Next morning we had great intentions of doing a few things in Golden Bay - where we were heading - and beforehand in the outskirts of Nelson. But heading out of town/city we decided that it would be better to make tracks to our destination, Collingwood, a good three hour drive away.On the other side of the Tasman Bay from Nelson stands the Abel Tasman National Park and once again we found ourselves driving through the most wonderful scenery as the road snaked its way along the coast with the mountains before us.Soon after the small town of Motueka the road started to climb up, and up, and up until we reached the summit of Takaka Hill (about 3,000 ft).It's a pretty scary drive but the views over the coast to Tasman Bay are just fabulous.Coming down the other side the scenery once again was breathtaking, with magnificent views over the glorious Golden Bay and fields of peaceful, pastoral farmland.The next small town, Takaka - where we stopped for a coffee - was quite a surprise.We had expected a sleepy little backwater but instead found a bustling and lively country town with cafes, a variety of interesting shops and plenty of amenities - including a cinema cum theatre.It also seems to be an overflow for the Nelson arts and crafts scene and has a distinctly laid back and hippie-ish feel to it.We found ourselves in what seemed to be a different world and we liked it immediately.
We'd bought a copy of the local weekly rag and, perusing it over our coffee, found an advert for a cottage for rent for a few weeks in Collingwood which was only a 15 minute drive further north.It had always been our plan to settle in one place for a couple of months to plan the next stage of our trip, but probably a bit later on and probably in North Island.But we so liked this place, and with the chance of reducing our outgoings we decided to have a look. M phoned the number and Fiona who answered confirmed that, yes, the cottage was still available and we'd meet her there in a couple of hours.It was the weekend cottage of a friend of hers who was currently working overseas and was right on the coast in Collingwood overlooking the bay.We found a few more ads for other properties which were for rent in Takaka and which, after checking out, were also still available.But the description of the cottage in Collingwood continued to appeal the most.As the ad had said references would be required we frantically discussed how we'd manage to rustle up some references - we'd probably have to call on people who'd put us up in the past (Jean, Tam, Mladen).
We arrived at the cottage a while before Fiona and were immediately taken with the stunning view across the inlet where gannets were diving for their dinner.We also took the chance for a quick recce of the village - small but with quite a few tourist style amenities and in a wonderful setting.We just had to get this cottage.Fiona arrived on time and after exchanging introductions it was evident that the cottage was ours if we wanted it - no references required.Admittedly it was a bit more basic inside but nevertheless comfortable, spacious, well equipped and with an open fire - this would certainly do us as home for a few weeks.For those friends who remember us at Glenelg it reminded us of Ravenscraig, the cottage we used to rent there looking over the water to Skye and the Sound of Sleat.
We moved in immediately and agreed with Fiona that we'd pay the full rent in cash, but we'd have to go back into Takaka to the ATM.We then had to go along the road to the B&B that we'd booked the previous day to give our apologies that we wouldn't now need the room.We also popped in to Farewell Spit Eco Tours to pay for the forthcoming trip that we'd booked by phone; with weather forecast for the following day being wet, and as we'd be staying in the village we could now choose which day to go.The cottage could certainly do with a good clean having been empty for a few weeks, so when E popped round to the shop later in the afternoon to get some cleaning materials he was surprised to see Fiona's car with its bonnet up - yes, she'd broken down.But help in the form of her husband, Doug, was on the way so we left her to it and set off to Takaka for the ATM, and with the intention of going to the Saturday night flicks.But by now all the excitement was catching up with us - it had been a long day and a long drive - so we decided to take a rain check on the flicks and head home.What we haven't mentioned is that in between Takaka and our cottage is one of the best pubs in NZ.The Mussel Inn is renowned for its beer, which it brews on the premises, its food - especially mussels, and its live music.How could we pass this by on our way home?Answer - we couldn't, so we popped in for a few jugs of the local ale for E, some homemade lemonade for M (who was the named driver), and an excellent meal (with no chips or wedgies in sight).Unfortunately the music didn't start until much later so didn't catch any that night, but we did meet a few of the really friendly locals and got some tips on the area.
