Upside down Christmas

Nelson Travel Blog

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The ideal way to spend Christmas. On a sunny tropical beach.
It's Christmas day and we are in Nelson. A small coastal ghost town on the South Island. It's a ghost town because all the shops are closed. All the restaurants are closed and the place feels devoid of life. The sun is out and I'd say it's about 23 degrees Celsius. My wrist hurts a little from kayaking so typing is slow. So is my mind wich is still recuperating from 5 days spent in Abel Tasman national park.

Before we got to the park we spent a few days in the nearby town of Picton. The crossing was without incident. Just a prolonged 2 hour boat trip that took the entire afternoon because of delays. Fortunately all the kid's that are on the boat keep us entertained. Running around screaming, chasing eachother. Begging their parents for icecream and candy. Why don't these people just get pets!? Same behaviour and you can atleast leash a dog!

Anyway we got to the quaint little town of Picton and pretty soon found a cute little bed and breakfast called; hold onto your seat: the white house. We couldn't make a suitable presidential entrance because there was a little note on the door that said. Interested in staying? Call 07..etc. After looking around for signs of life we decided to call and the landlady said she'd be right over. The place looked just like a barby doll house and we fell in love with it instantly. If you spend enough time in grimy, ugly hostels you develope a new appreciation for tiny little places like these with a normal every day kiwi in it.

After getting our act together we decided on a substantial hiking trip up in the Queen Charlotte Track. The main tramp attraction in the Marlborough sounds a large marshy delta filled with little coves and covered in forrest. The track turned out to be substantial. It had rained the previous night and the uphill climb was like crawling up a mudslide. Within half an hour our shoe's looked just like the terrain we were slogging through. Every uphill climb fortunately was rewarded with a pretty view of the next cove and there was also plenty of wildlife around including lot's of kiwi-like weka birds that would eat right out of your hand. Wildlife in general is very tame and people friendly I've noticed.

That night disaster strickes. After returning muddily and bedraggled from our tramp we decided on eating out. On our way to the white house we found an indian tandoori restaurant. I had a huge assorted plate of tandoori meat and felt exhausted from the hike and eating all that food. Something happened after that wich will have serious reppercussions for the future.

The next day I'm packing my stuff and absentmindedly wonder where I left my daypack. Stumbling down the stairs for breakfast I ask the landlady if she's seen the damn thing. I had left it my the barstool in the kitchen my groggy mind keeps insisting. After 15 minutes no daypack. After half an hour no daypack. Now this contains my passport, our return tickets, lonely planet. Simply put our life. By 45 minutes we are calling around to see if I'd left it somewhere. The Tandoori place is so new it's unlisted in the phonebook but after looking into the window we found a job notice and a number in christchurch. We called that but no answer. We started contemplating going to the cops and get the whole we lost our passport routine and now were helpless act into higher gear but amazingly a number for the restaurant turns up and after a few rings the waiter, who speaks three words of english, picks up and confirms.. I think. He found my daypack. I run over in record speed and a happy reunion follows.

I leave picton shamefaced but relieved and we nab the bus to nelson and then onto Marahoe the village on the outskirts of the Abel Tasman track.

The village is so small it's quite easy to find our lodgings that, like our stay in abel tasman has been pre-booked for 8 months. National parks are free but the huts and camping sites and water taxis are limited to a happy few and if you don't pre book you're screwed. The host of the ocean view chalet arranges a kayak trip on the last day by pulling a few strings and the next morning we're off into the wilderness.

We pile into the watertaxi. A small 20 seat boat that is lowered into the high tide by tractor and cruise around the various islands first. Abel Tasman is also a marine reserve and we're treated to a dizzying amount of wildlife in such small environment. Hector Dolphins, Seal's a single blue kiwi who panicked out in front of the boat and load's of birds. From somewhere between the rocks a pitying femal outcry of sheer panic erupts. Shocked the entire boat crane their necks to see where it came from. It turns out it's a female Seal who get's thrown on here stomach with a hard thumb and jumped on by a big burly male who starts braying noises and pounding the female onto the rock. "Oooh look, they're mating one of the other passengers croons." "You mean raping.." I hear, glibly, escaping from my mouth before I can stop myself. All the senior citizens in the boat are shocked into mortified silence. The only thing you hear is the grunts of the male and the sad screams of the prostrate female seal. ..I did get some good pictures of it for those who are interested.

We are dropped on the beach at Totaranui a large hut on the northern part of the coastal track and lifting our heavy packs crammed with food and water start tramping up the mountain towards the outer mark of the park. The Separeration point.

We take a slight detour to follow a track with some better views and hike up the steep hills towards Mutton cove. The path winds left and right always uphill and keeps going higher for the next 2-3 hours. Finally we reach a sign that says: Seperation point. Nothing there so I stumble through some bush to find another sign that says: steep decline leave packs at the top of the track. I gratefully slide the macpac of my back and we start making our way down. The first thing I notice is a huge gas container. Kind of like a huge boiler standing on an outcrop. Next a flagpole. We slide down the rockface and stand on the granite boulders looking over the cook straights and the two see's connecting to it. After taking a few snapshots I notice something in the far distance..

It's a seal lazily swimming down towards the cove just below us. I Jump a few rocks and slide down on my stomach in time to watch him move past us. As I whip out the camera it passes about a meter away from me. I can touch it if I extend my arm.

