Abel Tasman National Park

Day 14 – short five minute drive to Cape Farewell followed by half hour hike up to viewpoint for long-sufferings photo opportunity of part of the spit – the northern most tip of the South – hazy today but just visible.

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Abel Tasman National Park
Rawhiti Cave – was my idea – another deviation from ‘the itinery’, so far caves had eluded us, this would be our first stop in the Abel Tasman national park. The walk started easy enough through forest adjacent to a dry creek-bed.

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Easy, turned into majorly difficult for a recovering hippie and difficult for long-suffering as we climbed ever steeper through tough terrain picking our way through roots, rocks and slippery unstable slopes up the canyon wall. My mother would be mortified ‘Oh Lou’ – my nickname after a smarties advert! ‘I worry about you and your hip’ I can hear her say as I press on!

Oh my, the trek up was worth all the sweat of trying and more – my exhaultation at getting up intact was masking my thoughts of how on earth I would get down without dislocating my hip or worse!

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Through the cave opening was a huge overhang hung with hundreds of thousands of Stalactites from its walls. Neither of us had ever seen a spectacle such as this. They reminded me of the pipes of a grand cathedral organ only rugged and playing an eerie symphony of crackling, popping, dripping, sounds echoing into the blackness below.

Steep damp slippery steps inside led down to a viewing platform 50m deep. Light levels for a cave were bright enough for ferns and mosses to thrive in this damp oasis and helped Long-suffering to set up his Tripod for the best shots! We forgot our torch which would have helped with the view of the cave floor and Stalacmites – my phone beam was pretty much useless.

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All too soon it was time to leave this quiet wonderland for the precarious downward slopes. Whereas I lead on the journey up, the going down, long suffering insisted I follow him. With the challenges to come I was more than happy for him to take the lead, my mother would definitely approve ‘very sensible Lou!’

The Grove – An easy walk of half hour mostly on the flat – thank goodness – through jungle. Huge sculpted boulders at every turn, tall trees and palms vying for the light, their stems disguised by the twisting stems of vines wrapped thickly around and over the smooth surfaces of the hard sculptured rock. Beautiful ferns grow through the dead and dying, springing from decaying trunks seemingly lifeless on the jungle floor.

Totaranui D.O.C. Camping Site – our stop for the night set slightly back from the beach. Orange coarse sand greeted our feet as we stepped out onto the long beach in the sheltered bay. We were looking forward to a well deserved hour or two horizontal, watching the waves gently lap the shore, before an early evening stroll in the surf, looking at shells and lots of washed up starfish before supper and bed after another jam packed day in this beautiful country that is New Zealand.

 

 

Top of the South

Day 13 – Two tired beings – on account of last nights storm, set off once the rain eased at nine ish for a three hour drive to Wharariki Beach Campsite at the top of the South Island.

We arrived to the wind blowing a hooli and a threatening sky, normal for here we were told. A quick lunch, cagoules packed – in case – we set off up and over hill pastures, a twenty minute scenic – when in New Zealand is it not – walk with grazing sheep and cows to the beach. The sun had put in an appearance, fleetingly.

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And …words almost fail me a beach like no other we had seen or wind we had experienced at the same time before, anywhere! High dunes lined our route to the receding sea, wind so strong whisking up the sand, sending it straight at us, our legs burning with the force of tiny sand particles spattering our bare skin.

The surface of the beach looked like a lunar landscape with the patterns created by the drifts of dry sand swirling against the damp. We walked backwards to alleviate the sting on our faces, leaning back in to the wind it was so strong as to support my full weight. Only once we reached the sea and walked along to huge rocks did we find some respite from the biting gales.

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Here in the calm we could fully open our eyes – once we had cleared them of grit – to take in the full beauty of this rugged and inhospitable place.

6pm Low tide – The wind had still calmed slightly, we desperately hoped to see the resident family of seals missed on our earlier visit. Taking a different route this time lower on the slopes, slightly more protected we made our way down and through thick forest, this time arriving at the opposite end of the beach.

