18.12.2010 - 22.12.2010 20 °C
The next leg of our South Island trip required a critical first step – getting to the South Island itself! To do this, we rose early on Saturday morning and after checking out of the hotel, escorted the Capella to the Interislander terminal. The Interislander is one of two ferry companies that will cart your car and your person across the Cook Strait. We were to board the “Kaitai”, and although it didn’t have the marketing appeal of the Chichimon, it served our purpose well. The crossing of the Cook Strait was without any Titanic-esque issues. The ship seemed to take a long time to get out of Wellington (about an hour, actually) owing to the geographical setup of the city (it’s nestled around a large bay that is fairly sheltered from the sea). It got a bit windy through the open stretch of the journey, but when we entered the Marlborough Sounds on the top of the South Island, the water was calm and the scenery was awesome. Clouds hung low over the tops of the hills through which the Sounds were carved, making for a very peaceful entrance into the area. Three hours after we shoved off from the wharf, we were pulling into the small town of Picton, which you can see overhead here.
Hungry as we were, we decided to lunch right there in Picton before starting our drive. We rooted out the “Village Bakkerij” on a side street, and had a really tasty lunch sitting at a picnic table surrounded by the green hills of the town. The drive from here to the bach we were renting outside of Motueka was nice, except for the bit where an iPod foolishly left on the roof of the car in front of us flew off at one point with it’s poor headphone’s rubber arms flailing wildly as they fruitlessly attempted to wrestle with the superior forces of speed and gravity. Along the way we stopped in the town of Nelson – a vibrant town bustling with activity at the beach as dozens of kite surfers cut through the water. After picking up some groceries, we set off again, and soon came to the town of Motueka. We called into the iSite to fulfill all our tourist information needs, and were mildly distraught with the local weather forecast – heavy rain over the next 3 days, with the biggest deluge set to hit on Tuesday, the day we needed to drive to our next destination.
Our spirits picked up when we arrived at the bach shortly afterwards. It is in a gorgeous setting, nestled within a kiwifruit orchard, which you can see overhead here . They’ve got it all here – wandering chooks, a couple of peacocks who call to each other with a cry sounding just like Kevin from the movie “UP”, a large pig, horses, and of course the two wandering emus. Here’s a couple of images:
After chatting with the owners, who live in the farmhouse just up the lane, we unpacked our necessities and set out to explore a little bit before dinner. We made our way down the road to a short hike leading to the Riwaka Resurgence. The Riwaka is a river that flows through the property the bach sits on. It is a shallow but extremely cold river that emerges from a cave in the mountain nearby. The walk was not unlike many others we’ve been on – moss covered trees, green hues, gurgling stream. The point of the resurgence is a pretty peaceful spot, as you can see here:
That night the rain that had been forecast came down upon the batch with extreme prejudice. By morning it had let up some, and was a mere gentle shower. So we boarded Air Capella and headed back into Motueka to the iSite to do some more scouting. As the forecast looked a titch better for Monday, we decided to not go into the heart of Abel Tasman National Park, and instead drove to a short hike on the edge. The road leading to the trail was only the second most twisty we’ve driven in New Zealand
(the road to Kerikeri Beach still gets that prize). The rain got heavier but we pressed on and were careful not to slide our way down the trail. By the time we emerged onto the beach we were in a full-fledged deluge. We lasted a little less than two minutes looking at the rock, but here’s what it looked like anyway:
We trudged back up the trail to the car, all of us completely soaked to the bone. We headed back to the bach and spent the next few hours inside drying off and watching the rain and mist shroud Takaka Hill which served as the backdrop to our bach view. Around 3:30 the sun came out so we swam over to the car and did a short coastal walk in Motueka. That was pretty much it for that day!
