To­taranui camp­ing peace in par­adise

To­taranui is camp­ing niri­vana with golden sands and a sprawl­ing na­tive bush set­ting. sets up camp in this piece of par­adise.

The Leader (Nelson) - - YOUR HEALTH -

The to­tara is a for­est gi­ant re­spected by Ma¯ori, and a large one might be re­ferred to as rakau ran­gatira – a chiefly tree. Its tim­ber was prized above all oth­ers. Nui means ‘large’.

I will pon­der this as I en­joy the golden sands at To­taranui camp­site this week with 800-plus other peo­ple. If a tra­di­tional Kiwi camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is your thing then To­taranui, or ‘‘Tot’’ as the lo­cals say, is the place to go.

There is a strong sense of com­mu­nity and fam­i­lies have been camp­ing here for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions.

If you pre­fer a soli­tary camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, stay away, or visit out­side the sum­mer sea­son when To­taranui has only a hand­ful of res­i­dents.

What draws so many peo­ple to this lo­ca­tion each sum­mer?

Camp­ing next to the clear wa­ter and golden sand of the kilo­me­tre long To­taranui beach, at Abel Tas­man Na­tional Park’s north­ern end, is an an­nual event for many Nel­so­ni­ans.

We also swim, kayak, fish and ex­plore na­tive bush on nearby tracks. Orig­i­nally a farm­ing set­tle­ment, the only per­ma­nent res­i­dents now are De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion staff. Farm­ing ceased af­ter the Na­tional Park was founded in 1942 and for­est has been al­lowed to nat­u­rally re­gen­er­ate from manuka and kanuka to its orig­i­nal mix of south­ern beech and podocarp, in­clud­ing to­tara.

Not so long ago, Abel Tas­man Na­tional Park was re­garded as a back­wa­ter. In 1957, the Nelson Evening Mail de­scribed the Abel Tas­man area as ‘‘a stretch of lit­tle known coast­line.... it is dif­fi­cult to ac­cess ex­cept from sea and re­mains in much the same state as in pre-his­toric eras.’’

Now a mecca for hol­i­day mak­ers, To­taranui is an in­ter-gen­er­a­tional camp­ing desti­na­tion.

Many peo­ple re­turn ev­ery year – of­ten to the same site their par­ents had, and mar­ried to some­one they met there.

The camp­ground is di­vided into 23 zones, or liv­ing rooms. These are sep­a­rated by shel­ter belts and mod­ern amenity blocks. Once campers erect their can­vas fences, park the car­a­van and large fam­ily tent, in­stall a beer fridge, com­mu­nal din­ing area and por­ta­ble shower, the camp­ground starts to re­sem­ble a tight col­lec­tion of Kiwi quar­ter-acre sec­tions.

Al­though you need to book a camp­site on­line via the DOC web­site – and do so early – spe­cific ar­eas can’t be re­served, or places held for campers yet to ar­rive.

Young chil­dren play in the sand with their new friends, craft­ing mer­maid tails and ex­plor­ing rock pools. They learn how to pad­dle a kayak. They stay up late to see stars and cook marsh­mal­lows over an open fire (but only in the DOC fire­places pro­vided). Slightly older chil­dren ‘hang out’ on the beach, catch up with mates they met last sum­mer, work on their tans, at­tempt to log into so­cial me­dia (very patchy cov­er­age), lis­ten to their iPods and bug their par­ents for a trip out to civil­i­sa­tion.

The lat­ter be­ing de­fined as a place with Wi-Fi ac­cess – the clos­est is half an hour away over a nar­row, windy road at Po­hara.

For adults, lim­ited cell phone re­cep­tion makes for a to­tal re­lax. I can sit in the sun with a book and then fall asleep.

If feel­ing en­er­getic, I might do a walk along the sand or head to Awaroa Beach. You may re­call that last sum­mer, we crowd­funded to buy a piece of this.

If not feel­ing en­er­getic there are plenty of peo­ple to talk to – many I don’t get to see dur­ing the year. I can have a glass of some­thing cold with them. Ev­ery Jan­uary the world seems to stop and come to To­taranui to chill.

See you there. el­iz­a­beth@greenaway.co.nz

PHOTO: DIANA PARR

Get­ting ready to launch from the beach at To­taranui.

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