Apologies for being out of touch for a while. Actually, it probably isn't that long, but it feels like an absolute age since we had our farewell meal at Dean's Nursery and packed up our tiny cabin at Mapua. Since then we've had a couple of trips into Abel Tasman, been up to Golden Bay for a little explore, and headed down the West Coast through Westport, Punakaiki, Greymouth (briefly) and are now in Hokitika. Phew! We've done a huge amount in a short space of time; it feels as though Mapua was an age away. Anyway, I've just added 3 new photo albums: Abel Tasman, Golden Bay and Westport & Punakaiki (though no time to put them in order or label them... today, frankly it's a miracle they went on!), but I haven't had time to write a blog of our little exploration yet, so that will follow shortly…
For now, Su & I are on a WWOOF in Hokitikia with Kim, Eileen and their two children, Judd (5) and Rea (6 months), plus Sheba the dog (a blue heeler, Australian cattle dog), Billy the goat and numerous chickens, ducks, sheep and the cutest pigs I've ever seen. We are staying a little way out of town, and have our own little bach, affectionately known as 'The Lake House' that overlooks a secluded lake. But we are out of mobile signal range and without internet, so don't be alarmed if you don't hear much more from us for the next week. And I'm also aware that I haven't replied to a few emails… sorry, I haven't forgotten you, I'll get there soon, we've just been a little busy with sweeping West Coast beaches, fur seals and searching for elusive penguins.
Back later to fill you in properly!
Lots of love, Jo & Su, xxx
Back again! Time to fill in the gaps and sort those photo albums of our little adventures since leaving Mapua. We've had such an awesome time since our farewell 'do' at Dean's, and have done so much - it's amazing how much you can do when you don't have to worry about work!
Firstly we've had 2 more trips to Abel Tasman National Park. What an incredible place! We returned to the park for a little treat the day after finishing work, on a calm sunny day that really showed off the aquamarine blue sea, vivid green rainforest and white golden beaches - my camera went into overdrive! Our treat was a boat trip, an Aqua Taxi from Kaiteriteri that dropped us off at Bark Bay, allowed us 5 hours for the 3.5 hour gentle walk to Anchorage Bay, then picked us up and took us back to Kaiteriteri. Oh, how I adore being on a boat, especially such a little one that zooms along the coastline - took us right back to the days of the picnic boat on Tilos (though without the pissed clients trying to swim back to the boat after a little too much ouzo). It was worth every penny, well cent… And the walk was gorgeous, nothing too strenuous, a little stroll along the coastline, through lush rainforest, past little deserted coves, over swing bridges, until we reached Torrent Bay when we sat on the beach to eat our lunch and wait for the low tide to cross the estuary, which was a little slimy in parts, with crabs wriggling under our feet, though once we'd reached the other side it actually felt as though we'd just paid for an expensive foot treatment! We returned home feeling revitalised and refreshed, though were brought back to earth with a bump when we opened a piece of mail to find a speeding ticket, 61 in a 50 zone, oops. So we're $80 lighter now (and guess who was driving…?)
Our second trip to Abel Tasman came after we'd moved onto to Pohara Beach Holiday Park in Golden Bay. From here we drove to Totaranui, which is at the top of the park, and walked to Anapei Beach. At first we thought the day might be a little disappointing, it was overcast, the place wasn't particularly well signed and we were really tired which didn't help our general state of mind. But it turned out to be one of our favourite walks. It was a perfect day for walking, though perhaps not photos, and as it wasn't in the most popular part of the park it was delightfully quiet. So once we'd worked out where to park, bumped into Alison who we'd lived with in Tauranga, we set off, past an impressive avenue of London Plane trees, along a pathway lined with beautifully coloured and deeply scented flowers and bushes: honeysuckle, foxgloves, manuka, climbing roses and bellbine. And just as we lost the path again we stumbled upon our first wekas. Wekas are flightless birds, of the same family as kiwis and about the size of a small hen. And they have no fear of humans whatsoever! One wandered out to say hello, walked right up to us, then brought out his entire family to say hello, including 3 chicks! Su's mouth hung open for about 5 minutes! Then we found the path and continued - to be fair it wasn't that hard we were just tired and a little stupid. Beautiful, it wound through one of the only areas of Abel Tasman that is original rainforest, and out onto Anapei Beach, a perfect picnic spot that we had all to ourselves, and there we stayed until we could bear the sandflies no longer! It felt a very special walk to us, and will ensure that we remember Abel Tasman as one of our favourite parts of NZ (so far...)
