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The Earth Makes Music for Those Who Listen; Siblings on the South Island

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Oct 26th, 2014, 10:46 PM
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The Earth Makes Music for Those Who Listen; Siblings on the South Island

The particulars:

Blame it on the enchiladas. The topic of my brother returning to the Southern Hemisphere came up back in April during dinner at a favorite Mexican restaurant in Colorado. We went our separate ways to digest and ponder the possibilities, me returning to Australia a few days later. By early June the decision had been made and I got busy planning, New Zealand here we come.

I monitored airfares for many weeks, playing around with the dates in an attempt to find the lowest fares and maximize Bob’s vacation time. Much research and frustration ensued, but eventually we were booked, and by complete coincidence, our travel dates were the exact same as last year, thanks in no small part to American Labor Day.

Bob was to fly United Airlines from Colorado Springs to Denver (15 minute flight) then connect to another United Airlines flight to San Francisco. From San Francisco he’d connect with an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, and then another flight from Auckland to Christchurch. Although all of these flights were booked on the same ticket with Star Alliance partners, something went awry in the Colorado Springs Airport as it so often does. United Airlines did what they do best; screw things up.

I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say, it was a needlessly stressful day for a relatively inexperienced traveler and an inauspicious start to a ~24 hour journey.

Things were a bit more straightforward for me. Air New Zealand has a once daily flight from Perth to Auckland, but it’s a brutally timed overnighter. Mama didn’t raise a fool; I wasn’t about to hop into a rental car and drive the infamously narrow winding roads of NZ after an uncomfortable sleepless night in a metal tube. So, I opted to fly from Perth to Sydney on Virgin Australia and connect with an Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch, arriving around midnight the day prior to Bob’s arrival.

I left Perth at 10 am, arrived Christchurch at 11:30 pm, not quite as bad as it sounds, as NZ is four hours ahead of Perth. My Virgin Australia flight to Sydney went well, they even unexpectedly fed and wined me, and as a bonus the food was surprisingly edible. The Sydney terminal shuffle was new for me, but easy. I just presented my VA voucher for the transfer bus and viola, I was transferred. I was surprised at the distance between terminals and I found the international terminal poorly signed and confusing, but hey, it worked.

My Air New Zealand flight from Sydney to Christchurch also went well, and they fed me again, but this round was foul. Interestingly enough, the middle seat on both flights was empty, so sufficient room to breathe.

Bob left Colorado on Saturday, August 30. I left Perth Sunday, August 31. We met in the Christchurch Airport on Monday, September 1. Six years in Australia and this dateline thing still wigs me out. I have to really pay attention when booking.

Because flights from Auckland to Perth and flights from Auckland to SFO/LAX don’t coordinate particularly well, last year Bob was stuck with some pretty miserable layovers, including seven hours in Auckland prior to his return flight to San Francisco, then another seven hours in SFO before his flight to Colorado Springs. Gross is an understatement.

In an effort to prevent him having to do this again, I left Auckland a day later than he did, spending a night at the Auckland Airport Novotel after seeing him off on his flight to LAX. This served multiple purposes; it gave us an afternoon to explore a tiny bit of Auckland, a room to stash our belongings while we explored, and a place for Bob to shower and relax before his 9:30 pm flight to LAX; it worked a treat.

The itinerary:

Christchurch – nine hours at an airport motel (Mel)
Hanmer Springs – one night
Picton – three nights
Kina Beach/Ruby Bay – four nights
Punakaiki – two nights
Akaroa – three nights
Auckland – one night at airport hotel (Mel)

During last year’s visit, Bob’s first, we concentrated on the ‘highlights’ of the South Island, e.g., the glaciers, Wanaka, Queenstown and Milford Sound. This year was to be all about water, tramping and a slower, more relaxed pace.

Day 1 - Christchurch & Hanmer Springs

I arrived in Christchurch just before midnight: I took the Super Shuttle ($15) to the nearby Airways Motel, collected my room key from the lockbox, checked the status of Bob’s flight online and went to bed. The motel was perfectly adequate, but not a place I’d pick for more than a nine hour stay (clean, compact, free WiFi, plentiful road noise, complimentary shuttle back to the airport, easy in and out, room #1, $130).

Bob’s flight from Auckland was due at 9:20 am the following morning; I took the 9 am motel shuttle to the domestic terminal, locating his baggage carousel just as he crept up behind me from the escalator.

