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New Zealand

A Day in the Abel Tasman

Friday 23rd October 2015

rain 15 °C

Today has been our only real venture into the Abel Tasman National Park. Much of the the area is only accessible by boat with most of the walking tracks running along near the coast. We had booked to go with Sea Shuttle who run boat trips, dropping people off and picking them up from the numerous bays along the lower eastern shore. The excursion we were going on would take us up as far as Totaranui which is the most northerly point in the National Park that they are allowed to go. It would then turn back on the return leg and pick up and drop us and others off on the return leg. We left the cottage at about 8:15am in order to make the short drive to Kaiteriteri for a 9am departure. After checking in we just had time to grab a quick take away coffee before we needed to board for the 9am departure. The boat probably had sixty or seventy people on board and so the lower deck was pretty full. Intriguingly there was a woman with a couple of children and a large covered bird cage with a cockatiel or similar in it. She eventually got off at one of the bays and walked entourage in the direction of one of the beach houses.

Given that the weather wasn't that good everyone initially sat on the lower deck but as we got underway we went up on deck so that've could get a better view. It was windy and a bit chilly but it was still good to see the coast, and perhaps a little unusually it was easier to hear the commentary from our really informative guide from there. One of the most famous features on the coast is Split Apple Rock which we reached about 5 or 10 minutes after leaving Kaiteriteri.


Our captain gave us plenty of time to look at and photograph the rock formation before we continued on to Marahua, where the coastal road ends. When we arrived at Apple Tree Bay a few people got off intending to do their walk in the morning, but we stayed on in order to enjoy the full cruise. A large family also got off, carrying loads of supplies with them, and headed to the one lonely house on the bay. They were clearly heading there for a few days holiday, perhaps intending to take advantage of the long Labour Day public holiday weekend. More people got off at the sweeping Anchorage Beach. This has a large hut at one end for people spending several days walking in the Abel Tasman, and some interesting rock formations at the other which we were able to explore later in the day. All of the beaches up that part of the coast have lovely yellowy, orangey Sahara coloured sand that comes from the iron oxide in the rocks. Once eroded into sand it turns this colour when it comes into contact with the sea. Whilst continuing north we pulled up by one of the islands in order to see some fur seals and then continued along the coast passing the unfortunately named Sandfly Bay and Mosquito Bay. Shortly after we saw two further rock formations; the Tonga Arches and Cottage Loaf Rock


before arriving at the Awaroa Inlet. At Totaranui Beach, the furthest point on our journey, we picked up a large group of school children on a week long trip from Nelson. There was one lad who came and chatted to us for a bit. I noticed that he was one of those children that got teased, and probably bullied. Whilst most of the other children were wearing trainers or expensive shoes, he just had on a pair of basic plimsoles. I find it sad to ponder what it is might be like to grow up on the fringes of your peer group and what the longer lasting legacy might be.

By this time we were sitting inside the boat and the weather had clouded over even more and was a little colder so were happier for some shelter. The guide Mark came and chatted to us for a while and asked about our trip and we were then dropped off in Apple Tree Bay with instructions as to the way to walk and exactly where we would be picked up. It was strange to be left on the beach and see the boat reversing out and then disappearing out of sight round the next headland.


The footpath we needed to take was clearly marked and we started to climb up the hill giving us good views of the bay as we looked back. After about half an hour we reached Stillwell Bay, and as it was lunchtime by then, we took the short side track down to the beach where we sat and ate our picnic.


There was time to have a little explore before we made our way back up the steep path to rejoin the main footpath and then we continued to climb slowly up the hillside. There were a number of narrow bridges we had to cross, and past some small waterfalls. The national park is full of native plants including large numbers of tree ferns with their unfurling new fronds or koru.


There were also some lovely examples of lichen growing on the ground. Near to our destination point of Anchorage there was a side path leading to a lookout. By this time it was raining quite steadily and so the visibility was poor. We had a bit of a view south to the bays we had already walked past, although it was quite misty.


The ground near the lookout was made up of a lovely palate of cream and ochre and it gave a good indication of why the sand on the nearby beaches are the colour they are. Whilst we were at the lookout we got chatting to a New York couple who had come out to New Zealand for a three week holiday. I think they were a little envious of our extended trip.

