Sunday, 23 September 2012

Nelson w/e, 13-16 September

We arrive quite late on a cold wet Thursday night and Anne & Andy are waiting to collect us from the airport. We drive west from Nelson to Mapua, drop our stuff off and go to the local pub for a couple of drinks.

A&A’s place is too small to fit us in so they’ve rented a house nearby for 3 nights, and have already lit the wood burner stove so it’s nice and cosy for our arrival. There are large kowhai trees in the back garden and in the morning there are tuis swooping and playing around, drinking the nectar from the flowers. We have an early start in the morning as it’s the best walking day weather-wise and we want to do some of the Abel Tasman track. A&A pick us up and we have a quick coffee before shooting off to Maharau which is the start of the track. Here we’re booked onto a water taxi which takes us on a bit of a tour before dropping us off at Bark Bay. The sun’s shining for us and it’s a beautiful area, similar in many respects to the Queen Charlotte track on the Marlborough Sounds, but slightly less bush and more beach, certainly in the section we’ve chosen to walk.

View across the Tasman from the landing at Bark Bay to the hills of Marlborough Sound, the other side of Nelson

We wander along Bark Beach on lovely golden sand before setting off south on the track. There are a number of DOC huts along the way which is where we’d be sleeping if we were doing the whole 3-4 day trek. They have sleeping ledges and water supplies but no cooking facilities so you have to carry your own, as well as all your food of course.

Walking along Bark Bay with Anne & Andy in the distance
The path takes us up and over a few hills and drops down to the coast on a pleasant meandering well-kept track. Mostly kanuka overhead with great views down to the coast and what must be the western edge of the Marlborough Sounds in the far, far distance. We have to cross quite a long swing bridge over a river at one point and soon find ourselves descending into a village at Torrent Bay. The baches here are big and luxurious and cost a small fortune these days as no more building has been allowed since the area was designated a National Park. We come across a picnic table on the beach just in time for lunch.

This is about as high the path gets before dropping down to the beach again

There are quite a lot of these swing bridges on major walking tracks in NZ. This is quite a long one and was good and bouncy once you were in the middle

 From here the path splits into a coastal or inland route. As its low tide we naturally take the coastal route which leads us across the estuary. We’re following the orange posts as instructed but find ourselves having to cross streams and rivers. A&A take the quickest way over, just running straight through, and as the water’s a foot deep or more in places they get very wet feet. Mike and I take the more considered, elderly approach and remove our boots and socks before wading across. The water’s freezing but our socks stay dry. 

Typical stretch of path. Not much bush around but loads of kanuka

Looking down on Torrent Bay and the estuary we have to cross to get to Anchorage
 From here on it’s just one more hill to climb and we’re back down onto the beach at Anchorage. The near end of the beach has some wonderful weathered rocks many of which are covered in quite old graffiti and we found one dated 1740. We slowly make our way to the far end of the beach where we await the water taxi to take us back to Marahau. That evening we go out to eat at Jellies, the local restaurant, then home for a good sleep.

The beach at Torrent Bay, the most populated part of the Abel Tasman
Old graffitti on the rocks at Anchorage
 Next morning it’s raining heavily as predicted, so we have a leisurely start before going to Jesters for breakfast. It’s an interesting place not least because it has tame eels living in the stream below the cafe. So after breakfast we buy some raw chicken in a little pot and go down to feed the eels. We don’t have to hang about either. They’re ready and waiting for us, in all their black slimy squirminess. And they’re not small either: 3-4 foot long at least, and when you place food near  them they rear their ugly heads right up out of the water to grab it from the stick, gripping it hard with their teeth sometimes in their excitement. More eels kept on coming, we must have seen about 8 there altogether: quite a sight.

Andy and I bravely feed slippery eels at Jesters Cafe

We then moved on to the famous Nelson market and had a quick wander but rain drifted in and rather speeded us up, though we managed to grab some lunch before heading onto the Suter Art Gallery. There was a good exhibition of work from Northern Queensland in Australia, way up near the coast, which perhaps explains the  fact that the characters depicted had a more Indonesian than aboriginal look to them. There’s a good cafe there too and we stayed on to watch a rather lovely film, The Song of the Kauri, which was a documentary about creating sustainable native forests and a guy making guitars and violins with kauri wood. We eat pizza at the local pub and watch the rugby, All Blacks against South Africa.

Anne looking glamorous on the beach at Rabbit Island, posing in my sunglasses

Mist clearing on Rabbit Island

Our last day down south, so we have breakfast and take a drive around so A&A can show us the houses they’ve been looking to buy. Nothing’s been quite right yet but the area’s good being so close to Nelson and the Abel Tasman Track, with the mountains behind. The rain’s clearing and as the sun appears we make our way over to Rabbit Island for a walk along the beach, before being dropped off at the airport.

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