We climb back up to where our packs are and make our way back to the crossing and take the path that leads us the Whariwharangi hut. After walking around the deserted wooden construction I redub the hut: capital of the flies. Ilja takes a very cold shower and promply get's stung by several sandflies. Only 6 others show up to this remote location and we have an entire room to ourselves. A luxury we will not enjoy again this week as the other huts are much more popular. Although in the middle of the night I realise. We are not alone. I wake up from small trampling feet sliding accross the roof and beams. I grab the lighter and flick it on. Nothing. All quiet. In the next few hours I start hearing knawing sounds and the sound I associate with ripping plastic. I fear for our food supplies and curse myself for leaving it outside of my pack. Finally it's light enough to see and we realise it was probably termites in the walls and perhaps a few possums running around. No big deal.

After breakfast we head downhill towards the next hut. The path winds and turns and it's only about 80cm wide overlooking steep gully's with only a few tree's to break your fall. We pass signs to watch out for falling tree and we see many tree's that have capsised over the side and now lie decoratively alongside the paths. It's a pretty easy walk despite the heavy packs until we run into the first several tidal trackts we have to pass. At the previous hut the ranger warned us to pass no later than two. It's almost two and the space we have to cross looks like a lake. In the far distance we see two people crossing holding their packs on their heads. I'm convinced we should wait it out. The tide is still going out but Ilja is determined to cross and takes off her shoes and starts splashing through the water. She's wearing pants that can zip off the trousers. After a while I decide to don my Teva sportsandals and follow rolling my pants up as best I can. It's quite a hassle with 45lbs on your back. An hour after we get to the hut the space we just crossed is dry. It looks like a desert.

The second night we spend in a hut is a noisy affair. We are in a room with 12 other people and the slightest ripple of a sleeping bag is enough to wake the entire room. Not that you get to sleep with a human sawmill snoring loudly and apparantly alone in staying unconscious. At four in the morning almost everyone noisily leaves the hut to wait for the tide to go out so they can pass at seven. I never got around to the logic of this behaviour and we decide to sleep in.

Another day of hiking through the scenic coastal mountain range. From the other occupants of the hut we heard there is a good restaurant situated nearby but the tide has come in and we have to walk around it through hillside tracks. We can't seem to find any signs and walk back meeting an Italian couple on the way. They explain we we're probably on the right track but didn't walk far enough. Next up on the track we meet an elderly kiwi couple who we also met at last night's Awaroa hut. They also point us in the right direction before they set off again. After that we learn how efficient the grapevine on the track works. Every tramper we meet starts pointing out where the lodge is and reassures us it's only five more minutes. This happens about 4 times.

Finally we find the place. In the end you only have to follow the helicopters that are ferrying in guests for the wedding reception that's being held there. We get a table and whilst chatting with an elderly english gentleman have a great lunch. Reluctantly we head back out towards the next hut. Passing every kind of indiginous tree, rock formation and a few very attractive beaches.

We get to Bark bay hut by traversing another tidal stream. This one isn't that expansive. Only a small river wich the daytourists that got dropped off by watertaxi seem reluctant to cross. By now we're veterans on the track. We get to the next hut without further delay. IL takes another icecube cold shower and I look on cherishing my furtility by not taking one. By this time I've stared waft sweat mingled with sun tan lotion soaked into salt water dried clothes. I don't care. I'm sortof enjoying my dirtyness it's very liberating in a way. Ilja turns in early and I hang out with the Italians and a canadian girl we befriended until late ( 10 o clock ) we could stay up past daylight because somebody had hoarded a candle in their pack. We invite the Italians over to stay with us in Holland and they had come up with the same idea for Tuscany where they live.

The next day more of the same. We have a little bit more to eat because we conserved most of our food and saved even more by having lunch at the lodge. Another noisy night and Ilja is deleriously happy when two american couples that kayaking up to totaranui, are staying in our hut and generously offer us wine and chocolate. We talk about George Bush, religious mania and the state of American and world politics until the candle runs out and we've all decided to visit eachother in our respective countries.

It's the last day and we traverse a small hill to get to watering cove. It has some historical significance because a french scientific expedition came ashore here in the middle 1900's. It's a nice little beach and we hang out there until the kayak and watertaxi comes. We drop our packs on the watertaxi and get a quick lesson in seakayak controls. We are the only ones paddling down. Our guide is called Tim and I had already heard from the watertaxi pilot that he was a rugby player. Tim looked the part all except for the surfer curls, all his teeth and no cauliflower ears. He's a fullback he explains. This was my first encounter with an actual kiwi rugby player so as we paddled down the coast I was able to ask him all kinds of questions. I hold rugby players in awe. These guys are awesome.

Few thing of note on the quick kayak trip. I was paddling as if my life depended on it so we'd get to the harbour sooner. We did see a breeding area for the shag birds we had come across this week. A very strange, tall bird that sits on the beach drying it's feathers only to get them wet again as soon as he splashed across the waves to get airborn. They dive at high speeds into the water to catch fish and eventually go blind because they can't close their eyes when they hit the water and therefore develope cateract and go blind and then die of starvation. As the kayak guide tim succinctly put it. The shag birds are shagged, mate.

So it's Christmas today.. Doesn't seem like it but the backpacker palace where we are staying are putting a turkey in the oven and baking bread. The entire place seems to be teeming with germans. Oh tannenbaum, oh tannenbaum..

Tommorrow morning we get up at 5:30 to catch the 7 o clock bus to Franz Josef and Fox Glacier.
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The ideal way to spend Christmas. …
The ideal way to spend Christmas.…
Nelson
photo by: wendybodenmann