We called for the APEX shuttle and collected our rental car, me giving into superstition and renting a set of snow chains, just in case. My theory is if you have them you won’t need them; so far it’s worked every time ($588.00 for 14 days, including $25 snow chain rental).

As expected, Bob was wrecked, so I’d planned a slow and easy first day. We located SH 1 and headed north, easily done when fresh and excited (the driver anyway), less so when tired and distracted as we learned later in the trip.

Our first stop was about 17 km north of Christchurch in Kaiapoi, where we effortlessly found a New World supermarket to pick up the obligatory Tim Tams, Rashuns and even a few healthy items for the inevitable road trip munchies. Bob curiously examined the unfamiliar products. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my fascination of grocery stores when traveling.

We were in no hurry to get anywhere in particular, so we made a few detours, randomly following signs to beaches, taking a nice long walk along one of them and generally enjoying the fresh air and Pacific Ocean views.

Our route took us directly through Amberley, home of the Nor’Wester Café, where we rocked up too late for the waffle/bacon/yogurt/bananas Bob so enjoyed last year, but just in time for lunch. He went whole hog with the steak and chips, I had the tomato bacon soup, flat whites for both, very nice $42.

Back on the road we left SH 1 near Waipara and joined SH 7, countryside on full display in the brilliant sunshine, eventually reaching our destination, the pretty little alpine town of Hanmer Springs, some 130 km northwest of Christchurch. Hanmer Springs boasts a population of 843, and is built around its thermal pools, made possible by a hot spring discovered in the 19th century.

In an attempt to keep sleep-deprived Bob upright for as long as possible, we explored town and walked several well marked tracks in the beautiful Hanmer Forest, for which we had ideal weather. After two hours soaking in the thermal pools ($20 each), we split a tasty little pizza ($17) at Piccolino’s, which shares space with the Springs Deli on the main road (café by day, pizzeria by night). It was all the poor guy could do to chew at this point, so it was back to the motel where he collapsed, giddy with joy to get horizontal after ~36 hours without sleep.

Our accommodation for the night was GlenAlvon Lodge, a small motel complex conveniently located across the street from the thermal pools (clean, spacious, warm, quiet, too soft beds, reliable WiFi; a great little place, room #8, $100).

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647686088782/
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Oct 27th, 2014, 02:04 AM
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BEAUTIFUL photos! How nice to share NZ's beauty with your brother.
Looking forward to the next installment.
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Oct 27th, 2014, 02:20 AM
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Thank you Sondoc! We got lucky with the weather this time.
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Oct 27th, 2014, 03:13 AM
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tagging along to see the bits we missed! gorgeous pics, BTW.
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Oct 27th, 2014, 03:36 AM
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Looks like the kids had a great time playing . Lovely to be able to share another slice of NZ with your brother, Mel.
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Oct 27th, 2014, 10:50 AM
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Joining the crowd here!
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Oct 27th, 2014, 04:46 PM
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Day 2 - Hanmer Springs to Picton

Refreshed, we were up and out early, walking the streets of incredibly peaceful Hanmer Springs on a fabulous cold, crisp morning. Breakfast was at Powerhouse Café, scoped out in advance for their token Mexican offering, Huevos Rancheros, thoroughly enjoyed by Bob. For me it was banana nut bread and a flat white, good choice, cute little cafe ($26).
We walked through town, relishing the beautiful clear morning as we poked through a few shops, cashed up at the ATM, etc.

We were off, following 7A/7 and 70 to Waiau, turning onto Leader Road to cruise through the pretty countryside before eventually joining SH 1 north of Cheviot. Last year we’d taken the inland road from Waiau to Kaikoura, a memorable day indeed, thanks to a brutal spring storm that had us dodging flooded roads, downed tree limbs and general chaos.

We inched our way towards Kaikoura, making numerous stops for photos of the coastline, beautiful in the bright sunshine. We took the short walk to Ohau Stream on the hunt for seal pups in the pool beneath the waterfall, but found not a single one (last year at the same time there were dozens of them). Ohau Point however, was teeming with seals, numerous pups amongst them.

We forged north through the white bluffs and endless bare vineyards and into Blenheim, where I’d hoped to find the highly regarded Burleigh Pies for pie eater Bob. It was not to be, as we missed our turn at Blenheim’s convoluted Main Street roundabout, a junction of five roads with a railway line running through the middle, confusing as all get-out.

