Last week on South island, last stop Kenepura Sound 41:19° S :173:95° E
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Sat 30 Apr 2016 10:02
Dear Family and Friends,
29th April 2016
Another week and more has slipped by since we said goodbye to Josh. He flew from Christchurch to Auckland and then back to the UK via Dubai, a very long trek. Long waits in airports and long flights are no fun.
We have been catching up with some more highlights before leaving the south island today. So rounding off our visit, with a trip to Hanmer, nestling in the foothills of the Alps and home to the thermal pools. If you don’t mind paying £11/$22 for a dip it’s brilliant to soak in the pools at around 38-40C after a strenuous walk to yet another waterfall! The spa treatments were tempting but beyond the budget, you can even buy Roturoa mud in tubes.... mmm think I’ll pass on this one.
Hanmer’s setting amongst the hills and Autumn colours is lovely. With perfect weather, warm Autumn sunshine and clear skies, we walked some of the well signed woodland and forest walks to the Victoria waterfalls. I haven’t counted the number of waterfalls we have walked to, but it is certainly in the tens. I should have remembered the general terrain by now, the path inevitably is steep, rocky, narrow and strewn with tree roots. Perhaps it is the challenge that keeps us returning, the spectacle of nature, goal to walk to, not entirely sure. Whatever it is I keep pushing through an ankle injury I sustained about 6 weeks ago in the Bay of Islands. This walk was definitely enough to make the ankle very sore.
With a welcome rest, we drove across the Alps again, taking the Lewis pass this time. The word big comes to mind when you are crossing the mountains, high peaks, wide valleys, vast open and mostly empty spaces, long winding roads, steep drops, just a big country. We reached the west coast and true to form it was rainy, the towns of Greymouth and Westport are nothing to write home about but the trip between them is worth the effort. The highlight is the dramatic sculpted Pancake rocks where horizontal sedimentary rocks have been eroded leaving the harder layers standing out from the softer ones. We stayed close by, look out for the cool accommodation!
Crossing back east we drove via the Murchison pass, clocking up all four of the mountain passes. When you consider that the south island is about 1000km in length, that’s not a whole lot of access between the west and east sides of the mountains which run the length of the island. We stayed on a farm in the highlands with only a wood burner stove in the main room for heating the whole house. It was a bit chilly but had an adorable and very friendly goat!
Onwards, we drove through the fruit, hop and vine growing region in the northern valleys towards Nelson , to the Abel Tasman coastal park. We arrived in time to catch a water taxi along the coast to Anchorage bay so we could walk back along the track to the campsite. Curiously the speed boat taxi arrived at the office aboard a trailer pulled by a tractor, we boarded the boat, travelled by road to the slipway where the boat was launched, novel approach! Although steep in places, most of the track was easy walking with great views of the sandy coves, rocky headlands and native bush. Most of the native trees are evergreen with just 4-5 varieties being deciduous. The bush is Manuka and tea tree bushes which abound throughout the island, gorse, hebe, broom, grasses, Tau Tau, like pampas grass, tree ferns and lichens. The path wove its way around the headlands and narrow river valleys, so many, it was dizzying. The lovely birdsong is a real treat, is hard to describe.It is a sing song with sound effects, something like C3PO from Star Wars films or perhaps this should be the other way round. I have a great picture of the bird.
To rest my ankle after another 13-14 km walk, we drove to the northern end of the Abel Tasman park, to see the countryside and the coast. Once again we were not disappointed, the scenery was fabulous, steep valleys and plunging roads, with s bends, u bends and hairpin bends for miles and miles and miles. I think we drove continuously around bends for well on two and half hours with barely a straight section. The last section has nearly an hour of unsealed road, it began to feel like a really testing drive simulation so with our arms aching we were glad to reach the beach.
The bays of golden sands, tree lined, craggy rocky headlands, blue sea, sky and sunshine are picture perfect so for something a little different we drove towards Marlborough Sound, through Nelson, notionally making our way to Picton. We picked a backpacker lodge, Hopewell on the Kenepura Sound with 100% rating. This is not for the impatient, it takes 2-2.5 hours to drive the 72 km around the many bays and convoluted track, unsealed roads and near constant bends, (again)! It was worth the long drive, we extended our stay too. With a lovely room overlooking the bay, brilliant hosts, we hired a kayak to explore the local bays. This was a first for me, I managed over 3 hours before holding up the white flag and paddling back. It was so peaceful gently paddling around the bays, with smooth water, glorious sun, even the wet clothing didn’t make us cold. We were lucky to see a small colony of pied shags, like our cormorants, their nests in the trees, feeding their young.
After hours of paddling, we spent some time in the hot tub overlooking the sound until the sun cooled in the late afternoon, perfect. Our hosts supplied freshly made pizza for a modest price, but we could always have gathered our own rock oysters at low tide!
Another first, we spotted a live nocturnal possum in the bush, they are quite cute for a pest with big eyes and a strange call.
It was so lovely and welcoming, we could have stayed much longer. But a ferry booking beckoned.
All our best,
Lynne and Alan