Nelson Lakes National Park and Pancake Rocks

SATURDAY, 29th October

We left Nelson after 9 a.m. and our company increased with one more member, a Spanish who wanted to learn English and was happy that I could be his teacher. It was tough work for me. He had studied English at school, but mostly in writing, so his pronunciation was difficult to understand, eg. the word ‘job’ was /hop/ and his sentence structure was sometimes a mess, but the girls said that sometimes it was hard for them to understand even his Spanish. I guess it was just the way his tongue couldn’t catch up with his mind. 😀 He said that his English was better then than it used to be when he arrived in New Zealand five weeks ago. I was very impressed. I guess being handsome helped him a lot. 😉

From Nelson we went straight to Nelson Lakes National Park.

Lake Rotoiti

On the way to the second lake

Lake Rotoroa

We passed Westport and stopped by for a short walk to Cape Faulwind, but we didn’t get to Tauranga Bay Seal Colony.

Late afternoon, we arrived in Punakaiki. First we visited Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. It was low tide. I heard the best time to visit that place is high tide, more impressive and water makes a lot more noise under the rocks.

I like nikau palms. You may recognize the shape from the Civic Square in Wellington.

And then we went back to the village, which had two streets, to look for an accommodation. We stayed at Beach Hostel. It wasn’t too crowded. As an entertainment, we played Jenga.

The last two photos were taken by B., Chilean.

Sitting all day in a car did something to my back and I couldn’t walk straight. I was feeling like an old granny. My Spanish speaking friends were hoping for a party in Punakaiki Tavern, but came back very disappointed. I gained deeper understanding of FOTC’s song “Rock the Party”. When Bret and Jemaine sing “Who likes to rock the party? New Zealand likes to rock the party!” it is very sarcastic, because it’s a very quiet country and after 5 p.m. the streets are empty. Sometimes in bigger cities you can spot some crowd in bars, but as I’d noticed earlier, the evening after winning The Rugby World Cup by the All Blacks, it was a holiday and Wellington streets were totally quiet. That’s how New Zealand rocks the party.

Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay

FRIDAY, 28th October

From that day, my trip became more dynamic, because I started travelling with my new Chilean friends by car. First we went together to Abel Tasman National Park. We parked the car in Marahau, where the road ends and you can only walk in the Park. There are many options to explore it, for example you can either have a long walk for 3-5 days, take a water taxi and have about 4 hour walk from one of the bays back to Marahau or just walk one hour and back to Coquille Bay, as we did. It was warm, but cloudy. The girls were thinking of renting a kayak, but the weather wasn’t very promising.

The sand on the beaches was golden. I wish I could see them in the sun. 😦

On the way back, low tide uncovered many words spelled with stones, for example these

Then we went through Takaka Hill, saw the Park from its top…

…to Collingwood to see Golden Bay, but it was raining and we just saw ‘Grey Bay’.

And historic cemetery. It was interesting that on some of the grave stones there was information how people died. Mostly, they drowned in one of the rivers.

We also passed a shoe fence. 🙂

Going back to Nelson in the evening, we had to go through the hills again and the clouds were low, so we were driving in the them.

The South Island is beautiful and would be a paradise if not the sandflies. Mosquitoes are fine, because you can at least hear them coming, but not sandflies. They’re ninjas of the south.

from Wellington to Nelson

THURSDAY, 27th October

My South Island adventure began early morning, when a shuttle from the Railway Station platform 9 took me to Wellington Ferry Terminal ($2). I took the Interislander ferry as one of my flexitrips. I had been advised to choose a nice day to take a ferry, because the passing of Cook Strait may not be so enjoyable during strong wind and bad weather. But I didn’t have much choice and was happy to see that there was no reason to be afraid that I could get seasick.

I didn’t even notice when we left the terminal, so gently the ferry started its journey. It wasn’t sunny, but I could still see the hills surrounding the capital city. It took one our to leave Wellington Harbour. Miramar Peninsula on the left

Then one our to pass Cook Strait, which wasn’t that exciting, so I took a nap. Finally, the last hour was through Queen Charlotte Sound and getting to Picton.

