Monthly Archives: September 2014

Marlborough Sounds to Golden Bay

We juggled our travels to walk a couple of days on the Queen Charlotte walkway in brilliant sunshine and of course ended up setting off in the rain. We caught a boat out to the start and had the bonus of a pod of dusky dolphins fishing on the way. We set off up the hill with all the views shrouded by rain and ourselves getting wetter and wetter. It was a case of keep on walking to the campsite for a late lunch and watch the weather clear and draw us back to the lookout we had bypassed.

The sun shone for us the next day and we got the promised views of blue water in the many inlets. The track was very easy as it sidled round every hill but gave us numerous viewpoints. Our boat ride came early and we could relax back at the van.

Our next destination was off the tourist route in the Marlborough Sounds as we headed out to French Pass where the tide raced through a gap between an island and the mainland. The drive was super scenic with views down to various bays and inlets and finishing on a ridge top overlooking green folded farmland. The sunrise overlooking the boats in the bay was superb.

We were heading for Abel Tasman NP to do part of another Great Walk (the less popular northern end) and visited some of the local sights along the way. We saw two springs – one of which emerged from a hole in the hill and one which bubbled up in an enormous blue pool. Another walk took us to Harwoods Hole, an enormous limestone cavern entrance. As we passed one farm the cows were walking themselves back to their paddock after milking. They have well trained animals in NZ – we saw dogs moving sheep by themselves in the North Island.

We walked over the hill to a hut that was an old farmhouse and very picturesque. We then returned around the coast to get the fabled views of golden sand and blue water in the sunshine.
Back at camp at Totaranui we fought the vicious sand flies to enjoy the coastal scenery but weren’t tempted to swim by the icy water. The locals are all out en masse to catch whitebait, a local delicacy. We were surprised at how tiny they were. If they caught a cup full they thought they were doing well.

The next day was a smorgasbord of limestone features. First up was the scenic Wainui Falls, followed by a The Grove, an area of huge jumbled limestone blocks covered with vegetation and roots reaching down the ground. The final spectacle was a huge cavern mouth festooned with millions of stalactites decorated with moss and algae.

The west coast was beckoning in the lovely weather where we managed to collect the right tide and sunset at Whaririki Beach. We explored the tunnels, admired the frolicking seal pups in the pools and captured the setting sun over the famed Archway Islands.

The sights to be seen were amongst the sheep studded farmland including Cape Farewell and Farewell Spit. There were lambs everywhere, often twins, and some very young newborns.

We drove along a scenic back road that took us along the shores of Whanganui Inlet. It was full of bays with the road crossing on causeways as the water pours through pipes and bridges as the tide rises and falls. We returned the next day at a different timing of the tide to see a very different picture. Lots of fishers of whitebait were camped down this road – it’s a big kiwi pastime.

Last of the North and first of the South

After getting the van serviced and rewarranted we took a last look at the North Island at Tongaparutu River, a coastline studded with arches and formations. Unfortunately the weather and tide was against and we couldn’t do justice to this stunning location.

We revisited Waitanguru Falls that we had previously seen in flood and were now flowing more sedately.

Some typical New Zealand countryside and more coastal scenery had us down to Wellington and ready to embark across the calm Cook Strait for the next part of our trip. We had picture postcard weather for the impressive sail through the Marlborough Sounds.

We took a winding, little travelled, scenic route around the coast to find our own little gems before heading inland next to and then high above one of the famed New Zealand rivers with their wide gravelled beds. I was glad Ray was driving for the hair raising drive into the back country to visit New Zealand’s only slot canyon.  It was a three kilometre walk in which I thought wouldn’t take long except it was all along the river bed with numerous crossings of the icy cold and often fast flowing stream. We finally arrived at the impressive slot that is taller than it is long and waded through to view it from all angles.

We carried on down the Kaikoura coastline for yet more encounters with seals, some close up and unconcerned by the close proximity of humans and others having a lovely time in the rock pools well out reach. We were stunned by the dramatic beauty of the snow capped Kaikoura mountains towering just above the sea.