From this point the path started to descend quite steeply affording views, albeit hazy ones, towards Torrent Bay.


Although it was quite hard on the knees (and my slightly week ankle) having such a steep descent did explain why the suggested walking route was from south to north. It wasn't long before we reached Anchorage Bay and as we still had the best part of an hour to spare we walked up to the hut and made use of their loos and then walked to the other end of the bay to look at the interesting rock formations


and I took off my walking sandals and went barefoot but given the coldness of the water had no desire to get anything other than my feet wet. The boat arrived on schedule and picked up a number of walkers and we then made the half hour boat journey back to a rather damp and miserable Kaiteriteri. We took the opportunity to go and have a cup of coffee in the cafe by the beach before returning to the cottage. A lovely day was finished off with a nice supper cooked by Nigel and the most amazing sunset of deep reds and purples giving us hope of a nice day tomorrow.


Posted by Gill's Travels 02:58 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches sea new_zealand abel_tasman Comments (0)

Staying Near to 'Home'

Thursday 22nd of October 2015

semi-overcast 19 °C

I think I/ we are now starting to pace ourselves a little better and do not feel like we should be rushing around doing things everyday. It has helped that we have been spending more time in our own accommodation which means that we have been able to come and go as we please.


This morning we just enjoyed being at the cottage, sorting through emails, blogging and the like. Nigel sat on the veranda, relaxed and listened to his radio. We had some lunch in the cottage and then we went out for a drive. The first place we visited was the Riwaka Resurgence which is about six or seven miles away down a narrow road past a number of farms.


It was only a ten minute walk from the car park alongside the the Riwaka River. A little more than halfway we came to a beautiful turquoise blue pool fed from a small waterfall. The footpath then led up some steps which brought us out a little higher up, where the water bubbles out from an underground cave feeding the pool below. It is a place of cultural significance for the Mauri people and I felt that it had a very special and tranquil feel to it.


Once we had finished exploring we drove back the way we had come and continued further up the main road to the Hawkes Lookout. Although it wasn't far, the road was very winding and steep and so I took quite a while to get to the turn off that led into the car park. Again it was quite a short walk to the lookout through karst rock formations where surface water has dissolved the calcium rich marble rock into interesting almost animalistic shapes.


Maori stories provide a different explanation. The taniwha was a horrible lizard like creature who only thought about devouring men and snaring women until the beautiful Ruru, who was too clever for him, lulled him to sleep and escaped from his cave. With the help of her people they set a trap and once they captured him they set him on fire. He fled to Takaka Hill, the location of the lookout, where his charred scales were turned to stone.

We walked on the boardwalk that threaded its way between the rocks and the remains of the sinkholes, until we reached the lookout which gave us great views of the valley. The water that sinks through the hill later emerges at the resurgence, which we could see below us. As we looked out towards the coast we could see a layer of low cloud/ sea mist moving in. It was strange being able to see the land and the distant mountains separated by this white swirling layer.


We returned to the car and drove back down the hill and instead of taking the most direct route to the cottage we drove the longer way round the loop of road that ran nearer to the coast before turning west and the south towards Fraser Highlands. We stopped of at Kaiteriteri to check our Sea Shuttle booking for the morning. That done we went back to the cottage where we watched to clouds swirling around the top of the neighbouring hills, before I went and cooked our evening meal.


Posted by Gill's Travels 20:58 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rivers rock new_zealand abel_tasman Comments (0)

Moving on to the Abel Tasman

Wednesday 21st October 2015

sunny 20 °C

I had enjoyed Picton so much that I didn't particularly relish leaving, but leave we must. We packed up our things (again) and left them in the apartment while we went to collect our hire car from down by the ferry terminal. We only just caught the woman who said they only wait at the sub office until 10:15 and then they go back to their main office. I was slightly irritated as we hadn't been made aware of the time limit or the fact that there was more than one office. Anyway despite this and other minor irritations we were soon in the car, and having gone back and loaded our bags, were on our way to Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park beyond. The most direct route initially runs north and then west winding its way around the edge of Queen Charlotte's Sound. The longer but less winding route goes south before turning west and then north in a squared off U shape. We decided to go by the latter route because although longer was an easier and faster drive. Also we are staying for one night on the edge of one of the bays after our visit to the Abel Tasman and will travel the 'scenic route' then.