We were totally unprepared for the sight before our eyes, and from our earlier visit had no idea of the true length of this extraordinary beach. Monstrous rocks towered from the sand all shapes and sizes, arches and caves hollowed out by the raging seas. The tide was completely out now and the sand was littered with these huge sculptures and shallow pools.

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The seal pups we found back at the far end in a deep pool where the wind at lunchtime had made walking and photography impossible. Four in total we watched from the rocks as some swam fast in circles jumping and rolling in the water, diving down, deeper invisible then to our gaze.

 

One arrived from behind a rock flopping across the surface in an ungainly awkward manner until it slid unceremoniously in the pool and became graceful and sleek through the cold water – kind of like me on a bad day!

We both agreed the trek back was well worth it to this diverse beach that has everything to offer in spades, the weather conditions actually made it all the more exciting.

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Arrive South Island

Day 12 South Island early afternoon – head North to the top of the South from Picton ferry terminal, already the landscape in front of us as we drove – even with the intermittent rain and cloud – mountainous beauty part hidden by the mist, we were already in awe. One  hour into the journey….

Pelorus Scenic Reserve – Walk to stretch the legs, sixty minute loop track. This route took us over the Pelorus River via the main road bridge before dropping down to the side, through forest and out to an 80m high suspension bridge spanning the Rai River.

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Long-suffering immediately went a funny shade of grey. Now usually when at great height it’s up to me to take the lead, but no off he bravely went with me following. Walking very heavy footed behind – as a little joke – the bridge bounced with my every step, sending me into spasms of laughter as he turned wobbly legged and grasping the sides to give me ‘the look’.

The trail, on the other side followed high above the river through lush native forest and sheer drops to the unforgiving bush and rocky river below. We had to pick our way through twisting exposed tree roots lining the route like slithering snakes beneath our feet. The loop unfortunately sent us back for a return visit over the suspension bridge, much to long-sufferings displeasure.

Don’s Freedom Camp late afternoon – the perfect stop for our first night on the South Island and a detour from ‘the itinery’. Beautiful setting bordering a fast flowing River.

Don the owner welcoming us to literally pick our own fresh fruit and veg from his well tended productive plot.

Produce to make my mouth water, not so much the long-suffering, who looked aghast at the yellow courgettes, beefsteak tomatoes, beetroot and cucumbers. Stir-fry was the dish of the day and guess who now likes yellow courgettes!

First thunder storm, rain pounding on Aramoana’s roof all night not a lot of sleep..

Castlepoint

Day 10 late morning – stop off for drinks and stretch of the legs at the The Chook And Filly cafe/bar Maraekakaho. With a warm welcome from Australian owner Mark we felt at home even before we lounged on the outside squashy sofa with my frothy Hot chocolate complete with marshmallows – quite simply the best. The food coming out looked so good decided to detour from long-sufferings itinerary and stay for lunch. Even he had to admit ‘good decision’, I was smug as we tucked into juicy doorstep burgers and chips. Thank you Mark and Karen – chef.

Back on the open road, well almost open but for the flock of sheep being herded our way!

Castlepoint late afternoon – Again after a long drive the long-suffering has come up trumps for our next freedom camping site, he really is Location, Location! Strategically parked by me we had views to the bay out front and to the side the working lighthouse standing tall at the headlands end.

Outside away from the shelter of our van it was blowing a gale and chilly with fast moving clouds intermittently masking the suns rays as we strode out across the beach at once pausing to take in the beauty around us from the ruggedness to our right, the imposing ‘Castle Rock’ moody, brooding over the seas and town and the stark white of the lighthouse to our left where we were now headed.

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The steep climb up more wooden steps, boardwalk and viewing platforms took us right out to the end of the headland and its dominant Lighthouse enjoying breathtaking 360° panoramic views. Built in 1913 and originally powered by fuel, it now stands alone fully automated since 1965 when the last of its keepers reluctantly left so coveted was its location.

