North End of South Island

3 March, 2015 – Ferry and Drive to Motueka

Trish gave me a ride to the ferry terminal where I caught the Interislander to Picton. I spent much of the three-hour trip sorting my Wellington photos. From Picton, I rented an old Nisson and took the scenic route to Motueka. When they handed me the keys, I instinctively headed to the left side of the car; the lack of a steering wheel reminded me to enter on the right. Fortunately, I left town quickly, so it wasn’t too challenging to stay on the left side of the road. However, I kept turning on the windshield wipers whenever I wanted to signal. It’s a good thing the brake and accelerator aren’t reversed or I’d be in big trouble.

I stopped just past Nelson to visit WOW, the World of Wearable art and collectible cars, an interesting combo. It was late afternoon when I arrived at the Laughing Kiwi, the hostel where I’m staying. I have a private room with a bath and access to a large kitchen. I took a stroll through town, grabbed a falafel salad for dinner, and headed back to the hostel to finish my Wellington blog post.

4 March, 2015 – Abel Tasman National Park

A bus picked me up and took me to Kaiteriteri to catch a water taxi. It was about 45 minutes late, but fortunately they held the boat for us. (Though this wasn’t a Naked Bus, several people getting around with that company’s buses tell me that they are late more often than not). The water taxi shuttled me up the coast so I could hike a four-hour slice of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, from Bark Beach to Anchor Cove.

Much of the track is cut into the hillside right through the forest above the coast. The 11 km (almost 7 miles) section that I did was relatively easy with rolling ups and downs. There were often ocean vistas through the trees. I heard more beautiful calls of unseen birds and the ever-present cicadas. The forecast rain never materialized and I spent the day in shorts and short-sleeves. I had lunch with a nice couple from New Hampshire, escaping their horrendous winter. I reached Anchor Beach in time to stroll barefoot on the gritty golden sand and cool my feet in the water before the boat returned to pick us up.

When I got back to the hostel, I soaked in the hot tub and ate deli food for dinner. It was pleasant enough to sit outdoors and putter on my laptop until 9:00.

5 March, 2015 – Near the Spit

The drive from Motueka north to the end of the road takes about two hours. Incredulously this windy road is signed for 100 kph (62 mph). It slowly dawned on me that this is the maximum, attainable in only a few straight stretches, and drivers are expected to use good judgment. When I reached the car park for Wharariki Beach, there were only a few cars in the lot; it was full when I left a couple hours later. Wow, what a beautiful beach! I thoroughly enjoyed the walk to and along the beach, photographing rock stacks, birds, and sand dunes.

Afterwards, I stopped at Cape Farewell, the northernmost point on the island and enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking an interesting rock formation. On my way back I stopped in Takata for a decaf latte and a short detour to the Grove Scenic Reserve, a small park with sculpted limestone formations covered with the vine-like roots of Northern Rata trees. It felt like a cross between a jungle and a palm tree oasis.

New Zealand has much in common with Northern California. In addition to golden hills, drought, and a beautiful coast, it had a gold rush (right after ours), it has earthquakes, invasive plants (they have our Monterey Pine), and in both cases, Europeans displaced native peoples. Except in NZ’s case, Māori is one of three official languages, the third being New Zealand Sign Language.

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