After leaving Kaikoura, we headed up to Blenheim to the wine district of New Zealand. I made a quick pitstop at the Cloudy Bay vineyard in order to take some pictures. I remember it being my dad’s favourite wine for a long time so I thought I should check it out while I was in the neighbourhood! We had a delicious lunch at the Wairau vineyard before moving on to Marau – the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park.
Not Vagabonding… or Hobo-ing… but Tramping
Tramping is a kiwi national pasttime. For me, “tramping” brings up vague connotations of riding the rails with all one’s belongings tucked up in a handkerchief on a stick. Turns out, tramping is all about exploring some of the most beautiful parts of the country using the cheapest form of transportation possible: your feet.
Abel Tasman includes one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks.” The entire walk takes about 3-4 days to travel in total, with campsites and cabins along the way. After listening to stories about the best sections of the walk, we decided to only walk a small section of it (a 7-hour section nonetheless!). We stayed in a campsite (Old Macdonald’s Farm) in Marahau, where we met up with a friend who is travelling on the Stray Bus. An aquataxi took us all up the coast to Bark Bay. The water is crystal clear and a gorgeous turquoise colour. The sand is white and pristine, leading up to jungle-like rainforest. The paths here are well-maintained and obviously well used. We met many people along the way who were carrying their entire backpacks and tramping the whole track… and couldn’t help being glad we weren’t them.
At Anchorage Bay, we stopped and ate our picnic lunch. The scenery was stunning. This was not my vision of New Zealand. I knew it would be gorgeous, but I expected more rolling green hills and more placid English countryside imagery. Certainly not the idyllic beaches and sparkling seas that we saw in Abel Tasman. Sometimes it seems like New Zealand has it all!
As it was high tide, we had to walk the long way around Anchorage Bay, adding about an hour to the walk. A short detour (i.e. wrong turning) and a few hours later, we arrived back in Marahau exhausted and ready to hightail it back to Hanmer Springs for more bubbling water and a massage.
The West Coast
Unfortunately, we can’t stop and see everything. Even though we have a car, we are under some time constraints to get to Dunedin in time for Sarah’s flight to Auckland and to make sure that we get to see as much as possible of the South Island together. So we zipped down the West Coast yesterday, stopping for the Pancake Rocks and blowholes at Punakaiki (unfortunately it was the wrong tide for the blow holes) but generally heading straight for Franz Josef glacier.
Today, we woke up early and headed out to Lake Matheson, where there were rumoured mirror-like views of Mt. Cook. We weren’t disappointed. Mt Cook and Mt Tasman are snow capped and we had perfect photographs of the mountains reflected in the water. We stopped off at Fox glacier too, just to have a look. On our drive back, we were caught in a truly “New Zealand” roadblock: sheep crossing the road.
Tomorrow we explore Franz Josef glacier in detail. I’m embarking on an 8-hour full day ice hike… luckily the campground we are staying at has a hot tub suitable to soothing aching joints upon return! So far, Sarah and I have been so impressed and so awed by everything we have seen in New Zealand. Can it really only get better from here?