Tramping up mountains

Published: April 29th 2015
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Well we have been in Nelson for a few days exploring the top of the South Island. On our list was a trip into the Abel Tasman National Park. It is only accessible by boat or plane and is the smallest of NZ national parks. There are 40 residential properties there but no facilities so they have to really fend for themselves in every way. I can't imagine living without what we take for granted as the fundamentals of every day life. Goodness knows what happens if you need to go to the docs or the hospital cos the only way is by boat and then it's a further hour by car once you have got to the little harbour. You really have to be self sufficient, like your own company and enjoy being one with nature! Definitely not for us, we are proper townies! Anyway I digress we were picked up in Nelson at 7.15am by bus and taken to the little harbour at Kaiteriteri which took 1.5 hours. We then got our tickets and climbed aboard the water taxi. We opted to do the boat trip to the end of the coastal national park and then get off on the way back. The park is beautiful, the beaches are golden sand and the sea turqouise. The water taxi stopped off at several bays on route and we went to see split apple rock which is a bit strange, it is a very large round apple shaped rock that looks as though it has just been sliced in half with a knife! After jumping off we opted to do the longest walk around the coast to the next bay where we met the water taxi again. The walk was lovely with great views over the ocean and sand banks, it was around 12km and we enjoyed it but it was a very long day as we didn't get back to Nelson until after 6.30pm. No dolphins today just a couple of basking seals.

Today off to Nelson Lakes to do some more walking. The weather is being very kind to us and it is blue skies again so after a quick coffee in the village of St Arnaud and a trip to the information centre we did a climb of Mt Robert which is 1,431 metres high. The views over Lake Rotoiti and the surrounding mountains were awesome. On our way down we came across one of the huts that you can stay in overnight whilst you are tramping in the mountains. It was brilliant, it had 14 bunk beds, cooking facilities, chopped wood for the fireplace and saws and axes hanging up in the wood sheds and it was immaculate. I couldn't help thinking that if that had been in England it would have been trashed or filthy or all the things would have been stolen!! That's a terrible way to think about your own country but sadly very true. Having spent three months here and seen the relaxed way that people go about everything, how they feel safe and don't even bother to lock up their houses it makes me think that this is what the UK was probably like 50 years ago. How sad that we did not manage to retain some of what made us Great!!!

Driving from Nelson to Picton today as it's time to go back across the Cook Straight on the ferry. The drive is as you would expect but instead of going on the state highway we went on the top coastal road and were rewarded for our efforts big time, just sublime and what a great way in which to end our South Island journey, stupendous! Onto the North Island and a very good sail across as the sea was flat calm. All went well and we had a night in a B&B which was good. We met a lovely Canadian couple who gave us all their details and said that we must go and stay with them when we get to their part of the world which was very nice. We have found that a lot of the B&B over here encourage all the guests as well as the hosts to all sit down and have breakfast together which makes it a very chatty start to the day and in fact it can sometimes get to nearly lunch time before its over. It's all very informal with people sitting together in the evenings in the guest lounge sharing wine and stories. This has been really good for us as we have met some lovely interesting people this way. Went to the Chinese Embassy today and handed over our application and passports for our visa so hopefully when we go and pick them up on Friday it will be ok. So a few days down this end of the country to fill so we have booked a few nights in a place called Wanganui which is quite a large town on the banks of the Wanganui river. We have just wandered round the town today, sampled one of the coffee shops, in fact for the first time we actually did coffee and cake! I had a very nice Date and Orange scone whilst Baz opted for the stickiest, gooiest, most calorific toffee, fudgy sticky mess you have ever seen. We had to go for a very long walk by the river after it to try to work a couple of cm off the waistline!! Picked up our visa today from the embassy, yippee, big relief!

It is ANZAC day here and you may have seen something about it on the news at home as the Queen and Prince Phillip laid wreaths. It stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and it is a very important national holiday here. It is a special anniversary this year as it is the centenary of Gallipoli and the occasion was marked here and abroad by the wearing of poppies, dawn parades and the laying of wreaths. Baz and I went to the Maori service which was predominately spoken in Maori and held in the town centre by the Maori war memorial. The service was well attended and we kinda of stuck out in the crowd as the only white folk. At the start of the service the Haka was performed which is actually very intimidating and quite scary. It may have something to do with the fact that the guys that perform the war dance are about 8 feet tall! The service went on for about an hour and ended with the hymn "How great tho art" sung in Maori but at least we could hum along. I have to say that some of the men in their uniforms were quite hansome, the Maori people have quite distinctive facial features and there were even a couple of ladies who had the traditional facial tattoos. It was again another significant memorable occasion.

Been walking again today or should I say tramping. Weather beautiful and there are lots of walking paths around this area as we are surrounded by yet another national park. Undecided what to do for tea tonight so off to the supermarket, our shopping basket consisted of wine, bread, frozen chips and chocolates! Not what you would call a balanced diet, more a balancing of the weight on each hip eating plan! Packing up again today and off to New Plymouth for a night. We are on the western coast and the area we are visiting is dominated by a huge extinct volcano called Mt Taranaki.

Well all I can say is that we can see the base of the mountain and that is it. The weather has turned into what I can only describe as very typically British, wet cold and very blustery. Visibility of mountains, nil today. But not to worry it's not as though we haven't seen an enormous amount of beautiful scenes and sights whilst we have been here. Bit of excitement today as we have had an earthquake! Granted it was only a little one and it didn't last very long but the whole house shook, it measured 4.1 on the scale! We were very glad it was only a small one, it must be a terrifying experience to have everything start shaking on a big scale!

We are off back to Auckland tomorrow in preparation for our very early morning flight on Friday morning to Phuket. It's going to be a very long day as we have to go via Melbourne, but hey ho it's all part of the experience.

To sum up New Zealand, it's spectacular, it's spacious, it's breathtakingly beautiful and the people are all so friendly. We have had hundreds of wow moments and loved them all, from driving thousands of miles on small windy hairpin bendy roads to some of us crazy people leaping off small platforms attached to elastic we have had a ball and will be sorry to say goodbye to it all. Stupendous, thank you New Zealand for being everything we expected and so so much more.

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