The Abel Tasman Triathlon, extreme eating in Dunedin and other adventures in NZ

Published: March 12th 2012
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Split Apple RockSplit Apple RockSplit Apple Rock

Does what it says on the label
Having lived in the nearest big town to the Abel Tasman National Park for nearly five months it was about time I got out there and actually explored it! I decided on a rather energetic day trip into the park to try and see the highlights. Our trip started with a water taxi ride out to Bark Bay in the middle of the park. On the way we had photo stops at Split Apple Rock (looks quite a bit like it sounds), and the islands to see seals and pups basking on the rocks. Afterwards we were dropped on a pristine stretch of golden sand squashed between the sea and a calm, clear lagoon. As we padded across the sand towards the track up through the forest the sun came out and turned the sea all the colours of a sparkling paua shell and the trees emerald green. With the sun out Abel Tasman can easily boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

I walked the two and half hours to Torrent Bay barefoot, having forgotten to put my flip flops back on when I jumped off the boat. The walk runs through shady woodland, with tantalising glimpses of the sea and sand around every corner. At Torrent Bay the sun was high in the sky and so we ran into the crystal clear water to cool down before another water taxi came to take us around the corner to Watering Cove. Here our kayak guide was waiting for us. As a happy coincidence a friend of mine from holidays in Malaysia, Chris, is also a kayak guide out here and was just about to leave with another group so we gatecrashed and joined his trip. I'm not sure how the others on his trip felt about us hogging their guide for gossip and then paddling much faster than the rest of them too!

The wind had picked up so it was pretty choppy paddling out towards the Astrolabe Islands, but good fun getting splashed by the waves. Once we made it round the corner into the shelter of the next bay it was lovely to just paddle around with a great view of the coastline and we were even lucky enough to have a little Blue Penguin pop his head up and swim alongside us for a couple of minutes. Then Chris got us to try kayak-sailing, where we held onto each others kayaks to make a raft and then tied a sail to the paddles. This would have been awesome if the wind had been in the right direction to take us into the beach we were heading for, instead every time we tried to steer in to land the sail collapsed in a wet heap in the faces of me and the others in the front of the kayaks!

So after walking and kayaking, to finish off my Abel Tasman Triathlon I borrowed a bike from the kayak company and pedalled as fast as I could into a head wind to the other end of the village to say hi to another friend before the bus left back for Nelson. It was probably a good thing I only had 15 minutes to chat to Miska, the sandflies are master biting machines out in the park and I would have looked like I had measles if I'd stayed any longer!

After all that exercise and excitement the day before I was looking forward to sitting back and relaxing on the
The TranzAlpine trainThe TranzAlpine trainThe TranzAlpine train

crossing one of the ricketty old looking bridges!
bus down to Greymouth the next day. Relaxing was not the theme of this bus ride though: I think our bus driver had an obsession with go-karts as a child because he treated the extremely twisty road like a racing track and made me feel nauseous for hours after I'd got off the bus!

Greymouth was living up to its name when we were there, with a heavy ceiling of clouds emptying their load onto the industrial town. The only sensible option seemed to be to turn to drink, so we headed to the Monteith's Brewery for an informational video and, more importantly, some samples! Monteith's has been my favourite brewer in the Southern Hemisphere for some time so it was a treat to be able to try all their beers and cider. I particularly like the fact that they have a beer especially created and named for cyclists – the Radler – it's also very girl-friendly with its hint of lemon and lime that makes it extremely tasty.

We awoke the next day to another typically grey and dreary day on the West Coast, not a promising forecast for a scenic railway journey across the Southern Alps, through Arthur's Pass, to Christchurch. The sun god was looking down on us though and as we exited the tunnel onto the eastern side of the mountains the weather improved dramatically. The clouds broke up and the sun turned the landscape from a watercolour into an oil painting. The train rumbled alongside deep gorges and over ancient looking viaducts, through fields of sheep and into Christchurch in time for dinner, drinks, lots of gossip with Kate, and another calm night in the shaky city.

I decided to have a short weekend break away to Dunedin while Jeff visited friends up in Picton. Another attempt to tick off places I've missed before my second trip to NZ is over. For New Zealand, the road is wide, flat and straight all the way from Christchurch to Dunedin, so I arrived just after lunch and in time to check in to my hostel and get on my tour to see the wildlife of the Otago Peninsular (which I will write about in another more ecology-orientated blog). I was very happy to have timed my visit to coincide with the Otago Farmers Market, so I spent a pleasant morning sampling cheeses, fresh fruit, vegan cakes, coffees, whitebait patties and Lebanese pastries. Suitably fuelled I then wandered around the Edinburgh of the Southern Hemisphere, admiring the imposing colonial buildings of the train station, cathedral and town hall. I resisted a tour of the Cadbury's factory on the grounds it doesn't taste quite as good here as the stuff made at Bourneville, but I still stuck my head in the door to see a mountain of Crunchie bars! In the afternoon I dodged the chilly showers browsing in secondhand bookshops and drinking tea before the sun came out in time to smell the roses in the Botanical Gardens and then warm up again in the tropical plant house.

Dunedin is a student town and I had quite a shock to be there in 'O' week, their equivalent of Freshers Week. It may have been more than ten years since I was a fresher, but I never remember creating quite the carnage that I saw when I stumbled across the student streets behind the university. It was like a bomb had gone off in a brewery, with broken glass and beer boxes replacing lawns and flower beds in the front gardens. In town the tourists had to wait to get their snapshots of the cathedral and other landmarks while sports teams clambered over statues and railings to drape their banners. At the risk of sounding old I'll stop this blog before I sound too shocked by student behaviour!

Up next, Frankwah goes on a road trip!

Additional photos below
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Typical view in NZ...Typical view in NZ...
Typical view in NZ...

...weird clouds and sheep
Whitebait pattyWhitebait patty
Whitebait patty

at the Otago Farmers Market

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