After nearly four weeks on North Island we were set to leave Wellington and North Island on the Bluebridge Ferry to Picton. We had spent considerably more time on North Island this trip and we really appreciate have explored it more and experienced some of its treasures and delights. I found I appreciated North Island much more this time. Although we had successfully covered new ground in our explorations, we still have plenty to fit into any future trip down here.
Ben, Kelly and Eva were travelling with us and to make life a little easier with Eva we had a cabin booked. Eva decided now was the time to try to stand unsupported despite the gentle motion of the ship as it pulled our if Wellington Harbour. The crossing was pretty smooth with the exception of a thirty minute stretch of water where opposing currents meet as it is forced through the narrow gap that is the Cook Strait. Most if the time you are in the gentle waters in the lea of the south west corner if North Island or the quiet waters of Marlborough Sound.
After so much dry weather we had a couple of squally showers during the three and a half hour crossing. Our arrival in Picton greeted us with a heavy downpour and the temperature had plummeted to 6 degrees. Fortunately the transfer process and the collection of a new hire car did not take too long and we were soon on the road. The rain was short-lived and soon after leaving Picton the skies cleared and strong late afternoon sun burst through bringing about a rapid temperature rise. Halos of cloud ringed the mountains while steam rose from the wet road, the combination of steam and sun making driving difficult at times. In places the side of the road was littered with hail stones. Bizarrely, sprinklers were watering the fields in abundance. Driving along deserted roads with mountains all around was fabulous and it quickly brought home to me how stunningly beautiful South Island is.
For the first time I had the urge to drive quickly. It is approximately 100 miles to Nelson from Picton and Stephen was due to fly into Nelson from Indonesia and we had only left ourselves an hour to get there. Fortunately, the heavy showers had delayed his flight across the Cook Strait from Wellington, on the last leg if his journey, so he did not have too wait long for us. It was unfortunate that he had chosen to fly in when the temperatures had dropped so dramatically; the contrast between the high thirties and humidity of West Papua was a shock to his system.
Driving from Nelson to Kaiteriteri during a stunning sunset was great. Sadly the camera was in the boot so no record of its drama could be taken.
We arrived at our batch, perched on the hill above Split Apple Bay in the dark, so could only really appreciate the interior. What an interior. Ben, who had booked it, really hit the mark with this one. The interior design was spectacular, all pine timbers and panelling, a top of the range kitchen, a sunken lounge, two sides of which were glass. Our bedroom had windows on three sides and the en-suite was to die for. To have a bath was to sit in a glass balcony while the vanity area was cleverly designed with a combination of glass and mirrors to give you the maximum view.
In the morning I was eager to get up to see the view from the house. It wasn’t a disappointment. The house was perched on the highest point of the hill overlooking the Tasman Bay. On the horizon the hills stretching north from Nelson pierced the sky as the sun rose like a fiery beacon from behind. To the south the snowy peaks of the Kaikoura Mountains could be seen, distance making them appear much lower than the ranges much closer. Immediately to the north the large beach at the small village of Marahau. The tide was out and the golden sand was patterned with lagoons and chanels glistening in the early morning sun. Beyond the forested hills dropped down to the sea in a series of headlands and bays. Off shore were Fisherman’s Island and the larger Adele Island, named after the wife of the French explorer who first came to these shores.
Seeing the outdoor facilities of the house made it even more attractive. There was extensive decking, on several levels all around the seaward side of the house with a large barbecue and a perfectly positioned hot tub. A well planted and designed garden fell away on all sides with little walkways branching off. The sun shone, birdsong filled the air and everything was perfect.
We only had two days in the Abel Tasman National Park and we were really only going to be able to scratch the surface, leaving plenty to do and see on another visit. We chose to take a water taxi from Marahua to Anchorage and then explore on foot for a few hours before catching the taxi back. Fitting in with Eva’s routine we took a late morning taxi. The taxis are towed to and fro by tractors, the distance travelled dependent upon the tide situation. It was high tide so we were simply lowered down the launch ramp and into the water.
