Sunday, May 22, 2016

Abel Tasman Track, New Zealand

When we first came through this part of the South Island, we skipped visiting Abel Tasman National Park due to rainy weather. We are delighted to find good weather this time and stay at the Marahau Beach Camp which is within walking distance of the Abel Tasman Center's water taxis.
Marahau River

Since we make camp early in the day, we pick up a map and sign up for the next water taxi to take us to Anchor Beach where we'll disembark and hike back to camp. The water taxis do drop offs and pick-ups at several locations along the Abel Tasman Coast Track, all for reasonable prices. We board our water taxi in front of the Center and are amused by they tractor use to tow us over the beach and launch us into the sea.
There's our water taxi

Tractor launch of a taxi carrying kayaks

Zodiac carrying sit-on-top kayaks

Peter's having fun

Split Apple Rock

The landing on Anchor Bay is pretty easy and we barely get our feet wet.
Golden sand beach at Anchor Bay

Before long, a fancier water taxi arrives with a deluxe ramp for debarking passengers.

The beach is so nice at Anchor Bay we start off by exploring it before beginning the hike.

Time to hit the trail proper and in a short distance from the beach, we reach the main campground, complete with a solar powered outdoor kitchen. These Kiwis certainly know how to camp in style.

Just beyond the kitchen we see tents set up. One set of campers are apparently not well schooled in the virtues of maintaining a clean camp as they leave a mess with all of their stuff strewn about.  Marauding camp ducks take full advantage of their carelessness.  We sit and watch the ducks devour a whole loaf of bread and other goodies while wondering how long it'll take the campers to discover they've been raided. Not long, as a matter of fact, the campers return waving their arms and yelling at the ducks to shoo them away. Too late, the ducks have already devoured any accessible food.  We turn to the the trail, trying not to laugh too loud. Morale of story - beware of camp ducks.

Hiking south from Anchor Bay, we first ascend a steep hill through a fern forest.

At the top of the climb we are rewarded with panoramic views of the islands and bays of Abel Tasman.
Anchor Bay

Adele Island

Watering Cove

From the summit, the rest of the track is fairly level and an easy ramble back to camp. We start off again through the fern forest, stopping from time to time to admire a beautiful beach below and/or stopping to rest by a small babbling stream.

Although the trail isn't particularly crowded we do meet several other hikers from around the world. One woman I meet is from France, who claims not to speak English. I reply that I speak a little French, but am better in Spanish and start try to start a conversation by asking her questions in Spanish. She just waves her hand and replies in English. Turns out, her English is just fine and better than her Spanish.

We meet Christina, a very nice young lady originally from East Germany who is staying in New Zealand for a few years. She has found a job as a property caretaker on a farm not far from here. Since her schedule is flexible and it's a beautiful day, she has decided to take the day off and go hiking. She tells us family stories of what life was like living in East Germany under Russian rule and the changes that have occurred after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The colors of Abel Tasman

Christina & Peter

Christina's photo of us on the Tasman Track

We also meet a family of California Quail, which were introduced to New Zealand as game birds.

Towards the end of the track, we pass a rocky beach and cross over a long board walk over wetlands to return to camp. At 12-14 miles, it's been the longest hike we've done in New Zealand so we have a comfortably numb evening powered by Advil and Chardonnay.

The next day we are back on the road cutting through New Zealand farmlands on our way back to Picton to catch a ferry back to the North Island.

The main stop we make is at Neudorf Vineyards, recommended by our friend Leucadia Pete as his favorite. Even though we arrive an hour before their tasting room opens, they are very sweet and open early to accommodate us.
Vineyards around Neudorf

Here's the place

Jill waits for our tasting to begin

We enjoy our time and buy wine to bring back home to California

The rest of the drive back to Picton is again through beautiful scenery.

The next morning we take the first ferry out on what has been predicted to be quiet crossing. This crossing is indeed much smoother than before. It helps to travel early on a quiet day.

Leaving Picton harbor

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nelson, New Zealand

From Akaroa in the Christchurch area, we cut northward back through the central hills of New Zealand's South Island. The spring flowers are out in profusion, especially Scotch Broom an invasive plant from Europe introduced by early settlers. Scotch Broom is especially difficult to eradicate as both New Zealand and California have discovered the hard way.
Yet another winding NZ road

Typical farmlands along river basins

Still, Scotch Broom does make a beautiful spring show.
Glacier melt river with Scotch Broom

We end up at the Tahuna Beach Kiwi Holiday Park in Nelson and are happy to find campsites close to the beach, that is, until we try walking on the beach only to be sand blasted by strong wind.
Blowing sands on a Nelson beach

where Mark's hat goes flying down the beach.

To escape the wind we walk inland through public parks, which include a go cart raceway and large open grassy areas. Being a Sunday afternoon, many families are out enjoying the sunny day especially at the Gypsy Fair.  Looks like Nelson is to New Zealand as Santa Cruz is to California, or Eugene is to Oregon.
Go cart race track

Gypsy Fair

Families are out in full force as the Gypsy Fair is a big draw for children.
Hula hoop anyone?

Face painting

and of course, goodies at food booths

Many of the stalls offer clothing and jewelry, all with a modern hippie flair.

Of course, no hippie gathering of any sort would be complete without Another Roadside Attraction.
Charlie (Manson?) sings

Another Roadside Attraction stage show

Upcoming schedule

We get a kick out of the many colorful food booths.
American donuts & hot dogs?

The "Ice Cream" sign attracts me to the Lucky Star

where I order a mango smoothie

As far as we're concerned, the main stars of the show are the handmade gypsy house trucks. Each one is individually made with loving craftsmanship and creative amenities. We especially enjoy seeing the inside of those for sale or ones we are invited into.

Several are for sale... and while tempting to consider, if only for a moment, they are completely impractical. So instead, we release our inner hippies by buying tie dyed tee shirts.

Time to cue the Grateful Dead's "Not Fade Away":

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Retired and enjoying life.