Well, we have had yet another exciting week. We finished our WWOOFing stint at the Hague’s home last Monday, and were very sad to have to leave our en-suite and fabulous views of the sounds! Unfortunately everybody caught a stomach bug over the weekend and so we left feeling a bit dodgy. By the time we arrived in Nelson (2 hours later), I was very poorly so we had to hole up in a motel for the next 2 nights. Needless to say, Monday and Tuesday were slightly wasted as I was in bed, and Philip, my wonderful nurse, was waiting on me hand and foot. Luckily, by Wednesday morning I was much better and we were able to continue with our journey as planned.
Nelson was an attractive city with an art-deco, hippie feel. It has more sunny days than anywhere else in the country and is hailed as one of NZ’s most ‘liveable’ cities. It was a pleasant enough place, but other than a modern and architecturally fascinating cathedral, there wasn’t much in the town itself to keep us there for more than a few days, so on Wednesday afternoon, we drove to Moteuka.
Motueka is a fruit growing town lying in the heart of green-tea, hop, apple, grape and kiwifruit orchards. The area surrounding the town was beautiful, and we used the campsite there as our base for a few nights. On Thursday we were up early and picked up by a local tour company to have a day in the Abel Tasman National Park (NZ’s most visited park). We took a water taxi up the east coast, spotting funny rock formations and seals en route. It was like a travel brochure come to life! We were dropped off halfway up the 51km track and instructed to walk back! We walked from 10am until 3pm with a young German girl called Lisa. The walk was stunning – the water was so clear and we had fantastic views of the limestone hills, caves and waterfalls. We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the only populated part of the park and were then picked up by our skipper at a beach further down the track. It was a great day out.
On Friday we had a slightly lazier day and drove up Takaka hill (where a lot of LOTR was filmed) and down into Golden Bay. Just below the summit was a dramatic lookout over Tasman Bay and Abel Tasman, so we could admire the route we walked the day before. The small town of Takaka is the only service town in the area, and there seemed to be a strong local community of artists, the dreadlocked types, crusty fishermen and hardened farmers. We really loved the main street, which served plenty of vegetarian food and had some appealing galleries.
We had a drearier day on Saturday as the rain came in and the whole of the South Island was issued with an extreme weather warning. We spent the day driving back across the hills and on to the West coast, which is where we will now be for a while. Over the weekend we passed through the rather depressing towns of Westport and Greymouth...New Zealand is beautiful but there are certainly some towns that I want to escape from quickly! I guess a lot of new development and building happened in a time when not much attention and/or money were paid to the appearance of these service hubs. Nonetheless, there was some exciting scenery to be explored around Westport, and we enjoyed a long stroll into the wind along the well-named ‘Cape Foulwind’. We also saw a large seal colony there and took photos of the remarkable ‘Pancake Rocks’ (they literally looked like piles of pancakes).
Philip decided that we have done enough wine tasting in New Zealand, so on Sunday night we did a brewery tour. Montieths brewery in Greymouth is one of NZ’s oldest and biggest makers and exporters of beer, so seeing as the HQ was down the road from our campsite, we indulged ourselves with an evening tour and meal. The tour itself was fascinating (I previously had no idea how beer was made being a wine drinker) and we were allowed to try as many varieties as we wished at the end. It is worth pointing out that on all of these alcohol tasting tours that we have done, the majority of other people also on the tour are English...a coincidence?! Maybe not.
And so we are now firmly on the West coast of the South Island. This area was my favourite part of the country when I visited 4 years ago, so I am glad to be back. This coastline has less than 1% of the population scattered amid 9% of the country’s area but they are a very friendly bunch! I think it is crammed with tourists during the summer months, but we seem to have the place to ourselves at the moment, which is the advantage of travelling in winter. Today we are in Franz Josef, 5km from the glacier (named after the Austrian emperor in 1865). This afternoon we walked to the terminal face for a great glacier view and tomorrow we intend to explore further walking tracks and routes around the glacier. This evening we have been chilling out in the hot pools (yes, more!) and watching the rain, which we are hoping will turn into snow overnight. It is now extremely cold at night time and there is more snow falling as we head towards July, so we are grateful for our little heater in the van!
Over the next week we will be stopping at Fox Glacier, driving the Haast pass and heading towards Wanaka. I will try to update you with more news at the beginning of next week. This blog is now on paperblog, so check it out: www.paperblog.com
Lots of love to all,
Hana and Phil