Good-Bye, South Island!

Day 6 – 2 September

I woke up nice and refreshed after sleeping on a mattress for the first time in a few days. As Bernie and I strolled down Nelson’s streets, I found myself wishing we had more time to explore the city; it seems like one I’d like.

Our bus to Picton was rather uneventful. Once we’d arrived, we checked our packs and wandered around town, looking for a place to buy lunch and ways to kill time. We wound up achieving the former at a Dutch bakery called Picton Village Bakkerij on Bernie’s recommendation. Neither of us were too hungry but we bought sandwiches takeaway to eat on the ferry. It was here that I had to ask what one of the ingredients of a sandwich was: gherkins. As it turns out, they’re pickles. Bernie said she’d only heard them called pickles at McDonald’s and Subway, so it must truly be the American name. I’m still surprised at what Kiwi-isms I haven’t learned, even after seven months here.

We doddled around Picton for the second time, and found an Abel Tasman map at the iSite for my pending scrapbook.

It was a little sad to think that this would be my last time on the South Island in what will likely be several years. I’m not usually one to pick favourites, but the South Island is indeed my favourite New Zealand island; it has so much diversity of landscape.

On the ferry, we didn’t do much but eat, play cards, attempt to sleep, and listen to the movies being playing behind us (The Eagle and Ringo). Bernie’s dad picked us up and took us to their house, where I met her mum and brother. Their home had a marvellous view of the Wellington harbour (not sure of the official name, so that’s what I’m calling it).

A little blurry through the glass, but you get the idea.

After a tasty dinner and desert, and Bernie introduced me to a New Zealand comic strip called FoxTrot (I think? Correct me if I’m wrong, Bernie…) – very funny and very Kiwi. After watching the news, we went to bed. I made the mistake of starting to read a Jodi Piccolt novel in my room called The Pact, and was up till 1am reading it. And as I type this I am currently cradling that same book in my lap. I’d forgotten how addicting her books are!

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The End of the Trail

Day 5 – 1 September

After breaking down our tent in the morning and saying good-bye to the American girls one last time, Bernie and I began our final day at Abel Tasman, which was the shortest in terms of distance tramped but the longest in terms of total ground covered. Before heading off, though, we took a few photos to remember Waiharakeke Bay by:

Tired and bug-bitten, but still happy!

The DOC sign claimed it would only take 50 minutes to reach Totaranui, and after three straight days of hiking 3 to 5 hours, this was a piece of cake. Since we had to arrive in time for our 10:45 water taxi, we tramped a little quicker than normal, but still stopped for a few photos.

Goat Bay

Walking along the Goat Bay beach

I believe that’s Nelson in the far distance

Nearly there!

Soon we saw a DOC sign, always a welcome sign (pardon the pun) on long tramps, for informing us where we are and how close we are to our destination. In this instance, the sign showed we were at our destination! It was the same one we’d seen way back in Marahau, and thus the end of our journey – on foot, anyway.

It was both exciting and a little sad to think the tramp was already over. It was at times challenging, but so worth the effort. It also inspired me to see more of what nature has to offer in the States. Sadly, I really haven’t seen much of my country. Funny how it took New Zealand to show me that.

At the Totaranui campsite, we found this map, which showed the ground we’d covered both that morning and the previous day (starting at Bark Bay):

Bernie and I had about half an hour to kill before our water taxi, so what did we do? Take pictures, of course.

The beaches really are golden here.

Our water taxi ride back to Kaiteriteri was a fun experience. It also felt surreal knowing that in a matter of minutes, we passed places we’d tramped in several hours. At Torrent Bay the woman with the dog Mouse, who’d told us where we could get cell phone reception, got on the water taxi with Mouse in tow. He was very well-behaved and as adorable as ever. The driver took past and island with a group of seals, and slowed down significantly so we could get a good look.

The driver then took us to Sandfly Bay, near where we spent the night in Bark Bay, and took the boat up the Falls River until we were under the suspension bridge Bernie and I had crossed two days earlier. The driver said he usually didn’t get to do that, but the water was unusually high for the time of year. Winding up the river, the scenery reminded me of the jungle boat cruise ride and Disneyland.

Once we were under the bridge, the driver cut the engine and the few remaining passengers who hadn’t gotten off in Bark Bay all convened on the back patio. The driver asked where we were all from, and it turned out we had Egypt, Switzerland, England, the U.S. and of course New Zealand all represented in our little group. I thought the stop was quite nice and a testament to New Zealander’s attitude of polychronic time (also known as island time). In the same situation in the States most drivers would be worried about keeping their scheduled times, but here they care more about hospitality.

I love these tall, skinny trees. They remind me of the ones in The Lion King.