We awoke to a very heavy overcast day on Sunday - perfect weather for doing the housework.And that's what we did, we cleaned all day and rearranged some furniture to make the place more homely (which it did), and ordered a load of logs for the fire.Only E went outside the door when he drove up to Fiona's to hand over the rent.
Monday was a fine day and we had decided that after breakfast we would head back into Takaka to explore and get more information on the area.Along the road there are so many signposts to walks, bays, arts & crafts, fruit & veg for sale etc etc and we'll catch up on these later.But first of all we wanted to buy some candles to give the cottage a bit of atmosphere, and E joined the excellent public library.We'd also heard that Takaka has a golf course so set off in search of it.It's a nine hole course in a lovely position on the coast and rather than pay for every round we enquired if they would give us temporary membership.Yes they could - $100 each for as much golf as we could manage, and if we can fit in more than 5 rounds it will be a really good deal.Our clubs were in the boot so we set off for our first round and the golf wasn't too bad (certainly M's was a better round than her last one!). This time it was straight home to a good meal of pork chops and fresh vegetables (which we'd picked up at farm stall near the golf course).
Ulva pointed out a particular tree on the island.The leaves were traditionally used by the locals for writing letters and most surprisingly were accepted by the New Zealand postal services until the 1970s.Imagine our Post Office accepting letters written on oak leaves!!
We spent the next few days settling into the cottage and getting to know the local area a bit more.We bought some kindling and ordered a load of logs for the fire (which was delivered two days later in the pouring rain) so we would be warm and cosy in the chill of the evenings (it really does feel like autumn now) and did our first wash in the washing machine.Pity it was too wet to hang it out but it dried fine on the clothes horse.We also walked along the beach and on the way back found a little pink cottage where Rosy Glow Chocolates originated and are still sold there (scrumptious). On the road between Collingwood and Takaka there are lots of side roads whose interesting names contain the promise of something or somewhere delightful if you would but take the time to explore.So explore some of them we have.Milnthorpe Park doesn't seem to be a park as such (although maybe there is one and we need to look a bit further), but there is a cluster of houses on a delightful part of the coast where the mouth of a river from a coastal lake runs into the sea.Paton's Rocks turned out to be another cluster of houses right down on a lovely long sweep of a beach.But the biggest surprise was Pupu Springs - this, apparently is Golden Bay's major attraction yet we hadn't recognised it in any of the travel books (it is known as Te Waikoropupu Springs).The Springs, which are the largest natural springs in Australasia, bubble up through numerous vents and create a crystal clear large pond (or smallish lake) the surface of which is constantly moving in rhythmic circles, thus earning the name of 'Dancing Sands'.There's also a good hike to The Springs so we aim to do that before we leave the area.
But first we decided to drive east of Takaka along the coast to Wainui, which is at the northern end of the Abel Tasman coastal track, and also has waterfall of note.The drive along the coast through Clifton and Pohara was absolutely beautiful, but as we reached Wainui the clouds closed in and down came the rain.However, it was a useful trip to suss out how we might start off a walk on the coastal track.A couple of days later we went back and M did the 80 minute return walk to the Wainui Falls, which were well worth seeing after all the rain we've had recently.The way back took us past 'our' golf course and, the weather being fine, we fitted in 14 holes before the light got too bad - we're noticing that the days are getting appreciably shorter now.On the way back, as it had been a few days since we'd been in to the Mussel Inn we popped in for a swift pint before heading home.
Before our spur of the moment decision to take the cottage away over on the west of Nelson we'd organised accommodation in the Marlborough Sound (on the eastern side of Nelson) in order to walk part of the Queen Charlotte Track (about 71kms long) but we were only going to do about 27 kms over 2 days.We decided to keep to our plans so on Friday we packed up our walking gear, drove the long drive over Takaka Hill and the long descent down to Motueka and on to Nelson.While in Nelson previously we'd heard about The Playouse Theatre/Bar/Restaurant/Cafe - an acclaimed venue a few kilometers outside Nelson.We therefore decided we should call in for a coffee - and what a smashing place it is.Just a pity that we don't have enough time on this visit to enjoy an evening here - and we noticed that it was closed the following day (Saturday 3rd May) for a wedding.