They are not merely taxis taking you in a direct line from A to B, they give you a guided tour along the route. We went first to Adele Island to have a look at the seal colony. This is made up entirely of females and babies, the males having gone off to do manly seal things. They only reappear to mate, usually a week after the females have given birth, and then disappear again. While the females relaxed on the rocks the babies frolicked in the clear waters. When they wanted their mother’s attention they whined and cried like babies.
Passing a series of secluded bays with golden beaches fringed with natural forest we headed into the “Mad Mile”, a section of rougher water before reaching the more tranquil waters of the small but beautiful Te Pukatea Bay with the perfect beach. From there we went around the next headland and turned into Anchorage Bay and another perfect beach.
Leaving the boat we had our picnic lunch on the beach before venturing on to one of the many trails through the forest, up and down hills and on to headlands overlooking the sea. The colour of the water was as vivid as I have ever experienced. Even when we were in the depth of the forest occasional flashes of azure would penetrate the trees. While we were all wowed by the beauty of where we were, Eva slept soundly in the backpack on Ben’s back.
We eventually found ourselves at Te Pukatea Beach and we were the only ones on it. I had to have a swim. Thinking back to when we went to New Chums Beach, which had been voted as one of the world’a top twenty beaches, albeit in 2006, this, I think is better. All the beaches we are coming across are beautiful in one way or another, and what makes them so special is that most of the time they are deserted, probably because there are so many and not that many people to occupy them.
Returning to Anchorage Bay, we caught the water taxi back to Marahua. Now the sea was quite choppy and we bounced over the waves. It was now not just the “Mad Mile”, but most of the return journey. These taxis have very powerful outboard motors and can travel at 50kph. The drivers, while not taking unnecessary risks, like to go as fast as they can. Those sitting near the front of the boat (Ben, Kelly and Eva) were bouncing with each wave whilst those at the back (Stephen, Angela and myself) were victims of the spray.
The following morning Stephen and I were going sea kayaking while the rest took the taxi again to Anchorage and walked back to Marahua.
There are several kayaking packages you can do, guided or independent. We chose the one day independent package, which, after briefing, would allow us approximately five hours on the water. The wind was a south westerly, an off shore wind, which created a decent swell in the bay. Our brief told us that it was due to increase by the afternoon and that our return would be particularly difficult as we would be heading straight into the teeth of it.
Stephen took the front cockpit while I took the rear and had control of the rudder. We made ourselves comfortable and headed out across the bay towards Gilbert’s Point. The swell buffeted us about a bit but we coped. From Gilbert’s Point we headed out to Adele Island to have a close look at the seal colony. It was a relief to be in the lee of the island, in calm water and to take advantage of a rest while enjoying the antics of the seal pups. While we were there the rest of the family turned up in a water taxi, on their way to Anchorage Bay.
Having rested and enjoyed we headed straight back to the mainland to a small beach we could see. This meant going across the swell and this is when we got our wettest as the swell broke over us.
After lunch we headed back along the shore towards Marahua, allowing us plenty of time to get back in the face of the swell. However, for now, we were in flat water and able to explore the shoreline, looking into every nook and cranny, including passing through a small arch. We killed a bit of time by visiting another deserted beach for a swim and a rest before coming round Gilbert’s Point and the swell.
When we came round the point there was no wind and the water was flat and the run in to Marahua was very straight forward.
In the bar in time for “happy hour” we could have done with one of the staff lifting our pints to our lips, shoulders having had a really good workout.
The following day we were heading back to Picton for one last night with Ben and family before they returned to Wellington. Before we left we popped down to have a look at Split Apple Beach with the rock just off shore. Wow, another fabulous beach. The Abel Tasman National Park is a fabulous area and we will be returning one day to explore it further.
Calling in at Nelson we all had lunch with a relative of Angela’s who came out to New Zealand twenty odd years ago, met a Kiwi and settled here.
We had a super apartment on the waterfront in Picton. Ben and Kelly were sailing on the 8.00am ferry. After an emotional parting they went to check in to find that their sailing was delayed. So they returned with breakfast items. Saying our goodbyes again, less emotional this time, they went to check in again. Having done so they then arranged to meet us on the waterfront for a stroll. Finally, after three attempts, they returned to Wellington, leaving us to travel to Kaikoura with Stephen.