! At the glass-fitters we explained what had happened and they were really kind and helpful. We left the van with them for an hour and a half and when we got back the mirror had been replaced and we were ready to roll! All for only $39, about £20! We were very thankful to them and, considering that this was our first big setback of the trip, we both stayed remarkably calm through it all!
Back on the road it took us a lot longer to get to the Abel Tasman than we expected. We had plans to stay at a DoC campsite in the north of the park and from looking at the map and asking at the Tourist Info Centre we figured it would take about an hour and a half to get there. It actually took us closer to three and a half hours, and that was due in no small part to the monster that is Takaka Hill. On the map Takaka Hill looks pretty small but trust us, its not! The hill runs like a divide across the region and seperates Nelson and Richmond from the headland where most of the Abel Tasman park is. It was very high and steep but the views down into the valley on the other side of the hill were brilliant. In New Zealand we have experienced some pretty tight and windy corners in our campervan but we had our tightest so far on Takaka Hill, it was practically a u-turn perked on the edge of the mountain! Once we made it to the campsite we knew that we were going to have to rethink our plans- having the mirror fixed and getting over Takaka Hill had taken up a lot more time than we first thought
. Being about 4pm we decided to just go for a walk along the beach and save our other plans for the following day. The beach was beautiful and had really brightly coloured sand the colour of orange caramel. The evening we had our first encounter with the nightmare that are sand-flies, they are little nasty buggers that bite you to pieces... one even flew up my nose and Tom got one heck of a bite on his elbow! Being at our second DoC campsite we really got to appreciate how great they are, this one in particular was quite far out from the nearest town and was basically plonked in the middle of nowhere on the beach. At night you can't hear a single other human being, there are no car noises, no background noises from machines like the TV and there are no lights. The only noises you can hear are the animals, the waves, the wind in the trees and the only light comes from the moon and stars... as you stand outside in the darkness you feel like your the only person who exists in the whole world. I've experienced lots of new things in New Zealand, but I think that complete solitude is one of the best because it gives you the space to stop and think for a while in utter peace and emptiness.... standing in the darkness on the edge of New Zealand was a very special moment for me.
We left Nelson today and headed up to the Abel Tasman National Park. The Abel Tasman is one of the most popular National Parks in the country as it has huge moutain ranges, lots of coastline, unusual animals like penguins and seals and dozens of walks and DoC campsites all over the park. So we headed off with the intention of spending a day or two in the area. We had just left Nelson and were entering a place called Richmond when a passing truck threw up a big rock and it smashed our driver-side wing mirror. We both jumped out of our skin when it happended because the smash was so loud it sounded like something really big had hit the side of the van. We pulled over in Richmond and realised that there wasn't a single piece of glass left in the mirror- every shard was gone! We got directions to a local garage and headed over there, but the mechanic told us it would be easier and quicker if we went to a glass-fitter who could simply cut us a piece of glass and glue it into place. We were quite impressed that the mechanic had been so honest with us, back home he would have probably ordered the part in and left us waiting forever to get it fixed