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Back and Forth to the Whaleway Station

Monday 26th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

Today has been a day of mixed blessings. We woke up to a lovely sunny morning with the most amazing view of snowed capped mountains that we hadn't even appreciated were there.

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The sea looked as calm as can be and so we felt really optimistic about the whale watching trip we had booked for the morning. We had a relaxed breakfast on the balcony and then walked up to the Whale Watching Centre at the Whaleway Station (their pun not mine). Shortly before we were due to get the shuttle to take us to the boat an announcement was made saying that although the water was calm in the bay, out to sea it was quite rough. Apparently the 7:30am sailing had ended up with lots of people being ill. To make matters worse they had to travel out further than normal in order to see any whales at all. On this basis the captain had decided to cancel the 10am and 10:30 sailings. We were obviously disappointed and spent some time trying to decide what to do. There was the option of doing an inshore trip but in the end we decided to hold off in the hope that the weather conditions would improve enough that the boat would be able to go out at 1pm. Although the weather forecast for tomorrow (Tuesday) was even worse we also booked in for the 7:30am trip then (the 10am one was already fully booked and we were getting a train out of Kaikoura at 3:30pm so wouldn't be able to go in and afternoon sailing).

We walked back into town and had a coffee to drown our sorrows and then we mooched around town looking in some of the very nice gift shops. I even bought some small Christmas gifts for family, given that we wouldn't be back in the UK until the middle of December. When it got near to 1pm we made our way back to the Whale Watching offices, but sadly we were to be disappointed again as there were announcements posted saying that there would be no sailings for the rest of the day. Feeling doubly disappointed whilst totally understanding that they have to take account of the weather conditions and the safety of everyone (and as if to prove the point today a whale watching boat sunk off Vancouver with some loss of life). We did debate the possibility of hiring a car so that we could explore beyond the town but in the end that didn't seem very practical or cost effective. In the end we just had something to eat and explored the town a bit more. We then walked back along the sea front admiring the views of the ocean and mountains to the north and the more gentle bluff to the south.

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We went to have a quick look at what was beyond our apartments which included a dolphin watch tour office, gift shop and cafe and there was also an interesting Art Deco cinema.

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We were feeling a bit tired having wandered around all day and so feeling slightly we went back to the apartment and had another quiet evening in.

Posted by Gill's Travels 12:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ocean new_zealand kaikoura whale_watching art_deco Comments (0)

Back to the Pacific Ocean

Sunday 25th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

We woke up to the most beautiful of the sun rising over the Sound and it felt as though this really set us up for the day.

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This morning we had to make the short drive back to Picton, but before that we had a lovely breakfast to eat cooked by Susie. We all sat down and ate together which was nice and although it is a bit of a cliche, it really did feel as though we were friends of the family. Once we had finished eating we loaded our things into the car and having said goodbye to Martin and Susie, made our way back to Linkwater to finalise things with Verena who was going to make my ring. We found her and we sorted out the size I needed and paid for the ring in cash as this seemed to be the simplest option. It looked like everyone was having a great time so it would have been good to stay longer but with a train to catch we needed to get on our way.

We returned to Queen Charlottes Drive and set off in the direction of Picton. As we were driving around the bay we parked up for a few minutes and couldn't help but look back at the house in its stunning position overlooking the Sound.

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We also stopped at Governor's Bay lookout and again at Shakespeare Bay, overlooking Waimahara Wharf, which is the lumber loading point for Picton. Once we got round the headland we could see that we were nearing Picton and so we stopped again to look at the view of the town and the harbour.

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As we had a little time to spare we drove briefly up to the bay on the other side of the town before returning and parking up so that we could go and grab a coffee. We then made our way back to the ferry terminal in order to return the hire car.

Unfortunately Nigel had some hassle and was charged an extra $80 for allegedly having the car for longer than the five days we had booked it for (which we hadn't) and for picking it up from the wharf rather than the town, despite this being where our voucher had told us to collect it. As we had the train to catch we didn't have time to argue the point but agreed that we would query this once we had the time. We arrived at the station at the agreed check in time and collected our tickets, got our rucksacks put in the luggage compartment and then found our seats. We had rung up a few day earlier to register our seating preference and although we hadn't been able to get ones near the open observation car we were on the side of the train we had requested. We then settled down to enjoy the journey. Once out of Picton the train line ran next to or near the road we had driven along a few days earlier on our way to the Abel Tasman. The main difference was that this time we weren't able to stop and buy any wine!

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Once we had passed through the Marlborough wine region we started to climb slowly as we travelled through some of the higher valleys in the region. Vineyards gave way to fields of sheep and then to the shores of Lake Grassmere which has been adapted to make it suitable for the production of salt.

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Once we had crossed the Waima River the railway line ran close to the Pacific Ocean sometimes with the state highway in between and at other times we were travelling right next to the beach. We also crossed the Clarence River, with its wide gravel bed.

