Queen Charlotte Sounds, Picton Drive, Nelson, Vibrant Arts Scene, Suter Art Gallery, Tree of Life, The Barn @ Maharau, Abel Tasman National Park, Kayaking, Turquoise Waters, Stunning Coastline Walk
The weather improved as we left the port, and was clear and beautiful as we sailed through Queen Charlotte Sounds.
We arrived into Picton after about 3.30/4pm and then drove along the coastal road to Nelson, taking pics along the way. We had wanted to get some dinner in a town on the way. but most places seemed closed, so we drove straight through to Nelson and found a place to camp for the night.
We drove into Nelson the next day and walked around the town and checked out the out the Church, before walking down to Heritage St (where the oldest houses in Nelson are). Nelson is known for having a vibrant local art scene, and has lots of NZ based artists living the City, plus plenty of independent art galleries. We'd heard about the Suter Art Gallery and went along to see some of the exhibtions and it didn't disappoint. There were some great contemporary art exhibtions, along with local photography (mainly of the beautiful NZ landscape and animals), and an exhibition by a British photographer. This focused on photographing Rugby players after a match, and fitted in well with the RWC fever that has gripped the country- it really is like a religion here. There were also some watercolour paintings and a sculplture exhibit.
After our cultured day we popped into the Japanese gardens on the outskirts of the city and drove around to some viewpoints. The weather was a bit cloudy, the views were still pretty spectacular.
After being deprived of cinema whilst we were in South America, and having enjoyed our trip to the flicks in Taupo, we decided to go to the cinema in Nelson (housed in a very nice Art Deco building). We went to see Tree of Life- a very thought provoking (and slightly self indulgent) film about the meaning of life and our relationship with our parents. Beautifully shot and some great performances- would recommned.
The next day we decided to pop into the local i-site and find out about some kayaking options in Abel Tasman National Park. We decided to book half a day of kayaking, and then stay in a backcountry hut within the park itself and then walk back to Maharau (where we would be staying and leaving our big backpacks).We then did a quick whistlestop tour of some more local galleries including Art at 203 and the Trafalgar St Gallery. The works including painting, sculpture, pottery and jewelry. I also bought a birthday card for Ajay from Art at 203- great place for individual and creative gifts.
Ajay had done a quick food shop while I had gone to post some gifts and get his card, so after checking out the galleries, we hit the road to Maharau. During this time I had also been in touch with a Sara, a friend who I had played Korfball with back in the UK and she had emailed me to say she would be in Maharau in the evening, and was planning to stay where we were staying!! I sent her a text to let her know we were on our way and when we arrived at the hostel (we were camping in the field at the back) I found her in the kitchen! Small world. We caught up over some dinner and wine and heard about all her adventures (she had been for a skydive that day). Was great to see a face from home. After dinner we packed for kayaking and our trip the next day- including making sure we had plenty of food- and then tried to get some sleep.
We got up late the next day, and so were in a rush to shower and get down to the Abel Tasman kayaks office. I also said goodbye to Sara, before driving off down the road. At the office, due to lack of people in our group we were upgraded to a days worth of kayaking-which was fine with us- and the staff at the office moved our accomodation to another hut as we would be walking from a different drop off point, meaning a shorter walk on day 2 as we would be walking back from Anchorage Bay.
After we had all of our stuff packed into dry bags, we got a lift down to the shore and clambered onto the speed boat. The weather was awful- it was pouring with rain and was pretty chilly! The speedboat took us to Split Apple Rock and a rocky island popluar with seals before dropping us off at Onetahuti Bay (the furthest bay you can kayak up to, so it meant we would be kayaking down the coast from there). We ran onto shore and into the shelter, before getting changed into our gear. The rain was beginning to subside. We kayaked to Tonga Island (spotting a few seals and seal pups along the way) and then round to Mosquito Bay, before stopping for lunch at Bark Bay. The weather had started to clear up and the colour of the water was amazing.
We also had a really yummy lunch (very tasty sandwiches, huge muffins, a cookie, fruit and a hot drink). I decided to save my cookie for later as I was so full! We left the bay after lunch (by which time it was getting pretty warm and sunny) and kayaked to Split Apple Bay. From here we then tried to kayak around to Anchorage Bay, but all of a sudden the wind picked up and there was such a powerful swell that we couldn't kayak against it. After trying in vain to fight against the wind, our instructor radioed for the boat and we kayaked back to the previous bay and hitched a lift to Anchorage.
We set up our sleeping bags in the hut (it was basically two cabins, with long rows and a mattress, separated by a kitchen). After having a wander round the campsite, we walked along the bay, there were some interesting caves at one end, and watched the sunset. After having our dinner (we had cooked some pasta the day before) we chilling out with some of the other campers and playing cards we turned in for the night.