After booking into our Nelson motel (the Riverlodge again) we headed off to WOW - aka the World of Wearable Art - a permanent exhibition of a selection of entries over the years into the annual WOW competition, which originated in Nelson and has now so outgrown itself that it has moved to 'larger premises' in Wellington. It is a showcase for the best designs from the wearable arts festival from the Wellington Shows. It was just amazing and just fantastic.The other half of the museum exhibits a wide range of old cars which have been lovingly restored.The main focus is vehicles from the1920s to 1960s/70s.We enjoyed sitting in a 1950s Austin A90 Atlantic with lovely red leather upholstery, column gear lever and loads of lovely dials.We ended our evening with a nice meal at Little India (although the service was a bit slow), and the day was topped off (for E at least) by the internet news of Labour's massive losses at the local elections and the likely prospect of Boris Johnson as London Mayor!
Next morning we set off, retracing our steps to Havelock.Luckily M looked back as we headed out of Nelson because - the mountains across the bay behind us were covered in serious snow - what a wonderful sight.Shortly thereafter we were on to the windiest road in the world (E's arms were tied in knots) to Mahana Homestead Lodge on the Queen Charlotte Sound.Just outside Havelock, we stopped at a viewpoint looking over the Sound and got talking to a family who'd stopped for a snack on their way to wedding.E joked with them that their stop might make them late for the wedding, to which the husband replied that they had to be on time because they had the bridesmaids' dresses and said proudly, "The wife built them".That's 'Kiwi Man' for you!The scenery was again magical and after about 2 hours drive from Nelson, the last few kilometres being off road, we pulled in to a parking area overlooking the Sound.From there we had to walk down to the house where we met Anne, the owner, who drove us back up to our car to get our bags before showing us to our room in the lodge.Introductions made, it was clear that this was going to be a great place to stay.We had arrived at about the same time as trackers were arriving to stay the night.Naturally we soon got talking to a couple of women (two of a group of six) who we discovered were from Murchison.Shortly afterwards, others arrived and following introductions we realised that we'd met one of them, Leanne, before.In fact she worked at the Murchison I-Site (tourist information office) and had sold us our tickets for the rafting trip.Another example of what a small world this is!The 'Murchison Six' were a really great crowd and, together with Jessica from England and a couple of guys from Israel and Taiwan, we had a really great evening.We played cards and had drinks and chats, but the latter part of the evening was spent playing charades which reminded us of home and made us feel like we'd found a surrogate 'Christmas family'.After a hearty breakfast next morning everyone set off in the opposite direction to us - trust us to be different.We set off on the 22 kilometre, muddy, walk to Resolution Bay.The weather was a bit overcast albeit pleasant for walking, although it got a bit chilly at times.Surprisingly, M found herself struggling a bit with sore feet and legs, but luckily E was well dosed up with pain killers and managed to keep the team going. Shortly after we crossed the saddle we saw what we were sure was our accommodation far below at sea level and this raised the spirits considerably.But it took such a long time to get down the hill that M was mercifully glad to eventually get into our cabin at Resolution Bay Cabins, the only accommodation for miles around.We were the only people staying there that night and Mark (our host), very thoughtfully had the wood burning stove going a treat.The cabin had no electricity, just candles for light, and what a wonderfully comfortable and relaxing evening we had - especially after soaking our feet in a basin of hot water.The isolation of the place, the creaking and crackling of the fire, the wind in the trees and the strange noises on the roof did not detract from a wonderful night's sleep.However we did awaken next morning to torrential rain and what locals described as the worst weather that this area gets.Our day ahead was about a two hour walk to the end/beginning of the track at Ship Cove with a long wait until a 3pm ferry pick up back to Mahana.But with no prospect of shelter on the way or at Ship Cove and despite our relatively good outdoor and waterproof clothing we thought we'd be in for an absolute soaking.E headed down to weigh up with Mark what the prospects of the weather improving were.Mark agreed that it was a very miserable day and with the imminent arrival of a ferry said it would be sensible to return to Mahana - no point in getting soaked for a short and relatively uninteresting part of the track. When we got back to Mahana, Anne and John were waiting for us having been alerted to our change of