Thursday, May 21, 2015

South Island Scenery – The Sunny North: Beaches, Boulders and Blisters


Even though it meant missing out on Arthur’s Pass, Mark and I were happy with our choice to drive all the way to the northern part of the island in pursue of sunnier weather. With our camper, we reached Golden Bay, the extreme northern tip of the South Island. Takaka hill was an hour long endeavor of hairpin roads up and back down. That hill is big! The long distances still surprised us, but the emerging sun was worth the effort.

We made some longer hikes to a waterfall, over the marvelous beach of Wharariki (reputedly the nicest beach in New Zealand!) and in the rolling hills along the coast. A good test for my new shoes and blistery feet. The views were once again stunning, with a surprise around some of the corners. :-) 

We finished our three week camping adventure with a day walk in the famed Abel Tasman National Park. We followed the coastal track for a steady hour and a half, before turning back to our starting point. Based on its popularity, we couldn’t begin to imagine how touristy this place would be in summer. In the evening, we soaked up the local atmosphere of cute and mellow Mapua; a nice end to our South Island travels.

All that was left, was the long six hour drive back to Christchurch, New Zealand's second-biggest city and the South Island's largest. Here, we returned the camper van and enjoyed the hospitality once again of our hosts Neil and Ollie. A quick look around the city center revealed the sad reality of the damage earthquakes can cause in just a few fateful minutes!

While we are happy to have made this three week and 4000 km trip of the South Island with a camper, we totally underestimated the cold temperatures (or better, the inability of the uninsulated camper with a crappy little heater to heat up our “home” sufficiently), the short days, and the cost of fuel and other necessities. Summer time, albeit even more bursting with tourists, has its merits! Also, it was extremely hard for Mark to combine the frigid morning hours in altering remote locations with the business. For all of these reasons, and many others, we are very happy and thankful to be able to spend our last three weeks of New Zealand time in a comfortable flat in Auckland. What a luxury! :-)

Here are some photos of our last few days in New Zealand’s South Island:

Golden Bay:
 
Funky rock formations and jungle in The Grove, Takaka

The tides in Golden Bay and Tasman are big - at low tide, the boats just tip over or make use of their stabilizing keel(s)

The scariest of all NZ swing bridges! Metal wires as flooring, very narrow and bouncy!

Wainui Falls near Takaka

Viewpoint near Farewell Spit

Parking amongst the local residents at Farewell Spit

Sand dunes and off shore islands, Wharariki Beach

Part of the vast, sandy expanse that is Wharariki Beach

Mark and this incredibly cute fur seal baby startled each other! What an amazing creature. We had a hard time not picking him up for a cuddle, but gave him ample space and left again quickly.

Part of Wharariki Beach

One of the many scenic arches on Wharariki Beach

Under a Wharariki arch

Islands in front of the amazing Wharariki Beach

Cape Farewell

Walking up and over many grassy hills to reach Pillar Point Lighthouse

Pillar Point view over Golden Bay and Farewell Spit

A beautiful day in stunning scenery

Freedom camping is very popular in NZ! Even in the chilly fall. The cold temperatures seemed to bother us more than other campers, though. Must be that tropical blood, after all those years in a "one season" climate! :-)

Te Waikoropupu (Pupu) Springs near Takaka - said to be the clearest water in the world
Abel Tasman National Park:
 
Ready for another hike?

This stubborn tree provides a scenic environment at low tide

Pretty and quiet Coquille Bay - the quintessential Abel Tasman golden beach (low tide)

And, the -oh so typical New Zealand - fern trees are everywhere!

Beach near Apple Tree Bay

The bay of Marahau - departure or arrival point of Abel Tasman's coastal track
The drive to Christchurch:

Roaring Maruia Falls

Autumn means wild mushrooms. Perfect for gnomes. Kabouter Pinnemuts is nog niet langs geweest, maar zou zich hier wel eens goed kunnen amuseren! :-)

River valley along the road
Christchurch:
 
Pizza evening at Neil and Ollie's place - our other South Island hosts from Alexandra (Neil and Garth's parents) were also present!

Christchurch's cathedral's future is still undecided, after four years!

Some of the wrecked buildings in the CBD (Central Business District) have been replaced, while others (see reflection) are still standing.

Some of the damaged buildings are being torn down as we speak

The Re: Start project is a cool initiative to revitalize the commercial area a bit

Businesses that lost their space after the 2011 and 2012 earthquakes have set up shop in shipping containers

The tourist tram has started running again, but there is still a lot of road work going on and most of the downtown area remains a construction site.

Making new friends in Mapua - the fire felt great!!!

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