Edit Blog Post
Published: October 23rd 2006
While everyone else at the camp site presumably got up early to catch the 3am ferry (why??) we had a leisurely breakfast and a return trip up Mt Victoria for some decent views over Wellington, since the previous two days had been so cloudy and windy. At around 11.30 we headed to the ferry terminal to check in and load up before our 1pm departure. Most of the people lined up to board were other camper vans and although Max doesn't quite match the luxory of most of the rental ones, we were glad he was converted because it made our fare much cheaper.
The crossing was pretty smooth and we spent it reading, watching Bride and Prejudice (well, me anyway) and then taking in the spectacular scenery as we entered the Malborough Sounds prior to arrival in Picton. The sounds are ancient flooded valleys (post ice age) and pretty cut-off from the rest of civilisation as there are few roads once you leave the main towns of Picton, Blenheim and Havelock. It will be interesting comparing them to the fiords once we reach the south of the South Island.
On leaving the ferry we only had
a short drive to our accommodation for the night, as we are doing some more wwoofing. This time our hosts are a Dutch family who moved here 20 years or so ago after coming for a 3 month holiday...they never left! We had a really good evening with good food and chat, plus some Malborough wine to taste as Marc is a scientist involved in investigating what makes Malborough wine one of the most popular tipples in the world. Not a bad way to pass your time.
As everyone headed off to work/school - they're very trusting folk here - we had breakfast and got started on our work for the day in the garden. As the sun was shining, the work was not too bad at all and certainly kept us busy for the morning. As well as the dog (Sam) and cat (Lucy), the family have five extremely fat pet sheep and four curious chooks. Unluckily for us, we even got to meet the fifth one...partially decomposed in the compost bins, which we were moving about and putting some on the newly turned vege garden - yuk! Apparently the other ones didn't like her so
they pecked her to death. Nice.
In the afternoon we took Sam for a bit of a walk up the road past some inquisitive calves and then did some more weeding so that we can have a more leisurely third day here.
Same as before really, with plenty more to do - glossy mags might intermittently describe gardening as 'sexy', but weeding certainly ain't. Although it's not as fun having to work again, both of us are appreciating the chance to chill out a bit from the travelling life as well as save some pennies. Later in the afternoon we borrowed the family's bikes and cruised out and about.
Only two hours of work to do on Thursday morning and then we were away heading back north again towards Picton and the Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman was the first European discoverer of New Zealand and gave it its name, although he was frightened off by a hostile Maori welcome. After negotiating the Queen Charlotte drive, which winds its way around the Sounds, we stopped for a quick look around Nelson City centre and a walk up to the cathedral, which at first sight
looked to be made of breeze blocks - they were actually blocks of marble. Following this we continued to Marahau and a slightly decrepit but nonetheless busy camp site, as this weekend is a big bank holiday for the Kiwis.
Sea kayaking in the Abel Tasman was on our 'to do' list for New Zealand, and we were unbelievably lucky to have found the perfect day to do it on, with barely a cloud in the sky and wind directions which would favour our paddling. After a safety briefing from Tom, the slightly eccentric German guide, we had time to chat to our fellow kayakers (from Amsterdam and Nottingham) and then went down to the beach for a bit of further orientation. As we had chosen the cheapest option of a 'freedom' kayak, we were put through our paces by Tom and then let loose to cross Marahau bay and on into the National Park. The scenery was absolutely stunning and it was a welcome change to view it from the ocean rather than on foot. Despite not having really kayaked before, we soon got into the swing of things and had passed Fishermens Island and Adele
Island before stopping for lunch at Akerston Beach, which was completely deserted. After an extremely brief dip in the sea, which looks enticingly turquoise but is actually freezing, we chilled out and soaked up some welcome sun rays. With time slipping by much too quickly it was time to head home, but with another stop at Appletree Bay on our return. Deciding that today could possibly have been our best yet in NZ, we collected Max and continued north to Golden Bay, punctuated by a steep climb up Takaka Hill, the 'Marble Mountain', which had glorious views from Hawkes Lookout. More LOTR filming was done hereabouts in the Kahurangi National Park, but most of the locations are remote and accessible only by helicopter. Arriving into the Golden Bay area, we made Tukura Beach our base for the night.
In utter contrast to the day before, and no doubt massively disappointing the holidaying crowds, the weather was miserable today. Not to be put off, we ventured west into the Kahurangi NP to explore some local sights. There was a golden age of gold prospecting here and some nice walks in the Aorere Goldfield to look around, including the
Stafford's and Ballroom caves. These were eerie to say the least, especially seeing as we had forgotten our torches. On the way back out there were a few interesting limestone rock formations called the Devil's Boots - this country is a geography teacher's dream!
After lunch we continued to the Te Waikoropupu ('Pupu') Springs. These are the result of the large amount of marble in the area and throw up on average 14,000 litres per second. They were pretty impressive, even more so because the water was stunningly clear and we were told that the only place clearer water can be found on earth is under the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. To round off our day we cruised back through the town of Takaka and round to Wainui Falls, where there was a walk through rainforest and across another swing bridge, before the falls came into sight. We camped for the night at Pohara.
More rain!! We drove back south and decided to miss an interesting cave with stalactites and the like because the weather was so miserable. From Nelson we began to make our way across to the West Coast region, largely following the Buller River gorge and popping in and out of the Kahurangi NP fringes. After stopping for some 'fush n chups' at Murchison we continued to the Buller Gorge Swingbridge, which is the longest in the country (contrary to what we said in a previous entry about Waiohine Gorge). This one was however much more stable and tourist friendly, so didn't give quite the same adrenalin rush. As the area is once again a former gold hot spot we decided to try our hands at some panning, which Simon had done here on his previous trip. The panning itself wasn't too tricky but was made impossible at the river by a swarm of sandflies! These are one of the only major drawbacks to travelling in NZ as they are nearly everywhere and have a vicious bite. Although we have some 100% DEET with us, it's not that pleasant to wear. Possibly feeling sorry for us when we returned our pans, the guy at the swingbridge decided to give us a freebie 'promo' go on the tandem comet line, which swings you back across the river with a sickening lurch at the end. Although we'd have both preferred to do it 'superman' style, we decided that our luck was definitely in as it would have cost $50.
Not much further on we stopped for the evening at a DOC campsite on the site of a former gold rush town at Lyell. All that remains is the old road and back into the forest, a cemetery where forest is regenerating amongst headstones and iron railings.
Tot: 2.615s; Tpl: 0.06s; cc: 14; qc: 66; dbt: 0.0728s; 2; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 4;
; mem: 1.4mb