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After about two and a half hours we arrived in the town of Kaikoura. The station was a bit of a walk from our accommodation (with all of our luggage) and we had already made arrangements to be picked up by the shuttle service that operates in the town. A short journey bought us to our apartment which was very well fitted out but the dull drizzly weather didn't do anything to lift our mood and neither did the problems that we then had connecting to the wifi. This was something that shouldn't be that important, but ends up being so because it causes problems with trying to confirm bookings and arranging excursions, not to mention the difficulties it causes in trying to keep in contact with family and friends. Nigel went off for a bit of an explore and bought some milk to top up our provisions. By the time we had settled in it was gone 8pm and so we really did not fancy making the twenty minute walk back into town in the rain and so we made ourselves a light supper out of some of the supplies we had and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged trains ocean new_zealand picton Comments (0)

Doing it Like the Locals Do

Saturday 24th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

We woke up to a lovely sunny morning proving the old saying 'red sky at night, shepherds delight'.

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It was another moving on day today as we were going back towards Picton in preparation for a train journey to Kaikoura on Sunday. We had some breakfast and packed up and loaded our bags into the car, before going to say goodbye to Sue and Jim. We got chatting and they offered to show us round their garden. They have a large plot of land and they had obviously done a lot of work to make it into the garden it is today with lots of native plants as well as camellias and rhododendrons (which may or may not be native I'm not sure). I got the impression from Sue that keeping the rabbits out is a harder job than preventing the native bush from encroaching. We spoke for quite a while and it was lovely chatting to them, but after half an hour or so we decided we ought to get on our way.

Before we left the area completely I wanted to have a brief look at the coastal area near Riwaka that we could see from our cottage. From there it looked as though there was a small island joined to the mainland by a causeway. Sue had told us that you couldn't actually walk to Outer Island as it was linked by a muddy estuary. Nevertheless we thought it was worth a look and indeed it was very pretty and at the time we visited the mud flats were exposed as the tide was out.

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Once we had finished looking and taking photographs we got on our way, passing through the town of Motueka and then circling round the bay and on towards the town of Nelson. Once we got some distance between us and the Abel Tasman area we were able to see the height of the mountains in the distance with their snow covered peaks.

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We decided to stop off for coffee at a little place called the Boat Shed Cafe that overlooks Nelson Haven and the Tasman Bay beyond. We didn't have anything to eat as be had a picnic with us, although we regretted that somewhat when we saw the delicious food they brought out for other people.

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Once we had finished our drinks we continued on State Highway 6 passing through wide valleys and farmland until we reached the small town of Havelock. This was where we turned off onto the smaller and more winding Queen Charlottes Drive. In the end this wasn't as difficult a drive as we had expected and although there were quite a number of bends it was always wide enough to let two cars pass. As we started to climb we had a good view back over the town and Pelorus Bay, one of many that feed into the Sound. At the top of the hill there was a lookout at a place called Cullen Point. We hadn't eaten and it was well into the afternoon so we took some food with us. In the end this was a little further and much steeper than we anticipated.

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Fortunately there was somewhere to sit once we got to the top and so we were able to rest and eat at the same time. It was then time to get back to the car and continue round to the village of Anakiwa where we would be staying for the night before driving back to Picton in the morning.

Our B &B, Owika Bay Lodge was in a stunning position overlooking the bay and Queen Charlottes Sound beyond. We had a great welcome from our hosts Susie and Martin who had moved out from the UK about five years ago. They showed us to our room which had the best view in the house and then Susie made us a cup of tea and brought out some home made biscuits.

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They had contacted us a day or two previously asking us whether we would like to go to a charity art auction with them in aid of the nearby school in Linkwater. We just had time to have a dip in their lovely wooden hot tub before we needed to get ready to go out. Martin drove us the short distance to the village hall, and once there we were given a glass of wine and there were loads of delicious canap├ęs brought round by some of the children from the school. There was some lovely artwork on show and it seemed a good idea to loosen people's wallets by plying them with wine before starting the auction. We were quite surprised just how much money some of the pieces went for, not that they weren't worth it but because it meant people parting with quite a lot of money. It turned out that some of the bidders where dealers from Christchurch, such is the reputation of this annual event. Although there were a couple of pictures and at least one sculpture I would have liked to bid for, this was totally impractical given the distance we were from home. There was a well known local jeweller who had put there rings in, and although I didn't bid for them at the time, I did speak to her afterwards and ended up asking her to make me one. We agreed that we would sort out the finer points in the morning as she would be back then helping out at the family fun.

Martin bid for quite a few pictures including two very professional looking ones done by children at the school and two very nice photographs of local scenes. He is quite a keen amateur photographer and makes items out of wood and there were quite a lot of examples of his work in the house. While he collected his purchases we went back to the house with Susie and two of their friends who were staying the night. We had a cup of tea when we got back and we all sat together chatting for a while before turning in.

Posted by Gill's Travels 13:40 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains new_zealand abel_tasman Comments (0)

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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