When I left the terminal in Picton, I found my bus to Nelson already waiting at the bus stop. It was about 12 p.m. I left my big bag in the bus and I asked the driver when he was leaving. I clearly remember him saying 12:30, but I should have looked into my notebook anyway. I went back to the terminal to the toilet and look around. When I came back to the bus stop at 12:20, my bus was gone! Great, I thought, this was a nice beginning. I already started to hate the South Island. I looked into my notebook and saw that my bus was supposed to leave at 12:15 and it did. Why would the bus driver lie to me?! A cruel joke or I don’t understand Kiwi accent on this Island.

Anyway, I tried not to panic and went to the Visitor Centre to ask when was the next bus to Nelson, because my bag was already on its way there (seriously, it started its own journey; it’s big enough to do it 😉 ). A nice lady at the Centre showed me the timetable and she was worried about my reaction. Friday, 6 p.m. Did it mean that I would have to wait one day to get to a town 2.5 hrs away?! There was really NOTHING to do in Picton! Besides, I had already booked a hostel in Nelson and my bag was about to arrive there without me. I didn’t want it to feel lonely. Another option was a shuttle, but its driver had gone to Australia for a couple days. The lady called InterCity to ask if there was any way to contact my bus driver and find out what would happen to my bag. They told me he would leave it at Travel Centre in Nelson, but I wouldn’t get my trip back. Excellent, my bag started using my flexitrips. It better buy its own pass! Has anyone got a suggestion how to name my bag?

I had no other choice but to hitchhike. I thought if not locals, then maybe other travelers with a car could take me. I could even wait for another ferry and another flow of tourists. The lady got even more worried when I told her my plan, but she gave me a map and told me where would be the best place to get a hitch. I thanked her and off I went enjoying some sun on the way.

I didn’t have to wait long before a car stopped or rather… prepare yourselves…. A truck! When I saw it coming, I didn’t lift my hand, but it stopped anyway and the driver gave signs asking if I needed a lift. I opened the door and said that I had been told not to travel by trucks. He asked, why and I replied that truck drivers are dangerous. He laughed and so did I. He was a great guy and travelled a lot himself around the world for 10 years. He shared his stories, I shared mine and even though it wasn’t on his way (he wasn’t going to Nelson), he left me on a more convenient to me intersection where I would have a better chance of catching another car even straight to Nelson.

Soon after I got off and waved goodbye to the driver (he horned, so cool!), a car with two Chilean girls stopped. They had arrived in Picton the same ferry as me and rented a car from there. They were doing the South Island in two weeks and so it happened that their schedule was similar to mine but with more places to see on the way, since they were having a car and in shorter time. We exchanged our phone numbers and from that on, I could forget about booking InterCity buses for the next couple days. There were only 2 flexitrips left on my pass, but I thought it was better to give a couple bucks more on petrol and car and see more places in an interesting company than to buy more trips and travel in a company of my bag, which sometimes abandons me anyway.

OK, Nelson. I got there at about 3:30 p.m., one hour after my bag. I went to pick it up from the Transport Centre, found my hostel, Shortbread Cottage Backpackers, which was really good, had nice homely atmosphere, more Germans and some Asians. Oh, and FREE INTERNET! 😀

It was still sunny and fairly early, so I went to explore the town, even though I was really tired (had to get up after 6 a.m. to catch the ferry). I liked Nelson. I think it could be in my top 5 favourite New Zealand towns, but I’ll have to wait to give the final judgment. There are still some towns I haven’t seen yet.

Some trees and water had their ‘sweaters’ or statues had scarves.

Christ Church Cathedral

View from the hill, very futuristic clock tower of the Town Hall far in the distant

Cute old cottages on South Street

Am I still in New Zealand?!

I guess so… Centre of New Zealand on a hill in Botanic Gardens

I got back to the backpackers very tired…