were days when we didn’t see anyone from the time we left the first hut until the time we reached the next) was amazing.
Our second day in the park took us 13.5km from Awaroa to Bark Bay. Unlike the previous afternoon, day two was warm and sunny. The trails in Abel Tasman are well-marked and don’t have much elevation climb, so the hike itself is not difficult and leaves plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. There are also a couple of fun bridges to cross over estuaries and streams.
We arrived in Bark Bay to find a family had already arrived at the Bark Bay hut and started a fire in the stove, making the lovely space extra nice and cozy. After sunset, we walked out to the beach at Bark Bay to take some photos of the night sky using my camera and tripod. Across the Tasman Bay, in the distance, there was a thunderstorm and with a little luck and a lot of mistimed shots, I managed to capture it in one photo.
The start of our third day in the park was a bit grey and drizzly, but as the morning went on the weather cleared up and the sun hitting the last of the raindrops made for some beautiful rainbows.
Day three featured a couple of side trips as we hiked from Bark Bay to Anchorage. We climbed up a steep and less-traversed trail to visit Cascade Falls, as well as taking a much more leisurely ten-minute detour to Cleopatra’s Pool (which must be an amazing place to take a cool dip in the summer).
Anchorage Hut was the busiest and most well-outfitted of the locations we spent the night. Although none of the huts have cooking facilities, they do have flush toilets (although usually a short walk from the huts themselves) and Bark Bay and Anchorage both had a few solar-powered lights). This hut even had solar-powered mobile phone charging cables, which is something I never expected to see.
The final day, from Anchorage back to Marahau, was quick and easy, and we enjoyed burgers at The Fat Tui before heading off to Nelson for the night. A couple of weka, a kiwi-like bird that we had seen throughout the trip, tried very hard to steal our sandwiches.
Having previously done an overnight hike only once before, four days and three nights in Abel Tasman was definitely a new adventure. And so worth it. If you’re okay with chilly weather and love tranquil solitude, I definitely recommend exploring a national park in the offseason. Not only is it easier to do (we booked our huts a few weeks ahead of time, whereas in the summer they fill up months in advance; on other trips such as our road trip we were able to take advantage of first-come-first-serve campsites in parks like Yosemite that become highly in-demand book-ahead sites during peak season), but it’s a great way to enjoy the beauty and power of the site without crowds of other people. And if you choose to go to Abel Tasman, you’ll surely be in awe of the wonder of the world that you encounter.