...of the South Island.
27.01.2011 - 31.03.2011 25 °C
Good morning Julie! Good morning Nate! We rise refreshed and ready to explore Nelson Lakes National Park. It is another rugged landscape full of roaming mountain ranges. We crank out a quick breakfast, pack a bag and head down to Lake Rotoiti. I bring my fishing gear to try my luck at the head of the Buller River which pours out of Lake. It's easy to spot the trout sniffing my lure but they aren't into what I've got to offer. As I try my luck, Julie relaxes by the river's edge listening to its calming ripples flowing past.
It's another fine day and our legs are feeling rested and ready to conquer the next mountain. We choose to scamper up the St. Arnaud Range Track for a quick nosey along the ridge. As we zig-zag up through the beech forest, we notice how it adapts to suit the changing altitude. The species change as we climb higher and the tree growth becomes stunted near the tree line. The afternoon heat beats down and we end up shirtless, good thing Julie is wearing her bathing suit. Emerging from the tree line, the Parachute Rocks jut out abruptly from the mountain side. Julie's legs are feeling fatigued but we continue another half hour through snow tussock, then sub-alpine shrubs, and then alpine herb fields. Finally we reach the highest ridge (1650 m) that runs like a spine up to the next peak. To the west from the ridge Lake Rotoiti's bays and peninsulas are well defined and surrounded with dense native forest while the town of St. Arnaud sits a little further away. Peering over the other side of the ridge to the east, alpine bogs are scattered over the terrain and the Wairau River flows far below in the valley. Once again we are in awe with 360 degree views and are reminded why we put ourselves through these somewhat gruelling uphill climbs. Julie notices a rumbling cloud advancing quickly towards us, so we make a quick escape down from this amazing vista.
Another day arrives and it's time for us to pack up and keep moving north. We head to Nelson and stop at the library to catch up with overloaded e-mail accounts. I sit and quickly upload photos for the blog while Julie is off to discover the spirit of Nelson. She returns to the library after watching buskers entertain and after listening to a reggae band performing on the street. Our night is spent tenting on a tiny piece of lawn at a downtown backpackers hostel in the rain.
Sunday arrives and it's time to hit the much anticipated Nelson market in Montgomery Square. The huge weekly event organically spills throughout the downtown setting. Julie is in heaven discovering local clothing designers and alternative food choices. We recognize some of the venders from the Motueka Farmers Market and return to them to stock up on natural soaps, organic venison salami, and other products. After fully indulging at the market we make our way out of Nelson, and by chance we pass the Founders Brewery, an organic company. They brew some amazing suds, so I stock up for sipping by the campfire in the coming days.
We head for Marlborough Sounds and decide to head for the farthest campsite from civilization at Waimaru Bay Recreation Reserve. The long winding road to the DOC campground passes some extraordinary coast and native bush. Marlborough Sounds seems nice at first glance but looking closer you'll notice livestock roaming through streams and along ocean shorelines, large pine plantations, clear cut mountain sides, and mussel farms filling every secluded bay. The mussel farms are evident as numerous floating buoys in grid-like formations, while under the water's surface cables hang down on which mussels attach themselves.
Finally, after the long drive on winding shingle roads we reach the campsite and are a bit disappointed. This “Recreation Reserve” doesn't have a close beach to access and the campsite is surrounded by cattle paddocks. Across the bay our view isn't so great either as it consists of hillsides of pine plantations, some clear cut for export. We debate whether or not we should find another campground when I notice a family walking down the road through the paddock with beach gear in hand. We figure there must be a beach nearby, so after setting up the tent we explore further down the gravel road.
Luckily, about a 10 minute walk away we find a small trail through the forest revealing a quiet pebbly bay, Wairamu Bay, that is perfect for swimming and hopefully fishing. I head back to the car grab my fishing gear and return to the beach to scamper out along the jagged rocks to the point. Before the sun vanishes for the day, I catch a sunfish and a red cod. I return both to the ocean hoping to catch more in the coming days. Before I return to camp I stop to chat with a pair of campers next to us. They invite us for a campfire later which is awesome since we haven't had one since Hawaii. Campfires are banned nearly everywhere in NZ, including here, but at this remote location lighting one up shouldn't cause a stir.
Julie and I watch a beautiful glowing sunset over the mountains and realize how special this place really is. It is really peaceful and quiet except for the hum of the recently emerged cicadas, their exoskeletons left clinging to the trees. The stars slowly emerge and we join our neighbouring campers at their fire. We chat with the couple from Nelson about anything and everything and burn through a huge pile of gathered dead fall before retiring for night.
Over the next three days we spend time exploring as far into the reserve as our car could make it before the gnarly road became impassable. We discover another beach near Te Purako Point, that is even more secluded and beautiful than the beach near our campsite. We settle into the perfect little shade hut built out of driftwood and tree fern leaves standing in the sand a few hundred metres down the shore. Julie relaxes while I desperately try to catch dinner without any luck. Determined to bring something to the dinner table, I decide to try fishing off the rocks at Wairamu Bay but the only seafood I manage to catch is a pot of mussels gathered at low tide.
On the last night we manage to kill our car's battery by having the netbook plugged in for only minutes. Fortunately, the farmer down the road promises to come by in the morning to boost us. We have booked the 1pm ferry from Picton to the North Island and we will need to leave the campground by 10am. In the morning, however, for some reason our car won't boost so we call CAA to come to the rescue (for the second time during this trip!). After waiting for 2 ½ hours the mechanic drives in and instantly revives the Hobbit. We thank the friendly mechanic and race to Picton. Julie had moved our ferry time back but maybe we could still catch an earlier one. With my stealth driving skills we make it to Picton and are the last car to sneak onto the ferry with minutes to spare. Julie gathers some lunch and the laptop and we get comfortable for the 3 hour boat ride to the North Island. It was such a rush getting to the ferry that Julie feels like she didn't get to say goodbye to the beautiful South Island.
As the ferry cruises towards Wellington the soaring cliffs of the North Island come slowly into view from the ships deck. There aren't any lush native forests to be seen, just sprawling city and grazing land. We roll out of the docked vessel onto the bustling streets of New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. We head to the grocery store and it's busy, everyone seems to be in a hurry, and its stressful! We feel really out of place coming from the laid back South Island, not being exposed to a city this size for months. Julie is baffled at how quickly and easily we are pulled into the fast-paced stressful city life and worries this is what will happen when we return home.
After this shockingly hectic trip to the grocery store we find a hostel with a room and make a delicious dinner. Julie suggests driving up to Mt. Victoria for the sunset, so we follow the winding roads up past some interesting houses to the summit. We miss the sunset but gaze over the city as street lights flicker on creating a sparkling landscape. We discover the meaning behind Wellington's nickname of “Windy Welly” as huge gusts make it impossible for Julie to use her tripod.
What a long day from boosting the car to watching the flickering city of Wellington from Mt. Victoria. Our journey of the North Island has just begun and from Julie's research there is going to be some unique adventures in the next few months.