Oh my gosh! Have we been here a week already? The South Island (or the mainland as locals like to call it) is absolutely beautiful! The only fly in the ointment (and it IS a fly) is something called a sand fly. These little buggers are vicious and will attack any exposed body part, but ankles are a favorite feeding ground. As we have discovered to our detriment. I know it’s not good to marinate in DEET, but it really does keep them away. We won’t be shy and will reapply frequently to save our skin. Another strategy: keep moving, as they can’t keep up.
Speaking of keeping moving, we have defiantly been doing that. Nelson was our first really memorable town. We hit it on a Friday night and were going to stay in town but there aren’t any places to stay any longer. We had to park out at the North Nelson Country Club. Saturday morning we got an early start and went to the Nelson Market. It’s an outdoor affair with produce, cheese, and bakery stands and of course a plethora of artworks in many mediums. A great place to get resupplied before heading down the coast.We didn’t go too far though. Stokes is right outside of town and Marc got in a nice paragliding flight there.
I picked up a couple of scratches at Maruia Falls. We jumped the barrier and were able to walk right out onto the falls.It was great to poke around, stick our hands and feet in the cold water and throw random branches into the water and watch them go over.
We spent two days at Gibsons Beach near Cape Foulwind, though not by choice. We had an unfortunate accident with our solar shower and the back cushions got totally soaked! The second day was for drying everything out. It was a great spot for it though, the beaches were breathtaking and there was so much to see and do there. Our first day we explored down the beach and found an awesome waterfall, offshore islands, and then a cave like you’d see in the movies. The second day we found a different path down to the beach, climbed to the top of the arch and got some good sun before Marc went back to the van and I continued on up the beach. I went a little further than the day before and found a gigantic sand painting raked onto the beach. All these beaches are only accessible at low tide so after not finding a way up, I hurried back to camp to see if we could find it from the cliffs. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Although we tried following the cliff top, we were rebuffed by private property signs and a ragged cliff line.
Next stop was Punakaiki Rocks. These are pancake rock formations in Paparoa National Park. At high tide with a good swell, there is a natural blowhole there and we did our best to be there on time. The rocks were great! Just a beautiful place to visit, no sand flys and an awesome sunny day. didn’t get to witness the blowhole going off though. The isite woman said the swell wasn’t strong enough that day. Ah well, still majorly spectacular.
Right after Punakaiki we did the Truman Track. It’s right down the road and is a short little trail down to the beach. There is a waterfall that leaps right off the cliff, tunnels, and these incredible little round stone beaches that felt so good to snuggle down into. Warmed by the sun, it kinda felt like being at Spa World back home. I didn’t want to leave.
To show you just how small New Zealand actually is, here’s a story. We were on our way to Amethyst springs when we saw two backpackers hitchhiking on the side of the road. Turns out we knew them! We had picked them up earlier in the week and given them a ride then so we had to do it again!Their names are Charlotte and Clemont and they were a very nice couple on their way to the Franz Josef Glacier before heading back home at the end of a five week vacation. Guys, if you’re reading this, it was great to meet you and safe travels always!
Amethyst Hot Springs was great! I think this has been my most favorite stop yet. We used Scott Cook’s NZ Frenzy book again to follow this obscure path along a cliff top, through a bit of forest, across an old bridge, and down to the river bank to find these little trickles of hot water leading down to the river. A few folks had been there before us as evidenced by holes filled with algee along the river bank. We must have looked a sight walking down the middle of nowhere with our pots and pans, but they came in right handy when we dug our holes. We went to bed very relaxed that night.
Today we did the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Treck. It’s about an hour walk each way through a riverbed where the glacier used to be one hundred and fifty years ago. Really neat to walk through the valley and feel this cool breeze caressing my skin as we approached the glacier. There were pretty waterfalls all over the place here and warning signs everywhere not to jump the barriers. I got lots of pictures, notch. On the way back we stopped at the river to stick our hands in to feel what glacier runoff is like. I was reminded of my PTA training as my hand was numb inside of five seconds. We could see chunks of ice caught on the rocks and Marc rescued one for pictures and drinks. Ever had a drink with pure glaciar ice? Me neither. We’ll let you know what it was like.