plan (jungle drums in NZ?) and we found that most other trekkers had also opted out of walking that day (so we didn't feel too bad about our decision).The log fire was blazing and once again there was a warm and convivial atmosphere.The weather did improve as the day went on so we roused ourselves to get back on to the track, this time heading south along the ridge, as far as the first lookout point, which gave wonderful views to the end of the Sound.This walk was probably a bit further than our planned walk from Resolution Bay to Ship Cove and from the high point gave better views than we would have got had we walked to Ship Cove. Our companions at Mohana this time comprised a couple of young Aussie women, an Aussie family, an English female and two young men from Israel.Also a late but brief appearance was made by a young Dutch couple.It transpired that the Aussie family were over for a wedding that took place at The Playhouse the day after we'd been there for a coffee, and saw the notice that it was closed the next day for a wedding.How many more coincidences are we going to have?Our second stay at Mahana was different from our previous evening here but it was nonetheless a really interesting, jocular, chatty and informative evening.Mahana certainly has the right recipe for conviviality.What a gloriously peaceful and relaxed place it is with wonderful views over the Sound, and Anne and John couldn't make people feel more welcome.Tuesday was a long, windy drive back through the Marlborough sound, over to Nelson, up and over Takaka Hill - and it was wonderful to see Golden Bay spread out before us.We did, however, have a short stop in Nelson to pick up some winter supplies to keep us warm in the cottage - slippers, pyjamas and duvet.At a brief stop in Takaka to check emails we found an email from Bigpond (Australia's main internet provider).We've had a long running dispute with them about a massive bill from our time at Tam's and the email was to say that they'd agreed to halve our bill.Although their offer to reduce the bill was not what we'd hoped for it was better than nothing and at last we could put this behind us.Next morning we awoke bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for a morning game of golf before the 12 o'clock Stapleford only to find we had a flat tyre.Luckily we live next door to the local garage where they were happy to check and repair the tyre while we chatted to Bridget who is also a member of Takaka Golf Club.What excellent service and we were soon on our way, full of air, to Takaka Golf Course where we managed for the first time to fit in a full 18 holes.Luckily, when we finished our first nine we managed to squeeze in between the Staplefords to enjoy a second nine.The scores weren't good but we enjoyed being out swinging again on such a gorgeous day!The coming weekend is the GB Open - no, not the Great Britain Open, the Golden Bay Open.The course was in tip top condition and the greens were hot, they must have been sprayed with Teflon.The main reason for coming to Golden Bay in the first place was to visit Farewell Spit so we'd arranged a more social 1pm departure (rather than 6am which we originally booked - all to do with the tides) and we were off in Lily a converted Toyota Landcruiser which can get to the parts other vehicles can't.Also our 'local' Farewell Spit Eco Tour in Collingwood is the only company that has access to the Spit. After nearly 2 weeks here this was the first time we'd ventured across the Aorere River and it was wonderful to be looking back at Collingwood and, as we headed further north, towards the Tasman NP across Golden Bay. This entire area has a history of mining (coal, gold, etc) and associated industries although none now remain.But it is amazing how so many communities (thriving by all accounts) still exist - especially when NZ has such a small population in the first place.Tourism is certainly the key and they manage to make the most of this most beautiful area. As we drove along the seashore we were amazed to see hundreds and hundreds of black swans mingling with many of more traditional sea birds.Our first stop was at Cape Farewell, South Island's most northerly point.It was beautiful and bracing and would certainly attract us back for further exploration.We then headed for the Spit along the inner beach (looking towards the bay) then over sand dunes and across to the Tasman Sea side (the outer beach) where we had the long drive to the end of the Spit, which at 35 km is the longest sand bar in NZ.Beached whales, giant squid, and other sea creatures are often found washed up on the Spit but all we saw was a dead cow and lots of NZ fur seals - happily alive.Still, it was a magical landscape and we enjoyed our day out to the lighthouse and beyond.The only downside was that, of the six passengers in Lily, E came off the worst when we had to drive over running water and the bumpiness threw E into the roof of the vehicle and he came away with a severely sore head and bruised insides which lasted a few days.