Some six hours after leaving Hanmer Springs we pulled into the pretty little town of Picton, situated at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. We drove another 5-10 minutes to Waikawa Bay, one of NZ’s largest marinas and home to the Bay Vista Waterfront Motel, our abode for the next three nights (fantastic place, brilliant marina views, quiet, spacious, warm, good water pressure, full kitchen with oven, separate bedroom + bed in living area, excellent free WiFi, lovely owners, room #3, $120 per night).

Good weather was predicted for the next day, so we booked a water taxi with Beachcomber Cruises through motel owner Grant, later driving to town for a walk along the wharf. Bob was craving fish and chips; I’d earmarked a popular takeaway joint for this very purpose, but we had no map and couldn’t find it. Enter the dubious T&O Takeways, where Bob ordered two pieces of fish and a scoop of chips, neither of us realizing he’d ordered enough to feed a family of four, although the seagulls seemed happy enough the following day. Mediocre at best, this was the only food fail of the entire trip ($17).

Photos here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647286123910/
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Oct 27th, 2014, 06:58 PM
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Love the scenery and the glossy seals are gorgeous but that food pic is very distracting lol!
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Oct 27th, 2014, 07:13 PM
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Day 3 - Picton

Our unit’s oven came in quite handy for baking the grocery store bought pies Bob had picked up the previous night for his breakfast. As we ate, we gazed at the beautiful sunrise through the floor to ceiling windows facing Waikawa Bay. The birds were chirping, the ducks were quacking and I had my fingers and toes crossed for good walking conditions.

We made the short drive to Picton, parked in the deserted long term Pay & Display lot near the ferry terminal, a sign advising us that parking was free until further notice, lucky us.

After a thoughtfully prepared cup of caffeine for the coffee snob (yours truly) at Cortado, a cute little café on the foreshore, we walked to the wharf and boarded our 9:30 am cruise ($75 each return).

We were two of only four passengers on the entire catamaran; we had the run of the boat. Our 1:15 hour journey through the Marlborough Sounds was accompanied by commentary, our captain pointing out places of interest en route and explaining that Ship Cove is actually further north than Wellington on the North Island.

We were deposited at Ship Cove, where we explored the historically significant Captain Cook Monument, the one place Captain Cook visited five times to re-provision his ships. That guy got around.

We then set out on our 14 km walk along the Queen Charlotte Track. The first hour was the hardest, steep and rocky with sporadic views of the North Island. The track eventually leveled out...sort of. The day just got prettier and prettier; cloudless blue skies accentuating the aquamarine of the Marlborough Sounds – it was absolutely stunning and I was in photography heaven.

The track was littered with predator trapping paraphernalia for several kilometers; workers were busily installing Trapinators, which signs advised us were being installed on a trial basis along a short section of the track. The abundance of traps was startling, but we eventually left them behind as we progressed towards Furneaux.

We mistakenly passed the first picnic table we came to, not realizing it would be a long time before we saw another. Tired and hungry, we finally stopped right on the track, dangled our legs over the edge and ate lunch, oblivious that there was a perfectly situated picnic table overlooking Endeavour Inlet five minutes away. Oh well, all the more reason to tarry a bit longer; we soaked up the fabulous views from the overlook, wekas literally at our feet hoping for a handout (flightless birds that sort of look like chickens). Brilliant!

I was beginning to think the walk would never end, but Furneaux Lodge finally materialized, and not a moment too soon. It’d taken us close to five hours, but we still had enough time for a rest and a poke around the grounds before our boat arrived to return us to Picton. The lodge was built in the early 1900’s and sits at the base of Mount Furneaux; it had just recently re-opened following winter maintenance. We sat at one of their picnic tables, sipping well deserved drinks while gazing at the gorgeous surroundings. Ice cold Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has never tasted so good.

http://www.furneaux.co.nz/

As luck would have it we were collected by the mail boat on one of their twice weekly mail runs, delivering mail and groceries to residents of the various bays and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds. It was an interesting and leisurely trip back to Picton as our boat made its rounds, met by residents and their pets. We collected luggage and tired walkers and our captain was offered fresh scallops by a man shucking the day’s catch on a pier. After the deliveries were finished, our skipper turned his back to the helm to do paperwork, evidently on autopilot as we made the final push to Picton. I loved every minute of our 1:45 return journey, the perfect way to end an exceptional day.

