Two nights in the Marlborough Sounds when the sun is shining is enough to have felt like you have had a holiday.
I was invited to go with Kat, her boyfriend Mark and two of their friends Hannah and Herbie to Mark's bach (holiday house) at Raehiti in the Kenepuru Sounds. It's about 40 mins by boat or 2.5 hours by road - luckily Mark has a boat! We arrived in the late afternoon and spent the Friday night chilling at the bach with a few drinks, a quick quad bike ride up the hill and general low-key fun.
The next day we took off for a day on the water. We came across a pod of about 50 dolphins, which was magic. They happily swam in our wake, coming alingside and under our boat. The size of them was incredible and one came under, turning on his back as he came up on the side of the boat - checking us out as much as we were checking them out. There was also a baby, perfectly in sync with Mum. After following them for a while, we eventually turned and continued on.
The fishing was disappointing - lots of nibbles and we did catch quite a few but all were undersized so they got thrown back. With homemade hamburgers on the dinner menu, we weren't relying on a catch but it would have made the day. We had to be careful not to hook a snag, with a few of the birds skulking around and diving after our catches.
After spying an army defence fort, someone had the insane idea of climbing up to it. In fairness, it didn't look that bad from the bottom but halfway up we realised that it was steep and rocky - the sort of rocks that make little avalanches as you climb. But we made it, and the view was awesome.
I had a dip off the back of the boat but it took my breath away and was out of the water pretty quickly. The jellyfish are also not very enticing.
We wanted to check our Raehiti Lodge so we walked around and had a cold drink. Was so so.
That night, we were all so tired we had to fight hard to stay awake until dark. 9.30pm was finally deemed an appropriate enough bed time, even though it was really still a little light outside.
The next morning we were organised early so Kat, Hannah and myself decided to go for a walk. We went via a proper track initially before decided to cut down onto the beach and then see if we could make it all the way back along the water. It was very rocky and we almost made it without getting wet - the Hopewell backpackers has built a boat launch which we had to get up, which meant wading out to thigh-high water.
On the way back, Mark and Herbie did some wake-boarding before making it back in time to hand the boat over to Mark's parents.
I had one night at home (and half a day at work) before Kat and I went to join Mark, Hannah, Herbie, Sharon, Brett and Dan at Lake Rotioti in the Nelson Lakes National Park. We got down about 4pm on New Year's Eve to find the camp site sorted and the guys chilling out.
The weather started to change for the worse and the rain came down, dropping the temperature. All looked abit ominous for a wet new year but it stopped around 9pm - time for a mountain bike in the dark. Crazy in hindsight (actually crazy about 5 mins into it) but no one rode off the track, although I learned never to grab a tree branch as you're riding by. It pulled me up to an immediate stop causing Hannah to have to slam on her brakes and go up on her back wheel.
Back at the camp, we started playing dualing stereos with the group next door, who had appalling music tasting - very old school but the cheesy kind. Who plays 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' on New Year's Eve? We danced and drank and had a great time, and at midnight all ventured down to the Lake jetty where some people had fireworks. St Arnaud town usually has fireworks planned but it was too wet.
At 1.30am we were asked (ordered angrily) to turn our music down. We did but the group next door got very arsey at the poor lady. Kat, Mark, Hannah, Herbie and Dan decided another moonlit mountain bike was in order - my cue to go to bed.
The next morning we took the bikes out to find a fishing spot. I can confess to not being much of a mountain biker so spent more time off than on the bike but it was still a lovely walk. I caught up with the group each time they stopped to check the river. Once we were back at the campsite, I left them to go explore the Lake more, so I drove up to a high vantage point for the view - stunning. Then I headed for home, with work the next day (despite it being a public holiday in New Zealand on Jan 2) and here I now sit writing this.
All in all, a very new year's with new friends, a slight tan and sore bottom (from the bike seat!)