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Trip report part 3 of 3 Able Tasman and Nelson Dec. 2006

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Jan 29th, 2007, 05:26 PM
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GP
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Trip report part 3 of 3 Able Tasman and Nelson Dec. 2006

Final Part 3 Able Tasman and Nelson
Day 12
We had a 10:20 flight to Nelson via Christchurch so we left our beautiful view and called a taxi $35NZ from the Heritage to the airport. We left at 9:00 arrive less than 1/2hour later. So we had plenty of time as our flight was delayed by the weather in Christchurch. It was nice and sunny in Queenstown and the airport was ok to hang out in. The flight to Christchurch was short and uneventful. However I found the Christchurch airport lacking. You had to go back through security if you wanted to get anything to eat. In addition and I am not making this up they were boarding 5 flights within a half hour time frame through the same gate. There was no loud speakers, so no one knew what fight was boarding. It was a madhouse of pushing and bumping, very badly organized. Anyway we made it on board and headed to Nelson another short flight. We collected our bags and grabbed a cab where we met the only unfriendly New Zealander on the whole trip. He bad mouthed the Heritage where we just came from he badmouth the Awaroa Lodge where we were going and he badmouthed the Aqua taxi service no to mention all the restaurants in Nelson. Thankfully it was a short trip to our mote! The Kingsgate Beachcomber in Tahunanui, located just outside Nelson near the beach. There is nothing special about this place $100NZ per night just a motel. It did have spa baths so Amy took a couple of bubble baths. We picked this place because it was near a beach (Tahunanui) had a pool, with a restaurant and bar on site. We did not use the pool and the restaurant and bar was closed. What was real cool is that this area is booming and from what I saw becoming trendy. There were several new restaurants little stores and shops and an ATM all within walking distance of the Beachcomber. We went for a walk on the beach which, due to the weather, was deserted. Then we took a stroll around the block and checked out the area. We found a place to eat right next door called Smugglers Pub & Café. It was a locals place done up in a pirate’s décor. We split the seafood rib eye and a bottle or two of wine $80NZ headed back to the motel as we were off to Able Tasman National Park and the Awaroa Lodge the next morning. There was some street noise but we drifted off to sleep.
Days 13 14 15 16 Awaroa Lodge
We were picked up by Nelson Bay Shuttles at 9am for transport $240 round trip to the Aqua Taxi in Marahau. Our driver was a hoot and it was a nice drive of about an hour. It is so wonderful to let some one else drive so the both of us could enjoy the views and get an earful of how the some of the New Zealander view us Americans. We got to Marahau and used Aqua Taxi for transport to Awaroa lodge $65NZ each round trip. The trip turned into a guided tour of the Able Tasman coastline we even motored up a river for about a ½ mile searching for giant rays but did not find any. At Seal Island some New Zealand fir seals gave us a photo op. and the trip was not too bumpy. A couple of recent New Zealand college grads offered me a beer restoring my faith in the New Zealand people after that taxi driver at the airport. (It is amazing that one the bad apple still sticks in my mind). Anyway it was about an hour boat ride to the beach at Awaroa Lodge. We spent the next 4 day here (including Christmas).
I could go on for several pages singing the praises of Awaroa Lodge. It was the best four days of our trip. It is very expensive $2860.00 NZ for the four days. That included everything, room, all food, and drinks. It is not an all-inclusive place you pay as you go or just sign to your room. Everything about this place was grand. The food was outstanding. With the exception of Christmas dinner it was not bad but it did not measure up to the other days, They must have given the head chief the day off because the next day dinner was outstanding again!. We had the best 3 dinners of our trip here. The setting is sublime, that staff is hard working and helpful. The whole vibe was just fantastic. On the down side the weather did not cooperate, as we did not get to kayak due to rain on one day and the wind on another. We did do some hiking on the Able Tasman tract and it was easy hikes with stunning vistas. I would go back here in a heartbeat. Here is the web site http://www.awaroalodge.co.nz/. A nice escape. If some one wants more details just ask.
Day 17 Back to Nelson
We took the aqua taxi back to Marahau and then Nelson Bays Shuttles back to the Beachcomber in Tahunanui where we spent our last two days in Nelson. That evening we had made reservations at the Boat Shed Café and we walked along the bay down there. We were disappointed with dinner, forget about getting a table with a view, they reserve all those seats for the locals. This was the one place I felt that I was treated different because I was a tourist. They also pack the tables so close together I felt closed in. I think after the Awaroa lodge anything would be down hill but this place did not live up to its reputation. We walked back to our motel and hit the sack early for we were spending our last full day wine tasting around Marlborough's scenic Wairau Valley.
Day 18 Wine tasting in Marlborough
We had arranged a wine tasting tour with Bay Adventures Touring Co. $150.00NZ each includes wine tasting fees but not lunch. Helen picked us up promptly at 9am for the hour and half drive to the Wairau Valley in the Marlborough wine area. Helen was a good guide. She told us about the area and about the logging that we could see. Before we knew it we were in wine country. It is remarkable who much land resembles the wine country of California. In fact I fooled my mother in law with a picture I told her was Sonoma Valley when in fact it was New Zealand, and she lived most of her life in the bay area. We are not wine neophytes we spend time each year in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino counties wine tasting and I admit I know what I like and I know wine pretty well. Tasting down here was like tasting in Sonoma County twenty years ago. No crowds (except at Montana Wine Center) and we were only charged, which Helen took care of, at one place. We started our tasting at (gasp) 10:30am with sparking wines at Cellier Le Brun. Met the new owner who was very enthusiastic and gave us an impromptu tour. Then we moved on to Forrest’s which had very nice grounds. We made a couple of more stops at Nautilus estate and Wairau River. We had a lunch outdoors at Hunters which was ok. Then off to Cloudy Bay and the best wines of the day. We ended up at the Montana Brancott Winery for a full on winery tour and reserved tasting’s it was nothing special. We returned by the same roads we came in on and boy was I glad someone else was driving. The day before we had noticed several new restaurants near our motel one menu stood out so we had dinner at the Green Room in Tahunanui. The food and setting was much better than the boat shed although it does not have a view. Dinner for two with just one bottle of wine was $90 NZ. We the returned to our motel and fell into bed.
Day 19 back to the Humboldt Nation.
The first leg of our flight home did not leave nelson until 4pm. It was Saturday so we had a chance to check out the Saturday market downtown. We took a taxi $15NZ and spent a couple of hours at the market and checking out Nelson. We brought a few gifts and souvenirs’ had lunch (can not remember where or how much but it was the best pizza) walked around downtown and then headed to the airport. In Nelson there was no security screening just get on the plane! In Auckland after paying your $25 NZ departure tax there were two security screening one for everybody and then another for folks heading to the USA and the UK. It was the same as any USA airport security. The fights back to Humboldt County were routine. With one exception that the United flight to ACV was on time. All and all an exceptional trip. I hope to see the North Island before my time is up but Patagonia and Costa Rica are calling our names.

