We got up this morning and set out on one of the walks around the Abel Tasman coast. When we visited the Tourist Info Centre back in Nelson, one of the DoC guys who worked there had told us all about the campsite which we are currently staying in and one of the best walks to do in the area. It goes from the campsite, over two hills and beaches and arrives at a headland where there is a lighthouse. This headland is also home to a colony of seals which we really wanted to see. The walk was going to be the longest we had done so far at about 15km and would take us pretty much all day, so we had made ourselves a picnic, loaded the camera with batteries, packed the torch (just in case!) and off we went! It was a very windy morning which made it more difficult as we were constantly walking against the wind. We weren't to know it at the start, but the first hour of the walk turned out to be the hardest
. The first hill which we had to walk over nearly broke us in half and we were breathing like two hyperventilating pensioners! We made it over the first ridge and down on to the beach, which was lovely but overshadowed by the fact we knew that we were going to have to climb back uphill to get over the next ridge. It took us about an hour but we made it over the hill and into the next bay. It was really windy and we kept getting blasted by mini sandstorms that would sweep across the whole beach. The funny thing was that we kept on looking around and saying "Wow, there is no-one else here, its our own private beach", but it was so windy along the coast where there were no trees to offer any cover that out of the whole walk we enjoyed the beach parts least. Once we finally got into the second cove, the path seemed to disappear, that was until we noticed that it lead up through a gap in the rocks that we had to climb up. We were both pretty surprised to see where the path was taking us as we haven't quite got used to New Zealand notions of 'designated paths'. In the UK a walking path is usually concreted and takes you along the easiest route, in New Zealand the paths normally require you to crawl on your hands and knees through the mud and for you to take part in some measure of rock climbing. Once through the gap we were then faced with a section of the beach which was made up of huge boulders (the kind we use in the UK to stop flooding) and which we had to climb over. New Zealand's walking paths are certainly not wheelchair-friendly, but they are good fun
! We got into the next section of track, which lead us up a final huge hill.As we were walking around we suddenly heard what sounded like a dog yelping, it was the seals in the rocks below us. We kept going and at the top was a sign for our destination, Seperation Point. We'd finally made it!!
At the top we rounded a corner and came face to face with the sheer scale of where we were. We were stood about three quaters up the side of a huge cliff which was completely exposed to the ferious waves of the Tasman Sea. The sea stretched, uninterupted, for as far as you could see. Huge waves were rolling at the very back of horizon, they looked like mammoth walls of water heading straight for you. The scene took up the whole of your field of vision, so that when you looked out to sea all you could see through your eyes was the colour blue. Dotted on the ocean were giant black shadows which came from the clouds above. We were stood on a ridge about two feet wide and which went around the corner of the cliff and down to the light-house. We slowly went around the first corner and the wind hit you like a tornado and nearly took your feet from under you. Tom carried on going but I froze to the spot, I couldn't move another inch. I was so scared. Tom came back around the corner to find me standing as still as a statue and clinging for dear life to some twigs that were growing out of the wall next to me. Slowly Tom took my hand and led me around the next corner, I didn't dare to look down at the sheer drop that was right next to my feet
. We made it around the side of the cliff and got to the headland that led out to the light-house. Just before the headland dropped down there was a sign to say that the rest of the track was very steep and rough and that no backpacks should be taken. The headland was the shape of a Toblerone piece and we were walking along the top pointy bit! Out here there was absolutley no protection from the wind and we were getting battered from all sides. We got about 15 feet down the headland and I couldn't go any further. I sat my bum down on the side of the cliff and told Tom that I wasn't taking another step. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was completely terrified. My hands were shaking, my legs felt like jelly, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Tom tried to carry on a bit further but the next section of track literally just fell away into the ocean. To get down to the light-house you had to climb down the side of the cliff and there was no way I was going to do that and I practically begged Tom not to try either. We sat right where I had parked my bum earlier and started eating our picnic. Down on the rocks next to us were a family of about 15 seals sunbathing on the rocks and playing in the sea. It was brilliant to see them quite merrily going about their own way. After a while two other guys turned up and decided to climb down to the light-house, I nearly begged them not to go. By this point the wind was unbearable and I was literally crawling along the floor to take some photos. Once we had eaten we started our journey back to the camp. As we came down from the cliff and on to the beach we noticed a family of 7 seals sitting on the rocks in front of us. There were three little babies, two medium sized ones and two really huge ones lying on the highest rocks. We had probably walked straight past them just an hour before without even noticing them. We were able to get quite close to get some photos but we didn't push our luck by getting too close. After a while we headed off again and in another three hours we were back at the campervan, completely exhausted and aching all over. Despite being so tired we felt really proud of ourselves for having finished the walk: 15km (about 9 and a half miles), 6 and a half hours and 2 very sleepy explorers.