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Date: 08 Feb 2014 22:45:00
Title: South Island - Week 1

Sunday 2nd February

Excellent service from our budget hotel who kindly sent our breakfast up to the room at 6.45 a.m. so that we wouldn't miss it with our early start. On the ferry by 8.45 only to find a huge buffet cooked breakfast waiting for us! We'd opted to pay a little extra to travel in the Premium lounge (over 18's only) and breakfast was part of the deal. So were the 'morning tea' which consisted of sandwiches, mini quiches and a variety of scones with, of course, tea or coffee. We basically ate our way across the Cook Strait!

The weather was gorgeous and the sea smooth the whole three hours of the crossing, and the scenery as we entered Queen Charlotte Sound was breathtaking. Once in Picton we headed for Parkside Marina holiday park, a couple of kilometres out of town, where we booked in for a couple of nights and pitched the tent. Back in town for a wander, we found the Edwin Fox Museum where we spent a couple of hours learning about the life of this only remaining sailing ship that brought convicts to Australia and settlers to New Zealand.

Monday 3rd February

Drove to Havelock to sample the green-lipped mussels grown there. They were certainly huge specimens, but not as well-cooked as we would have expected given that the restaurant we went to specialises in them. We opted for steamed in garlic and wine sauce, but the garlic was overwhelming and many of the mussels tough. Sorry Kiwis, the French still have the upper hand over you with their moules.

On the way back we drove through vineyard country and just had to stop to do a little tasting. Most of the vineyards seem to have a 'Cellar Door' where you just turn up and taste. We stopped at two, Steve did most of the tasting as I was driving. It's mainly whites here as the climate doesn't support growth of red variety grapes. The Cabernet Sauvignon was particularly good in one, and the Chardonnay in the other.

Tuesday 4th February

Decided to stay another day. Drove into Blenheim and visited the Wine Museum using the complimentary tickets given to us at Hudson's vineyard. Back to base for lunch, then donned our walking legs and picked up the Snout Trail halfway along the coast from Picton and tramped off in the direction of the Snout. Never quite made it to the end as that involved one incline too far, but got some stunning views along Queen Charlotte Sound.

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Wednesday 5th February

Packed up camp and set off west towards Nelson. Stopped for an hour to wander around, then pressed on to Richmond. Found an attractive park for a picnic lunch, then on again towards the Abel Tasman National Park. We skirted along the western edge of the park - more stunning views - and arrived late afternoon at Collingwood, the most northerly town of the South Island. So far north in fact, that it is north of Wellington on the North Island. We took a cabin as the weather forecast was not good and the tent pitches were quite exposed, almost on the beach. The cabins were very old and tired, but ours had a huge window with beautiful views over Golden Bay and the hills beyond.

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Thursday 6th February

Up before dawn to join the trip out to Farewell Spit, the sandspit that extends west from the northern tip of the South Island. The trip is done in a specialised coach with enormous wheels and four-wheel drive that it engages at appropriate times to prevent being stuck in the sand. It was a fascinating trip, driving along the beach observing seabirds. We went as far as the lighthouse, about 10 kms, where we got out and explored the area where three lighthouse keepers used to live before the light was automated. We stopped for coffee and muffins at one of the houses (provided by the guide, no-one is allowed to live on the spit now), before driving back to one of the huge dunes (25') and braving the easterly wind and sandstorm to climb to the top. Later we had sand everywhere! The guide was a very competent driver and very knowledgeable, and we had a really good day.

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Friday 7th February

Today the weather turned nasty as expected: the wind howled and the rain lashed down all day and into the night. We decided to have a duvet day, but when the rain stopped for a little while during the morning, we took a little trip out to see the PuPu springs. It is a freshwater lake, clear to the bottom, where you can see the water swirling in places where the springs come up. It was a half hour walk through temperate rainforest to get to it and it was an attractive spot in the rain, no doubt even better when the sun shines!

Saturday 8th February

Set off this morning for a day in the Abel Tasman National Park. Started by a drive into the north of the park and a lovely walk to the Wainui Falls. Must remember to put anti bug spray on before getting out of the car! The sign said that there had been four slides on the path so you needed sturdy footwear and a sense of adventure. Don't you just love the Kiwi sense of humour? With a little bit of clambering we made it to the waterfall, which was thunderous and wet and well worth the visit.

Back at the car we set off further along the unsealed and rather bumpy road to Totaranui, a beach on the northeast corner of the park. Here we found a shady spot behind the beach for a picnic lunch, before retracing our route out of the park and south to Motueka, a town just south of the National Park. Here we booked into Fernwood Holiday Park where we again took a cabin ( we are getting used to cabins, and becoming a little lazy - they only cost about £10 a night more than a tent site!)


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