Abel Tasman and One of those days

Abel Tasman

This morning before starting another long drive I try to check the oil on my campervan after reading in the lease agreement that is something I should be periodically doing. The problem is I can’t find the engine. I’ve never owned or even driven a vehicle like this before. When I open the front hood it is all nonsense inside. Finally I ask a stranger at a gas station. He tells me he isn’t really familiar with the van but he thinks the engine is under the passenger seat. What?!?

Sure enough it is.

Looky there

After checking I am back on the road but I make a pit stop at a park where I read about my favorite bugs (sarcasm).

Apparently I am the filet mignon of humans

I am heading to the north coast and my destination is Abel Tasman. I have a reservation for two nights at a campervan site near the water.

Abel Tasman at low tide

The drive to Abel Tasman is twice as long as the estimate is. Once again I did not sleep well in my van last night so I am tired. Also it is really stressful driving on the steep winding roads heading into the Abel Tasman National Park; traffic is bad and cars ride my tail. I normally pull over to let faster cars pass but there is no shoulder for me to safely pull over. To top it all off I can’t find a place to buy gas that will accept my credit card and I am running really low on gasoline. I stop at a gas station one after another, each spaced far apart, and none of them are able to accept my credit card. I am almost at my campsite and when I discover the gas station nearby will not work as well so I have a mini panic attack.

I know a panic attack about finding gas sounds silly but I am pretty worn down and stressed out at this point. I turn around and end up driving to another town to find a gas station; thank goodness my van made it. This gas station has an attendant where I can make my purchase. I buy gas and three candy bars because I can’t decide if I want crisped rice chocolate, almond chocolate, or chocolate with peanuts so I just buy them all. Isn’t that what you do when you have a panic attack?

I decide that tonight would be a good time to spend some money on a hotel room. I just imagine getting to a crowded campsite with a bunch of screaming kids and end up getting into an argument with another traveler being very inconsiderate (something that tends to happen at these campsites time to time).

So that’s how I end up at a motel tonight. Hopefully I get a good nights rest and I am up for a hike because I’ve been looking forward to a day hike, I just wasn’t looking forward or expecting the crowds. But it is Monday so maybe it won’t be quite as bad tomorrow.

For tonight I have my candy bars ready and decide to go for some delicious veggie pizza at Sprig & Fern Motueka. It is really great veggie pizza. You can tell the vegetables are cooked fresh. Pizza and chocolate makes the world better, right?

Abel Tasman

Today I am doing a hike at Abel Tasman National Park. I wasted a day yesterday so I can’t do as long of a hike as I originally anticipated doing.

Abel Tasman National Park is named after a Dutch settler who had a battle with the local residents. Settlers eventually destroyed the area for logging, etc. They also tricked the native population into giving up their land.

In the mid 1900’s the land was preserved and turned into a park. Now it is a beautiful haven for day hikers, campers, and kayakers. One can spend days hiking from location to location while staying at different campsites.

I am only prepared for day hikes and fortunately there is a water shuttle to assist in that.

Waiting for my water shuttle:

My plan today is to take the shuttle from Kaiteriteri beach to get dropped off at Anchorage and hike back part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track to pick up the return shuttle at Apple Tree Bay. I have the option of walking all the way back to my car if I am feeling real adventurous. This shuttle ride only goes half-way into the park. I could could go further and see other interesting walks; some only available at low tide. I chose the one I did because it seems easily doable by me and I don’t quite trust the New Zealand track rating system; Kiwis tend to be in way better shape than I.

Taking off to Anchorage:

Split apple rock

I have arrived at Anchorage. Upon arrival I see the overnight camp site. Being intrigued I peak in the dorm. There is a nice dorm area to take coverage in overnight. No technology but at least not left out in the elements. I am happy to use the composting toilet before I begin my hike.

Dorm bed building

I start off the hike confused because the directional sign points in the opposite direction from where I believe the trail should start. I guess it is ok because the trail starts by going uphill and across the peninsula and heads back the correct way.

As I walk up the trail I hear lots of bugs. They are very loud but fortunately they all leave me alone.

The first part of the trail is mostly uphill but is well covered by the trees. Soon the trail opens up to a great view. It is warmer up here but at least I can see the water below.

Looking back down the way I came
Looking down at Torrent Bay

It is warm but not too warm, almost perfect for hiking.

I keep track of all the directional signs to ensure I am still going the correct way.

If I want to make it back to my car I am looking at least 11 km walk.
They have the pine issue here as well.
I am getting close to water again

I stop at a pretty beach on Akersten Bay to take a break and eat my sandwich. Hikers can camp on this beach for the night. The trail to get down to the beach is a little steep, unstable and at the end I need to hop over a cute little stream.

Again the sign is pointing in the opposite direction for which I think it should.
But the beach is still on my left so I am good.
At Apple Tree Bay. Do I want to hike another 2.5 hours to my car?

I finally reach the beach where the shuttle will pick me up, Apple Tree Bay. It is only 5.5km or so to walk back to my car. I consider it while I rest on the beach. There are very few people on this beach. I watch a family with their kayaks stop here to rest.