Back in town, exhausted but happy, we returned to Cortado for a shared pizza and drinks ($38, good).

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647687894652/
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Oct 28th, 2014, 04:01 AM
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Gorgeous pics, mel, especially of Queen Charlotte track.

How far in advance did you have to book the boats to do the walk? what happens if bad weather makes it impossible or inadvisable?
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Oct 28th, 2014, 04:13 PM
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Hi annhig -

We made our boat booking the afternoon we arrived in Picton, so just a day before. The whole idea was to see what the weather was up to and pick the best day for the walk. We made the right choice, as the following day was kind of cruddy.

As you know, we usually travel well off season - I don't generally book activities in advance.
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Oct 28th, 2014, 05:21 PM
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Day 4 - Picton

We woke much relieved we’d taken our cruise and walk the previous day, as the skies were grey. We sought out Village Bakkerji, which I’d read is the best bakery in town. Oh my, what a great little shop, everything looked so good and fresh, ideal for picnic provisions. We bought a pie and brownies for later, then popped into Le Café for coffee and the best savory muffin I think I’ve ever had. The beautiful harbor views were a bonus.

Bob was curious about the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, so we spent our morning exploring the world’s oldest surviving merchant ship and learning about its fascinating history ($10 each). We also explored the ferry terminal, watching two ferries come in and get situated at the wharf.

That afternoon we visited the Waikawa Marae (Maori sacred gathering place), me enjoying the intricate carvings in the woodwork and the absolute stillness.

After some confusion and help from a passerby, we located Victoria Domain and the carpark for the Snout Track. This undulating track leads to Queen Charlotte View (50 minutes one way), which, as advertised, offers spectacular views over Queen Charlotte Sound. It then continues to the end of the peninsula (The Snout, 40 minutes one way). As I learned firsthand a few years ago, this track is incredibly slippery when wet and can be a complete mud bath. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case this time. It’s also an ideal vantage point from which to watch the ferries cross the sounds. Although it was too hazy to get good photos, it was mercifully dry, and we both enjoyed this hike (3:20 return with lots of time at the viewpoints).

Afterwards, we drove back to town for drinks at Seamus’s, an authentic little Irish pub with a fun vibe. We don’t have anything like this where we come from; Bob said he felt as if he’d just walked into a movie. As it happened, the pub was right next door to the Fish & Chips place we’d tried to find the first night, Kiwi Takeaways, so Bob decided to give NZ fast food another go. This place seemed popular with the locals, which is usually a good sign, and apparently it was; Bob devoured his fresh blue cod (not frozen like the other place), and his manageable portion of chips. And it was a fraction of the price, go figure.

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647704416015/
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Oct 28th, 2014, 10:48 PM
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I'm loving your report and pix -- especially since I'm in Picton!
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Oct 28th, 2014, 11:20 PM
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Timely, eh? I hope the weather isn't treating you too badly Songdoc.
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Oct 28th, 2014, 11:34 PM
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Day 5 - Picton to Kina Beach/Ruby Bay

The morning brought another brownie run, another lovely savory muffin and flat white at Le Café, and our first tank of gas; a shocker at $2.20 per liter, ouch ($75).

We left Picton via Queen Charlotte Drive, a slow, winding 35 kilometer meander that leads from the top of Queen Charlotte Sound through the hills overlooking Pelorus Sound and down into Havelock. I’ve always loved this drive, but today the turquoise bays were muted by grey skies. Thus, my usual prolific photo taking was severely reduced, save a few stops to snap some unique letterboxes, for which Bob was probably thankful.

We made the short detour to the start of the Queen Charlotte Track at Anakiwa to poke around and walk the jetty before leaving the area. We wandered the Havelock Marina for a bit, then drove on, not stopping again until we reached Mt Richmond Estate in the Rai Valley, warmly greeted by resident golden retrievers Dakota and Shiloh. We took a flat white and wedges break in their relaxing café Foresters, so named due to its former life as a forestry camp. The owner was kind enough to let us look around one of their cottages (spouse and I stayed here for a couple of nights a few years ago and I wanted Bob to see the accommodation).

