Well, I don't really know where to begin with the last week...it's all been a bit of a blur...we had a yummy bbq on the friday of the conference and bade farewell to Hazel, who headed north to Sydney, and to Robin and Vivienne, who headed south to Queenstown. Myself and Nico picked up our rent-a-dent, which was in fact a v fancy car, not a dent in sight, and headed out as far north-west as you can go on South Island to a great little hostel in the middle of nowhere on the edge of Golden Bay called the Innlet. The lady who owns it hails from Woodstown (that's about a 20 min drive from my parent's house) and grew up in Waterford! (Thanks for the tip Isobel!) It's very much off the beaten track as the closest buses get to it is a small village about 10km away and all the hop-on hop-off backpacker buses don't make it to the area. We spent Sunday visiting the end of the peninsula - Wharariki Beach, Cape Farewell and Farewell Spit, where Nico took his first dip in the Tasman Sea and we both met our fist sandflies!!! The area is beautiful but one day really only serves to whet the appetite and two nights at the hostel also seemed insufficient - there's an air about the place that just makes one not want to leave - most of the guests stay for a few weeks.
On the Monday we left Golden Bay for Abel Tasman National Park, and we arrived in plenty of time to go for a half day 11 km tramp from Anchorage back to Marahau - the village at the edge of the park where we were staying. We stayed in a teepee for the two nights we were there!! The place was amazing. All the brochures show pictures of white and golden beaches, turquoise seas, blue skies and yellow kayaks - and that's EXACTLY how it was!! We were so lucky with the weather. The second day we spent there we went on a guided kayak trip from Torrent Bay to Bark Bay where we stopped for an amazing lunch of greenshell mussels and lamb kebabs and then we kayaked back to Torrent Bay via the seal colony on some island I can't remember the name of. We did a short tramp thro' the bush where the guide was filling us with info about the local flora and fauna - he knew heaps and was really very into telling us all about it. In fact he was quite hobbit-like, practically running up the tracks in his bare feet with us all panting to keep up and he not more than 5 foot tall...hardly anyone in this country seems to wear shoes!!
On Wednesday we said goodbye to Abel Tasman and to the glorious sunshine of the previous week and headed to Picton. On the way we stopped at the Cawthron Institute (Marine science research place) in Nelson and met some people and visited the place and generally schmoozed..By the time we got to Picton there wasn't much time to do anything but drop back our dent and eat and drink. The following day we were dropped out at Ship Cove at the beginning of the Queen Charlotte trail in the Marlborough Sounds (think Killary only much bigger and covered in dense vegetation) and from there we tramped back the 15 or so kms to Furneau Lodge. There were some clouds and a bit of rain but the sun was trying to break thro' and there's so much vegetation that even when it was raining we weren't really getting wet. We had a long soak in the outdoor hot tub when we got back to the hostel with some cold beers followed by take away pizza and more beer.
This country is really so set up for backpackers and those who want to go tramping for days on end. There are water taxis in both Abel Tasman and for the Queen charlotte trail that will take you to any place on the trail and collect you from any place on the trail and will even take your bags to your next accomodation so that you can walk the trail without their weight - tis class! When we arrived at Anchorage in Abel Tasman there was this huge pile of ruck sacks that had been dropped off by water taxi and that belonged to people who were going to be walking to there at some stage that day - and it was safe to leave stuff like that!!
Anyways, on Friday we left South Island and headed to Wellington on the slowest ferry in the world. There we met up with Mairead - a Cork girl that used to work with us in the lab but has been living in NZ for the past 3 years and she took us to our hostel in her funky 1978 car!!! There are so many really old cars on the roads in this country!! We had a very chilled out Friday evening - drinking wine at her place and catching up. Then we hit Wellington - the busiest place we'd been to for 2 weeks - the pubs don't seem to shut and there were people everywhere and nowhere seemed to be charging money for late night music. We did a bit of a pub crawl and had a very late morning the next day. Wellington is a pretty cool place - incredibly windy tho' - all the time!!
Saturday was spent wandering the streets and shops of Wellington (poor Nico!) and going up the cable car to the botanic gardens for a view of the city and a snooze! In the evening we went to see one of the things kiwis do best - rugby!! We went to one of the super 14 games (for any non-rugby fans...like myself...it's a Heineken cup equivalent with teams from South Africa, Oz and NZ...I think!!), anyways local team the Hurricanes were playing against the Bulls from SA, we had great seats and the atmosphere was great. Nico was in his element explaining to us in great detail what was going on, while myself and Mairead were talent spotting with a pair of binoculars and a camera!! The Hurricanes won..
This morning (Sunday), after another run in with a car breakdown and an AA call-out, we took a quick spin up some other hill for a view of the city before dropping Nico at the airport for his flight back to Christchurch, he flies back to Ireland tomorrow together with his 70+ sandfly bites that he has been carefully counting over the past week - a warrior proud of his war wounds!! Myself and Mairead went driving out around the coast and had some quality coffee-drinking and catching up girly time...
Anyways, that's all for now (if you've made it this far!), hope all is well with ye all..
Take care xx