I decide to go ahead and take the shuttle back. It is a nice ride back.

Abel Tasman is beautiful and peaceful (except the main beach on the weekend). I could spend a week here camping, hiking and kayaking. One more thing to love about New Zealand.

Punakaiki

Today I am heading further north. I am getting closer to ending my time on the south island of New Zealand. As I reach closer to the end I realize, as I have read in my planning, that I could have spent a month or more on just the south island alone. If I ever get a chance to return to this beautiful country then I still have so much more to see on my list.

But today I am spending the night in Punakaiki, famous for its blow holes and pancake rocks.

It was nice to sleep in a regular bed last night but tonight I am back at a campsite.

The campsite I am staying at, Punakaiki Beach Camp, is right off the beach. I don’t have a view of the beach but it is a short walk to the water. There are also great views of an interesting rock formation above.

View of campsite from the beach
Beach outside campsite

After I arrive I am hungry so I walk a couple blocks away and treat myself to a nice steak at Punakaiki Tavern outside at a cute patio.

After lunch I head up the road to see the famous rocks.

On my way I come across a cavern. I come to a crevice that seems like I would need to do some crawling to get access to the cave. Being by myself and no one else seemingly around I am too scared to explore further. Instead I just view the cave from the entrance. I wish I would have done research ahead of time because it looks pretty safe from the pictures online.

I continue up the hill toward the pancake rocks.

I have arrived at the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Track, a 1 km loop that lets you view some interesting vegetation, flat stacked limestone rocks and water blowholes. The blowholes occur at high tide when the water enters caverns and the compressed air causes a pop when the waves come in. I have arrived just in time for some of the blowing to occur.

Origins of the pancake rocks are uncertain but they are seemed to be formed by organizisms many millions of years ago.

One area to observe blowholes
Another blow hole
Another blowhole area
walking path
view in the distance
view of the park

Walk back down to camp.

As I walk back to camp I watch the sun start setting.

I climb over some rocks and watch the waves crash up against them for a while before I walk along the beach back to the campsite.

I am back at the campsite and go to the very busy camp kitchen to prepare my dinner. Most of the tables near the kitchen are occupied by families so I find an empty spot on the nearby lawn. It isn’t long before the blackflies start ruthlessly attacking me. It is a beautiful evening and I would love to sit outside with a glass of wine but the bites are too much. I try a little bug spray but it doesn’t do much to help. I head back to my van to hang out “indoors”. There are flies that have made their way in the van and they buzz around me, threatening to bite me throughout the night. I am hoping I can hide under a blanket and they die of starvation.

Before I head to sleep it does get pitch dark. Without the light pollution I can actually see many stars outside. It is almost as good as my time in Wadi Rum when I got to lay on my back and admire the skies. I would spend more time outside except I want a piece of my body left that hasn’t been attacked by bugs.

Good night.

Milford Sound

Today I am going on a day cruise of the famous Milford Sound in New Zealand. Milford Sound is a fiord – a slither of sea between high cliffs. The weather today is beautiful as can be but I am told it is hard to have a bad cruise….even if it is raining the resulting waterfalls are magical. I take lots of photos but unfortunately they don’t do justice. It is impossible to capture what I see, feel, and think while I am there.

In the morning I head down to the car park at Milford Sound area where the day cruises launch. There is a self pay machine for parking. There is free parking but further away so today I just pay. As I pay I am attacked by sandflies. There is a little shop in the visitors center where I pick up some bug spray. I hope it helps.

I have a little while before my cruise begins so I walk along the water. The views are amazing just from the short alone.

I head down to the pier to board for the cruise. Today’s cruise is a two and half hour cruise. It seems pretty short so I hope it is worth the overnight trip down here. Many come down here from Queenstown by coach for just a short day cruise. It seems like a super long day.

My cruise boat

As the cruise starts we are already are greeted with a nearby waterfall.

As we head further and further the views keep getting better.

I admire the sides of the cliffs.

We catch some seals in the sun. I am loving the colors on these rocks as well.

We start to see all the waterfalls along the sides. It is beautiful. Apparently when it rains you will see even more. I’ve been told it is magical.

The boat cruises up to the cliff and the waterfall pours onto the boat and into glasses. They let us taste the fresh waterfall water.

More waterfalls

We reach the end of the fiord. Beyond this point is the vast sea. We turn around at this point and head back.

We arrive back at the port. I walk around a bit more to take some more pictures before I head off to Queenstown.

Same view as earlier but brighter now!

I am not sure the pictures capture the feeling of the cruise but perhaps this short video will….

My drive to Queenstown has many stops so I’ll post more on that later.

Moeraki New Zealand Day 2

Today is my second day in Moeraki. On the agenda today is to go see the famous boulders on the beach then head back to Katiki Point to try to catch a sight of penguins again.

I enjoy the cooler weather with a yogurt, granola and banana with a coffee looking at the water below.

Yummy yogurt from the local store

I watch the boats heading out for a day’s fishing.

The best time to see the boulders is a low tide. Today that is scheduled at 11:30 am.