Frustration followed; trying to decipher the directions provided by the owner of our cottage near Kina Beach, evidently designed to help us skirt the busyness of Nelson, but clear as mud. We must have missed a turn because we were right in the thick of traffic. I’m always amazed how a city of ~46,000 can feel so hectic.

Just as I became convinced that we were hopelessly lost, the I Site in Stoke appeared from the ruins and a lovely woman there assured me that we weren’t far from our destination. So, naturally I decided to go off-piste, detouring into the Moutere Hills, an area I’ve much enjoyed on past visits. Before I knew it, a mysterious force had taken over the steering wheel and I was pulling into Seifried Estate; within minutes a bottle of Sweet Agnes Riesling, NZ’s most awarded dessert wine, had found its way into the boot. Upon learning that Bob preferred hops to grapes, the proprietor of Seifried suggested we visit Moutere Inn, NZ’s oldest pub at 154 years.

Always up for another detour, we did exactly that, me enjoying the laid back atmosphere, Bob enjoying the brew. We also popped into Moutere Gold, a shop selling locally produced items, before returning to the task of finding our accommodation.

It had taken us almost eight hours to make the estimated 2.5 hour drive from Picton; a prime example of why I advise first time visitors to NZ to approach travel time and distance calculators with extreme caution - they only apply if one doesn’t stop to explore en route, and what self-respecting traveler does that?

Our home for the next four nights was a lovely two bedroom cottage located on the lifestyle property (love that term) of Rennie and Karen, one kilometer from Tasman Village, 15 minutes drive from Motueka, 15 minutes drive from Mapua (best accommodation of the trip – and the cheapest at $110 per night low season – peaceful country setting, spacious and fresh, quality furnishings and fittings, most comfortable bed ever, large well-equipped kitchen with oven, full bath with separate tub and shower, no indication that internet was available until we asked and were given the code on our day of departure, hmm).

The skies had opened and the rain had found us. After a grocery run to Motueka we made dinner in our fabulous kitchen.

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647293466948/
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Oct 29th, 2014, 10:47 AM
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love the pics of the letter boxes, Mel, and of the Moutere Inn, which we found too, but on purpose, as we thought it was something we should see by way of "balance" on our day exploring the wineries around Nelson.

love the way your car seemed to take decisions by itself!
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Oct 29th, 2014, 05:48 PM
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Thank you annhig! Yeah, you've got to watch those rental cars, they have minds of their own.
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Oct 29th, 2014, 06:04 PM
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Day 6 - Abel Tasman Region

Up and out early again, we drove into Motueka, a one street town nestled between Tasman Bay and three national parks; I’ve always felt that the Moutere Hills, Motueka, Riwaka, Kaiteriteri area makes a much better base from which to explore the Abel Tasman region than does Nelson, and there’s the added bonus of fewer people and considerably less traffic.

The whole idea of going to town early was to sign up for a water taxi into Abel Tasman that day, but there are distinct disadvantages to being an early bird, in this case a closed I- Site.

While waiting for 9 am to roll around we got some exercise exploring Thorp Bush (nice little park at the edge of town) and I had my daily flat white fix at Patisserie Royale (which had a fabulous looking selection of goods). Walking back through town we saw that the Wilson’s office was open. Wilson’s = Abel Tasman transport. We consulted with the young woman working the desk, who, eyeballing the clouds and checking the forecast online, suggested tomorrow’s weather might be better, so we signed up for the next day’s water taxi from Kaiteriteri to Medlands, with a pick-up at Anchorage ($65 each). Then it was back to the I-Site to discuss our options for Farewell Spit, which we arranged for Monday.

With an unplanned day ahead of us, we drove out to Kaiteriteri Beach. Those ominous clouds were now a distant memory; we were blessed with an absolutely beautiful clear day which would have been ideal for walking a section of the Abel Tasman Track! The golden sand of the beach set against the bright blue of the bay was spectacular. After exploring for a bit, we moved on to Little Kaiteriteri Beach, where we walked the track to Stephen's Bay (about an hour return) for yet more glorious views...and the perfect picnic venue - not a single sandfly! As a landlocked Coloradoan, Bob was in beachcombing heaven.

Eventually we tore ourselves away and drove towards Marahau, but the road to Split Apple Rock begged a detour, so we dutifully obliged. Many squiggles later we were walking the track down to yet another beautiful beach, and the main attraction, a large granite rock that resembles, you guessed it, a split apple.