Our return walk took us down yet more steps onto the relatively flat rocks below, the strong winds keeping us away from the sheer drop and menacing sea at its depths as it smashed against the rocks, spray rising up, not quite reaching us with its salty breath.

Before long the terrain became too treacherous – his height fear and my new hip – I am living life well enough without sending myself back to the operating room again – we happily returned over the fence and back to the safety of the boardwalk.

and cosy Aramoana zzzzzzz

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Shine Falls

Day 9 early evening – with driving rain and the previous few days temperature highs of 26° dropping to 13°, disaster struck. Our unhelpful mr sat nav took us down another, long, winding, gravel road to a forest in the middle of nowhere – we did, kind of need to be in this forest, annoyingly his route led us to a locked gate leading to a heavily overgrown grass track only a tractor could use!

With the steaming cauldron sitting beside me, I eight point turned Aromoana around knowing we would have to drive the good half hour back to the main road. The long-suffering was adamant the extra miles would be worth it, in fact there was to be no budging from this part of ‘the itinerary’. He had a back up plan, as all good tour operators have! We would now drive around the forest and arrive in from the other side – only another NINETY minutes!

After another long drive – albeit with stunning scenery – bumping around on a long winding gravel track to the middle of nowhere with few signs of habitation we arrived at our destination without incident of flooding or sliding back downhill on the now slippery mud between the gravel.

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And wow……Even in the rain, our stop for the night was a gem, just us alone in the middle of a beautifully quiet forest with only the sound of birds, insects, sheep baa-ing and the now easing rain drip dripping down through the canopies of the trees. Long-suffering now had his told yourself face on!

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Day 10 – 6.30am chilly 11° weather set fair. Walk to Shine Falls, a beautiful forty-five minute walk through open scrub with sandstone cliffs on either side, into a narrow winding forest walk with steep ups and downs leading to the most secluded spectacular falls we had ever seen cascading down into a sandy bottomed pool at its base.

The long-suffering had this romantic idea of us both bathing in this inviting pool, considering he finds it difficult just getting his shoulders under in a warm sea, I was quietly sceptical!

It was down to me to test the waters. Swimsuit on already cold, I scrambled down over a few rocks, one foot then the other went in, the ice-cold water took my breath away and it was only just past my ankles, within seconds I could not feel my toes. Meanwhile long-suffering stood on the sidelines fully dressed – think fleecy top – like a linesmen in a football game directing me further in for the best ‘shot’.

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After only five maybe ten minutes -felt like thirty – I clambered out again my feet not co-operating at all up to Long-suffering waiting attentively with the towel, helping to dry my feet was about as romantic as this expedition would get, adamant as he was he would not be going in.

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I did though manage – with much pleading – to coax him in for a paddle to take my ‘best shot’!

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A Quick Dip Roadside

Day 9 – The long-suffering likes to pack as much in a day as is possible which is why on a chilly day I was instructed – primary driver now is my title – to pull over to bathe in a geothermal stream. It was actually two streams converging, one piping hot, one cold mixing to make a warm pool or boiling if you chose to cross the road to the hot stream as two of a group of four already in decided to do.

Then on to Huka Falls…

And further on to Lake Taupo bikes out again for a cycle around the lake to witness long-suffering failing to get a hole in one – for a prize of 10,000 dollars – hitting a golf ball out to one of three holes on the lake from a tee set up on land! He did hit the platform 12 times though!

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Cycled on to watch random people Bungee jump off a scarily high platform. Like a couple of oldies we shook our heads wondering at the mad attraction of this particular pastime deciding our hearts wouldn’t be up to it. Mine was in my mouth just watching!

On the road to Napier we pull over to swap drivers at the entrance to a view-point, deciding to drive on up we are delighted to find beautiful wild falls cascading from thick forest, another photo opportunity!

Destination freedom camp next……