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Published: March 10th 2017
IMG_1503" The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." Saint Augustine Tuesday 7th March 2017.
The ferry waiting to offload before we move aboard
Preparation is the name of the game when one travels and our research indicated we needed at least 30 minutes from Pororua to the Ferry in Auckland because of traffic congestion. So, we fired up the HBS and pointed towards the harbor arriving about 12 minutes later. What was the fuss all about?
Having checked in we had time to wait as the inbound ferry, the “Strait Feronia” arrived and disgorged a huge number of large trucks and cars. This Italian built ferry (any reason to worry?) can carry up to 150 vehicles of all shapes and sizes and 400 passengers. So, it’s big and stable which relaxed Sue considerably. Sitting in the dark waiting for boarding and watching the good folk of Wellington walking, jogging and cycling to work also provided an opportunity to catch up on a local NZ radio talk show. Big news here at the moment is the proposed changes to the Superannuation (Govt Pension Fund) which will see the retirement age increase to 67 from current 65 by 2040. The baby boomers
Captivating Stillwater Bay seemed like a great spot for a break and lunch
already or close to retirement couldn’t care less but the generation rent (youngsters) are pissed off to say the least as they are stuck with old student loan debt and the fact that they cannot afford home ownership. That’s apart from having to work harder and longer to keep the baby boomers chilled. To compound things the new PM, Bill English, hasn’t handled the whole thing well and one thing they don’t like here are politicians who “stuff up”. In fact I can’t quite see the point of being a politician in Oz or NZ as they are treated with contempt. For my money that’s the way all politicians should be treated.
The loading of an impressive line of large rigs and so forth was slick and orderly and within 15 minutes we eased out of Wellington harbor bound for Picton, South Island. Lots of grub and good coffee on offer and noticeable that seasick meds and puke bags were on display but I did not witness any fellow passenger turn green at the gills and rush for the deck to chum the waters of Cook Strait. Something to mention about security in NZ…wherever one goes be it camp
They had already cycled 300 kms. Proof that age means bugger all to some folk!
parks, pubs and even on board the Strait Feronia, people leave cell phones and electronic gadgets at public charge points. Sue and I took a while to embrace this concept as we are so hard wired to believe that there is some dodgy bloke ready to scale whatever is available. A real fact of living in SA I guess?
A quick update on NZ’s wildlife dilemma. According to Wikipedia the only indigenous mammals in NZ before man arrived were a few species of bats and marine species i.e. whales and dolphins. The Maoris arrived and brought dogs and cats and then the Europeans arrived from 1760 onwards and the real trouble started. They brought rats, stoats and the pesky little possum. No wonder the few species of birds got pummeled but interesting to note that recorded bird species have grown from 250 odd in 1960 to a current 453. It looks as though a large number of different types of birds drifted over NZ and decided not to leave, in the knowledge, maybe, that it is a helluva long way from anywhere.
Four hours later we sailed into Picton and the adventures of South Island beckoned.
Trout rivers like no others I have seen. And plentiful.
out the harbour we turned onto the Queen Charlotte roadway heading for Nelson (thanks Barry and Marieta for this gem of a tip). This incredible winding, climbing, plunging road meanders along a system of sounds (aka fjords, inlets) with quaint little villages and farms on both sides of the vast expanse of waterways leaving one wondering how people on the opposite side access their properties.....the answer, boat ownership of course!. Also noticeable is the names of the little towns are distinctly English with the reason being that there was less habitation of South Island by Maori people. The one startling fact about the scenery in NZ is that it is never dull or boring. Every sharp corner (and there are plenty) and every rise on top of steep hills and mountainsides heralds a new view which immediately catches one's attention.
Armed with The Lonely Planet Guide and trusty navigator/travel guide, Susan, one can track the journey with fascinating insights provided of the towns and their history and other interesting trivia. We eventually drifted into Havelock which proclaims itself to be "The greenshell mussel capital of the World." Couldn't argue against that irresistible temptation so we duly stocked up with
This is typical of the views from the walkway in Abel Tasman National Park.