As we'd been on the go since we arrived in Collingwood, we'd built in some time when we could take things easier. Friday was overcast so it was a perfect day to catch up on some laptop work and visit our 2 Collingwood museums.Both are very small but interesting in their own ways.The Aorere Story has a range of display and photographs about the immediate area covering the Maori conflicts and the eventual settlement by the Eurpeans.The Museum has a huge collection ranging from household and farming artefacts to stuffed birds.Like Australia, NZ has a really well documented history - and both countries should be proud of their record keeping.That evening, after tea, we headed to the Mussel Inn for some live music.Richard Giliwitz is an American finger-style acoustic guitarist and entertained us with excellent music, considerable skill and a great deal of amusing repartee.Not at all bad for $5 - as he kept reminding us!Saturday was the first day of the Golden Bay Open Golf Tournament so, it being a gorgeous day, we thought we should get some tips from watching good golfers.We'd a good vantage point overlooking the 8th green and 9th tee and green (short hole).There were mainly good shots although occasionally some did remind us of our own standard (however, see later reference to Wednesday's golf).Time will tell if we've picked up any helpful tips.We heard later that the Open was very successful in terms of income for the club and the course record which was well and truly broken and now stands at 9 under par.A little gem in this area is the Grove Scenic Reserve which is a small area of native bush set among strangely shaped rock formations, and which looks like something out of Jurassic Park.This adds to the whole range of attractions in this area and it was wonderful to reach the look-out and see the whole of Golden Bay set out before us.Really glad we came here.Another reason to be glad is the abundance of stalls selling locally grown and organic produce and we enjoy stopping here and there to pick up tasty supplies.It reminds us of our time in Gullane when we used to go round East Lothian farm shops and stalls buying our eggs, pork, tomatoes, courgettes etc.Saturday night we had another dose of culture and our first visit to the Village Theatre in Takaka where they were showing There Will Be Blood starring Daniel Day Lewis.It was an excellent film with a wonderful performance by DDL, although it was a slightly strange film and we're still not what the point of the story was.The Theatre was pretty unusual for a picture house.As well as the typical rows of comfy seats, at the front it also had large squashy sofas and huge soft looking cushions to loll about on if you didn't fancy the traditional seating pattern, and tea and coffee was on sale in the foyer.And, just like days of old, there was an intermission!E half expected M to revert to her days at the Ritz in Edinburgh and appear walking up and down the aisles selling ice cream. It was about time that we were getting some exercise again and as we are in an area with some excellent walks we dug out the walking boots and gaiters.The Heaphy Track is one of NZ's Great Walks which takes 4 to 5 days through the Kuharangi National Park.The start is 33km from Collingwood up the Aorere River valley and we decided to sample the track.The valley itself was bathed in sunlight and there are quite a few places of interest before you reach the start of the track.It was great to be out walking again up and through the native forest for a few hours.With the crowds now dispersed and the golf course open once again to we mere mortals on Monday, we couldn't wait to get back on the course.Weather was fantastic, golf less so but we did recognise that there was some improvement.The following day, and the exceptionally good weather still holding up, we drove north to the amazing Whaririki Beach and to further explore the area around Farewell Spit.It really is magnificent around here and the view of the Spit and Golden Bay from the Visitor Centre and cafe at Puponga Farm Park is just superb.We came into the cafe as someone was putting a notice on the blackboard - 'If you can't be happy here you can't be happy anywhere'.We agree.We'd scheduled in golf for Wednesday but knew we had to make an early start to get into our second nine before the noon start of the Stableford competition.It was another gorgeous day and the improved standard of golf seemed to be holding up.Unfortunately we didn't manage to get ahead of the Stableforders and got sandwiched in between a four and a three.This might have been a good thing because it did slow us down and we ended up with reasonable scores, M's being possibly the best she has had.However, the piece de resistance was E getting a Birdie at the 18th with an exceptionally long putt from the fairway.It was a cracker, which was even acknowledged by the three guys behind us.Oh there'll be no holding E back now!
