There's nowhere to hide from a dive-bombing finch
Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Vern: In the morning, after a cup of coffee boiled on our gas stove and a bowl of cereal we followed the short trail to Hawkes Lookout and enjoyed a sweeping valley view. Then Andrea took up behind the wheel, only her second time driving on the left, and took us up and down a large mountain, and then onto a gravel road and into the Abel Tasman National Park. The Abel Tasman Coastal Trek is a popular summer 4-day walk in and out of dense forest and across the beaches on the North West shore of the island. We didn't have that kind of time, so we started with a two-hour segment of the walk (four hours return) from our campsite at Totaranui to a rocky peninsula called Separation Point.
We ventured through cool dense forests, populated mostly by a variety of ferns, over the rocky outcrops which separate white beaches full of interesting sea shells in the tidal lines. "Mum, Dad, we're in New Zealand. No one else is" I composed an imaginary postcard. All alone, we sat on a piece of driftwood watching the waveless turquoise tide come in and go out and ate our sandwiches. "It's beautiful isn't it," said Andrea, "though it's a pity we've just been to Fiji." And she was right. These coves backed by the forest with boulders tumbling onto the beach really are lovely but not island paradise lovely. Also it was too cool to make complete use of the beaches. We continued up the coast to Anapai Bay and Mutton Cove - there are sheep around every corner and on every hillside on this little island, you'd think they'd be happy not to be thinking bout them while on the beach, apparently not - and down a steep rocky slope which shot out into the sea to Separation Point. There we watched a young New Zealand fur seal squeal and squawk as it fumbled over the rocks and up to its mum, a large and fed up looking cow. We watched the little seal family for a while and then made our way back along the path we came. As we were trapsing across the beach at Anapai Bay, we found seals again. This time, a group of five young ones surfing the tiny swells. Just as we spotted them they spotted us and they watched us cautiously but continued ducking and diving but almost self-consciously. Remarkably as we walked off, they swam off into deeper water and disappeared as if the little surf show was just for us. We wondered if one of the surfing seals was the one we'd seen earlier crying to mum, and like a teenager horrified to have been seen at the mall with his parents, he'd called up his mates, followed us along the coastline and then put on this little act to ensure we saw him with his
crew and to re-establish his... er... sea-cred. Pukekos, blueish guinea-fowl like birds, were abundant and running all over the place at the end of the walk - they'd sure look good in the oven.
The sandflies were a pain back at camp and continued to be a nuisance across the South Island. They're the size of small ants, have a taste for blood and hover around quietly but erratically and everytime we opened the van door they'd enter in droves. Nonetheless, we persevered and made a delicious spag-bog - 50% on the gas-stove, 50% on a fire - and then assembled and settled into our home-cinema and watched 'Crazy Heart' on DVD.
Being the only ones in the campsite, we were undisturbed and woke up late. I got out to put the kettle on the stove and was dive-bombed by a finch. A misfiled flight plan perhaps. Nope. It happened again, and then another one joined the attack. They were swooping toward my head and chest and then cutting away at the last minute. I swung my arms around but this did little to disrupt the offense, "You were happy with us here last night you little w***s! But now all the spaghetti scraps are gone you're angry!" I think I won the war and they retreated bar the odd scouting flight, so we sat down to our coffee and cornflakes on a concrete bench: Breakfast of Camp-ions!
Today we headed south down the coast through Mutton Bay and Waiharakeke. We're finding the Maori names difficult to commit to memory, and the latter spot become distorted in our minds and we referred to it as Waimaiwithisgai (as in a place for a girl to sit and ponder her relationship). A couple of wekas, an indigenous fat brown-feathered bird, gave us a send off as we started the trail. We made it as far as Awaroa, where the tide was up and it was not possible to cross the delta so we turned around and headed back.
Back at the campsite, I heard a click when I pulled open the door to the loo. The noise having eminated from a counter which ticks over each time the door opens. Who's monitoring this?! If you are put off by a warm toilet seat in a public toilet, imagine how you feel when a device confirms that 102 688 users have visited this facility before you! The campsite also contained a shower. A cold shower. Which is rather an awful thought when it's around 12 degrees Celsius but since this was the first shower available to us. We knew we had to do it. The little shower shed took a lot of verbal abuse from us as one after the other we danced in and out of the cold blast until we'd soaped and rinsed satisfactorily.
We left the campsite and Abel Tasman National Park with mild frostbite and headed south down the west coast. We drove until it was dark and pulled into a rest-stop with spooky trees for the night. Andrea dubbed it Wolf Creek, after the Aussie horror movie, and was rather jumpy that night.