Wet, Wild and Wow
20.03.2013 - 23.03.2013 17 °C
We stayed in mini cabins on a campsite in the tiny village of Marahau (population 75) on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. We arrived in the evening after a day of travelling first by ferry then by bus through the wine producing Marlborough region. It was a beautiful day and, although it was a shame to have spent it in transit, the views along the way had been spectacular. Before dinner I wandered down to a boardwalk that made up the start of the famous costal walk and admired the view - the beach was vast and scattered with birds, shelving gradually out to flat, calm sea of the Tasman Bay that, surrounded by mountains on all sides with the Marlborough Sounds merging into the clouds in the distance, looked like a lagoon. We ate a barbecue dinner and, after spending time with friends over the last few weeks, it was good to be back in a group of backpackers and I began to feel more like a traveller again as opposed to a house guest.
I was sharing a cabin with a Québécoise by the name of Sophie - both our alarms sounded at 7.30am and we tramped across the wet grass in the chilly morning air to the shower block. Five of us had booked to take a sailboat out on the water that would drop us off on a beach after a few hours so that we could join the costal path and trek back to Marahau. Unfortunately it wasn't the greatest day for sailing, the previous day's good weather seemed to have passed by and it was overcast yet relatively still meaning that it was slow sailing. But we saw seals playing in the water and passed some beautiful beaches along the way as we sat wrapped up warm aboard the catamaran before being dropped off at Angkorage Bay where we ate lunch and paddled in the water before setting off for the twelve kilometre walk back to Marahau. After an initial climb, it was a flat but winding walk that afforded occasional glimpses of the sea and many opportunities to stop at various bays along the way back - unfortunately the weather was not permitting so we marched on and instead visited the the beach back near the campsite for an attempt at swimming. However, after wading out over two hundred meters into the water we were still only waist deep so we gave up and instead went to Fat Tui, a local burger joint for dinner.
There we ate burgers topped with bacon, cheese, pineapple, egg, cous cous, coleslaw, relish and a ton of salad. They were too big to fit in our mouths, decidedly unladylike to devour and completely delicious. In fact, despite having been in New Zealand for under a week, I seemed to have eaten an inordinate number of burgers. When helping me plan my trip around NZ , Ruben had insisted that I visited a couple of burger places including Fat Tui but it seemed that I was doing a veritable burger tour of NZ. And so far it was going pretty well; having weighed myself at Victoria and Tim's, I'd discovered that I'd put on just a little 'holiday weight' (and lost a great deal of muscle tone), in fact less that to be expected, but that was part of the cause - I was more that happy to get a little bit fat and squishier whilst travelling the world in exchange for eating great food (and drinking too much New Zealand wine) (although 'go to the gym' had recently overtaken 'find job' and 'find house' on the 'Things to do when I get home' list). And so the burger sampling would continue.
I spent the rest of the evening with a large group of Germans who all spoke English and moaned about how many other Germans they were meeting whilst travelling. I'd experienced a similar number of Germans but as a big fan of German people I was loving it. The next morning we all left to travel down the west coast. And, disappointingly, in stark contrast with the previous day, the weather was beautiful. There were blue skies and barely a cloud as we drove south.
The west coast of NZ's South Island, despite being renowned for being the wettest region of the country, had suffered a summer-long drought but in spite of that it was still beautifully green and against the backdrop of the clear blue sky, no one minded that we were spending such a beautiful day on the road. The coastal road was winding in parts and I was glad not to be driving and just to be able to appreciate the scenery as it was utterly indescribable. The farther south we travelled the longer the beaches, all of them deserted, untouched with long waves lapping pristine volcanic sand. And this went on and on for miles from one beach to the next. I found myself wishing I was camping and could just pitch up here for days. There was barely anyone around, the roads were quiet and the beaches empty - what a great place to lose oneself for a while...
But unfortunately, due to flight constraints, I had no time for being a lost soul on a west coast beach and so I continued the journey towards Franz Josef. En route south, out of necessity, we spent the night at possibly the West Coast's least inspiring destination, Blackball, where we stayed at the only hotel, Formerly The Blackball Hilton, so named as apparently a certain hotel chain were a bit miffed by its previous name. And rightly so as the service was shoddy, the staff rude and the facilities poor. But we made the most of it for a night (some more than others as they engaged in a spot of cross dressing in the bar).
The next morning I visited the limited sights of Blackball, a former mining down now practically deserted, on foot during a morning jog. There wasn't a whole lot to see and, even at 8.30 on a Saturday morning, the place was completely asleep.
It was drizzly and the mist hung low between the mountains as we left Blackball, the previous day's good weather seemingly having vanished.
We continued to Greymouth, an aptly named grey and rainy town where we visited a supermarket and a coffee shop in heavy drizzle before leaving as swiftly as possible. Whilst the weather was far from ideal at the start of the journey, we were treated o intermittent clear skies and the scenery en route continued to amaze; there were crystal clear streams, snow capped mountains, rainforest and clear seas. There may not be a whole lot to 'do' on the west coast but it was certainly an incredible place.
En route to Franz Josef, a small town near the glacier, a few of the group booked to do a skydive upon arrival. Having seen photos of my expression whilst dropping four metres during white water rafting, and the fact that I'm generally 'phobic' of everything, I knew that sky diving wasn't for me. But the more I though about it, the more I knew that I'd regret not trying it. This was apparently a trip of a life time and I'd intended to do 'everything'. And whilst you wouldn't catch me bungee jumping anytime soon, I too signed up for a skydive... although just the little one at only 12,000ft! Passing through Hokiika and Harihari along the way, the weather was beautiful still but unfortunately (?) by the time we arrived in Franz Joseph that evening the weather had deteriorated and our sunset skydive had been cancelled. I was obviously relieved but also, having spent the afternoon psyching myself up for it, surprisingly disappointed and so, being nothing if not determined, I made it my mission to jump out of an aeroplane before leaving New Zealand.