The weather had improved by the next morning, so we drove to Kaiteriteri and caught a water taxi to Bark Bay, deep within the Abel Tasman National Park, and which you can see overhead here. The taxi made a short photo stop to Split Apple Rock of all places! As it turns out, we didn’t really need to get soaked the previous day to see this landmark! Here it is from the water and without all the rain:
After pausing for a few minutes, we set off again. The seas were a bit rough on the trip to our starting point, and Jack almost revisted his breakfast near the end. But we made it, and were happy to begin our trek! Walking this part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track was great. The scenery was wonderful, but admittedly not quite as stunning as we were expecting. It was very similar to the geography around the Muskoka lakes back in Ontario. We had a pleasant hike for the next couple of hours, and eventually came upon Torrent Bay, the site of our water-taxi pick-up. You can see a bit of the hike for yourself in these photos, and this short video:
We had lunch on the beach and explored the area for an hour while we waited for our ride. Eventually the boat came and we headed back to Kaiteriteri. There was a pretty cool playground across the road from the beach, and we all had a go at the Flying Fox – even Jenn as you can see in this short video:
The next day it pounded rain as we left the bach, and didn’t let up until we were halfway to our next destination – Franz Josef. The road from Motueka took us through the Motueka Valley – where New Zealand’s entire supply of hops are grown. We continued on through the Buller Gorge where all the rain put on a fantastic roadside show as sometimes large, muddy waterfalls were created by the runoff down the high hills bordering the road. We had hoped to stop at the longest swing bridge in the country as we travelled through the gorge, but it was driving rain as we approached the carpark, so we bailed on that idea. Get it? Bailed – rain. The comedy just never stops.
In the early afternoon we arrived at our lunch spot – Punakaiki – home of the Pancake Rocks which you can see overhead here. The rocks are actually seaside cliffs that are quite layered, and have been eroded by the pounding surf into very interesting formations. There is a huge blowhole here as well, but unfortunately we were two hours past high tide so there was no blowing. It was still pretty spectacular though, as you can see in these photos:
Onwards to the tiny community of Franz Josef we went, and arrived at the Top Ten Holiday Park around 5:30. We settled in to our cabin, cooked dinner, did a load of laundry, and relaxed with the low clouds and mist shrouding the surrounding soaring hills. There was a partial lunar eclipse that evening, but of course we couldn’t see it. We woke the next morning to rain and general greyness. We affixed our sunny outlook though, and after a relaxed start to the morning, we ventured out to the closer of the two glaciers in the area – Franz Josef. As you are already well aware, the Franz Josef glacier was named in 1865 after the emperor of Austria, by explorer Julius Von Haast. Of the two glaciers here, this one is steeper and is moving faster. But not so fast that we couldn’t catch up with it. We arrived at the carpark and the rain had stopped. We made our way down the trail to the observation point and we’re in awe of the blue river of ice in the distance. The glacial river formed from the meltwater was a raging torrent as the rains of the last couple of days poured down the mountain and mixed. It was pretty cool to see the chunks of ice scattered along the river. The water was grey in colour owing to the abrasion of the ice against the granite underneath and grinding it to dust. In fact, there had been so much rain that there was flooding where the trail normally would lead up closer to the terminal face of the glacier. This combined with the instability of the glacier forced us to remain a kilometre and a half away. No matter – it was still awesome. Here are some photos, and a video:
The Fox glacier is a bit further south and is larger and longer than Franz. We decided to hit that one after lunch. Alas, the rain returned and we had to be content with a trip to Lake Matheson, not far from Fox. We ate delicious cake at a café there, and we had a nice stroll around the edge of the lake. Normally, the spot on the far side of this lake is the place to take one of the most picturesque photos in New Zealand. This spot shows the reflection of Fox Glacier and the two highest peaks in the country – Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. Unfortunately it was raining and we couldn’t see anything of these three. We left there and thought we’d go look at the glacier from the carpark, but the access road was closed because of flooding, so we had to be satisfied with just one glacier.
Tomorrow we move again, to the town of Kingston, which is just south of Queenstown – the adventure capitol of New Zealand. Even better than that, we will be joining our Canadian friends the Allores for Christmas in a bach we have rented for five days. The next blog post will be jam-packed with adrenalin-fuelled mania, so watch for it in a bit less than a week. In the meantime, we hope that everyone has the merriest of Christmases. We miss everyone very much, especially our family, and especially this week. But we’ll have a great Christmas all the same, just vastly different than what we’re used to!
There are of course a few more photos if you'd care to look here.