Monday, April 16, 2007

Leaving the Nelson area reluctantly, we drove through simply magical countryside into the Abel Tasman National Park. It suddenly all fell into place: when our next door neighbour in New Caledonia had talked about "a park in the top corner of the South Island" that the "gosses" would "lurve", he had been talking about the Abel Tasman. It was the stuff driving holidays were made of - view after glorious view. We stopped for one view (the kind that shows that the earth is round) and revelled in the short walk through forest to get there ... marvelling at the ferns growing up alongside the suspended walkway ...

Dinner was great: a pub with Atmosphere with a capital A. It was a bit like a slab hut, with great pub food, play equipment for the kids to hang off, and composting toilets.

We stayed at the most northwesterly hamlet we could find. In Seagull Cottage at Collingwood.

The next day we headed out towards Farewell Spit, but small children and the two hour tractor ride were not a good option to get to the very end. Instead, we piled into the car and headed back to what would have to be the clearest spring in the world.
And then, we headed for the wild West Coast ... driving alongside a magnificent river.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The South Island

My last long ferry ride was, I think, a hovercraft across the Channel ... when I vomited like a maniac for the crossing. Or was it the boat down the canal in China when I understood how lots of people die in ferry disasters because they simply can't escape the boat, and had to lie on top of my coat so that I could cope with sleeping on dead insects. (It was this trip when I went to the squat toilet and realised half way through that to my right was a floor to ceiling window and that I was the only thing lit on the canal ...) Should I tell about the ferry across the Irish Sea in the Force 10 gale ... when Dad took my brother I up on deck and we were blown off our feet by the wind and only remained on the boat because he had a firm grip on our hands?

I think you get the point: I'm not keen on ferries. But this was a really pleasant trip. It was about three hours. The facilities were fantastic for the kids - including a TV room and a play room. And the views of the Marlborough Sounds were just fantastic. The kids aren't quite at an age where they can be left to entertain themselves ... but if they had been, I would have been up on deck the entire time. Instead, we shared deck time and enjoyed it immensely.

Eventually we landed at Picton and found our very comfortable and reasonably-priced serviced apartment (great value ... but nothing really worth basing ourselves in Picton for ... although I could see how you might if you were doing some kind of boating in the Sounds area). Dinner was a lacklustre affair. We thought we would get great fish and chips in a port town like Picton ... but we were wrong, so very wrong.

The next day, we pushed on and, as usual, over-estimated the distance we could comfortably cover in one day. We decided to head for the Abel Tasman National Park. Lunch in Nelson was all it took to regret not having taken more time there. So much craft and so little time and how to enjoy it with two toddlers - not possible - move on!