With very few hours sleep in us we set off on the short drive from Oxford to Hanmer (usually mispronounced Hammer or Hamner) Springs.
Enroute to Hanmer we stopped off at, what I assume is a Kiwi service station, called Pukeko Junction. When we met Lauren back in Oz she couldn’t stress how much we had to drop in here for a scran and she didn’t let us down. We both scoffed down a hearty Eggs Benedict and frothy latte before heading back on the road. Just north of Pukeko junction is a small township called Kaikora and we’d been told by almost everyone we’d met that ‘the road to get there has been blocked off by the recent earthquake so don’t put it on your to-do list’. Bit gutted because it actually wasn’t blocked off from the south and we didn’t have the time to stop by to do some dolphin or whale watching which we would have been well up for.
Once at Hanmer we surveyed the scene and like any good tourist, went to the Tourist Information centre where they advised us on a decent local walk which took us up to a good lookout called Conical Hill and also where the Library was so we could put some new books on our Kindles and print some stuff out. Luckily the skies weren’t looking like rain plus the wind had died down which meant game on for a day of outside fun.
Conical Hill was a decent little hike which brought you out to a weird looking pavilion and some fantastic views. Take a little looksie for yourself.
After giving our picture taking fingers some exercise we descended half way down and joined another track which took you around the back of the village into quite a large park area. We stopped and ate the only food we had on us, a tracker bar, gave the old Kindles some attention then headed back into town. We did get a little lost on the way back and got our feet wet when trying to tip-toe over quite a large and quick-running stream but we got back in the end. Just.
Hanmer Springs, I would say, seems much more geared up for winter to be honest. In the centre of the village there is a ‘hot spring’ resort which, quite like Lake Tekapo, is essentially a load of hot pools dressed up as ‘natural thermal pools’. These, I would imagine, are shit-hot in the winter after a day on the slopes but not really needed in the middle of summer. Plus there’s dozens of lodges which look ready for skiers and such. The place wasn’t that busy too which given its the middle of the summer holidays here, you wouldn’t quite expect. Still, I sound negative about the place when it’s genuinely rather quaint, clean and picturesque – there just are better places than it on the island to be quite honest.
We got ourselves some grub from the local supermarket and found a nice place to spend the night, tucked away about a kilometre or two away from the village centre. Now each site we get to, Mills has been diligently checking the place’s DVD collection (if they have one and most of them do), to see if they have either Lord of the Rings (which you would want to watch whilst in NZ, The Hobbit (for similar reasons) or Harry Potter (because she loves the little magical prick). This place had all of them and she decided it was one of the Potter’s which was good for the night’s TV.
As we couldn’t see too much point in spending more time in Hanmer Springs, we thought it best to head over to The Abel Tasman National Park which is on the North Coast of the South Island. It’s quite a long drive (about 300km) to get there and you travel through another alpine roadway called Lewis’ Pass. Its not as renowned as Arthur’s Pass but its still quite impressive. Here is one of the pics we got on the drive over:
About 3 hours into the 5 hour drive, we stopped for some lunch and got attacked by sand flies. The little fuckers are everywhere! We seemed to have lost an item out of the Jucy at each site we stay at and it was at this point we realised we’d lost both bowls which we’d been supplied with. So, I was forced to eat my tasty chilli beans direct from the pan whilst Mill finished off an oriental flavoured Pot Noodle type snack. Hashtag proper campers.
There is a famous walk along the Abel Tasman coast line which takes most people 4 days to complete and is 71km long. Its aptly named the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk and along the route there are various beaches, stop-off points, campsites and huts, the latter of which you can book out for a night whilst you attempt the walk. For those which don’t have the means or want to complete the whole thing, you can hire a water taxi to take you to, or pick you up from various drop-off points along the route.
We got to Mokutua, which is about 20km from the start of the trek, and booked ourselves a taxi boat place for the following day which took you about 25km up the coast to a drop-off point called Bark Bay. From there we planned to walk back to the town at the start of the track (and our campsite for the night) called Marahau.
The campsite as Marahau was good. It was called Old MacDonald’s farm and you could see why, with all the farm animals on it. There were some horses as you went in, the usual posse of ducks and hens, a couple of sheep, some pigs which we saw getting ‘piggy’ with it (we did actually see real life pig sex), and some lamas which Milly swears blind are part of the camel family. Please can someone clarify for her?
Our taxi boat departed at 9am so we were up bright and early to finish of a decent breakfast in prep for the walk. I had some of the honey we nicked a few days previously on toast and Mills polished of some muesli before we walked straight down to the taxi boat place in the middle of the small village of Marahau. It was a lovely morning and the sun was shining. It looked like we had picked a good day for it!
As Marahau doesn’t have a port and has a tidal coast, they use tractors to take the boats into sea which is deep enough for them to sail. We had a lovely captain who’s name escaped me but he took us on his speed taxi boat around a couple of bays and islands nearby – firstly to show us the Split Apple (a spherical rock which had been split down the centre), and next to Adele Island where there were a couple of seals chilling on the rocks. The next stop was Bark Bay and the beginning of our coastal walk.
On our taxi we got chatting to two other guys. A 24 year old girl called Hollie from Swindon and a 65 year old fella from Essex called Mick. They hadn’t met before the day either so there was a lot of getting to know you going on. They were quite different people but equally lovely and headed in our direction so we kept on chatting until we’d decided that we’d quite like to walk the whole route with them! Mill sensed she’d like the company of another woman for a change and I can’t blame her after spending so long being couped up with me, so her and Hollie sped off like a couple of hares being chased by dogs. The dogs, of course, were Mick and I. Now I cannot (and will not until I’ve seen his birth certificate) believe that Mick is 65. The guy kept up a fairly relentless pace of around 6km per hour and wasn’t in the least bit tired. I don’t want to spend time on here lauding what a good pair the two of them were (because they may not want me to disclose information about them, plus there would be a lot to write and this blog is already cracking on a bit) but both Mill and I thoroughly enjoyed their company and it made 25km feel like 5km.
The walk itself was a lumpy, bumpy, twisty and sandy. It mainly took you under cover through forested areas and a well worn track which had a fair amount of human traffic on it. It followed the coast entirely and at breaks in the foliage you could see the beautiful sight of the sun shining off each ripple in the sea. There is one point called Anchorage Bay where, if the tide is out, you can cut across the sand rather than taking and extra 1.5km up into the coast line. Luckily for us, the tide was out, and you could cut across the soggy beach. Milly had decided not to part with her trainers and socks and therefore got wet. Silly girl. I did and strutted across the sands with the wet, cloying sand pouring over my toes – however I did have the displeasure of having sandy feet for the rest of the walk.
Here are a few snaps from the route:
Literally as soon as we’d got back to base the heavens opened and whilst we poured ourselves a beer with Hollie and Mick, we listened to the large drops crash against the tin roof of the communal area of our campsite. The rain didn’t then stop for around 24 hours. Brilliant.