New Zealand 8: Nelson / Abel Tasman

Our drive from Greymouth to Nelson took between 4 to 5 hours with a few pit stops included; a couple for toilet breaks alone (thankfully Claire seems to have as weak a bladder as I do so we’re not always stopping just for me!) and another for a good stretch in Murchison before switching over the driving. It was here I had my first taste of real fruit ice cream; quite popular in New Zealand – especially at rest stops – is blending real fruits (most of the time frozen) with either ice cream or frozen yogurt. I opted for a mix of blueberry (a long-time fave fruit of mine) and boysenberry (an NZ classic) with frozen yogurt; while it did taste really fresh and refreshing it wasn’t as fruity in taste as I had hoped, but perhaps that is because I am so used to artificial flavourings!

Anyway we arrived in Nelson around 2:30pm and our first stop was for a dentist appointment I made two days beforehand, as the cap on my tooth had spectacularly popped off when I was flossing my teeth – something that is frustrating at the best of times but even more of an inconvenience when travelling. I had been able to pop it back on at the time with it staying secure for 2 days, making me tempted to just leave it as is, but I managed to get an appointment and get it sorted for $65 NZD, which is worth it to not later need emergency treatment while in South America. We then drove to the house in Glenduan we would be staying at for the next 2 nights, owned by the parents of Claire’s ex flat mate in Wellington, Charlie. Honestly, kiwis are so nice and kind. 

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The only appropriate music for rainy car trips

After having a chat and a bite to eat, the 3 of us drive into town to pop into the ISITE to ask about walks around Abel Tasman National Park and to drop Charlie off at work at her Mum’s shop, Victory Square Fish & Chips. Claire and I then parked up and walked into town via the Cathedral; in ways quite a gothic looking cathedral and slightly ominous in the wind and rain, it didn’t quite bring me the inner peace I often feel in churches but still had that feeling of something greater.

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We then wandered around town, passing by pretty much the same shops as we had in Wanaka and Franz Josef, before driving to the Botanic Sport Field to take the 15 minute walk uphill to reach the Centre of New Zealand, a spot that is marked with a monument and offers panoramic views across Nelson and beyond.

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Feeling hungry we drove back to Victory Square Fish & Chips where we picked up one scoop of chunky chips (home made) to share and two fish of the day (elephant fish, and we both went for the crumbed option out of battered, crumbled or grilled) for just under $12 NZD. I write about this process as though it was a quick decision but it wasn’t – we were stood inside the shop perusing the menu board and asking questions for at least 10 minutes before ordering, and we even let other customers go in front of us in the meantime. But when we eventually placed our order and received our food we drove down to the port – being tempted to inhale our food by the delicious smell of salt and vinegar over hot chips in the car – to sit on a beach overlooking the water and devour our food. The handmade chunky chips were sooooo good and the elephant fish quite a meaty, soft white fish.

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We woke early the following morning to drive to Abel Tasman National Park, arriving at Marahau carpark just before 10am. To walk the whole route of the national park takes a good few days and you need to book your accommodation at the huts along the way in advance, but there are various ways you can do a day walk. Starting at Marahau you can walk the 7-8 hour track to bark bay and then get a water taxi back (around 40 dollars), you can get a water taxi to a Torrent Bay and then walk to Bark bay and back before getting a water taxi back, you can kayak from Marahau to Anchorage and then walk the 3-4 hour track back, or you can walk there and back from Marahau to Anchorage. We were really tempted by the kayaking as we had both wanted to since Queenstown, but it would be around $100 and the weather had been so awful that we didn’t want to fork out the money for a disappointing experience.

Of course that meant it turned out to be a lovely day with blue skies, little wind and barely any rain, and the Tasman Sea looked spectacular; along the walk that is part-coastal part-bush, you pass by a number of spots and lookouts where you are blessed with the most incredible, wide-lenses views of the ocean, dotted with sailing boats and kayaks and punctuated by the green Adele Island and Fisherman Island. It’s hard to describe how still and inviting the water looked with the hot sun shimmering in the sea and how peaceful and stunning the view was as a whole.

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The track to Anchorage takes you alongside approximately 4 bays, all of which have off-the-track paths leading down to them where you can walk along the sand or take a dip in the ocean (although this would have been almost impossible later on in the day on our walk back during high tide). The main track itself is predominantly flat with natural ups and downs of a coastal walk, and it was mainly sturdy without much sludge or water. It was the most populated of walks we have done and we passed by numerous couples, families, teenagers and school trips, which can influence your pace at times, but we made it to Anchorage in 3 hours including a couple of stops at lookout points.

We took a rest, refuelled and had a couple of toilet breaks before starting our way back an hour later, first exploring the route onwards to Torrent Bay before realising the shorter “low tide” track was submerged in water (so, 2pm is high tide, then!) and therefore turning back the way we came. 

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As we have found with most return walks, even though I do not necessarily find them as stimulating as loop walks we did notice things on the way back that we hadn’t spotted on the way, and as our legs grew more tired we found it challenging being our longest walk to date at a total of 6 hours. Oh and it was the first walk where I wore my new walking boots ($49 from The Warehouse) and the support around my ankles made such a difference.

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Back at the carpark we did some post-walk stretches (something we have not done enough of on this trip) before driving back into Nelson. We picked up some food and cider before heading back to the Glenduan house and relaxing for the evening ahead of our 7am wake up to get over to Picton Wharf for the ferry across to Wellington on the north island.

LS.

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