We are up early on the morning of Friday April 17th and we are bound for a day in the Abel Tasman National Park with us walking a stretch of the Coastal Track, our goal. We travel by car to Kaiteriteri and then we take a scenic boat tour to Medlands Beach which is at Bark Bay and the boat puts us ashore to walk back to Marahau, some 25kms and we do it in 4.5hours. We are back at 3pm having commenced our boat trip at 9.30am. It is a wonderful walk along the Coastal Track with stunning views of yellow beaches and lush sub tropical native forests. To do the whole Abel Tasman Coastal Track takes 3/4days depending on your walking ability. A bus picks us up at 4pm and takes us back to Kaiteriteri and to our car. We come back to our motel to shower and change and we are once again at Hopgoods for an 8.30pm meal. Here we meet Shirley and Noel, wine growers from Blenheim and after our meal we all go to Sprig & Fern Tavern for a drink. We have a great night and then it is a short walk back to our motel. Next morning Saturday 18th April sees us shopping in Nelson after breakfast and visiting the famous Nelson Saturday Market, where we have homemade pies (made by a lady originally from Uphall, West Lothian) before leaving at 12 noon, bound for the West Coast and Greymouth. We need to continue on the SH6 from Nelson to Murchison and onwards to the south of Westport; a road that has a good surface but you need to be careful of the many single track bridge crossings, some controlled by traffic lights but others that have no lights and in some instances there is also a rail line on the same deck. We pass through vestiges of the Great Southern Rainforest, some wonderful views of mountain tops and deep valleys and gorges. The swift flowing Buller River provides you with superb vistas at every turn. We see large cattle and deer farms along the route. At Tiroroa we stop for coffee and carrot cake and marvel at the framed old photographs of the Lower Buller Gorge where it is still the same single track road carved out from the stone cliffs above you and down to the river some 20/30 feet below. When this large river is in full flood the water level can rise to, and above the road level, a sight that must be very frightening to see. You then come to the full beauty of the West Coast which is rugged and storm ravaged. This must be one of the TOP Coastal drives in the world. We pass through the beautiful Paparoa National Park and stop at Punakaiki and here we view the unusual volcanic rock formations known as the “Pancake Rocks” and the blowholes formed by the lava tubes. Shoots of water fly high up into the air from these tubes at high tide and we did see this happening. At 5pm we arrive at our homestay B&B “Ardwyn House” and we are greeted by Mary Owen (yes we were right in thinking she has relatives in Wales) and we are offered tea and biscuits which we readily accept. After unpacking we take a trip to the town and have a drink and then have our evening meal in Steamers.
Sunday 19th April sees it raining in Greymouth so we depart after a lovely breakfast bound for Arthur’s Pass where we find super dry conditions and sunshine. Here we undertake two tramps to Devils Punchbowl, where we discover a beautiful waterfall, and then on the Bridal Veil Track through mountain beech forest; this taking us some two and a quarter hours. By 5pm we are back in Greymouth and once again we enjoy tea and biscuits from Mary. Tonight we go to town to enjoy a steak meal at Speights Ale House where beer, food, wine and service are excellent.
Monday 20th April heralds a lovely sunny morning so we are on the telephone to Murray Bowes, owner and pilot at Wilderness Wings based at Hokitika, to see if he can fly us down to Mt Cook, Mt Tasman, the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. The answer is yes and we agree to drive down to Hokitika for around 9.45am. By 10am we have met Murray, we have provided all necessary information and we are fastening our seat belts ready for take off in this small five seater plane. It is a very short take off and we are in the air. Murray points out all the interesting features as we make our journey. The views all around are staggering as are a number of rivers we look down on. Soon we are over the glaciers and right in front of us are Mt. Tasman (3,498m) and Mt. Cook (Aoraki) (3,754m) which we circle and take some wonderful photographs of. We are soon on our way back to Hokitika airport. We have travelled some 160 miles at a speed of around 80mph on our outward journey and 170mph on the way back. We have reached a height of 11,500 feet and the whole flight was just a magic experience never to be forgotten. We were in the “Air” from 10.00am until 11.30am and we say our sincere thanks to Murray for such a wonderful trip.
By 12.15pm we are back to Greymouth, change and walk to the top of the hill that looks over the town. We return along the flood wall to the harbour and talk to fishermen who are fishing on the harbour walls. Tonight we are going on Monteith’s Brewery Tour at 6pm with a BBQ in town later in the evening. As we are great fans of Monteith’s Hearty Black this turns out to be a good night and we, like other participants, do enjoy ourselves. The "Tasting Session" of all the beers is enjoyed by all where you are permitted to "pull" your own drink and seconds. Thanks Monteith's. Mary is still up by a roaring fire so we open a bottle of red wine as a night cap and we chat to Mary as to her coming to New Zealand from Birmingham as a young lady, meeting her husband, a commercial fisherman with his own boat, and bringing up a family of four daughters. She is now a granny and in the quiet months she does travel abroad on holiday and to see her family. This is a lady who needs to be admired for all her achievements, a true sense of adventure and tremendous spirit.
At 9am on Tuesday 21st April we say goodbye to Mary (we have so much enjoyed our stay) and we travel by the SH7 to Reefton, a delightful place with such clear visability of all the mountains that circle in the background, where we join the SH69 which takes us to the SH6 and back to Murchison, Richmond and on to Nelson where once again we are staying at the Palms Motel. We are in Nelson by 12.30pm and we find our room ready for us. We then walk by the river and harbour areas. We have an enjoyable lunch in the Boat Shed Restaurant overlooking the entrance to the harbour and then make our way back to the town centre to do some shopping. In the evening we have a meal in Mac’s restaurant where a jazz band is playing. The venue is good as is the food, service and the band. We are back to the Motel by 10.30pm and to bed. Our supply of Black Mac has disappeared from the fridge as Stuart enjoyed this with his bath, playing with his duck, earlier in the evening!! Tomorrow we are bound for Picton, a three hour Interislander ferry to Wellington, an overnight stay with Leisha and then on 23rd April Stuart is bound for Manchester and I go to Hong Kong. Thanks to all the lovely people we stayed with along the way and who we met on walks, in bars, garages, supermarkets and restaurants. You could not come to a nicer or friendlier country. Thanks ever so much New Zealand.