27.02.2014 - 02.03.2014 23 °C
We are currently in Picton which is the port of departure for the ferry to North Island. We have an overnight stop here before taking the ferry to Wellington where our travels on North Island begin. We are having a great time and only wish that we had more time to spend here in NZ. With 3 weeks in total we are only getting a flavour and there are many places we would love to have visited but simply do not have time.
Anyway our last blog left us in Hokitika so to follow on from that point we had another long drive of about 4.5hrs to get to a place called Motueka which is a small town on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. Once again the journey was stress free on quiet roads where you often don't see another car or motor home for many miles and once more the scenery was fantastic. We usually stop for coffee at a small town cafe and the coffee is always excellent. They have something called a flat white which is quite different to a flat white in the UK and looks more like a cappuccino but slightly less froth (but still quite frothy) and a really smooth taste. So that has become our favoured morning drink accompanied by a chocolate brownie or similar.
Whilst at Motueka we booked a walk cum water taxi cum kayak trip into the Abel Tasman National Park. It was a brilliant way to see this beautiful place. Walking and kayaking in the Park is strictly controlled for nature conservation reasons and most people go in on an organised trip. There is a long distance track that is only accessible on foot but we did not have time for that as it takes several days. Our trip involved walking on what is considered to be the most scenic bit for about 2.5hrs and then being transferred by water taxi to a little sandy cove where we were kitted out with gear and given basic instruction on kayaking.
The walk was lovely, mainly shady with tree ferns and other native trees along the way. There were stoat traps among the trees as they are trying to control these imported predators to boost the population of native birds. Through the trees we could see little coves and inlets fringed with white sand - very picturesque.
It's fair to say that Christine was a bit apprehensive about the Kayaking but we were given good instruction and got off to a good start. It was idyllic paddling along quite close to shore. We saw a huge sting ray like a big shadowy disc under the water with its scary barb sticking out of the water. The two guides with us were keeping an eye seaward all the time and sure enough the threatened wind got up and really started to blow and the swell on the sea began to develop. We had a relatively short way to go by then- just across the bay but it was tough going and amid shouts of 'keep paddling' and 'lean forward' and 'turn into waves' we finally made it. The last in our little group and with a fixed grin on Christine's face. ( Christine says - it was a bit scary for a non-swimmer and goodness didn't my arms ache that night!).
So a quiet day was required after this experience. We went into Nelson, quite a bustling little place and then on our way back had lunch at Seifried Winery. Lunch was very good and so was the wine tasting afterwards - and we now know which label to look out for in Waitrose and M & S.
Today, Sunday we travelled on to Picton ready for our ferry tomorrow. We had not expected much of Picton and assumed it to be a commercial port with a functional purpose. As we approached we entered an area known as the Marlborough Sounds and it became clear that Picton was set in yet another delightful picture book location. The Sounds are a series of deep sea channels separated by hilly islands covered in trees. Picton is a small and lively town with lots of good shops and cafés / restaurants. We went for a walk along the headland out of Picton and watched today's ferry leave as it made its way up Queen Charlotte Sound and out in to the Cook Straight.
More photos to follow soon