NZ's South Island

New Zealand is not real  (cont.)

The ferry from Wellington to Picton was by far, the nicest ferry I have ever been on- live music, microbrew (obsessed), nice food, crazy views from multiple rooms.  The scenery was also spectacular traveling through the various sounds and cliffs.  After changing to a bus, we ended up Nelson mid-day and checked into, what was later decided, our favorite guesthouse on the trip, Tramper’s rest.


Nelson, NZ’s second oldest city, is a both a quaint colonial town and the springboard for adventure tourism AND New Zealand’s micro brew capital.  Out of all the places we went to in New Zealand, I would most like to move to Nelson- it really does have it all.  After a couple really fun days of swimming in creeks, eating amazing food, drinking amazing beer and wine, we headed out to our second proper, and first multi-day, tramp in NZ, Abel Tasman.


We took 3 nights/4 days to walk the 60km trail, which seemed a bit slow at first, but ended up being perfect due to the rain.  Definitely one of the most amazing hikes I’ve ever done.  It is pretty much walking from pristine beach, to pristine beach separated by cliffs and small hills, intersected by beautiful rivers and waterfalls, through rain and cloud forest- yeah, like that.  We camped the whole way and we were able to collect clams/mussels for most of our evening meals.  It did rain the last 2 days pretty much non-stop, but instead of being an annoyance, it really only added to the adventure and the mystique of the place.


As wonderful as it was, it was very nice to get back to Tramper’s rest in Nelson, have a great pizza and a fabulous beer in the church turned pub, (and my favorite watering hole in NZ) the free house.  The next morning, it wasn’t easy, but we dragged ourselves to the rental car company, got our new ride, and headed towards Takaka and Golden Bay.


Golden Bay is a gorgeous bay with a series of stunning beaches with the cool little hippy town of Takaka.  We only spent 1 night there, but were able to visit one of the most dramatic beaches that we saw on the trip, Wharariki Beach at the base of Farewell Spit.  Not only were there seal pups and a baby penguin, the rock around there is highly erodible so there are also of these amazing rock formations and caves scattered about.  It was also very very windy so the sand and the water were sort of dancing around each other in these vibrant streams- almost psychedelic.


The next day we started off pretty early and headed south towards Nelson Lakes national park.  Again, we only had 1 night there so we didn’t really have time to do a proper trek like we would have wanted to, but because of all of the rain, it ended up being a truly memorable evening.  The drive itself was quite interesting, down very rural roads, along forests and farmland.  Pulling up to the DOC office in Nelson lakes around 4pm, it was already starting to rain and quite cold.  We knew we had (after a 20 min drive to the trail head) about a 2 1/2 to 3 hour hike to our hut, so we hightailed it to the parking spot.


The fog quickly rolled in and the freezing rain really started going; it was a complete “white out” so though we knew were walking in a high alpine area, with a supposedly cool view, we really couldn’t get a grasp of where we were.  As you can imagine, we were very happy on arriving at our hut- freezing and wet but in one piece.  While we were figuring out the old-school wood burning stove and beginning to prepare dinner there was a break in the clouds and BAM the view showed itself.  Breathtaking is an understatement; almost 360 degree views of these huge, beautiful lakes from maybe 1000 meters above them at sunset time, so the clouds were alive with these awesome colors also.


It was our first (and last) experience with one of the DOC huts and we were not disappointed; it was warm, well equipped and we had it to ourselves.  The hike down the next day, was perfect.  Beautiful blue sky and we just had “the view” the whole way back to the car.  We will be back to do a multi-day trek in Nelson Lakes for sure.


Our next destination was the rugged “West Coast”, specifically Punakaiki.  As opposed to Golden Bay and Abel Tasman, the west coast beaches are lashed by huge waves, imposing cliffs and unswimable scary looking beaches.  The rain forest there was impressive and we were able to visit some interesting features (caves, weird rocks and an ocean blowhole) after checking into our guesthouse.


The next morning we took a great 3 hour hike along a dense river embankment returning via another river valley; a running theme of this trip is deservedly the variety that everyday brought us.


From the west coast, we headed towards Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass.  Back to high alpine, Arthur’s Pass National Park is studded with trails, snow (even in summer) and some stunning views overlooking a series of valleys.  We didn’t do it justice at all, and we really only stopped for an hour (we’ll be back).

Continuing on we randomly came across an interesting looking area with quite a few cars parked, so we decided to take a little break and a gander, and discovered the lunar landscape of Castle Hill.After a couple hours of tramping over unique limestone outcroppings, bridges and maze-like corridors of stone, we walked back to the car and knocked out the last couple of hours to Christchurch.