On the road again... in NZ

Trip Start Oct 26, 2008
Trip End Jan 13, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, November 28, 2008

Driving in Nz is not the same as driving in Europe. The biggest roads they have outside the cities have a maximum of two lanes and when there's a mountain you need to get past you don't drive through it in a tunnel, no, you you go all the way up over the mountain and all the way down again.The first day we just had to get from Auckland to Wellington, a distance of 650 km, which would take you 5-6 hours on the A1 through Germany, but in Nz it takes 9-10 hours. We camped at a small camping ground outside Wellington, very lucky to get a tent site at 10 o'clock in the evening.
To get from the Northe Island to the South Islandyou have to take a ferry. It is a really beautiful way from Welllington crossing Cook Strait, sailing through Marlborough Sounds surrounded by green mountains. On the south Island you arrive at Picton, a small idyllic town. we had our lunch down by the water and continued to Blenheim. This is the capital of the famous Marlborough wine region, so the next day we went for a winettasting and a bought a few bottles of white wine (Riesling, and it tastes just like the Luxembourgish white wines). We drove back up along the coast at Whites Bay on unsealed roads. From there you had amazing views over the turqoise blue water and the mountains in the background. Back at Picton we had a game of minigolf, and I don't want to brag but guess who won? ( Go Anne! Go Anne). A bit further out of town we camped for the night on a DOC campground; these are campgrounds that are maintained by the Department of Conservation, there's often only one toilet and maybe filtered water, but they are really cheap and in the middle of the nature away from the busy roads and tourists.
Because of its gorgeus nature and cooler climate, NZ is perfect for hiking. There are hiking tracks almost everywhere and one of the most famous is the Abel Tasman Track. We weren't so keen on doing it in the beginning cause we had been told that it is really busy, especially in summer time, but we had also heard that it's supposed to be a very pretty walk, so we decided to do it anyway. We bought our last supplies in Nelson before heading for Marahau, the entrance to the track.
At 9 o'clock we were ready to go, packed with supplies for the next 4 days. We were gonna walk 87 km in 4 days, starting out with 52 km on the coastal track the first 2 days. It had rained the day before but now the sun was shining down on us. The first 15 km went really good. The track winds along white sandy beaches and blue water but after we had our lunch it started getting a bit tougher. We struggled a bit with the last 10 km, where it went uphill a lot of the time but after 8 hours of tramping we made it to the first camp at Onetahuiti beach. The track was actually not as busy as we had feared. I think busy means something else in NZ terms, maybe because there are only 4 million people livng in this fairly big country. Besides us there were 4 more tents on the campground, so we practically had 1 km white sandbeach to ourselves (not entirely true, we had to share it 200,000 sandflies).
We woke up the next morning and almost couldn't move, the whole body was aching but we had to leave early because of the tides. At 2 places you can only cross if it's low tide, so have to time your walk. 9.30 we were sitting safely on the other side watching the tide comein and eating our porridge.
It started raining when we arrived in Toteranui and at that time my foot really started hurting.  I almost couldn't walk the last 10 km because of the pain. We had lunch on a windy spot called Separation Point, next to a small seal colony. Cool, eh?When we arrived at our camp at Whariwharangi we were both so busted and my foot was killing me. It rained so we had to sit in our tiny tent playing cards. We decided it wasn't worth continuing the next day if it was gonna rain and when we were both so tired.
So after a good night's sleep we walked the last 5 km to the bus stop. Unfortunately the bus didn't go all the way back to our car so we had to either walk 10 km over a huge mountain or hitchhike. We walked for a bit until a guy working for the DOC took us with him.
We drove further south to Murchison the same day, an old goldmining town where we found a nice little camping ground with pigs, sheep and cows walking around.
Our next destination was the West Coast. We had been told and read that the West Coast doesn't really have that much to offer, but it was actually a really beautiful drive down the coast along the water. It reminded us a bit about the Great Ocean Road in Australia. We saw seals lying on the beach enjoying the sun and we saw the Pancake Rocks, some weird rock formations that look like stacked pancakes. We stopped in Hokitika for the night a town known for its jadestones.
Further down south we encountered the two glaciers that the West Coast is so famous for. Franz Joseph Glacier we just passed by butFox Glacier we wanted to get close up to but unfortunately the roads leading there were closed. Instead we had our lunch around Lake Matheson where we had an amazing view of Fox Glacier and Mt Cook, the highest mountain in NZ. We stopped at a salmon farm before arriving at our final destination on the west coast, Haast. On the map it looks like a really big city but it is actually only home to 295 "Haastafarians".
For dinner we tried what Haast is so famous for: whitebait patties. Whitebait are these very small transparent fish  that you eat whole with head and eyes and they are then mixed in to some sort of pancake.Yummy...not!
The next day we stayed a little longer in Haast because Ben wanted to try fishing. According to the hosties on the camping ground Haast is the perfect spot for fishing.
Ben didn't have any luck though and after standing 3 hours in the freezing wind he finally gave up!
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