Afterwards, we continued on to the tiny settlement of Marahau situated at the southern entrance to Abel Tasman National Park. The tide was out, leaving behind miles of trickling streams, estuaries and shallow pools. The Abel Tasman coast has one of the largest tidal ranges in NZ and despite how many times I’ve seen it, it always surprises me. We parked and walked the Abel Tasman Track to Tinline Bay and back, about 90 minutes. I suspect that Bob would have been content to carry on walking for hours, but the day was rapidly disappearing, the next two days were spoken for, and I thought he might like to still see Mapua, so off we went.

Mapua Wharf is located at the mouth of the Waimea Estuary, about 25 minutes from Nelson. I’ve watched it transform over the years; it’s now home to an assortment of cafes, galleries, shops and a waterfront park. It’s an ideal spot to take in the views and people watch over a meal or drinks. We were blessed with brilliant sunshine, sparkling blue water and a temperature of 20c. Families were out enjoying the beautiful late afternoon and the wharf’s cafes were doing good business. Our destination was The Golden Bear brewery, where Bob sampled the Dark Dude, Hot Lips and Hooligans, while I sampled a lovely blackcurrant cider. I’m told that The Smokehouse is ‘the place’ for fish & chips, but Bob was fish and chipped out and I’m not a fish eater, so we took a chance on the Golden Bear’s Kiwi version of Mexican food, which wasn’t half bad (how can you mess up a quesadilla?).

We’d managed to squeeze a lot into the day, and still made it back to our cottage in time for sunset.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647744871925/
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Oct 31st, 2014, 04:37 PM
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Day 7 - Abel Tasman Region

As usual I was up at dawn, so I walked down to the estuary to explore. En route I passed a lamb that began to bleat frantically and tried to break free of its fence, poor guy must’ve thought I was there to feed him. I retreated back to the cottage for fear we’d wake up the entire countryside.

Not much open in Motueka on an early Sunday morning, which is how we ended up at Antonio’s European Bakery for caffeine and pastry (just okay) before heading to Kaiteriteri.

Despite the promising forecast of the day before, the low clouds and grey skies didn’t bode well for our 10.6 kilometer walk from Medlands to Anchorage (or 11.5 km depending on who you believe). Our check-in with the Wilson’s kiosk matched the weather, the attendant perfunctory and glum. We boarded the Vigour and donned our life jackets, the boat feeling awfully small for so many people (14 on departure, 16 on return). I briefly wondered if it could even move with such a big load, then once moving, I worried that we’d sink.

Commentary was impossible given the loud motor and splashing water, but we did make a brief stop at Split Apple Rock and learned a bit about the birds, the sheer number of which was staggering; they completely surrounded our little boat.

No sooner had our skipper dropped off some kayakers and artfully escaped the shallow water, than he was called back...someone had left a camera behind. He carefully maneuvered the boat back to shore, handed the camera to its owner...who promptly dropped it into the water, shaking his head when the skipper asked if it was waterproof. Bummer.

As we stood in the queue for the only long drop at Medlands, I had to wonder what Abel Tasman must be like in the summertime, when an estimated 200,000 visitors descend upon this, NZ’s most popular tramping track. Not a problem in early September though; we pretty much had the track to ourselves once the passengers from our boat dispersed.

The Medlands to Anchorage section of the 54 km Abel Tasman Track is said to be the most varied, and it includes the swing bridge across Falls River; it’s easy yet slightly undulating, and today it was just a wee bit cold, but good walking weather nonetheless. We lucked into the perfect spot for lunch, a bench overlooking Torrent Bay, and with plenty of time left, we took the side track to Cleopatra’s Pool, a 20 minute detour that led up a stream bed to a swimming hole.

We arrived at Anchorage with 30 minutes to spare before our return water taxi, just enough time to explore the hut and play in the sand. Given the gloomy weather, I expected the sandflies to be frisky, but they were practically non-existent, woo-hoo!

Aboard the same very full boat, we returned to Kaiteriteri, the sun appearing mere minutes before we disembarked, the photographers amongst us sighing heavily. The tide was out, so our skipper couldn’t get very close to the beach; he positioned a landing ramp over a particularly wide section of water and we walked across the mud flats back to shore. Now that the sun was out, I wasn’t ready to leave, so we popped into the beachside café for a bit before returning to Motueka. There, we picked up a few groceries then joined the convivial Father’s Day crowd at the Sprig and Fern to sample the locally crafted dry cider and porter. It’d been yet another good day, clouds and all, and I we both thoroughly enjoyed Abel Tasman.

