Abel Tasman: Bright Stars and Secluded Beaches

Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest national park, located on the northern tip of the South Island. I’ll get to the incredible scenery, but the stars there were breathtaking. I had forgotten that they were supposed to look like that. I ran into a bush walking back to the campervan because I was so fixated on the sky.

I got my act together with my photo gear since I hadn’t quite pulled it off in Lake Tekapo, and this time Kris and Xander were kind enough to keep me company, so I wasn’t freaked out sitting alone in the total darkness. I was too focused on the camera, but Kris saw two shooting stars!

Can you spot the Southern Cross? Hint: It’s in the lower half of the band of the Milky Way and is shaped like a kite.img_5238In the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross (or simply Crux) is similar to Orion in that it’s usually the first one you spot. I’ve always found it to be a reassuring sight in an unfamiliar sky. It can also be used to determine what direction is south, similar to the way we use Polaris in the Northern Hemisphere to find north. Once you’ve found it, you can clearly make out the Coalsack Nebula, which is the dark spot between the two brightest stars in the Southern Cross.

If you spotted the Southern Cross, then you should also be able to find Alpha and Beta Centauri, the two bright stars above it that are almost exactly in the center of the image. Alpha Centauri (the one on top) is the closest star to our galaxy, a mere 4.3 light-years away!img_5247For the photo nerds, both images were shot at 18 mm, F3.5, ISO 6400. The first was a 20 second exposure and the second was 13.

Okay, back to Earth!

During the day in Abel Tasman, gold sand beaches drop into dazzling blue water that beckons even in the cool winter weather. We found ourselves considering going for a dip just because it looked so nice. You may be relieved to know that I didn’t endanger anyone’s eyesight by appearing in a bikini and blinding people by exposing my pasty white vampire skin. Not that there was anyone to endanger…we had the beach to ourselves!img_5264img_5269img_5272img_5275We so rarely manage to get a family photo with all three of us in it that I decided to set up my camera so we could take one. I left the remote in the campervan, so I had to rely on the self timer to make it work. I got a little over ambitious with my first attempt and was still running when it took the picture! img_5276I thought I had nailed it with my next attempt, but closer inspection revealed that I had cut it so close that my ponytail was still in motion from jumping into place. img_5277We finally managed to make it work! img_5279img_5280img_5291These shallow waters had tons of tiny critters hanging out, from green crabs to scallops. The birds were having a feast!img_5294img_5296We disturbed these white-faced herons while they were eating their lunch.img_5301We did the headland hike, and I was glad Kris was carrying Xander because it was a steep climb that seemed to keep going up forever! The views and the walk through the lush forest made it worth it.

When we were in Abel Tasman, my godmother shared that she loves to take pictures of empty benches, so I think in every place after this I took at least one picture of an empty bench in her honor. img_5313The yellow flowers were just beginning to bloom, marking the start of spring.img_5322img_5331img_5335The image below is one of the more awkward family photos we’ve taken. I have no idea why I’m standing like that…or why I have not one but two jackets tied around my waist. Motherhood has made me exponentially cooler! img_5344We had to cross the area of sand and water in the image below to get to the trailhead, but we didn’t want to soak our boots, so it was an amusing logic problem to work our way across. Xander giggled with delight as we hopped the shallow streams. Thankfully, we didn’t have to work our way back across it after the hike.img_5345img_5353There were pukeko everywhere! I couldn’t ever seem to remember their name on this trip, so I have taken to calling them pokahahas. It seems like something my mother would do…and that terrifies me. She called my brother-in-law Maverick for about the first year he was dating my sister. His name is Cassidy!

I don’t know what kind of trees these are (Nick?), but they were lovely against the blue sky and whispy clouds. img_5354Bonus bench picture.img_5362Once we left Abel Tasman, we only had a few more stops before crossing the Cook Strait to the North Island. First, we needed to explore Nelson and Cable Bay.

The up to date list of New Zealand Adventure posts can be found here.

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