The Abel Tasman is a glorious area. Situated at the NW corner of the South Island, it is an area of outstanding natural beauty by the sea extending into the hills, very much at the end of the road and it would be the last place we would visit with Alastair and Gill as they needed to head N to fly home to the UK.
We decided to stay at what turned out to be a fairly noisy campsite on a roundabout at the edge of Motueka, the last “big” town on the S edge of the park. However, the town was beside the sea on an estuary and an even bigger plus, had a marina less than a mile walk away which Alastair and myself were keen to look at. The campsite that we had originally thought about, set in the hills at the end of a rough track was being used for a week long festival, the festival we had been told about by a lady we had met in our very first campsite in Auckland the week we arrived in NZ. Called “Illuminate” it did sound fun, but not at $250 each for a weeks ticket being the only time period you could buy! There is a UK festival of the same name, organised by some of the same people. We may investigate when we get home.
We had a good look around the town, did some shopping, visited one of the best kept cemetery we had seen (H was most impressed by the flowers) and walked around the mudflats of the estuary.
We also ran in to Gollum, Smaug and Gandalf sitting on top of the local sports hall!
The coast line of the Abel Tasman is spectacular but unless you want to walk the trail which is a five day trek, the best way of seeing as much as you can is to take a fast boat out along the coast, get dropped off and then walk back to another prearranged pickup point. We went for the longest available walk, about 18km. It was a great trek. We saw and heard lots of cicadas, met a nosy Weka, another one of NZ’s flightless birds, tramped across lots of wire bridges and caught some great views. We stopped towards the end at the Pools of Venus for a cool down swim and to go down the natural slides. Only Eleanor and I had the nerve to go into the chill but wonderfully refreshing water.
For our last day we had planned to go up into the hills by way of a tortuously steep road. With the engines and gearbox straining hard, we ascended into grey cloud and lots of rain. With visibility no more than a few hundred metres, our hope of great views died and after a short reassessment at one of the viewpoints, we turned tail and headed back to Motueka. We did what Alastair said we had to do on such a day and found a pub. We had to wait for it to open but it turned in to a very civilised afternoon, sampling a few of the local microbrewery produced ales. We shopped in the town, dodging the rain. Eleanor, Hannah and I had an interesting time at the local gun shop, admiring the kids .22 rifles in neon blue and I admiring somewhat bigger calibres. Hunting is a big deal in NZ and gun ownership levels are high. Interestingly, the incidence of gun crime is very low which would suggest that the NZ attitude to their use is a healthier one than the US, where the need for “protection” far outweighs hunting for the pot.
We said our goodbyes to Gill and Alastair as they headed back up towards Auckland to put the boat to bed and fly back to the UK. We had a wonderful time with them and even if there was a requirement to save their bleeding ears from the constant flow of consciousness of our eldest every now and then, they were marvellous with the kids. Of course, grown ups, still travelling with their teddy bears (Pickles and Habitat respectively) suggests that they are both still very much young at heart too! Our grateful thanks for their company throughout our travels of the S island. They helped make NZ special for us all but our friendship goes back to Galapagos. We have heard that they won’t be returning to the boat for perhaps another year whilst they sort a few things out in the UK so we are looking forward to catching up with them on our return in December.