Tag Archives: Alastair

Abel Tasman

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. Abel TasminAbel TasminAbel TasminAbel Tasmin

We also ran in to Gollum, Smaug and Gandalf sitting on top of the local sports hall!

Abel Tasmin

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.

Abel TasminAbel TasminAbel TasminAbel TasminAbel TasminAbel TasminAbel TasminAbel Tasmin

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.

Abel Tasmin

Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

We jumped a few miles N and back W towards the coast, just in time to catch a bit more rain and cloud rolling in from the W. Our luck has just not been with us weather wise.

We tried to get up on to Fox Glacier but were disappointed two fold. Firstly there had been too much rain overnight so the access road was closed and secondly, because the glacier had retreated so much, the only way to get on to the glacier was by helicopter, at only $400 a head……

.Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

We headed for a low level walk around Lake………. It is the place where that perfect, flat water, snow clad reflected Mt Cook photo could be taken. There was bugger all chance of that with the wind and low cloud we had!

Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S IslandFox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

However, it was a pleasant (and dry – yeah!) walk around the lake, stomping past endless Chinese tourists and by the time we finished the walk at lunchtime, the access road to the glacier had been reopened.

Just a couple of miles driving took us to the car park where we started the 2km walk up to where the last view point is for the glacier. It is an easy if exposed walk but be prepared as it is cold, steep and the weather can change suddenly. We watched a few families turn back on the track, caught out by a sudden shower with no raincoats and in one case, wearing just flip flops and a wife beater.

The glacier is dirty where it terminates but impressive in size once you understand the scale. What is more frightening is just how quickly the ice has regressed. In 2008, when our friend Kirsty Baxter was here, she was able to step on to the glacier from where this photo was taken.

Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

That means the ice has retreated at about 100m a year since then.  The Ranger we spoke to said they saw no evidence that the retreat would slow down. It won’t be long before it shrinks back up to the upper ice field only.

We headed back to the campsite and were sitting down for tea when suddenly, finally, out of the gloom, we could just see the sharp white peak of Mt Cook. We ran for the car and raced a few miles to get to a position that we could see the full mountain. For half an hour, it stood proud, unencumbered by the low grey clouds and took our breathe away. In the evening light, it was spectacular.Fox Glacier and the West Coast of S Island

We had intended to spend more time exploring the West coast but as the rain determinedly continued to fall, we decided to head N to where we hoped it wasn’t as wet. We stopped over night at Greymouth, staying in a two room lodge with Alastair and Gill, watching the rain pour down. The upside was the campsite had a very good hot tub that we cooked in for a while and we took the chance to turn the lodge heating up full to dry out some of the camping gear.

The next day we pulled in to Pocatika, the home of NZ greenstone carving. We visited one of the greenstone carving houses and watched the carvers at work, making beautiful artefacts being sold at huge prices.  You could say that greenstone is the NZ semi-precious stone. Many Maori wear a necklace using one of the traditional patterns of a tiki, a fishhook or a spiral (single or double) being the most common types. Each shape has its own meaning. I’ve taken to wearing a fishhook which is supposed to bring good fortune to those who travel by sea. I’ll take any help there!

The Maori have a story of how greenstone came into being. Once upon a time, a god became enamoured by a beautiful woman who perhaps unwisely turned down his advances. Annoyed, the god killed her by throwing her down in to a lake. When she touched the water she turned into the mother lode of greenstone, so supplying the Maori forever more with a much admired, very hard rock to make ornaments and their traditional weapons from.

As we headed N so the clouds gradually broke up. We even glimpsed blue sky. We lived in hope.