Monthly Archives: January 2012

Hiking Abel Tasman

No, hiking Abel Tasman was not the original plan for today, but it’s what I ended up doing. I was supposed to be sailing on a catamaran with Mauritz (Mo) from Germany, Vim from England and Vanessa from Italy. Unfortunately, the weather continued to be bad and the catamaran company canceled on us.

Because we were already up early for the sailing, Vanessa suggested we go for a walk on the bush track. What the hell, I thought. It’s just a short walk. How far could we possibly go with the busted up heels she got from trying the Tongariro Crossing? Mo and I agreed to come along and Vim decided he’d rather sleep. What a wise decision he made.

Mo, Vanessa and I started out on the beach. It was low tide and the sand seemed to stretch forever. We played a bit and took some silly pictures. It was tough staying dry as there were often large patches of soft sand or lake-sized pools of water. I wore my waterproof hiking boots so I had a good time of it as long as the water wasn’t too deep. Mo wore regular street shoes and Vanessa had on slippers (flip flops), so I’m pretty sure when their feet got wet they probably froze their toes off. Despite being around 9 am, the air and water was still chilly to the point of being frigid.

After exploring the beach, we found our way back to the trail and continued on. We wandered along taking photos and looking at all the trees and wilderness around us. Unlike in Australia, I didn’t find gigantic spiders or their webs at nearly every turn (Yay!).

At regular intervals, there were paths that led back down to the beach to different bays and coves. We visited them all and had our lunch down on the seaside in the company of the ever-present seagulls. How they found us I do not know as we were so isolated at this point. We rarely saw people on the track, but the seagulls saw us.

We made it as far as Stillwell Bay before turning around and coming back to Old Mac’s Farm because it was getting dark. I figure we walked at least 14 km today, which is the most I’ve done so far. My legs are killing me and I feel exhausted, but I’m happy that we did it. Vanessa, Mo and I got to chat a lot about everything and nothing at all. We talked about ourselves and our families, our homes and our plans for our New Zealand adventures. This is exactly why I wanted to travel. Today was a good day, even though tomorrow my body might be telling another story.

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Filed under Attraction, Hiking, Nature, New Zealand, Travel

Bound for the South Island

Alba and I woke up earlier than we would’ve liked to catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton. It was still dark when we crept out of our room and caught the bus to the ferry terminal.

The ride to the South Island took about three-and-a-half hours, and unfortunately, the weather was pretty horrible the entire way. I’m sure the scenery would’ve been great if it’d been sunny. Instead, we had cold wind and rain for most of the trip.

When we arrived in Picton, we collected our bags and stopped for a quick lunch at a bakery. The weather on this side of the Cook Straight wasn’t much better. Good thing I bought a pair of gloves and a beanie while I was in Auckland. I have a feeling I’ll be needing them again.

We continued toward Marahau (also known as Abel Tasman National Park), stopping for some photo opps and a wine tasting near Nelson. I’m pretty sure the backpacker crowd is not likely to be high on the income-generating list for that winery. Even $2 for four samples of wine was too much for some people on the bus. God forbid they tell us how much an entire bottle costs!

We reached Old MacDonald’s Farm (yes, that’s what it was called) in Marahau and many people got their first taste of “roughing it” in New Zealand. While we didn’t actually have to sleep in tents or even semi-permanent tents, the accommodations were a little basic. The bunks were housed in wooden huts that could sleep between four and six people. These sleeping quarters were set away from the kitchen, which just had basic cooking supplies. Behind the kitchen were two outdoor showers and toilets, which, of course, only offered cold water.

Considering the conditions Alba and I had survived through in Australia, this was luxurious in comparison. However, some people were really struggling with Old Mac’s Farm, especially because it was freezing cold at night. Even with heaters, you still had to layer on the clothes and snuggle in to keep warm.

For dinner we all pitched in some money and Rob fried us up some bangers and mash on the barbecue. He also bought several kilos of green-lipped mussels for us to try as they’re pretty famous in these parts. Everything turned out pretty good in the end, and I even tried the mussels. They were huge and kind of chewy like clams. However, I think I’d still consider myself a meat eater if anyone asks and will leave the seafood for someone else. After dinner someone made a fire and we just sat around and talked late into the night.

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Wet in Wellington

We left the National Park early this morning and headed for Wellington via Tangiwai, Taihape and Otaki. Our bus driver, Gareth, was a welcome and familiar face. He was the guy who took Alba and I up north and we really enjoyed his company.

Our first stop was Tangiwai, where there is a memorial for one of New Zealand’s worst railway disasters. Part of Mount Ruapehu collapsed after a storm and the debris washed out the road and train tracks. The train’s conductor couldn’t see the destruction at night and drove the train into the Whangaehu River. Unfortunately, many people died in this accident.

Next we drove through Taihape and put on our very own gum boot throwing contest. A gum boot, also known as a wellington, is your everyday rubber boot. But turn that into a distance-throwing contest and it becomes a sporting activity just like any other. In Taihape, they even have a special fenced playing field. It must be for those serious gum boot throwers. We all took turns flinging the boot as far down the lane as possible. Lo and behold, I threw the boot the farthest out of all the girls. What an achievement!

Our next stop in Otaki was definitely too short for most people. Otaki is a town of outlet shops that offered cheap deals on good products. Unfortunately we only had about 30 minutes here, so you really had to be an experienced (or desperate) shopper to find what you needed within that time frame.

After a long day on the bus, we pulled into Wellington to find rain and dark clouds. We were supposed to go to a nearby lookout and do a bit of hiking, but none of us were in the mood for it. So, instead, we zipped around the city for a quick tour and were dropped off at our hostels. We decided to meet later that night to watch Gareth’s brother-in-law, Andy, play music at a club.

After settling in at YHA Wellington, Alba and I met a Taiwanese girl named Rosie. We invited her to have dinner and go to the gig with us. After dinner, we met the rest of our group – Tuan and Holly from Canada and Will from Scotland – at BASEment, the bar under the Base hostel. Together we walked over to Blend where we met Gareth and Rob, our new driver for the South Island.

Blend seemed like a pretty posh place in the beginning judging by the décor and ambiance. However, then they started doing stupid bar games and two tables away from us was a huge group from Kiwi Experience. Kiwi Experience is a bus company for backpackers that targets a younger demographic than Stray. Feel free to infer what you will from that statement, and you’ll probably be too generous. As the crazy antics only seemed to be escalating (guys stood on the table while their girl partner had to get something up one pant leg and down the other using only their mouths), we decided to move on to Molly Malone’s, where Andy’s band would be playing.

When we arrived, Molly Malone’s was packed with people. Andy’s band was a cross between jazz, blues and funk, which seemed to be very popular among the crowd. While this type of music definitely isn’t something I’d normally go to see, it was cool to be there just the same. Some people started dancing in front of the stage. Others cheered from their place in the back of the room. It was standing room only by the time we arrived and just seemed to get more and more full as the night went on.

At around 11:30, Rosie and I decided to head back to the hostel. Everyone else besides Alba and Will had already left because we had to get up at around 5:30 am to catch the ferry across to Picton. Alba got back to the hostel about a half hour later. Despite the bad weather, Wellington turned out to be a nice place after all. I can’t wait to come back and spend more time here.

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Filed under Attraction, New Zealand, Nightlife, Travel