1kg of live green mussels. The weather had also changed crossing the Tasman Sea and for the first time in just over two weeks of road travel the wipers had to be engaged on the HBS. No point whinging about the rain as we had been seriously lucky to that point. Nelson, with a population of 44,000, was the only major town we passed through and worth mentioning that this number doubles in the Kiwi holiday season due to its' great beaches and lots of stuff for the adventure junkies to do. This region is also well known for fruit growing and has numerous wineries producing some very good white wines in particular. Another little snippet of information about South Island is that it's total population is less than that of Auckland's 1.5 million people. Apart from the beaches, there are many reasons Kiwi's flock there which include all the adventure sports possible e.g. 4WD bikes, helicopter rides, kayaking on swift flowing rivers, kite surfing. You imagine it...they do it. It is also the gateway to the Tasman region which was our destination.
The roadsides were fringed with vineyards, apple orchards and huge fields of hops for beer production. Also noticeable were the growing number of arts and craft outlets, glass blowers and potters. In the LPG this region is described as a haven for quirky artists looking for the quiet life amid the backwaters of NZ. It is laid back and we had chosen a camping park in a small town by name of Motueka which put us on the fringes of the Abel Tasman National Park. Initially a one night stand but this turned into three nights with little persuasion. Establishing camp is a doddle and once done it was right on sundowner time. With chilled white wine in hand one sort of surveys the camp scene to see "who's who in the zoo". Without really trying, conversations are soon struck with passersby and the campers next door and we have met some wonderful people from all corners of the globe. Because of rainy weather dinner was knocked up in the very well kitted out communal kitchen. Green mussels caused a stir especially as we made mussel fritters based on a recipe that ever vigilant Sue had spotted in a local magazine. The aromas and the concept got some real traction. Delicious (to be done again at home) and accompanied by a chilled white wine....happy dreams!
Miraculously the next morning was crystal clear and ideal for a hike in the Abel Tasman National Park. Covering some 22,300 ha it is absolutely stunning. The park walkway extends for 51km hugging the coastline in pristine natural forest. We set off with no real plan in mind other than to simply enjoy this beautiful landscape and find a suitable spot for lunch. About 7,5 km (and two hours) later we stumbled onto Stillwater Bay's golden beach with crystal clear turquoise water lapping the shoreline. Bliss! After an alfresco picnic lunch we set off back to base making for a 15 km round trip. Plenty of other walkers on route of all ages and shapes but a noticeable absence of Asian people. Couldn't quite figure this out until we saw buses in the base car park disgorging Asian people who seem to be totally preoccupied with videos and photos...before hopping back onto the bus and being whisked off somewhere else. Must just comment again on the near total silence in the Park...apart from the cicadas chirping incessantly. One hardly sees a bird and there is no sign of little creatures scurrying about in the undergrowth. The walkway has many bridges crossing numerous streams plunging down the steep hillsides but close inspection of the crystal clear waters below revealed little aquatic life. Two weary campers drifted off for the night with no aches or pains reported by Sue.
We then ventured forth the next day headed for Golden Bay and Collingwood, the most northerly town. The drive was even more spectacular than the Queen Charlotte roadway and I salute the NZ blokes who built these roads. Steep ascents and descents with many hairpin bends and steep drop offs had Sue holding onto the edge of her seat. And all the while the scenery rivets one's attention. An interesting observation was the lack of water in many of the estuaries and waterways which had us puzzled until the LPG provided the answer..... the tidal change is up to 6 meters in extent. Collingwood according to the LPG has "a real, end of the line, frontier vibe". Spot on. There was a bit of an ulterior motive for our trip there as the area has some very good trout rivers. Quick fact file for my trout fishing buddies. There is an incredible website (www.nzfishing.com) which I use as a reference and it is brilliant. It provides a regional map of NZ and then for each region it provides the key rivers. A click on the chosen river reveals everything one needs to know about access, fishing locations, trout population and sizes etc., This put us onto the spot on two rivers I fished by name of Motueka and Aorere. On both occasions Sue was able to sit on a sandy beach reading her book or napping whilst I pursued the gentle art of flyfishing in incredible conditions. Didn't hook into a wily brown trout but my mantra remains...it's not all about the fish! And the real bonus...no other fishermen in sight.
Back to camp for our last night and chats with numerous people we had met and befriended including a South African guy and his wife who hail from Pretoria. Another fascinating couple were riding specially constructed bikes with a small single wheel trailer in tow containing essential trip belongings. They camp in tents and cycle each day. In my chat with them I established they have been doing this for many years when on holiday and this bike has a contraption on the front wheel which is motorised enabling them getting up those steep mountain passes. OK...nothing unusual about this except these two good folk were in their late seventies! Truly inspirational.
That is what makes travel fascinating and no doubt more surprises lie ahead as we ponder moving across to the West Coast.
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