I walk along the road a little bit until I reach a now partially closed path. I take the Millennium track toward the beach. It seems like the track was longer in the past (closer to my holiday park) but erosion has made part of the trail unsafe. The brush is slightly overgrown. I am wishing I would have worn long pants today.

I finally make it to the beach where it is nice and calm. There are very few people on the beach but I do notice a dead seal. It is really sad to see. Luckily it has been removed before my walk back.

I make it down to Moeraki Boulders Beach to look at the unique boulders. The boulders were formed around 60 million years ago during the early Paleocene. They are now being uncovered due to coastal erosion.

I head up to the nearby café to order some fish chowder.

Moeraki Boulders Cafe

After lunch I walk back to the holiday park back along the beach.

I hop carefully from rock to rock to a secluded area. I savor the sounds of the ocean and birds. It is very calm here. I notice tide starting to rise. Not wanting to get “trapped” I head back the way I came. I think this probably used to be part of that now defunct track.

I notice different types of flowering plants on my walk back.

I relax for a little while before heading back to the Katiki Point to try to get some more penguin viewing. Today I end up seeing only one penguin.

He goes away from view for a while so I end up looking at some more seals.

The penguin moves uphill where I snap a couple more pictures.

I drive back to the campsite but first stop by the village to walk around. There isn’t much to the village but a pier and a nice restaurants. I have food to eat back at the campsite so I forgo the restaurant.

Cool campervan I see

Back at my campervan I set up a semi-healthy dinner. I make a large salad but can’t resist butter bread with this spectacular butter (I feel like an influencer now, they should be paying me).

I love my stop in Moeraki. If I had more time I would have checked out the nearby towns of Dunedin and Oamaru. Oamaru in particular has the Steampunk HQ: a funky museum of all things steampunk (a missed opportunity on the drive into Moeraki). I just kept missing the window of opening hours so I regret not stopping on the way. I think it would have been fun to visit.

Tomorrow I head further south to Te Anau to get closer to Milford Sound. Loving my visit to New Zealand so far.

Kaikoura, there she (doesn’t) blow

Train to Kaikoura

We take the train to Kaikoura today. We arrive at the station in Kaikoura and there is no uber and no regular taxis. There is only one guy with a passenger van who will give rides from the train station. He has a business card but doesn’t seem to be always available for rides. I arrange a ride in the morning to the dock for my whale watching boat (at the time I didn’t realize it is in walking distance from my hotel). Anyway, it is hard to get around here without a car unless you don’t mind walking a while.

The ride to Kaikoura is beautiful with an open air observation car at the back of the train (think cattle car).

Train station and whale watch office

Hotel in Kaikoura – Lobster Inn Motor Lodge

My aunt has a sunset kayak tour scheduled for the evening. We originally thought I would be joining her but I have done some damage to my shoulders while traveling. I am pretty sure ocean kayaking is not in the cards for me at this time. Unfortunately due to rough seas her tour gets cancelled for the evening. She hopes to do a paddle tomorrow sometime during the day instead.

We arrive early enough for lunch. We visit the cafe across the street where I get to try green-lipped mussels. They are large and quite tasty.

I go to bed early because I have an early morning boat ticket for whale watching tomorrow. Kaikoura is supposed to be a magnificent place to see whales and other sea animals.

There is a 6:45 arrival time for my tour, the first tour of the day. My driver drops me off on time at the office. Once I arrive I come to find out that both my cruise and the cruise scheduled immediately after is cancelled due to rough seas. There are people in line already to reschedule for a later time but most of the other times this morning are already booked. The only time I can reschedule is for the afternoon but doing so would make me miss our train ride that we have booked back to Christchurch. I am disappointed. I usually schedul multiple days in a location in case something like this happens but in this case I did not.

My aunt goes on her kayaking tour this morning as scheduled. I plan to meet up with her later in town. I decide to walk back to the motel from the whale office instead of trying to find the one taxi guy in town. It is a nice walk along the beach.

I spend a couple hours making some phone calls that are much needed to the USA. I have a short window to take care of business by phone since our days are their nights and vice-versa.

After I take care of things I walk down to town. It is a cute little town. I see signs for crayfish everywhere but I am too cheap to order it so instead I end up getting a huge fried flounder and chips at Strawberry Tree Kaikoura. While the fish below is quite tasty, I regret passing up the crayfish because later when I get serious about trying it before I leave New Zealand I end up paying even more for it and end up disappointed. It is probably much fresher in Kaikoura.

My aunt finally meets up with me and helps me finish the fish. She has a photo of the bones and asked if I wanted to post it but it isn’t pretty so I’ll forgo the photo.

We have a little more time to kill before we pick up our luggage so we visit the local museum Kaikōura Museum. It gives a little taste of the history of the area. There is a good exhibit that talks about the major earthquake that occurred in 2016. A great deal of damage had been done to the coast, roads and tunnels. It is said to have pushed the south island 5km closer to the north island.

We head back to get our luggage and then to the train. We are heading back to Christchurch to overnight before our day trip to Arthur’s Pass tomorrow.

Kaikoura is beautiful and I am very sad I didn’t get to see whales during my visit. If I ever make it back to New Zealand it is definitely on my list again – next time for more days.

Video of train ride to Kaikoura