We spent two nights at Pohara Beach, which was a gorgeous beach, and actually managed to spend some time sunbathing and had our first dip in the sea, lovely once you'd gone out far enough! We also met the most boring people we've ever met in our lives (which is saying something!). A Scottish couple latched onto us when Mr Dull said he thought he could hear an Irish accent - idiot, obviously just a line so he could start boring the arse off us. And he did a pretty good job with a full rundown of their adventures in NZ, and an account of how they bought every item in their campervan, obviously without asking us anything about ourselves, unless it was an opener to something else he wanted to tell us. All in a slow monotone voice - you know the sort. So after ducking out to the showers in the morning, actually bent double to pass under the kitchen window where they were having breakfast, we moved further up Golden Bay to Collingwood where we stayed at a little motor camp in a little green cabin with a red roof and ferns all around us. Absolutely charming, a real gem of a place, only briefly spoilt on our second night with the arrival of our old friends Mr & Mrs Dull, and an account of how they'd been fishing and then had all their fish smoked, and…snore! But anyway, it felt a little like we'd reached the end of the earth, a quiet sleepy place, tumbleweed actually blowing down the 'High Street', straight out of the 1950's. With a divine little chocolate shop that had us drooling over the counter (and that I was banished from while Su did some shopping!)
From Collingwood we drove to Wharariki Beach, which is on the other side of Farewell Spit and at the top of the wild West Coast, a beach of sand dunes and grassy knolls, rocks with caves, and an unforgiving wind. It's the sort of place where you stand, open-mouthed, as you catch your first glance. We spent some time happily exploring the beach, looking at sand dunes and sand patterns, exploring in sea caves that echoed with the breaking waves battering their outside, smelling the salty rough sea, and catching sight of fur seals, lying like big fat furry blobs with cute little faces, sheltered from the sea and wind. We were amazed at these cumbersome-looking creatures, looking at us out of the corner of their eyes to ensure that we didn't get too close. So when we caught sight of some young sleek black creatures playing in the rock pools at low tide, we actually thought we were looking at sealions. But after speaking to the DOC man at Collingwood, we learnt that these were also fur seals, but that as soon as they are in water they become all sleek and shiny, and they run about on their flippers like sealions, which I have to admit I didn't realise, doh! Anyway, this was another unforgettable moment, a real highlight of our time in NZ so far. When we saw 2 young guys watching them from the side of the rock pool we went over to join them and had a wonderful display from creatures in their natural habitat, playing purely for pleasure. We were looking at an adult fur seal and 3 of last year's pups, who certainly played up for the cameras and were showing off to us, preening and surfing through the water. One little show-off spent all of his time in the rock pool next to us, swimming round and round, doing cartwheels underwater, and washing his face with his front flippers. As the guys said "this is why you come to NZ!" Awesome!
We also took a walk at Farewell Spit, which is at the very top of South Island. The spit itself is a huge sand spit, that is continually moving and arcs around at the top of the South Island. It is an important breeding ground for many species of birds, though you can only see them if you pay for a proper tour which we couldn't afford (all together now….) But we contented ourselves with a walk at the base of the spit, walking up the inside beach on a misty overcast day, along a rough, untidy but somehow lovely stretch of beach with a backdrop of black swans and black oystercatchers along the shoreline. Then we crossed the centre of the spit to the outer beach, a walk of about 20 minutes, but it was like walking onto a different planet; wild sand dunes, somehow more bleak than those at Wharariki, little lakes, and unexpectedly a wild hare for company. It was kind of like landing in a Star Wars movie! And upon reaching the outer beach, we were faced with a really hostile environment, just a wide, barren stretch of sand, with the occasional sandy dune and grassy knoll, and a wind whipping sand across your face. It was dramatic looking back to the cliffs at the start of the spit, with a storm hanging off them and a sea mist threatening to roll in. And a touch creepy to tell the truth, as we were alone with a fair distance to walk back! Thankfully a couple we'd met at the motor camp that morning caught up with us and we searched for the route back together!