We reached Kaiteriteri about 12:30, and Bernie and I find ourselves with over three hours to kill in a beautiful but tiny town with our giant packs. We were only a bit hungry, but knew it’d be best to eat something before our bus. Being winter, only one restaurant was open in the town, and its outside menu showed it to be considerably more expensive than we hoped. After doddling around in the park for a while, we decided to bite the bullet and go halvies on an entree.

The nachos we got were underwhelming and overpriced, but they gave us something to do, and in addition the restaurant’s balcony offered a fantastic view. The women sitting next to us fed the seagulls, who performed quite a melodramatic fight for us. This bird on the right, despite not having a foot, was most definitely the chief of the area and let all the other birds know as much.

After lunch and an iced coffee (the latter of which I bought partially out of guilt, since we spent so long at the restaurant), I crossed the street to capture the view of the beach without the road and streetlights obstructing the view.

Bernie and I decided to check out the park once more, which offered a zipline swing. I’d never been on one that started so high up, so I was a bit scared the first time, but it was truly fun, and we spent the next half hour or so on it. Bernie even tried it backwards one time and standing another, but I wasn’t quite so brave.

Finally enough time had passed for us to board our bus to Nelson. The two-hour drive backtracked to Marahau before heading east toward our destination. It was a quiet but pleasant drive and I snapped a few photos, albeit with my reflection in some of them.

Immediately upon arriving at the Nelson YHA and greeting our roommate (Ingrid from Holland), Bernie and I both grabbed our clean towels the hostel graciously gave us for free and dashed towards the showers. Neither of us had showered since our last YHA visit four days prior, and I don’t think I’d ever been so grateful for one. I’d forgotten how soft my hair could feel.

After three nights of camp food, Bernie and I decided to splurge on something a little nicer for dinner. As we roamed the streets, reading outside menus and deeming most of them too expensive, we stumbled upon the Nelson cathedral.


Nelson from the cathedral's perspective

Once we resumed our restaurant hunt, we realised we simply weren’t going to find anything quite as cheap as we’d hoped for. We settled on Poppy Thai and had great pad thai with red wine. But don’t take my word for it.

I’d never had Thai food served with both sugar and chilli pepper flakes, but they both added great texture and flavour. It was a fantastic treat after so many days of camp food.

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Would you like to ford the river, hire a ferry, or attempt to walk across?

Day 4 – 31 August

Today wound up being our longest and most diverse day yet. Before heading off, though, we were treated with a gorgeous sunrise over Bark Bay.

Right off the bat, we were faced with a treacherous and seemingly endless steep hill to climb, I’d say the worst incline of the trip. At least things could only get better from there. We tramped for a couple more hours, appreciating another day of sunshine.

Not too sure of the mountain, but I thought the scotchbroom was a nice touch.

Look at that dazzling light ... so tempting, yet so cold .

I’m going to miss seeing fern trees everywhere.

We reached Onetahuni Beach, where a sign informed us that we’d have to wait to cross the adjacent Richardson Stream until three hours before or after low tide. This meant two hours waiting on the beach, but as Bernie put it, if we had to be stranded somewhere, there were worse places to have to wait.

Other than these guys, the beach really was deserted.

So we spent a good two hours eating, napping, and playing in the sand. When we woke up, the group of American girls had caught up with us. After Bernie tested the waters packless, she determined it was safe to cross, albeit with a bit of a current. So, shoeless and feeling a bit like characters on the Oregon Trail game, we crossed the raging rapids.

Unfortunately, our delay caused us to miss our water taxi across the Awaroa Inlet, but we took a short break there anyway to both rest and enjoy the view.

We walked alongside the murky Awaroa Inlet for about an hour until we reached the Awaroa Hut, where lo and behold, the American girls also were! They’d initially planned on sleeping in the Awaroa campsite, but that would require them to cross the inlet around 5am the next morning. But before crossing we checked out the (quite nice) hut and its guestbook (at least two other Washingtonians! Woot) and were approached for the first time by a DOC employee, who asked to see confirmation thatwe ’d booked our sites. Then the seven of us crossed our second river of the day. This took much longer than the first one, as it was much wider, and in my case, much more painful on my bare feet with what seemed like acres of sharp shells. It was at this point I regretted not bringing jandals. Oh yes, and it was here the sandflies came to feast, despite using much of Bernie’s insect repellent.

At long last we reached the other side, and the second we were out of the sun it became clear it was getting late in the day. This prompted Bernie and me to get to our campsite, Waiharakeke, in 20 minutes rather than the sign’s suggested 40. By then it was after 5pm, the latest we’d reached any of our campsites, so we immediately started boiling water for dinner and setting up the tent the moment we arrived. Dinner consisted of macaroni and cheese with sausages. Unfortunately I literally spilled the (powdered) milk so the mac and cheese was a bit watery, but by the time it was ready we were in the dark and ready for anything hot. This was the only campground without a kitchen shelter, and also the most exposed, so we felt the cold much more than the other nights. The plus side was that we had an incredible view of what seemed like hundreds of stars, the sound of the ocean, and a great moonrise. Of course, cameras never do justice to the moon, but I tried.

