We leave the North Island early in the morning, catching the 8:00AM ferry across the Cook Straight. I was excited about this leg of our journey, but Mihaela was dreading it. She’s a huge fan of water, but not being in a boat on the water because she gets a bit seasick. She did grand on this trip though with the use of some medicine to help. The crossing was perfect. The water was calm, the sky was clear and the wind was favorable.
Arriving on the South Island, we took the Queen Charlotte Drive out from Picton over, through Nelson and to Motueka. I won’t go on about this drive because as you can guess, it was gorgeous. We did drive through Havelock, which is the green lipped mussel capital of the world. These are those tasty mussels we spoke of in a previous post. We might make time to swing back through here again so we can have some straight off the boat.
Motueka was our base to explore the Abel Tasman area. This is a national park with many walks, kayak and beach adventures to be found. We did a few hikes while we were there. One adventure was trying to find a LotR site in the lime and marble hills near Takaka Hill. Driving 15 km on a rough single lane gravel road perched on the sides of hills bigger than some mountains brought us on our way to Harwoods Hole.
Somewhere on this route was a scene in the movie, but to be honest, most of the land here looks like middle earth. We continue on to Harwoods Hole, an enormous sinkhole that was formed by the flow of water through this area. Because of the limestone and marble make up of this area, as water passes through, it dissolves the rock fairly quickly causing sinkholes. There are signs in many of the hikes around making users aware of the risk. Harwoods Hole though is enormous, about 180 meters deep to the bottom of the sinkhole. From there, you can cave through to Starlights Cave, for a total of about 357 meters descent. You can hike up to the edge, but there are no safety precautions in place so you need to pay attention.
We also hiked Takaka Hill itself. This walk takes you up to the very top of the hill and delivers views back south east across the Tasman Bay towards Nelson and north across the Golden Bay. Along this hike you can see in detail the development of the marble stone where it’s exposed to weather.
Another part of this hike that brought some unexpected excitement for us was the Gorse, a thorny green shrub that is usually around 1.5 meters in height, but can grow to over 2 meters. It has a lovely yellow flower when it blossoms and seen from a distance can be quite beautiful. Hiking through it though is a different topic all together. In New Zealand this is an introduced species of plant that was thought to make a good hedge. It took over in many places though because of its resilience and hardiness. Half of the hike on Takaka hill is thick with Gorse and we didn’t have thick enough clothing on to wade too deep into it.
From Motueka, we drove south to Hokitika. This part of the trip was pure fun for us as we were going to Hokitika to attend the wild foods festival. The festival started out as a celebration of wild foods in New Zealand and has evolved into a chance to dress up and have fun for a bit. While we were there we got a chance to try some things we hadn’t before and some we never thought we would want to try.