The End!
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GP
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Jan 30th, 2007, 09:49 PM
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GP, thanks for taking the time to share your trip report. We are packing for NZ so I enjoyed parts 1 and 2 and now only have time to skim the end. When we get back, I'll post a New Zealand trip report. And I'll tell you all about our terrific trip to Costa Rica, where we went summer 2005! I hear Costa Rica is calling your name... ><

The rainforests and cloud forests of Costa Rica seep deep into your soul, and after that, no other forest is ever the same...you are spoiled forever. Anyway no time to chat now...New Zealand is calling my name!
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Feb 1st, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Thanks for sharing your trip GP. Makes me terribly jealous and I want to go back again....and again...
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Feb 12th, 2007, 01:23 PM
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Thank you for a wonderful trip report. My wife and I are of similar age and interests. We will be making a trip later this year to the South Island. Would you mind replying to what time you arranged for you Milford Sound cruise with Mitre Peak Tours. It sounds like an excellent company and we are thinking of driving from Te Anau to the departure point for the cruise so that we can travel at our own pace. Thank you so much.

Richard & Millie
Santa Monica, CA
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Feb 13th, 2007, 11:14 AM
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GP
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Hi RichMill

I did not set up the cruise. It came with the Trips and Tramps "Big Day Out" package we were on that day. Tickets were availible at Milford sound that day for the trip. Here is their web site http://www.mitrepeak.com/. The picture of the boat is the one we were on except the sky was not blue. Milford Sound was one of the highlights of our trip.

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GP
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Feb 14th, 2007, 07:35 AM
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GP

Thanks for the information. Can't wait to go.

Richard
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