Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Friday & Saturday 22nd & 23rd February 2008 - To the North Island!

Friday was another leisurely day, with a walk from Picton Harbour to Bob's Bay then to the harbour viewpoint, where we watched two ferries coming in along Queen Charlotte Sound. The Echo, an old sailing ship, now a cafe at the edge of the harbour, provided a nice coffee before we queued to board the Interislander ferry to Wellington.

Leaving at 1.15pm prompt, we watched the scenery from Deck 10, the sundeck, where the breeze was nicely cooling on a humid day. About half the journey is along the Sounds, with an hour in open sea, before entering Wellington harbour. The crossing was completely calm. The haze created a lovely halo around the sun.

Moana Lodge is our base for exploring a tiny portion of what Wellington has to offer and is located about 25 minutes north of the city, in Plimmerton. The Edwardian house is now (another) top class backpackers hostel and looks over the beach to Mana Island and the South Island sounds.

So, today saw us waste no time in getting into town (preferably to get a new windscreen but that failed) and our first port of call, the Botanic Gardens. Things were brightening up after rain last night, but this made the roses look particularly attractive, with pearls of water perched on their petals and reflecting the morning light.

Highlights were the rose garden and the begonia house, but the sculptures were exciting in their own way and the native bush section was filled with the buzz of cicadas. Views over the city were good.

Te Papa, the museum, occupied the next few hours. Located on the waterfront, it has its own bush exibit outside, where there is even a small suspension bridge and cave! Inside, we were shaken in a house built to demonstrate the effects of earthquakes, and saw film of volcanic eruptions here in 1995-6 - quite large! Once our cultural brains were saturated, we walked along the sea front - Wellingtonians were on the beach and in the sea enjoying the hot sunshine, taking part in the Wellington bike ride, and paddling craft that were similar to Dragon boats across the harbour in a race as part of a regatta.

It was great to retreat back to Plimmerton and have a dip in the sea after a day in the city!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Thursday 21 February 2008 - A Perfect Day Around Picton and the Queen Charlotte Walkway

Oh Joy
Today I was back in my Comfort Zone on my own two crumbling pegs.
Talking was possible instead of the hand signals of the past 3 days; I could tell the time and make jottings; photos could be taken without the risk of drowning the camera; my feet were no longer encased in a layer of sand; and I could adjust my position to relieve tired muscles!

It was a lovely clear hot (30C) sunny day. All day. After spending a relaxing morning around Picton, where today's fab cakes came from the shop which came 4th in the national cake competition, we drove 40km along the scenic 'Queen Charlotte Drive' and then down the Kenepuru Road to Te Mahia Saddle. On the way we stopped for a scenic lunch above this bay.

Here began our taste of the Queen Charlotte Walkway, a 55km walk down a long peninsula. We went about 3km up to a magnificent viewpoint at a 417 metre summit.

So good that we spent nearly an hour at the picnic bench, taking photos and chatting, in particular to a delightful Israeli couple.

Down at Mistletoe Bay we passed an idyllic campsite and Sue went swimming amongst mussels and minnows.

Then a 4km loop walk took us to the end of a small peninsula with wonderful views. Sue was put off swimming here when she looked down at the hordes of jellyfish. There were also huge starfish on the rocks just below the surface.

A repeat of the scenic drive brought us back to Tombstone Backpackers in Picton for an excellent home 'cooked' salad in this superb accommodation (lots of superlatives today!), washed down with Sauvignon Blanc from the Framingham Winery we passed a few days ago in Renwick.

A Perfect Day...

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Monday - Wednesday 18-20th February 2008 - Sea Kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park

It was just like the pictures! The sea was turquoise, the sky blue, the trees green and the sand golden. We did, indeed have good weather for this trip, which saw us kayak over three days from Totaranui in the North of the park, back to Marahau, in the South, visiting golden beaches for gourmet lunches, and camping behind the beaches amongst shady trees, where, thankfully, the sandfly population was considerably smaller than that in Doubtful Sound!

Kayaking itself was reasonably hard work, although we were only paddling for around 4 hours a day. Martin, in the front, was more uncomfortable than me, in the back, due to the waves entering the kayak when we launched it from the beach, which resulted in him sitting in a wet seat for hours. This was compounded by his spray deck not fitting ideally, which let in more water!

But, for me, being on the water was lovely, particularly as swimming was never far away! We swam at our first camp, Tonga Quarry, where the water was cold and the beach shelved steeply, then at Anchorage Bay, a broad, sweep of golden beach (littered with kayaks!), where pockets of warm water made it really good, and a rock was well-placed for a bit of diving!

Twice we rafted up (parallel kayaks all holding on to each other) and got out the large orange sail, which very effectively propelled the raft through the water, without the hard work of paddling.
Tumbling fur seals, shags and Australian gannets that occupied the coast and its islands and were seen from very close quarters, although we were sharing the water with numerous kayaks, aqua taxis, yachts and larger, sight-seeing boats. Our guide, KP, who is half-Maori, in addition to being a fine chef, picked plants and berries that were edible or medicinal, and pointed out Maori Pa sites, parts of the forested coast that used to be farms, or orchards, and made other historical points.

Our companions were Robin and Mary-Jo from Idaho, Stefan from Stuttgard, Craig from Auckland (originally from SA), and for the third day, Karen and Joe, from Helensville, north of Auckland. It was a good team - thanks for the great chocolate cinnamon bananas Karen! Toasting marshmallows on sticks in the fire at our camp at Anchorage Bay and star-gazing made for a good activity on the second night.
Post-kayaking we tested the green-lipped mussels in Havelock, the 'green-lipped mussel capital of the world' - magic!

This morning, in the tranquillity of Tombstone Packpackers (yes, really - and the linen is black), we are taking life gently, and will test our legs out again later in the delightful area of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Sunday 17th February 2008 - The coastal route to Motueka

Finally, the sun re-emerges, although there were a few showers during our drive north to Nelson. Here, we tested the local coffee, then visited the austere, grey cathedral, which was surprisingly full of colourful stained glass inside.

Nelson has a reputation for blue sky and sunshine, and it didn't disappoint. We also strolled around the Queen's Gardens before continuing along the north coast, headed for the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park in Motueka.

The afternoon was spent looking at a gallery displaying the results of glass manufacture by a Swedish couple - amazing work, but not cheap! Then, on to Rabbit Island, where we enjoyed a walk along a huge beach, accompanied by lots of locals enjoying the sunny weather at the weekend, and black oystercatchers, getting their feet wet in the surf.

Then, a bit more culture, in the form of the art and sculpture of the Bronte Gallery - again, rather expensive, but also this time, not to our taste. However, we enjoyed a long chat with the 'artist in residence' and bought a pot of organic manuka honey!

Tea was provided by the Shed One Cafe at Mapua wharf, where kids were throwing themselves off the jetty into the blue water and ice creams were being consumed in the sun.

It was then only a stones throw to Motueka, where we have a nice room in a Victorian house, complete with stone fireplace.

Dinner in the garden, in our shorts, with a cold beer - most welcome. The cat enjoyed our smoked fish as much as we did!

Tomorrow, we leave early to go sea kayaking north of here in the Abel Tasman park. We return on Wednesday evening then have a drive to Picton for the night. So, you may not hear from us for a few days. Bye for now.... At least the forecast is good this time and the azure sea and white beaches beckon!