Abel Tasman totally Missed Australia and Ran into New Zealand Instead
The road from Nelson to Motueka is a nice relaxing drive through rural and semi rural countryside. If you are into gleaning (that’s finding free food) this is the place for it. We picked up “found” apples, pears and stonefruit on roadside trees.
There was also a ready supply of vegetables on sale at little stalls in front of homes. This usually involves an honesty box but they are so cheap I would hope that everyone would actually pay the price. Some of this fruit lasted for a couple of weeks and I was stewing apples for breakfast with yoghurt right up till we left the country. Make the most of the abundance as you will save yourself a bit of money by stocking up.
As it’s a major fruit growing area with lots of picking work in season, there is a good supply of backpacker accommodation. Be discerning however, this was one of the places where I really wasn’t entirely happy with our accommodation. We had booked into the White Elephant (that should have been enough of a warning) and all the reviews were ok. It’s a huge old house on the edge of the town with an amazing garden. Smoking in proximity to the guest house is an issue to me and know matter how many times I asked the same people not to smoke outside our bedroom window they just kept doing it. The other big problem was the fact that that there is no one in charge inside the house at night and it is a big house with lots of guests. Finding a guest conducting a head shaving business in the bathroom at 11.30 pm was annoying but you had to applaude his entrepreneurial spirit. The fact their newly shawn head for some reason gave them a sense of freedom that caused them to frolick loudly through the corridors till around 12.00pm was a bit hard to handle. I couldn’t help seeing the similarity to how sheep behave once they are let out of the shearing shed once they are shawn, kicking their legs, head butting each other and baaing loudly. I suppose it is New Zealand after all.
We didn’t hang around once we had booked in and headed out of town to Tarkaka, a small town in the Golden Bay area of the far North West. To get there, like everywhere else in the South Island, you had to drive up and over a dirty big hill. To give you an idea it’s really only about 54 km in distance but it takes between 1 hour and 1 1/4 hours to get there.
Tarkaka is a funny little town set in a magical valley and is easily compared to Nimbin in Northern N.S.W. ( near Byron Bay). I only knew about it cause I had spoken to another traveller on my last visit to NZ and was significantly intrigued to eventually get there, I’m glad to say it was well worth the trip. There’s more than just the town though, scattered through the valley are artist studios, stunning coastline, the obligatory beautiful mountain scenery and great cafe’s. The day we were there, which was a friday, a small market had been set up in a park, selling nice handmade items but more importantly there were fantastic food options that were very affordable. We bought a french crepe to share ( plenty for two females) stuffed with great fresh fillings and it only cost us $4.00 each.
Back in Motueka we spent the evening at Toad Hall, a lovely little old public building. By day it is an organic grocer and cafe but at night the garden outside transforms into a pop up beer garden, complete with festoon lights and wood fired pizza oven. Playing on the large raised stage was a local band called Tom Fields. They played a mix of music in a rousing folk style that totally complemented the fabulous pizza that we ordered and the bottle of nice South Island Pinot Noir. The Pizza only cost $15 and the wine was $25 for the bottle. So we got amazing entertainment, meal and wine for $20 each, fabulous.
The next day we drove the ten kilometres to the start of the Abel Tasman track, this is one of a series of tracks that wind through the Abel Tasman National Park. We chose a 7.5km section from the Abel Tasman Centre to Cyathea Cove. This was a reasonably easy section with some minor inclines. The track winds around the park, through forest and along cliff faces and can be accessed in a number of ways. We drove the the start of the track but we also met walkers, going the opposite direct, who had paid a water taxi to drop them at a certain point along the track. They would then be picked up from to the car park which was our starting point. After walking 2 hours we broke for lunch and a swim at 12.00. As I have said previously the Vacuum flask is a necessity. Sitting having a cup of tea and eating the sandwiches we had made, under the Rata and Pohutukawa trees you could imagine you were in Paradise.
And then you get bitten by a New Zealand Sand fly.
As you may or may not know there is a great sibling rivalry between Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealanders like to tell you that Australia has all the bitey things in the world and that is true. They also like to tell you that they don’t have any, this however is not. I will tell you more about NZ Sand flies another time, at this point let me just say they have the most annoying bite I have ever experience and believe me having grown up in Austalia I have been bitten by just about everything thing there is that can bite you with out killing you. So make sure you take insect repellant.
The Abel Tasman National Park was named after the Dutch explorer of the same name, who discovered the south island in 1642 purely because his ship was blown of course when he was trying to travel north. He had previous to that totally miss the great hulking mass that is Australia and only just spotted bottom of the tiny island of Tasmania, which he called Van Diemens Land.
We left Motueka the next morning (Sunday) having visited the market in town, stocked up on a bit more fruit and Veg and headed to the west coast.
* Take a pack lunch
* Always carry insect repellant
* Buy a coffee plunger in New World ($4.49)