The following day we walked up to Pitt Head from the campsite to see the views over Torrent Bay, and took the path around to also see the views, and go down to the beaches at Te Pukatea Bay and Watering Cove. We had a quick snack back at the campsite and then began the hike back to Maharau, along the famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. Along the way we stopped at various bays and beaches- taking it the green water, picturesque bays and the (as usual) stunning scenary.
After a good 6 hours of hiking we found ourselves back at Maharau and ready for a hot shower, hot tea and lots of sleep.
The weather was a trifle overcast as we left Wellington but rapidly improved as we neared Queen Charlotte Sound. We were rewarded with some stunning views of the surrounding headlands, inlets and peaks. The South Island is famed for its amazing natural features and this initial foray - clear blue skies, emerald green bush and forests and turquiose waters - was enough the whet the appetite.
By late afternoon we had arrived into the port town of Picton. We then drove to the city of Nelson along a winding coastal road which had various viewpoints where we could stop to admire the amazing coastline.
The next morning we ventured into Nelson to have a wander around the town centre which is full of pretty Victorian period buildings. Overlooking the city is the Art Deco Christ Church Cathedral which took 47 years to build due to delays caused by arguments about the design; the building that stands today is a hybrid of different architectural styles.
Nearby the cathedral we walked along a heritage street called South St. Touted as the oldest street in Nelson it contains a row of perfectly preserved (or should that be restored?) quaint cottages from the 1860's. We then stopped by the excellent Suter Art Gallery which was small but had some very impressive exhibitions: Portraits of NZ Rugby Players by British photographer David Matches; a collection of watercolours by colonial landscape painter John Gully and 'Án Ocean Of Silence' – a stylish solo installation by Italian New Zealand sculptor Chiara Corbelletto which explored different concepts of space.
Next on our day tour of Nelson was the serene Japanese Gardens followed by a couple of stops at viewpoints around the city. In the evening we went to the Art Deco designed State Cinema where we watched 'The Tree of Life' by Terrence Malick, an extraordinary but arguably self-indulgent piece of work looking at the meaning of life. Deeply personal, philosophical and visually spectacular - think 1950's US family and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey but without the apes and you'll be in a neighbouring ballpark.
The next morning we stopped by the i-Site office to make arrangements for a kayaking and hiking trip in Abel Tasman National Park for the following day. We then stopped by Art @ 203 Gallery to check out artworks (paintings, photography, sculpture, pottery, woodwork, jewellery) by local well-known artists. It must be noted that myself and Am have both been impressed with the art that we have seen in New Zealand thus far.
After using the free wireless facility at the local library and stopping by to pick up some yummy fish and chips we left sunny Nelson and headed to our cosy overnight accommodation ('The Barn') in Marahau near Abel Tasman National Park. It was here that we bumped into Am's friend Sara who was also travelling in New Zealand and had just skydived over Lake Taupo earlier in the day. Conversation over food and a bottle of wine ensued for the remainder of the evening.
The next morning was a little frantic as we arrived at Abel Tasman Kayaks office a little late and were then offered an upgrade to our booked trip as there weren’t enough instructors around to look after all of the groups. The upshot of it all was that we would be doing more kayaking (for a full day rather than half) and would be be dropped off at Anchorage rather than Bark Bay which meant a shorter walk on day two. It all sounded good to us so we just went with the flow.
After sorting out our night bags and being suited up with life jackets and booties, we got onboard a speed boat which was positioned in a truck and then were driven to the harbour. The boat was launched into the sea and before we knew it we were hurtling across the bay visiting various coves and inlets and seal-inhabited islands. On the way we stopped at Appletree Bay where we saw Split Apple rock.
We were dropped off on the shores of Onetahuti Bay, where it was absolutely pouring down with rain, and given a short lesson on kayaking. Our kayaks were designed for two people and myself and Am took it turns, before and after lunch, to sit at the back seat of the kayak as the driver. The weather started to clear up and we kayaked to Tonga Island and then around to Mosquito Bay and Bark Bay where we stopped for lunch. It was great fun and relatively straightforward to get the hang of as long as we were both rowing in unison! It did, however, get a bit tricky near the end of the afternoon when we were kayaking against strong headwinds and had to take shelter in a bay as we were struggling to move anywhere against a strong opposing current. It became apparent that one of the biggest skills an experienced kayaker has is the ability to understand and interpret changes in the surrounding environment and weather, direction of wind and current flow and the like.
It was a really enjoyable day of kayaking and we were dropped off at Anchorage bay which itself was quite stunning. Apparently, this area has been frequented by well known figures from the film world in summers gone by. Following a sunset walk along the beach, we had dinner and spent the night in a DOC hut just off the beach. Next morning we walked upto Pitt Head for views of Torrent Bay, Te Pukatea Bay and Watering Cove. We then hiked back to Marahau along the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk stopping at various bays and beaches along the way. It must said that the coastline is simply stunning - rocky coves, golden beaches and turquoise waters. After reaching Marahua by early evening after a good five to six hours of walking, we were both ready for a well-deserved tea, hot shower and sleep.