Saturday 11th February 2017
The roads in New Zealand, so far, have been fabulous, not only are they in good condition, they are almost always empty and there are a continuous succession of wow moments around every corner.
We started our exploration of the South Island taking the Queen Charlotte drive, a scenic route along the coastline of the Marlborough Sounds affording magnificent views of this stunning area.
We stopped at one of the many lay-bys and took a short walk along a track through rough bush, it led to a lookout over an inner arm of the Mahau sound. The water was calm and tranquil and a deep green turquoise, reflecting the surrounding hills. The trees were so full of cicadas that their singing was almost deafening, this summer chorus is common throughout New Zealand but unlike where we have come across them before, with the singing starting as the sun goes down, here they sing day and night.
From the hills of Marlborough we dropped down into the lowlands around the city of Nelson, replacing the heavily wooded slopes with farmland. Acres of vines, hops and espalier trained fruit trees lined the road of this obviously fertile area. We ate a very pleasant late lunch in the shadow of the quirky wooden Nelson Cathedral and then made our way to our accommodation for the next two nights on a small island just off Motueka.
It was a very peaceful spot, with glorious evening sun warming our supper table and bird song accompanying our breakfasts. Less welcome visitors were a cheeky rat that blatantly scurried across the terrace to clear the crumbs from under our table and the sanflies that seem to be everywhere in New Zealand and keep us coated with deet day and night.
Again in pursuit of the less crowded spots, Friday morning we set off for Wharariki beach on the far northern tip of the South Island. The route took us over Takaka hill winding steeply to a height of 860m, an incredible road of sharp hair pin bends, precipices and expansive views.
After two hours of driving we turned up a dusty gravel track, six kilometres and one very dirty car later we arrived at the car park and prepared for the half hour trek to the beach and what a world class beach we found. Miles of white sand washed by the Tasman sea, caves, arches, rock pools, even a few fur seals lounging on the rocks. The only thing missing was the sunshine but this wasn’t a beach for sunbathing it was a place to explore and we spent a great couple of hours paddling, clambering and delving into caves.
Sadly just a few miles away on the other side of Farewell Spit four hundred pilot whales had stranded themselves on the sand. Being so close we did wonder if we should drive over to try and help but decided the last thing the experts needed was more inexperienced onlookers so we stayed clear.
Today we head South and into the mountains, we are expecting more dramatic drives to come.