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Here comes the sun

Day 3 – August 30

The next morning we resumed tramping, and since it was going to be our shortest day in terms of ground covered, we opted to take the inland track.

Anchorage Bay from above

The inland track took a bit longer than the coastal track and involved steeper inclines, but also led to Cleopatra Pools; that is, this place:

Nature-made slide! I totally would have gone down it, too, if only the water hadn’t been freezing.

For the second consecutive day, Bernie and I swore we’d go swimming. To be fair, we got closer today, about waist-deep. Well, actually, Bernie got about shoulder-deep, but not intentionally. Those rocks were slippery. Oliver chickened out and waited for us on the rocks.

Almost immediately after we got dressed and resumed our tramp, the most incredible thing happened – the sun came out! It felt like I was seeing a whole new Abel Tasman, the way it was meant to be seen.

The last photo is of the view from Torrent Bay, where we lunched. We ran into a woman there who was walking her adorable Pekinese named Mouse. She warned us not to be discouraged by the upcoming steep hill, as the rest of the trail was relatively easy. She also told us that just after said hill, we could get cell phone reception, which proved useful as Bernie could text her parents that we were still alive. We passed through Torrent Bay “Township” – about 40 homes – and after the treacherous hill we were treated not only with phone reception but this view:

The rest of the afternoon was simply more tramping, though we did take a few quick breaks along the way, which produced the following photos:

Before long we reached our first and only suspension bridge of the trip, crossing Falls River. It wasn’t quite so terrifying as some of the Atiwhakatu ones, and offered some great views.

Around 3:10 we reached Bark Bay, our campsite for the night. Shortly after we arrived at Bark Bay, the group of American girls we’d met the previous day showed up. They wound up being our only neighbours for the night, so Bernie was the only Kiwi among us.

The little grove of trees where we set up camp. The trees made great clotheslines.

Since it was sunny and we’d reached the campsite earlier than the day before, Bernie and I thought we might try once more to go swimming. Yet the beckoning turquoise waters were still just as freezing cold, so we took pictures instead.

Our home for the night, sandwiched between Sandfly Bay and Mosquito Bay ... yeah.

After cooking butter chicken for dinner and checking the tide timetable for the next day, we went to bed, once again, relatively early. Camping has a way of doing that, eh? There’s not much incentive to stay up when it’s dark and/or cold.

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Well, hey, Abel Tasman. Nice to meet you.

Day 2 – 29 August

After an early morning bus, we arrived in Marahau, where the driver dropped us off at the beginning of the Abel Tasman track. Bernie and I had a quick breakfast and noticed the “One Lane Bridge” painted on the road had been altered:

The tramp started off with a bridge over a marshy area, where we found some creative messages:

We passed a few people but mostly had the trail to ourselves. Fortunately today was the only day it rained on the trip, and even that was pretty minor for this Washingtonian.

At Appletree Bay

I still don’t know how she fit everything inside her bag. I had three bags added outside mine, which made fitting through doors interesting.

Our lunch stop, Stillwater Bay

Our lunch buddy, whom Bernie named Andy. He was a persistent little bugger.

We arrived in Anchorage about 2pm and set up our humble abode.

This campsite offered heaps of grass and probably had the most privacy of the three we stayed at, with trees everywhere. Surprisingly, it also had flush toilets, but we were to discover all of the sites did. The DOC really takes care of its campers!

In case you were curious to see the ground we covered. Woot for maps. That “Astrolabe Roadstead” is the area we stopped for lunch.

Despite the overcast day, Bernie and I determinedly changed into our togs and attempted to swim. She was braver than me, and got knee-deep in the freezing water. We quickly returned in warmer clothing, armed with cameras, to explore the giant C-shaped beach and its wildlife.

These guys were terrified of us, but proved to be quite the comedians.

The underside of the strangest shaped starfish I’ve ever seen. It was more like a pentagon.

And its other side

In case you were wondering ... but the American helped a little, too.

Spidery starfish

And a more symmetrical one

And its spiky exterior

Crab skeleton

At the other end of the beach, we found some stones that sailors apparently carved the names of their boats into. Here are a few:

Since carving in the stone seemed like hard work, we improvised.

Our stomachs let us know it was time for dinner, so we headed back to camp. The campground had a nice-sized kitchen shelter which protected us from the wind and provided ample countertops, five sinks, and a tap of drinkable water. Bernie made hot chocolate, spaghetti and chilli con carne. It was very spicy and equally delicious, probably my favourite dinner of the trip. While cooking we met our neighbours, five American girls studying at Otago University in Dunedin, and a young couple from Czechoslovakia.

