Hi Laura here due to popular demand (from my family).
So we left Picton after some very fishy fish and chips including battered mussels which were very good. We caught the bus for a mere two hours through vineyards and valleys to Nelson in the Able Tasman region. The Nelson region holds the crown for the most sunshine hours per year in New Zealand and the sun did not let us down. It was beautiful driving along the coast into the small city that we had hoped was placed perfectly on the sea front. Much to our upset Nelson as a city is surrounded by the fishing industry and two of the biggest fish factories in the world. Many times since we have been away we have believed that being carless did not have to stop our exploring and off on foot we have gone. This time like every other we have realised, while walking along a dual carriage towards the sea, that the wheel was invented for a good reason, we have missed the last bus, and we have had to turn back while looking at another industrial monstrosity. However on this day fate was smiling down on us.
It was that morning in Picton that Sam had started complaining that something was digging into his back while he wore his day pack. His search for foam began. Unsurprisingly the local hardware store looked at him like he was fool and our only hope was that we would come across a Mitre 10 (NZ B&Q). Even then the hope of finding the perfectly sized piece of foam seemed unlikely. So then while walking down this industrial areas dual carriage, much to our amazement a foam and rubber specialist store appeared. We could not believe our eyes, this was the happiest I had seen Sam since our all you can eat breakfast that morning. So Nelson’s local rubber and foam specialist showed us to the foam with perfect non water absorbing density, not that Sam’s back would ever get sweaty, and for a mere $4 all our problems were solved. With a little light pom targeted racism thrown in for good measure. Happy days! This was the highlight of our time in Nelson.
City bound we went for a wander down the high street, bought some groceries and headed back to the hostel to make yet another stir
fry before heading out for a drink in this thriving city??? Sam received written confirmation of his job offer in Melbourne so a celebration was in order. We had a tip off about a bar in a converted church so we headed there to sit on the church pews and have a drink. Mum and Dad you would have loved it.
Luckily our friendly hostel worker had realised we were leaving at 7 am to catch the intercity bus and contacted them to pick us up the next day outside of the hostel, giving us an extra 20 mins in bed, always needed. We then got on the coldest bus journey of our lives. We have learnt never to believe the NZ weather forecasts and again it was wrong. The West coast is bitterly cold our 5 hour bus journey to Punakaiki prompted me to put my gloves over my socks and then in the shoes again. Not pretty or cool but it worked for me. The journey took us through boundless countryside, farmland, the odd generic town, then onto the West coast, described to me often by Kiwis as their favourite part of NZ. Our destination Punakaiki is
the location of the famous pancake rocks and a very sleepy collection of houses along the coast road towards them.
I am now writing this from the beach hostel at Punakaiki which is as the name suggests is on the beach. The wind is fierce and therefore the sea is harsh, nature at it wildest. The Pancake rocks are so called as they are thin layers of rock that have stacked since prehistoric times. They lay on the coast with a sub tropical rainforest covering the hills behind them. The fierce tide and waves crashing into the rocks creates the blow holes, bursting spray escapes through gaps in the rocks and rockets meters in the air above us. We were unsure what we would find on arrival here but I can easily say Sam and I, plus others we met, were genuinely surprised by the magnitude of these explosions and the wildness of the sea. On a still day it is not as impressive. This we found on our second day at Punakaiki but the sunshine illuminated the beach for us so we had no complaints.
In our 48 hours here we have mainly drank tea and looked
out over the sea from the hostel balcony. Scrabble has been a major activity and obviously cards with new friends. As it is so small here few people stop for more than an hour to see the rocks. Those that do, luckily for us, are like minded and wanted a chill out with one of the best views in NZ. Life has been tough.
We did manage a river walk inland through the rainforest for a few hours. This area has featured in walking with dinosaurs and we certainly felt like we had walked onto the set of Jurassic Park. It is untouched and we encounter only a few humans and 3 goats. The silence is what strikes us. The main south bound road is close to the beginning of the trail but there is such little traffic that it makes little difference. We feel very remote here once the tourists have left the rocks.
We chose Punakaiki as our one stop between Nelson and Franz Josef town, home of the famous glacier. This is a large stretch of road down the west coast and needs a stopping point. Once we were back on the road we realised
that Punakaiki was the right choice. This drive had been voted one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world and our ongoing drive lives up to this. Again we follow jagged rocks and crashing waves. The weather is closing in, which is dramatic on the coast but grim once further inland. The rain starts and we connect between the larger townships of the region. All are remote and quiet with the generic style of NZ. Many have fabulous backdrops, especially as we head further towards the mountains. However we cannot see these due to the rain.
This 5 hour journey was made simply by our friendly Inter-City bus driver. He gladly remarks on his microphone along the way on local information and stories. My favourite being while travelling through the gold mining region and discussing the largest gold nugget discovered. This was a national treasure and was given to the British as a gift. They promptly melted it down and used it to make table wear, oops. His shorts and long sky blue socks only add to his genius. He safely winds us through the hills to arrive in the mist and the rain at the famous
glacier town. We cannot see any of it and are slightly worried about the weather for our heli hike the next day.
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