Wellington crossing to South Island and to Haast
Feb 25, 2014
|Hi everyone, a little delay on our latest entry due to a lack of reliable WiFi
Our last update had us in Wellington and we were parked up waiting for the early morning ferry.
We found a motorhome park that was on the dockside which was effectively a Carpark, a great location but extremely noisy.
We didn't get much sleep, rose at 6am on Wednesday morning and drove onto the ferry ready for it to sail at 8am. A three and a half hour crossing had us arriving in Picton on South Island. (Photo) We took the coastal road and drove on a narrow bendy road around to what is considered the centre of New Zealand, a city called Nelson. We found a campsite that was situated beside a tidal estuary and this is where we did a major re supply, bought loads of food, fuelled the motorhome, emptied and filled various tanks before we headed into the more remote area of the Abel Tasman National Park. In the evening we had a barefoot stroll on the muddy sand of the estuary where our feet disappeared, sinking into the sand. There were some fishermen who seemed not to be having much success but as a consolation to them there was a wonderful sunset (photo)
On Thursday we had a long day of driving to reach the National Park and a government run campsite in a sheltered bay called Totaranui. We had been warned about the sandflies here being "as big as cats" so we smothered ourselves in lotions and potions to try and avoid getting bitten - this was partially successful. This was where we planned to spend two nights and have a long day hike (They call it tramping in NZ) on the Abel Tasman coastal track which is a long distance route. With the use of a very good book we purchased in Auckland we had selected one of the prettiest and most assessable parts of the trail.
So on Friday we went for our walk. At the start the weather was a bit misty and there was a bit of drizzle in the air but in no time we were strolling on deserted sandy beaches and clambering over rocks to reach Separation point where we watched a small group of fur seals with a rather cute pup.(Photos).
The weather had picked up by midday and the mist had burnt off to leave a beautiful sunny day so we decided to extend the walk and returned to our campsite after about six hours of walking via a rather large hill - Gibbs Hill.
We celebrated the end of our walk with a beer and a cold shower (no hot water available).
On Saturday we relocated and drove to a small town on the coast called Collingwood (population 250) where we booked on an ecotour the next day to go out onto Farewell spit to see the local wildlife. To find Farewell spit look at the north western tip of the South Island and you will see a hook of land projecting out. This is an enormous sandbar which projects over 40km out from the northern most point of South Island.
So we got up early on Sunday as the tour times were dictated by the tides and boarded the specially adapted bus along with 28 others at 6.45am. Our guide, Paddy, was a born and bred Kiwi, he drove us the short distance on road before turning onto the beach. The sand on the spit was incredibly fine and with the breeze you could see it in the air. We drove to the end of the spit only stopping for a photograph at "The twig" which is a tree that was washed up several years ago. (Photo) At the end of the spit is a lighthouse which has a special design to prevent the sand forming dunes around it. It's built on a metal girder structure (photo) the original one was made of wood and couldn't survive the conditions.This was a great trip, we played on an enormous sand dune, the guide had a wealth of knowledge about the local history but we had seen more wildlife on our own independent trips so were a little disappointed.
On Monday we decided to drive over a few mountain passes and reach the west coast. On our way to Collingwood, we had taken coffee in a very interesting cafe in a small town called Takaka which was a bit of hippy place with loads of tie-dye for sale. we decided to try their breakfasts and weren't disappointed. After a great meal (Aussies and Kiwis would say "a great feed") we did a quick shop at the local hypermarket and headed off.
We shared the long drive through mountain valleys and passes, Helen has found her driving gloves and is much happier with this smaller manual motor home, comfortable even driving around the hairpin bends. We arrived on the west coast and had absolutely no idea where we were going to stay that night so we consulted our Ipad application and found two possible camping sites in the vicinity, the first turned out to be a carpark at the rear of an off licence and so we headed for the second. This last campsite was a real find, it had the feeling of something from the film "The Shining". The site itself was an old school house (photo) that had burnt down and been rebuilt by the local's. When we arrived we noticed a scrap of paper pinned to the door directing us to the local hotel about a mile away to get permission and pay for the site. As it was getting late and it would have taken sometime to find an alternative we decide to stay. We arrived at the hotel which was really just the local bar and heard screams of laughter coming from the main bar area where a group of mountain bikers were playing some form of drinking game. As we walked in a particularly small woman had an enormous glass tankard and was just finishing what must have been three pints of beer in one drink. We quickly enquired with the bar lady about staying at the school house and she laughed (nervously) and picked up a very dusty diary opened a page and asked us our name and requested the $20 fee (£10). We enquired if there was anything we needed and apart from a great deal of insect repellant for the swarms of sandflies it was explained the whole building had power and was open.
On our return we found the power hook up for the motorhome and explored the school house. We found the only other inhabitant was a tabby cat who followed us everywhere including the toilet. We covered ourselves in insect repellant and had what turned into a really quirky night. There was a TV and video recorder (yes, they do still exist) in the main class room and after a bit of effort getting them to work we rummaged through the available video cassettes and watched the film "Fight club" sitting on class room furniture.
It was Tuesday and we thought we should get a move on and progress in a southerly direction. We woke nice and early and heard the sound of our first prolonged rain.
So what do you do when it's raining?
We decided to go back to bed and wait for it to stop which it dutifully did at about 8am. We said goodbye to the cat, our quirky campsite and headed off to walk an old miners narrow gauge railway track that had been turned into an open air museum.(photos)
After our walk we drove for about 3 hours and arrived at our next campsite which was normal and quite boring, where we spent the night. The notable event was a rare white heron arriving at the campsite (photo)
On Wednesday we continued our journey south and drove through glacier country and our first sight of snow capped mountains. We stopped at Franz Joseph which turned out to be a group of shops below a mountain with a famous glacier. Every few minutes you could hear the sound of helicopters taking off to take coach loads of tourists on their trip over the glacier. As we are coming back to this area at least once with our multi activity tour later in our trip we decided to head on and had a short stop on the coast to admire the miles and miles of wild beaches.(photos) We then stopped at a small village called Haast for the night.
So its Wednesday afternoon and this is where we are now about three quarters of the way down the west coast of South Island. We're heading further south tomorrow.