The early part of the journey was the most picturesque with high snow topped mountains in the distance and the Marlborough Vineyards either side of the road.


We stopped at the Hunters winery cellar door and tasted several of the whites and a couple of reds. Nigel, who was driving was the one that had to 'spit' again, I on the other hand happily drank all that was offered to me. We ended up buying just one bottle of 2013 Pinot Gris as we couldn't really manage to carry much more as we still had the two bottles of the Hawkes Bay red. We then continued on our way passing by heavily forested hillsides as we went, until we reached the coast just outside the town of Nelson.


We stopped here to get enough provisions at our now favoured supermarket chain New World, to last us for the next three days, as we presumed that we wouldn't have many shops near where we were going to be staying. For most of the rest of the journey we were running alongside the coast but initially this was a bit industrial and then we were a few streets away from the shore so any potential view was obscured by shops and streets of housing. Once we were north of the town of Motueka the road started to climb until we reached the turning for our accommodation. We then had to drive about a kilometre up the gravel drive before we got to the house. Fraser Highlands Retreat is a modern building but with some of the grandeur of a Scottish lairds dwelling. The owners Jim and Sue met us on their doorstep and we all walked back up the drive to the little cottage that was going to be our home for the next few days. Sue explained that she was originally from Lancashire and met Jim, a New Zealander, in the UK. They originally built/ converted the cottage and lived in it whilst building the main house. The cottage is very cosy and homely and couldn't be more different from our apartment in Picton.


Given that it had been home for the owners for a couple of years it would certainly do us for a few nights. There is clearly a Scottish connection and given their name is Fraser and Jim plays the bagpipes (according to the visitors book) I am presuming it is on his side. We settled in and spent some time admiring the view, before Nigel cooked us a delicious meal of spaghetti bolognese washed down with a glass of red.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:42 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains new_zealand abel_tasman vineyards Comments (0)

Exploring Picton

Tuesday 20th October 2015

sunny 20 °C

I woke up this morning with a strong feeling that I didn't want to spend the whole day rushing around and away from our apartment given that the view was so captivating.


Nigel felt the same and so we decided to stay put for the morning and perhaps explore the town in the afternoon. I did some washing, taking advantage of the laundry facilities in the apartment, and spent a bit of time updating my blog. Nigel listened to his radio and just relaxed. A little after midday we decided to go out to get something to eat and see a little more of Picton. We didn't initially venture very far, as there were a number of cafes and bars just a stones throw from our apartment. We chose one, probably quite arbitrarily, and while I had an iced coffee Nigel chose to have a beer. We both had a light snack which was just enough to tide us over until the evening. Once we had finished we wandered along the harbour front just as the Interislander was about to pull out on its way to Wellington. Just as I have a rough idea of the time by the comings and goings of trains in Saxmundham, I suspect it is the same in Picton with several arrivals and departures each day.


We then made our way to the Edwin Fox and its museum. This is the only surviving ship used for the transportation of convicts to Australia. Built in 1853 in Calcutta, she was used for a number of purposes including general cargo, moving troops during the Crimea War and delivering labourers from China to Cuba. It was in 1858 that she was commissioned by the British Government to transport convicts and then in 1873 she was chartered to take people emigrating to New Zealand making four such voyages taking a total of 751 passengers. She was towed to Picton in 1897 and spent her last days as a place to store meat prior to it being frozen and shipped to England and then for storing coal. In 1965 she was bought by the Edwin Fox Society for a shilling and initially was moored in a nearby bay before being placed in dry dock on the 18th of May 1999.

We watched a short film about her early days and her preservation and then we looked around the museum. Once we had done this we went to have a look at what remains of her in dry dock.


It was fascinating to look round and see the way in which she was constructed and get a sense of what it would have been like on board. There was a reconstruction of both the steerage bunks and cabin class so you could compare the two. It was also possible go into the dry dock itself where the ship seemed to be rather precariously steadied on timber poles and blocks. It looked very weather worn with large amounts of the copper cladding, that once would have protected the hull from the elements and termites, worn away.


