Thursday 12th November
To Abel Tasman National Park
Today we had a very cosmopolitan morning. We woke up in our New Zealand campsite and chatted to our French and German neighbours. We drove to Nelson where we enjoyed Italian coffee with a Danish pastry in a Swedish cafe!
The campsite at Cable Bay was a good one. Not too crowded, it had the laundry, electricity and wifi that we needed. We also felt at home, being on a working sheep farm.
We picked up our emails and some attached photos sent by Mike. These showed the very fine ram that he had procured to entertain our lady ewes for a few days, in anticipation of lambing next April. Unfortunately for Mike, on his way to 'work' with the lady ewes in the main field, the ram spotted the separate pen of five nubile young ewe lambs grazing demurely in the equivalent of their exclusive convent school. With only one thought in his head the ram made a dive for the forbidden fruit, forcing Mike to have to perform a Ritchie McCabe style tackle in order to prevent five potential obstetric disasters!
Well, our hero was successful in protecting their ovine virtue, but at the expense of his face, having sustained a significant abrasion to his right cheek. Having spoken to Mike via a late evening FaceTime conversation, he seemed none the worse for this spot of misadventure, but did look rather 'rugged'.
We then went for a morning beach run which was something of a challenge, the beach in question being a steeply shelving bank of boulders and pebbles at high tide. We battled both ways along the obstacle course and then followed a footpath up onto the headland. Here there was a signboard where we learnt about Cable Bay. It was from here that the first telegraph cable was laid between Australia and New Zealand in 1876. It took just 11 days! A telegraph message to London would have cost 10/6 for each word (52.5 pence). It meant that, for example it was possible to telegraph a message to London within 4 days, instead of sending a letter that could take up to six months to arrive. It made the internet look amazing!
Have exhausted all possible opportunities for entertainment and self improvement in Cable Bay we said good bye to exceptionally nice owner and set off to Nelson as described above.
Approaching the Abel Tasman National Park we were trying to research the place as best we could. Essentially the ATNP is a protected area 20 X 25 km, lying 60km north of Nelson.
It has attractive mountains, wildlife and forests but its most famous feature is its picturesque beaches which can be explored by tramping or from the water. There is no road access to the park and wild camping in tents is allowed only with a special licence.Many people do 2-5 day self sufficient expeditions across the park on foot or by kayak or take water taxis to various remote beaches along the coastline. There were so many permutations and variations offered by the local tourist information i-site office - it felt a little bit like 'Freshers' Fair' at the start of university - so many different organisations each wanting you to have a really wonderful time with their particular set up. And it all sounded so great. Kayaks - with a guide or freedom? - full day or half day? Tramping out and water taxi home? Kayak to a remote spot, then tramp home? Landing on the marine reserve island or just sailing around it? One company even offered us the chance to privately charter a 19 berth catamaran for £250 an hour (which would have been an absolute bargain if there had been 19 of us!!)
We took advice, collected leaflets, drank coffee (with afore-mentioned pastries) and then as the sun came out, went and had a picnic on the beach at Tekerikeri. Finally, with the help of Caroline at Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures we found just the thing - a guided kayak trip along the southern bays and to the Adele marine reserve, stop on the beach at Watering Cove, a tramp over the headland at Anchorage, lunch in the bay, then sailing by catamaran further north to Bark Bay and then sail home. It sounded perfect.
Pleased with our plan we drove on to Marahau to make an initial exploration of the park on foot and walked along the start of the trail as far as Coquille Bay where we sat on the rocks and enjoyed bird watching in the late afternoon sun.
As well as the usual shore birds we watched a group of Silvereyes in a gorse bush next to the beach with their pretty pink flanks and yellow throats and remarkable white rings around their eyes. The tide was very low, so we were able to walk back some of the way along the beach from Porter's Beach.
Back in the motor home we elected to return to the freedom camping by the beach at Motueka Beach Reserve where we enjoyed a very fine steak supper, produced by Bill, seemingly as if by magic from our small gas hob!