I mentioned that we headed towards Marlborough at the end of the last post – and we did – but I regret to say there’s no story there. Or maybe there is, just not a very good one.
In short, we spent a night in a very strange house in Blenheim. It looked like it was meant for work&travel people, which was ok, only something felt really off. The one good thing about that stay was that we met this french girl, Noelie, who told us about the i-Sites. i-Site is the place to go if you don’t know what to do in the area. Even if you do, the people at the i-Site can still be helpful. They really know all the options available for their region, and they can get you in touch with places – get you accommodation, book your tours or activities, they’re awesome. The downside is that literally all of the things they have to offer are paid and more often than not, expensive. But we kind of made our peace with the prices at some point.
New Zealand is expensive, be prepared! Noelie and some other foreign (that’s non-Kiwi) people we met on the road had made it work doing WWOOFing, though. It was the first time I heard of it, but apparently it’s quite popular. And it does sound cool – you should check it out, if you’re young and adventurous enough and care at all about organically grown produce.
Now that we were on the South Island it felt like the time had really started running out, so in the morning we packed up and headed off to Abel Tasman. Before that though, we stopped at an i-Site. There we booked ourselves a night on a floating hostel and a boat tour along the northern coast of the park. We had to head straight for the park though, because the hostel had an arrival deadline at 6pm – they have to pick guests form the beach by boat. And said beach was a four-hour hike away.
So we get to the “main entrance” of the park or rather the parking where you need to leave your car. On the road there we start noticing a gradually darkening sky coming form the west and it is sort of unsettling. It wasn’t disheartening, though, at least not yet. We had waterproof jackets and good shoes so a little wind or rain would not scare us that easily. We park the car and start gearing up, loading smaller backpacks with only what we’d need for the next couple of days.
As soon as we were ready to go, literally within the minute we said “OK, ready!” we hear a deafening thunder and it starts pouring down as I haven’t seen it pour in a long time. We hop back inside the car to wait out the initial gush that we associate with summer storms, and decide to have a snack before the expected hike. After it did not let up 10 or 15 minutes later we agreed on changing our plans. So we drove back to the Motueka i-Site (about 20 min away) to try and cancel all the arrangement we’d made. Turns out, we can’t!
Long story short, we drove back to the same parking and set off at a good clip despite the rain, because now we only had three hours to do the four-hour hike to the Floating Backpackers, and that was with the courtesy of picking us at 7pm, but no later.
We were at Anchorage Bay at about 5 to 7. As per instructions, we gave a wave in the direction of the tall catamaran in the middle of the bay, we saw people waving back and then one of them climbed on a rubber boat equipped with a motor and buzzed in our direction. It was the owner, Chris, who came to pick us up and inform us we were right on time for dinner. I was a little worried that they might be a little unpleasant about us being late and trying to get out of the reservation, but there wasn’t even a trace of that. Everyone on board was very sociable and welcoming. The only non-guests were Chris and his heavily pregnant partner (whose name I’m having trouble remembering now), but it was a very friendly atmosphere nonetheless. We had a great barbecue dinner with a number of side salads and even a spicy vegetarian dish I really liked, all prepared by our awesome hosts:
A bunch of us stayed up quite late (or at least past 10 pm seemed quite late when you only have a small gas lamp for heating and very dim batter-powered lamps here and there), talking. A couple of French guys told us about their experience down at Fiordland, kayaking in one of the fiords and we put that on our to-do list then and there. We made the arrangements for it as soon as we got to the next i-Site. These guys might have been a little weird – they said they really wanted to touch some sheep before they left in a couple of days, but hey, who can blame them, New Zealand sheep are really fluffy and they do look very cuddly (I guess) – but they were very talkative and gave us some good pointers for our journey.
I slept extremely well in the hull of the boat and, of course, woke up last after everyone in our dorm. During breakfast I read a small book on local birds I found on a shelf and found out the funny noises we heard on the beach were made by Californian quail, and also, the huge seagulls I’ve been so excited about the past few days… were, in fact, Albatrosses! I know, I was ashamed!
Later we had our own private dolphin show around the bay which was very cool. After breakfast all the guests were dropped in a few batches back on the beach, and everyone set off on their own way. Some went in one direction walking; the two Frenchmen got in their kayak and set off across the bay, and we basked in the sun for a while, waiting for our Water Taxi to come pick us up.