Photos here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647324854919/
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Nov 1st, 2014, 05:18 PM
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Day 8 – Collingwood, Cape Farewell & Farewell Spit

With a long day ahead, we were out by 7 am; first up, my new favorite bakery, Patisserie Royale, for the obligatory morning jolt. The plan was to drive from Motueka to Collingwood (90 minutes), making as many detours as time allowed; we were due in Collingwood by 10:45 for our tour of Cape Farewell and Farewell Spit.

Enter Riwaka Resurgance, located 16 km from Motueka in the Kahurangi National Park. Here we followed the short trail through damp, dark forest to the spot where the Riwaka River emerges from limestone cave-riddled Takaka Hill (aka Marble Mountain), a pretty little walk with moss-covered rocks and crystal clear pools. Bob was enchanted.

Then, the dreaded 45 minute drive over whiplash inducing Takaka Hill, steep, narrow and corkscrew-like twisty. As a passenger this drive usually makes me carsick, but today I was the tormentor not the tormented. At the top of the hill, we walked out to Hawke’s Bay Lookout to soak up the fabulous views of the Riwaka valley and Tasman Bay.

I wanted Bob to see Pu-Pu Springs, the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand. The Takaka I- Site was closed, but a woman sitting outside the office graciously offered her help, giving us directions and assuring us we had plenty of time to visit the springs and still make it to Collingwood on schedule.

Seven kilometers later we were exploring Te Waikoropupu Springs, home to some of the clearest spring water in the world with an underwater visibility of 63 meters. The springs are sacred to the local Maori; contact with the water is forbidden. We followed the one kilometer boardwalk through the forest and amongst the springs; we had this gorgeous and incredibly peaceful place completely to ourselves.

We arrived in the thriving metropolis of Collingwood, Golden Bay’s oldest town, and with a population of ~200 people, the second largest. We checked in for our Farewell Spit Eco Tour ($145 each), wandered around town and lingered over a slice of cheesecake at the cute little Courthouse Café.

Collingwood is situated at the mouth of the Aorere River, where SH 60 abruptly terminates. Puponga Road continues a further ~20 km beyond town, and then all signs of mankind disappear. Beyond this is New Zealand’s longest sand spit, extending some ~32 kilometers towards Cape Farewell, so named by none other than Capt James Cook.

Renowned for its birdlife, Cape Farewell is the northernmost point of the South Island. It’s also the location of frequent whale stranding, having claimed some 680 whales since they began keeping records. It’s off limits to private vehicles and bikes; foot access is allowed for 4 km on the ocean beach and 2.5 km on the inner beach. The only way to fully appreciate the spit is by guided tour. Few visitors to the South Island ever seem to make it this far north, yet this was something I really wanted Bob to experience.

There were only six of us aboard our 4x4 bus, and just like the last time I took the tour (2003), everyone except us was from the North Island. One couple had sold their home to spend 2-3 years touring the South Island; my kind of holiday.

The next 6.5 hours were spent exploring the Farewell Spit, amazed by the encyclopedic knowledge of our driver and guide John, a delightful old gent who truly loved his work.

We’d been blessed with a beautiful cloud-free sunny day; the normally constant wind completely absent. Ideal conditions for exploring the overlooks, seal spotting, walking the dunes and enjoying the pristine and unspoiled coastline. We picnicked at the lighthouse keeper’s cottage and cautiously climbed to the top of the lighthouse, unfortunately met with a locked door.

The grand finale was a visit to the otherwise unnamed ‘seal bay’, a secluded alcove surrounded by rock formations. John told us that access to this area is rare, but thanks to the full moon and a low pressure system, conditions were perfect. From here we watched a large group of seals dash for the sea, lumbering awkwardly one minute, sliding on their bellies the next – funny as all get out, a veritable seal slip ‘n slide. Pulses quickened as John raced to get us out of the bay as the tide came in.

After the tour we retrieved our car in Collingwood and began the long journey back, me hoping to get across Takaka Hill before full dark. Back in Motueka we called in at the deserted Sprig and Fern for drinks and a nice chat with the bartender, followed by dinner in our cottage. It’d been a very long and beautiful day.

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/melnq8...7647361634148/
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