Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Abel Tasman National Park Area

Today we woke up to overcast skies, but no rain so we hiked into the Pu Pu Springs after breakfast. The trails were immaculate raised boardwalks with chicken wire nailed to the surface to keep it from getting slick. The paths wandered around a new growth forest and then into an old growth area, while seeing the various springs along the way. The Pu Pu Spring itself is one of the largest in the world, and by far the clearest according to the signage. It pumps up enough water to fill 4 bathtubs every second, which is 14,000 liters. It's massive and fills the entire river. The other smaller springs contribute as well, but nothing as major.

By the time we made our way over to Abel Tasman National Park, the rain had started to pour so we only got in a quick stop to the Abel Tasman Memorial. He is credited with discovering New Zealand (even though the Maori were there and killed four of his men) as a sailor with the East Indies Trading Co. from the Netherlands. The memorial was in a gorgeous spot, perched precariously up on a cliff looking out over Golden Bay.

We figured with the rain it would be a good time to get some laundry done at the local Holiday Park campground. There was a cute cafe nearby in the town of Pohara called Totally Roasted where we went for lunch. Erich got the biggest burger either of us had ever seen, and I loved the pumpkin soup. It was a great spot to sit outside and relax.

Once we had finished, the sun was peeking through the clouds and the rain had stopped. We drove into the edge of the park where we started our hike out to Taupo Point. The trail follows the beach along huge green mountainsides, and can only be done at low tide. The tide swings here are so dramatic that 20 ft sailboats will be laying on their side in completely dry sand one hour, and floating in deep water later on that day. When we did the hike, the tide was low, so we could walk right along the rocky water's edge out to the point. The granite formations were neat along the beach and the water was crystal clear blue. However, when we put our feet in at the end of the hike, it was painfully cold despite the fact that the sun was out in full and making the hike very warm.

Back out towards Pohara, we stopped at a local bar for a MAC'S beer which we now love. We picked up some "Great White" at the grocery a few days ago and it was so good. It is brewed in Wellington, and we couldn't pass up trying one of the other brews on tap. The bartender at the little holiday town cafe looked like he had just come straight off the rugby field and we laughed at how excited he was to be pouring us a beer.

At that point we still had a little time left before sunset and decided to wing it and drive up and out towards the sand spit of Farewell Point which curves up and around the northern side of the South Island. Originally we had planned on saving this part of the trip for the next day if time permitted, but after studying the map it seemed like we could make it quite easily before sunset. The area along the drive quickly became much less populated except for horses and tractors in the roadway, and we enjoyed the drive over the scores of rivers and along the coast. We arrived at Wharariki beach in time to do the short hike across the sheep grazing fields down the wind swept sand dunes out to see the small islands along the coastline of the South Island's northwest farthest corner, just offshore with arches and sea caves dotting their faces. The beach was pristine and although very windy, it was spectacular. The sand dunes leading down to the beach were massive windswept hills. Today's high wind demonstrated how they were formed as the sand around our feet was floating about like an angry sea. Each footstep just formed would instantly disappear by thousands of fresh sand grains filling into the freshly former depression. Supposedly the sand spit that stretches on to the North from Wharariki beach continues to grow farther and farther out into the sea as sand marches eastward along the South Island's West Coast.

We drove the short distance across the spit to an open park area right on the waters of Golden Bay. This area is a huge preserve of sand dunes and deserted beaches for wading birds of all kinds. When we saw the end of sunset here, there were dozens of different bird calls and the full moon rising over the point.

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