After Picton, the intercity bus took us to our next destination: Nelson. I kept getting muddled between the two because they both sound like surnames.
We’d booked two beds in a dorm room (my favourite!) as things over here are starting to get really jam-packed over the post-Christmas period. This means that I’ve got a billion nights camping and dorm rooming before we leave NZ. Can’t complain too much because I’ve mastered the art of the power nap, and sleeping on the bus.
i really really like the South Island so far. For some reason the North Island feels very similar to the UK, but just with less people and more of the good scenery. The South feels much different. There are even less people, and the scenery is on a massive scale, it’s absolutely stunning and hard to put into words.
Anyway, I digress. Two nights in Nelson in a cool hostel. Millions of people, but there was a pool, and parked at the back of the pool was a huge vintage green bus. Inside was the TV room, and a big bookcase! Heaven! I asked Tom if when I win the Euromillions I could get a reading/TV bus for our garden, but then we figured out it’d probably be a bit cold. Oh well.
The hostel also kindly offered a free “vegetable soup” in the evenings. “Vegetable soup” is in inverted commas because it doesn’t deserve the proper title… We queued up dutifully, holding our bowls. Meanwhile, a box of bread was placed on the table, and I’ve never seen anything like it. A bun fight pretty much broke out. The “vegetable soup” was some unwashed, unpeeled raw potatoes chopped up in hot yellow water. The water swirled and separated into yellow powder and water, a bit like when you stir a muddy puddle. Basically, they’d put some potato in a pan, added water and an entire tub of curry powder then served it up. Inedible. We felt bad for wasting food so I suggested politely pouring it back in the pan, but in the end we had to just hide it haha.
The rest of time in Nelson was mainly spent preparing for our trek in the Abel Tasman National Park.
New Zealand has many of what they call “The Great Walks.” We’d already tackled one in the North Island – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that we both absolutely loved, so we were eager to get our teeth into the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (ATCT)
The idea with the ATCT is that you take around four days to hike the whole coastline, stopping to camp or stay overnight in the huts along the route. Each campsite has a set number of spaces, and unfortunately we’d left it too late to book the whole route. Luckily the chap in the Wellington tourist info suggested we book two available nights in the campsite at the very top of the track and plan some walks around there. So what we did in the end was to get a shuttle bus to the start of the track, and then a water taxi to the last boat stop, hike three hours to the campsite. We’d then stay two nights, hike the area and then back down to the place where we were dropped off.
The water taxi was great up to Totornui, with stunning scenery: orange beaches and blue sea in front of huge green hillsides. We tried to pack as light as possible, but it wasn’t easy – we needed our tent, sleeping bag and mats, and enough food to last the trip. Special shout out to Thomas Copley for being an absolute angel and carrying the heavy gear whilst I was in charge of food and water!
The first day’s walk was absolutely beautiful. Mostly you are plodding up and down the forrest tracks, in the shade which worked well as it was a scorching day. The track then opens out onto the beaches, which make great lunch spots hehe. We walked pretty slowly as the gear was quite heavy and we were hot. Lots of folk overtook us, but I was happy to be slow and enjoy the scenery. It was so calm and peaceful.
We finally arrived at the camp ground and were happy to dump our bags. I was a bit apprehensive about the first night sleeping in the tent…. The hut at the Whariwharangi (far ree far rang gi) campsite was a house from the 1800s where a family lived off the land. It was pretty awesome because although there was a proper bog (phew!) and running filtered water, there was no electricity, which meant it felt like it was unchanged and it was really fun imagining the family strolling around in their Victorian clothes and shooting the wildlife.
I was originally gutted that we couldn’t stay in the hut, but when I went and looked inside, I was relieved we weren’t! There was some kind of bizarre bed situation – one really really wide bed where about ten people would sleep side by side…. my worst nightmare! Imagine waking up with a stranger’s head on your pillow… Eurgh.
Well we set up camp, and it was quite exciting. There were these weird birds everywhere called “weka” or as we referred to them as “veloceraptor bastards.” The walk so weirdly, like dinosaurs. They circle your tent looking for food and watched one try to get its entire beak around our water bottle. Very funny but irritating at the same time. One pecked my toe whilst I was sat on a picnic bench and I jumped about a foot in the air.
For tea we walked back to the idilic bench we had spotted on the way to the campiste. We had a Ruth Shepherd patented corned beef party. (Bread, corned beef and a sparkling beverage…. well we had luke warm water, but it was still good.)
We watched the sunset with the beach to ourselves, which I’ll never forget.
Then got into bed to be surrounded by the sound of SNORERS. I HATE PEOPLE WHO SNORE!!!!!!!! There was also an Israeli couple next to us who had no concept of whispering and just shouted at eachother all night. It was uncomfortable. I fell asleep and woke up what felt like every five minutes to move position because it was so uncomfortable. My hair was everywhere and I was freezing and the sleeping bag we decided to share was pure nylon so I was just sweating and the sleeping bag kept falling off and I was being eaten alive by some kind of biting insect and I needed a wee all night but didn’t want to get out of bed to go to the toilet. Then we were awoken by the dawn chorus of birds that sounded like we were in a zoo and then loads of bloody children started chasing each other round the tent. I overheard the man in the tent next to us saying “children are worse than dealing with ISIS” which really made me laugh. Anyway. Rant over. No sleep was had but it doesn’t matter because we were sleeping under the stars in paradise.
The next day we enjoyed a muesli bar breakfast and then headed off on a two hour walk to a different beach. More beautiful scenery and stunning weather. We had some more corned beef sandwiches for lunch and had a nap on the beach. I’m getting really good at this power-napping business now. Then we walked back to the campsite. After a little rest we decided to do another walk. One of my toes had a blister that surrounded the entire digit. After wrapping it up, we headed on a walk to “Separation Point.”
This was mildly hilarious because we walked for two hours to the point which was just a tiny cliff that had some plastic gannets on it and was playing a recording of gannet sounds…. We just looked at each-other.
We then went on to a cove called Mutton Cove which was actually home to a load of seals, not sheep. It was so cool seeing the seals. They were doing this weird thing where they go in the shallows and wave a flipper at you. I love how big and lumbering they are when out of the water, yet so graceful in the sea. We also saw a big fat one who was barking on a rock, and sounded like a huge dog.
We stomped back to the campsite, and Tom introduced me to his camping special – tinned ravioli, cold from the can, and surprisingly yummy! We got ready for bed and it started to piss it down. It rained all night but luckily this served to silence the birdies, and our stuff remained relatively dry. I was very impressed with our little 15 quid tent! We both slept better, and I felt a lot more human on waking the next day.
The next morning we packed up and began our walk back to the water taxi stop. I was sad to leave the park because it was an amazing experience. New Zealand is definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen so far, and we both feel so lucky to be here. I felt so relaxed to have a few days off the grid and under the stars. I think it’s good for you, and, despite the camping bit, I do want to do it more!