Golden Bay

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Where I stayed
Somerset house

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Sunday, July 3, 2005

I left Picton on Tuesday, and headed towards Nelson - just a 2 hour coach ride away. I spent 2 nights in Nelson, staying in a wonderful little hostel called Shortbread Cottage. It was a very cosy, homely place with such a friendly atmosphere. Each night, free shortbread biscuits were served up in the kitchen! As the place was so small (13 beds), it was easy to make friends and get to know people. I spent a lot of time talking to an Irish guy called Ronan, and 2 hilarious Japanese guys who made a great double act. One of them had a tendancy to talk in his English!

I didn't do anything too radical in Nelson itself as it isn't overflowing with activities. That said, I really liked the town and it is definitely a place I would consider settling in sometime in the future. I wandered around, got up to date with my emails, and spent a lot of time in the Information Centre, planning my next jaunt. In the end I decided to head to Collingwood in the far north-west of the South Island. Yumi had recommended the Golden Bay area to me, and it did seem like my kind of place - quiet towns, deserted beaches and rugged coastlines.

So on Thursday morning at 6.45am, the bus picked me up in front of the hostel and off I went. At Motueka I hopped off the coach and onto a minibus - a sure sign that I was going towards a more remote area. I was the only person onboard and I enjoyed talking rugby (again!) and cricket with the driver. There had been a covering of snow on the surrounding mountains the previous night, so there was some great scenery as we weaved our way along the roads.

Somerset House, one of only two backpackers in Collingwood, was a very laid back affair. For example, you could just use the internet and put some money in the jar - the owner was very trusting. It was quite refreshing really, and I immediately felt very comfortable there. Joy, the 6 month old puppy, added a homely touch and I think she quite liked me as she was constantly biting my fingers!

In the afternoon I went for a long walk along the beach and barely saw another soul, although I did bump into a dead shark which deterred me from going in the sea! I walked for about 4km until I got some good views of the snow covered peaks, then I sat down for half an hour on what had turned out to be quite a warm day - amazing for mid-winter.

On return to the hostel, I met Ali from Burnley who was a really nice down to Earth girl - a typical northerner! Later on, Jill from Canada also arrived and so all 3 of us accompanied Chris (the owner) to the table tennis club! I was expecting a casual knockabout but it was pretty serious stuff! I certainly held my own in the doubles, and I even beat one of the regulars 3-2 which was pretty satisfying. I spent the last half an hour playing a young lad who was a very good little player, before we drove back to the hostel at about 10pm.

The next day Jill, Ali and me went up to the Farewell Spit area - a 26km stretch of beach that is a renowned bird sanctuary. The only way of travelling to the end of the Spit is by paying $80, which most people agree is over the top. Therefore we just did some short walks in the area, including one to the amazing sand dunes on Wharariki Beach. There was a raging wind and the sea was very rough, but it was great to be surrounded by vast amounts of untouched sand. For a relatively small country, New Zealand has such diverse scenery.

That evening, we drove to the Mussel Inn to watch a Celtic/Pacific band play. I certainly didn't hold high hopes for them, so I was surprised when they turned out to be really good! The place was completely packed out, and Jill observed that she'd "never seen so many hippies in one place." This was the main pub in the whole Golden Bay area, and the locals had come out to enjoy the night, often expressing themselves in strange ways on the dancefloor!

On Saturday, Chris took us on a long, scenic drive to another isolated beach on the west coast. Joy also came along and so I entertained her by throwing sticks and generally just chasing after her. We walked along the beach for about an hour and a half before returning to Collingwood, via a couple of scenic lookouts where we took photographs.

Our last night was obviously spent at the local pub watching the rugby! Some more people had arrived when we returned from the beach, including Kerry and Amy from Canada and the US. So as per usual, I got sat next to the people who knew very little about rugby, and Amy was definitely more concerned about how "cute" Johnny Wilkinson was!

Earlier, we had all had a little wager on the result, with most people going for a convincing All Blacks win. Ever the optimist, I stuck my neck out and went for the Lions by 5 points, to much hilarity from BJ, one of the local hippies. When the Lions scored a try in the first few minutes, I was feeling quite smug! I needn't have been, as the All Blacks turned on the style to win by 30 points!

Amazingly for a place the size of Collingwood, there was a karaoke straight after the rugby! Most people left at the final whistle, leaving just Amy, Kerry and me, along with a few old locals. The place certainly wasn't jumping! Still, we had been drinking pitchers of Export Gold all night, and it had had an effect on Amy - she was the most energetic person I've ever met! A real livewire, she ran around the place dragging people up to sing, almost to the point of embarrassment! Kerry and me chose to leave her to it and so we just talked, drank and laughed as Amy caused havoc a la the Tasmanian Devil! I called it a night at about midnight as I was leaving with Ali early the next morning. Apparently Amy eventually gave up the ghost a few hours later!

So I'll be spending the next few days with Ali as we work our way down to Nelson, calling in at Motueka and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. I do like travelling on my own, but it will be nice to have a travel partner for a change, even if it is only for a short while...
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cherie on

it wonderful

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