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Half the Fun is

Day 1 – 28 August

Today marked the beginning of my trip to Abel Tasman National Park with Bernie! It began with a morning bus to Wellington, which was a route I’d taken with my parents in July but it still offered gorgeous, quintessentially New Zealand scenery (rolling green hills, sheep, cows, you get the idea).

In Wellington, I met up with Bernie and we took the ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton. Of course, living near the Puget Sound I’ve been on ferries before, and it was a familiar comfort to be on the decks, blown around by the wind.


Seattle? Nope.


Hello, Picton!


Our time out on the decks chilled us a bit, so we went inside to play cards and splurged on the overpriced cafeteria’s hot chocolate and potato wedges. Fortunately the latter were piping hot and served with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce …

Once we’d docked, Bernie and I had a bit of time to kill so we wandered around the small, quaint town of Picton.

Giant coconut trees. I know.


A WWI memorial, I assume.


A bit of history for you.


Immature of me? Absolutely. Still funny.


We also stopped at their Four Square market, where I found these capsicums:

Granted, this was the price per kilogram, not per vegetable. Still, I think I’ll stop complaining about Pak ‘N Save’s $4 capsicums …

Our evening bus to Nelson was a little over two hours but felt much longer with the noisy high school students next to us. One even asked me, when he found out I was American, how New Zealand teenagers differed from American ones. I gave him a tactful, noncommittal answer that nicely suppressed what I felt like saying without actually lying.

Our YHA in Nelson was the first one I’d ever stayed in, though I’d been in a few, and I definitely would recommend the company to anyone wanting cheap accommodation in New Zealand. They certainly beat out campervans in terms of space, kitchens, and showers. You also meet other international people bitten by the travel bug. Bernie and I had one roommate, Julia, from Austria. As it turned out, she was on our bus the next morning, so all three of us went to bed relatively early.

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Abel Tasman

I realised I had enough content for two blog posts today, namely in the areas of my upcoming trip and Kiwi culture facts I’ve been accumulating for a few weeks, so here goes round two!

First up, my friend Bernie and I are spending a few days at Abel Tasman National Park, one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks,” and as you’ll see in the link, it was also ranked the top Kiwi “must-do” by AA, a New Zealand tourism company. I’ve even been told by a few people that Abel Tasman is their favourite place in the world. Needless to say, I’m excited for this trip!

After a ferry ride and two buses, we’ll spend four days tramping and tent camping, then take a water ferry from Totaranui to Kaiteriteri. We’ll make it back to Palmy on September 3, so you won’t be hearing from me until then at the earliest.

Here’s a map of the area we’ll be tramping, to give you a visual idea of our trip:

We're starting in Marahau and ending in Totaranui

And now for the Kiwisms:

  • Hard out/full on = all out, completely
  • Chinese Whispers = that Telephone game we all played at middle school sleepovers
  • Chur = great (as far as I can tell), usually used in isolation
  • Stubbies = short shorts
  • Mean = cool
  • Monobrow = unibrow
  • Cuppa = cup of tea (used to distinguish the “tea” that means “dinner”)
  • Trolley = shopping cart
  • Good as gold = good, great
  • Shock-horror = sarcastic horror. I pick this one up occasionally. I blame Suzie.
  • Hooping cough = whooping cough
  • Primus = a miniature portable stove used to boil water, usually for camping
  • Billy = the pot used on top of the Primus
  • Gave me a fright = scared me
  • She’ll be right = it’ll be alright
  • Diary = agenda, schedule
  • Flash = fancy, cool
  • Fairy floss/candy floss = cotton candy
  • Fortnight = two weeks
  • And finally, my friend Thurza mentioned how Kiwis have a tendency to add a “k” onto words that end in “-ing,” and now I hear it everywhere, i.e. “somethingk.”

In other news, for the first time in decades, Palmy got significant snow! Snow is nothing big for me; I’ve lived in Spokane. But some people here had never seen snow, and it was enough to turn us all into little kids. It definitely brought me back to making snow tunnels in the field behind our house with my brother and his friends, and coming home to find Mom had made us hot chocolate.

Mary, me and Suzie enjoying the snow

The pasture by the Moginie car park

Now how's this for a contradiction?

The snow must have damaged the power lines, because later that night we had two power outages. I love power outages. They always bring people together, proxemically and otherwise. And in this case, it forced me to stop watching the news online and get to my homework.

I’ll be in Abel Tasman all next week, so have a lovely next few days (and a lovely break if you’re a Massey student) and I’ll post pictures soon after!


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