We both agreed afterwards that it was a great museum and well worth looking round.

Next we made our way back past our accommodation and over the harbour 'coat hanger' bridge to the eastern headland.


We did a shortish walk past Shelley Beach and along what is called Lower Bob's Bay Track and then continued climbing a short way returning perhaps unsurprisingly by Upper Bob's Bay Track. Both paths gave good views of the harbour and queen Charlottes Sound and in the latter stages great views of our apartment block.


There were lots of native trees and wild plants to be seen including some wild sweet peas.


By the time we got back into the town we were feeling a little weary and so we went back to the apartment and chilled out for a while before Nigel went to get us a fish and chip supper. perhaps not such a healthy option but very tasty and a good value meal in New Zealand, costing much less than eating out and probably even less than cooking food ourselves!

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:20 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes sea hills new_zealand picton Comments (0)

Crossing the Cook Strait

Monday 19th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

Today is the day when we will be leaving North Island for the South. Fortunately the weather had improved overnight and the wind which was battering us yesterday had gone. We were catching the Interislander Ferry but not until 3:30pm so we had the whole morning to do more exploring of Wellington. As I hadn't been to the Te Papa museum yesterday we both went back there once we had checked out of our room. The huge figures representing some of the people involved in the Gallipoli campaign of World War 1, were amazingly lifelike and incredibly well crafted.


I started off reading a lot of the material but after about an hour or so I was starting to feel a little jaded about the waste of life. I got no sense of what they were really fighting about and the idea that it is better to die nobly than to surrender doesn't make sense to me. It just sounds like the rhetoric used by leaders to turn ordinary people into cannon fodder. Don't get me wrong, the people (mainly men) that died on both sides were incredibly brave but I can't help but think that if foot soldiers refused to fight then we couldn't have wars.

I decided that I had seen enough so we went and had a look at the view of the harbour from the top of the building


and then we went and had coffee. I was also quite keen to go on the Wellington Cable Car, which we could have gone on when we were on our tour yesterday, but we opted out because I thought misguidedly that it was too windy. Our guide Simon must have thought I had gone mad because it turned out it wasn't a cable car in the ski resort sense but in reality a funicular railway, so wouldn't have been affected by the wind at all. It was good fun going up, particularly through a couple of tunnels that had psychedelic flashing lights.


When we got to the top we went and had a look at the Cable Car Museum and we both bought wooly hats in preparation for the potentially colder weather in the south. With an eye to the time we then needed to go back down and make the 15 minute walk back to our hotel to pick up our luggage. The apartments were on the 4th floor so we were a bit concerned when we got there to find that the lift was being serviced. We walked all the way up and with the offer of help from staff prepared ourselves for carrying all our bags down the flights of stairs, but fortunately by the time we got to the stairs we could see that the lift was repaired so we were able to take the easy route down.

We had booked a taxi to take us the couple of miles or so to the ferry terminal and once there we checked in our large luggage and had a drink while we waited the half an hour until boarding. We paid a fixed amount to upgrade so that we could have wifi access (which I didn't use because it was making me feel queasy) and food and drink in the premium lounge. This cost us $90 for the two of us so was worth it just for the meal. We found seats at the front of the ship so we had good views of Wellington harbour as we departed. We were able to go outside on deck if we wanted to take photographs.


By the time we had got clear from the North island we were about a third of the way through our journey so we then went and had something to eat. By the time we returned to the main lounge we were surprised that we were already starting to come into Queen Charlotte Sound passing many of the islands and bays that are characteristic of the area. It was a stunning sight and very different to the scenery in the north.


Once we arrived and got off the ferry and collected our bags, a woman from our accommodation had arrived to pick us up. She told us that we had been upgraded to an apartment at another building (one we had rejected on booking because we were concerned about the stairs and the noise). She reassured us that there was a lift so getting our bags up wouldn't be a problem, and she hoped we would like the view. When we got inside we were delighted. Not only was it very luxurious but it had a large balcony with amazing views of the harbour and the Sound beyond.


We were indeed happy and settled down to a relaxing evening, watching the sunlight fade over the bay.

Posted by Gill's Travels 15:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand picton wellington Comments (0)

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