After a few days in Golden Bay, it was time to move onto the West Coast. As this meant a fairly long drive, we decided to break the journey at Murchison, and here we learnt a lesson in not grabbing at things because you are tired! Seeing as we'd had such luck with holiday parks, we decided to continue the trend and headed for Riverview, which sounded rather lovely. It looked a little grubby upon arrival, but we were so tired and grateful to have arrived that we took a cabin without looking first - big mistake! We walked in and could have cried. It was grotty, it was filthy, with broken mosquito netting on the windows and doors and a layer of dirt everywhere, the showers had no curtains, and the kitchen had no equipment. Once we'd found several open packets of rotting crisps under my bed, we marched back to the office and asked for our money back, which she gave begrudgingly and without making any eye contact at all, and we ran for it! Instead, we got the last room at a cosy little backpackers above a family home, where we had a comfortable room and hot chocolate muffins were stuffed into our hands as we walked in. We could have cried with relief, had a long hot shower to scrub the grime and filth off and spent a comfortable evening watching episodes of Extras - it was a lifesaver!
Then to the West Coast, and our run of excellent weather continued as we arrived in Westport to brilliant sunshine, after a spectacular drive through the Buller Gorge, a famous scenic drive in NZ. Here we had more success with another holiday park, and spent another night in a little A-frame cabin (though not as lovely as our home in Mapua!) Then we took off to Cape Foulwind, named after the strong winds that batter this coastline and had a spectacular walk, along the track to a fur seal colony where we stood for ages looking at the seals basking in the sun. At first glance we could barely pick them out, but once we'd looked with binoculars we realised that they were everywhere! We ended up loaning our binoculars to everybody who turned up and couldn't see any! Again it was a real privilege to see these creatures in their natural environment, mostly lying like cumbersome blobs, but they really do transform into sleek shiny creatures when they get into the water. And the coastline itself was awesome, with huge waves rolling into shore, battering everything in their path - these really aren't beaches for swimming, but they are breathtaking to watch, and that lovely salty smell of the sea, and flax lining the track that really adds to the beauty of the place. And we also met another friendly weka here as we were having lunch in the car park, this one so used to people and food that it was practically climbing over our laps to reach our sandwiches!
The final stop on our wonderful little holiday was at Punakaiki, and again the drive here was utterly breathtaking, especially when we reached the Paparoa National Park where rainforest covers the cliffs, that drop dramatically to the battered shoreline. The Holiday Park here was another gem; tiny pink cabins nestled beneath the towering cliffs, next to a river that runs out from the valley. We couldn't believe that we were lucky enough to be able to spend a night here. We spent some time happily wandering along the beach, trying to see if we could pick up any gemstones or gold that can travel down the river, no luck but we loved looking and have both picked up enough stones to make several items of jewellery (if we can get them all home…) And then we went for another little bit of sightseeing, firstly to the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, where the formation of rocks have taken on a strange layered effect and at high tide the waves push the sea high into the air, then we had a wander along the Truman Track, a beautiful walk through lush rainforest to a beach famous for little blue penguins coming ashore to nest at dusk. We were so desperate to see these elusive little creatures that we popped back at dusk and sat quietly, watching the pounding waves, hoping for a little fella to pop up and waddle ashore. Sadly a family with a young child had the same idea, but they obviously hadn't heard that you need to sit quietly otherwise they can be frightened off! But it was lovely to see this beach in the late evening golden sun.
And that is the story of our little adventures since we finished work, which seems an absolute age ago, but this really was a wonderful little holiday and left us fit for finding our next job. No, let's be honest, it made us wish we had enough money to travel around NZ without working - we really could do this all of the time, but the call of SE Asia is strong and we need to earn another chunk of cash if we are to continue as planned. So work we must find!
Lots of love, Jo & Su, xxx