After our early morning ferry ride, we arrived in Picton at the top of New Zealand's South Island, around 11:30am
. We filled up on petrol and headed for our stop for the night a town called Nelson, some 100km away. Again, we'd been blessed with a clear, sunny day - so much for it being winter. As such, we decided to take our time and take the long, windy coastal route via Havelock as we'd read it was a much more scenic drive. We weren't disappointed. The views of the Marlborough sounds were incredible; turquoise coloured sea, lush green headlands and golden coves all the way. Every five minutes I pulled over to take pictures. Just before we reached Havelock, we pulled into a picnic ground and boiled up some instant noodles. We sat there in the most glorious of spots snaffling our cheap, mundane lunch. It was quite ironic really. It was a site more befitting a spread of fine cheese, cured meats and maybe even caviar. Instead we had to make do with our maggi noodles and cereal bars!
Back on the road and we arrived in Nelson by mid afternoon. We found a hostel called Paradiso Backpackers,
it was offering free breakfast, lunch, dinner and free wifi. It cost $15 dollars each to spend the night in our van, use the facilities and enjoy the freebies. What a steal! After checking in, we ventured out to visit one of Nelson's most popular sights. This involved walking up a short, steep trail to the summit of one of the towns many peaks to what is known as 'The centre of New Zealand.' By this time it was late afternoon and with the sun low in the sky, the view of the town, the sea and the mountains in the distance were well worth the tiring trek. We descended the hill and I was now even more keen to sample another of Nelson's premier tourist attractions; its craft beer scene. The Sprig and Fern, voted one of New Zealand's best pubs, was right on our doorstep so we stopped by to quench our thirst after a long, arduous days travelling (haha any excuse for a beer). Inside it was a lot smaller than I imagined, with the seating area only the size of your living room. What the place lacked in size it made up for with its selection
of beverages though. There were over a dozen cask beers on offer and even better still, a range of locally brewed ciders to keep Sonya happy too. We sat in the quaint pub, had a few drinks and a bowl of chilli nuts. It had been another brilliant day. That night, we had our complimentary soup and bread roll from the hostel before filling up on our own pasta and tomato sauce with bacon. Then we made use of the free wifi to plan our trip for the next few days.
The following morning after breakfast we drove north from Nelson to Marahau, the gateway to the Abel Tasman national park. There are no roads into the national park so it's only accessible by water taxi or by walking the well maintained trails. It was a nice, warm day so we decided to take a walk and see some of famed golden beaches and clear, turquoise waters. We reached the car park on the edge of the Abel Tasman around 12:30pm
, after a quick lunch, Sonya and I set off on our walk along the coastal track to Coquille bay. We chatted away, enjoyed the view points and the
took detours onto quiet, secluded beaches. It was about an hours leisurely stroll each way and that was about enough exertion for one day. By late afternoon we arrived in our stopover for the night a coastal village called Kaiteriteri. After finding a cheap caravan park on the edge of town, we went for a look around. The place had one shop, a pub, a cafe and another caravan park. The cafe was shut so we passed a few hours away with a few drinks in the pub. That night we made vegetable stir fry and Sonya made friends with a Japanese Spitz puppy that belonged to the family staying next to us.
We awoke the next morning and decided to spend another day in Abel Tasman, first we thought about taking a boat trip further into the national park but Sonya and I didn't like the sound of the $100 price tag. Instead we would go for another walk and visit the nearby Split Apple Rock, an iconic circular rock on the coast which has cracked and split right down the middle. We drove the short distance and walked down the track to the beach where you can
view this peculiar attraction. It was mid morning, the sun was shining and we had the whole beach to ourselves - bliss. We wondered up and down the bay, Sonya collected shells and we took pictures of Split Apple Rock. It was a huge, perhaps the size of an old mini or a Smart car, and it was sitting proudly on top of smaller boulders - a bizarre and worthwhile little excursion. Afterwards we headed back to Marahau, the start point of the treks to Abel Tasman. This time we were going to embark on a longer walk to Stilwell Bay, a four hour round trip - about 14km. Armed with a packed lunch and plenty of water we set off and made good time passing the spots we'd seen the day before in no time. We went further inland crossing waterfalls and streams before stopping off at a beach for lunch. We reached Stilwell Bay and marvelled at the glistening, rich golden sand and the shallow, seemingly green waters. The walk back took longer, fatigue kicked in and by the last half an hour our legs were really aching. The burning pain was worth it though as it had
been a lovely day. That night we watched a film in the van before passing out. We had a long drive ahead of us down to the west coast the next day so a early night was essential. It was safe to say our first taste of New Zealand's South Island had wetted our appetites - neither of us could wait to see what else was in store. Next stop Greymouth.
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