It's been a week now since we last wrote up the blog and we've made the most of the excellently warm and sunny weather this last week to do many of the main things we want to do before leaving the Golden Bay area.One of the places we've wanted to have a look at is the Naked Possum, which is well lauded hereabouts for the conservation work it does to protect the native Rata tree.The possum, which is not native to NZ but was introduced from Australia, is a major pest here.The leaves of native NZ trees are one of its favourite foods and consequently huge areas of native forest are dead and dying due to the possum's voracious appetite.There is therefore a possum eradication policy in NZ .Sad though this may seem for the cute little possum it just doesn't belong here.The Kiwis (the people that is) certainly don't hold this animal in high esteem and would be glad to get rid of them.The Naked Possum encourages hunting of the possum by buying pelt from local hunters, and tanning, making and selling products made from the fur and the hide (the Wild Food Festival held annually in Hokitika also has possum meat on the menu - haven't tried it though!). The Naked Possum also has a cafe and happens to be located right at the start (or end depending on which direction you walk) of the Kaituna Track which runs through Kahurangi National Park, past the old Kaituna gold workings and comes out at Whanganui Inlet on the west coast.So we were able to kill two birds etc etc when, after walking the Kaituna Track as far as the Kaituna Forks (after which the track changes to a much tougher 'route' that is suitable only for experienced and fit trampers), we enjoyed a late lunch of venison burger.Although deer farming is a big industry here and we've seen masses of deer in the fields, this was our first taste as most goes for export and is not readily available in NZ either in the shops or restaurants.The Takaka Hill Walk and Farewell Spit were originally the two main objectives of our visit to Golden Bay.Three weeks after arriving we at last found the time to get up to Takaka Hill, which at 800 m high marks the boundary between the Tasman and Golden Bays.Unlike most of the other walks in the area which are through woodland, the Takaka Hill is a climb (not particularly strenuous) through mainly open country which affords the most magnificent 360° views of the Bays and the Arthur Mountain range.Suitably rewarded for our efforts by an excellent cup of coffee (made in our travelling cafetiere - or plunger as they call them here) we set off to explore the way up to the Cobb Reservoir.As the narrow road winds and climbs it snakes its way alongside the Aorere River, through deep, deep gorges and past the Cobb River Hydro Station before climbing ever more steeply until it reaches the top of a 1,100m mountain where the Cobb Reservoir lies deep in a valley before you.Apart from that and the views across yet more mountains there wasn't much else to do or see, but it was an interesting drive and a nice way to round off the afternoon.To top off a fine day we had booked a table at our local restaurant, the Courthouse Cafe (which is in one of Collingwood's original buildings) and which was closing that weekend for the winter season.The food was delicious and E took the opportunity again to sample the venison.It was nice and handy and we didn't have far to stagger home.On the Sunday we gave ourselves the day off, except for a short guided tour of the local Te Anaroa Caves.The tours are booked at the local Collingwood Cafe as this is where the head guide, Andrea, also works.The caves (about 350m long) have some really excellent stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as some resident glow worms and cave wetas, which look like great big skinny spiders.But what makes the caves more interesting is that they are on land that belongs to Andrea's family and she has known them, and played in them, since she was a little girl.She therefore knows them and their history intimately.We particularly enjoyed the story of how the main caves were discovered by the Lash boys in the early 1900's (whose family owned the property at the time) when they had to break through a rock fall to find their dog Timmy who'd gone off to chase a rat.
Monday saw us back on the golf course eager to see if the improvement in our game was holding up - sadly M's didn't.Tuesday was another day off when we took care of some business and laptop management but next day we were back on the golf course, making an early start so that we got finished well before the regular Wednesday afternoon Stableford got under way,We really are getting good value out of our month's membership, and the scores weren't too bad either!After all the exertions of golf and hiking over the last week E rounded off the day by having a remedial massage (the last of three he's had here in Golden Bay) before settling down for the evening in front of a roaring fire - we're doing our best to use up all our logs before we leave at the weekend.
E & M xxx