Abel Tasman...again!

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

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

My last 2 days in Nelson were quite hectic for one reason or another, but I had a great time and I'll miss the friends I made there, particularly Rie and Cobain.

On Monday morning, Rie and I went to the Information Centre to organise our trip to the Abel Tasman. We'd agreed to do a day walk on my final day, and I was excited as the weather forecast was for clear skies (a marked contrast to my last forray into the National Park with Ali!). I discussed our route options with a DOC advisor, and our trip was to involve a cruise past the seal colony on Tonga Island which would be nice.

Feeling extravagant (deservedly so after counting the pennies for 4 weeks), we went to an Italian restaurant at lunchtime for a pizza. It was the very same restaurant that Ali and I went to a couple of months ago, so I knew that the food was nice. However, it came as something of a shock to the system when, after ordering our pizzas, I browsed through the restaurant's newsletter to see my name on the back page!

"Winner of last issue's puzzle Richard Fox - WELL DONE!"

At first I thought it was simply a coincidence that someone had the same name as me, then I remembered how Ali and me spent ages trying to complete a puzzle on our last visit here. I'd completely forgotten about this, but suddenly it sunk in and I wasted no time in claiming the success! One of the waitresses disappeared for a few moments, then returned with a huge bottle of expensive looking wine! I was chuffed to bits, and Rie commented on how lucky I was. We always joked about who was going to buy the wine on an evening, so it was a coincidence to actually win a bottle like that! I decided to save it for my last night.

Unfortunately I had to go to work one last time that afternoon, but I was in good spirits and the shift flew by. I didn't see Cobain all day as he was working in a different factory, while Ben also handed in his notice when he found out I was leaving. The usual "pajero" and "culiado" jokes accompanied a sighting of Javier, who I won't see again as he is leaving New Zealand soon.

We did a whopping 15 minutes overtime, so I finished work at exactly midnight. Strangely, I didn't get a real sense of relief for finishing because I've quite liked working at Sealord's, especially since I changed departments. I would rank it as my favourite job so far, in front of the kiwifruit work and light years ahead of the lily bulb experience!

I went to bed at about 1.30am, and woke just 4 and a half hours later as our bus to the Abel Tasman was leaving at 6.30am. It was a chilly morning in Nelson, but a clear one which was the most important factor. I was excited, primarily because I knew how beautiful the beaches in the region were, but also because Rie had never been there before - I was confident she'd be impressed!

It was a bit of a drawn out process getting to Marahau, but we arrived at 8.30am and soon enough we were climbing aboard the water taxi. I was extremely quick out of the blocks to ensure we got the back seats, which provided unobstructed views (although admittedly you were defenceless to the cool sea breeze). Life jackets on, we set off on a glorious day, taking in Split Apple Rock again before heading up the coast. I kept my eye out for dolphins to no avail, while Rie watched as we passed the numerous bays along the way, all of them complete with the striking colours of the sand and water.

Just before reaching our starting point at Onetahuti Beach, the boat slowed down and allowed us to watch the seals that were mascarading on Tonga Island. There were a couple of babies there which were very cute, and I don't think I'll ever tire of watching these creatures fooling around on the rocks!

Onetahuti Beach was typically stunning, and so Rie and I walked along it for a while, allowing the other people to set off on the actual Coastal Track ahead of us. Everything looked crystal clear, completely untouched, and we got some great views of the bay when we eventually started the walk. Every so often we'd emerge from the forest to be greeted by the bright yellow sand, or the marvellous turquoise water, and Rie would invariably say "beautiful," which sums it up perfectly.

After 2 hours walking, we reached Bark Bay, which is where I started last time. We were hungry so we settled down on a log for about half an hour, looking out to sea and tormenting the seagulls that were staring at us expectantly.

We walked steadily for 3-4 hours after this, taking a short diversion to a look out at South Head. The view from here was unrecognisable from before, as there wasn't one cloud in sight. It was stunning, and we spent the rest of the walk being treated to these fleeting glimpses from above, and once again it was very peaceful. Rie and I joked about who had brought the chocolate, with me claiming that it was her responsibility after the number of Tim Tams I had given her in the previous 2 weeks!

Just before 3pm, we arrived at our pick up point at Torrent Bay and waited for our water taxi to arrive. We spotted a very large star fish, and lots of shells before the boat turned up at 3.45pm. To our surprise/horror, we had to take off our shoes and socks, roll up our trousers, and paddle to the boat as there was only so far that it could come in. The water was very cold, but I was far happier getting my feet wet this time than I was back in July!

Once in Marahau, we boarded the coach and began the 90 minute journey back to the lovely Shortbread Cottage. Rie was asleep in no time at all, and I was close to joining her, but instead I listened to my music and enjoyed the views out of the front window.

I was treated to another serving of okonmiyaki that evening, while we shared a jam wrap for dessert. It was just as tasty as I'd remembered!

I then spent a long time talking to an American lady called Hope, who I'd got to know over the previous few days. She, along with her 2 daughters, are looking for a house in the area, and they are 3 of the friendliest people you could ever wish to meet. Nyle, the youngest daughter, was so adorable, while Payton was manners personified. I only knew them for a short time but I'll remember them for their kindness and perception of life.

Soon afterwards, everyone gradually drifted off to bed, leaving Rie and me to open the wine! I made a toast, and then we settled in the lounge for one more night of games playing. Rie looked astonished as I stormed ahead at Snakes and Ladders, throwing six after six after six - my luck had changed! "What happened?!" she exclaimed. We never got round to playing jenga, partly because we were so tired, and partly because we were drinking more and more white wine!

At midnight, I went to meet Cobain in town as he had just finished work and wanted to give me something. It was freezing though, so he came back to the backpackers for a bit. He gave me a postcard depicting a Court Ceremony in Seoul, and he'd written his contact details on the back. In addition, he produced a tiny Korean mask, very popular in Korea, that attaches to your mobile phone. Finally he gave me some Korean noodles, and at this stage I was really taken aback by his kindness. I took a photo of the two of us and I promised to keep in touch, and we'll definitely meet again before I leave New Zealand.

Cobain was understandably tired after another day at the seafood factory, so he went back to his flat shortly before 1am. Rie and I stayed up for another couple of hours, drinking, talking and unsuccessfully trying to complete puzzles! She showed once more what a sweet girl she is by giving me a card with some lovely words inside, and a green stone necklace that was such a touching gesture.

We only had 4 hours sleep that night, yet still she insisted on walking to the bus with me the next morning to see me off. You do become hardened to meeting people then saying goodbye, but it was difficult leaving Nelson behind because I'd had such a nice time there. It is comforting to know that I will see Rie again before Christmas, and again in Sydney as she is also going there in February. Hopefully Japan too...

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