A Kiwi Christmas

December 2020

OK – it was not quite Christmas but Boxing Day – the day after Christmas that I set of with my nephew.  (Just as a side note, there appears to be no clear reason why the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, but the most common explanation appears to be that it is because it was the day off for servants so they could visit their families (back in the day in the UK) and the day when they received a gift (or Christmas box) from their employer.)

It was typical Christchurch Christmas weather – raining and cold (yes, it is summer!) 😂 We quickly packed up the car with way too much stuff (the theme of all my road trips) and headed out on my annual Aunty/nephew road trip – this year we headed north to Marahau.

I thought it was cold when we left Christchurch, but the temperature dropped to 8.5 degrees through Lewis Pass, clearly no one told the weather gods it is summer 🤦🏻‍♀️!! 

We stopped in Murchison for some lunch at the Commercial Café (which I recommend), one of the many buildings in the town dating back to the town’s gold mining past during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.  It was a great little café, and it is a perfect location to stop as it was just over halfway into the journey.  From here it was only another 1.5 hours driving to get to our final destination – unfortunately the last 30 minutes of that was stuck behind a milk truck – a trait of a classic kiwi road trip!!

Marahau is a small town on the north coast of the South Island which is a starting point for the Abel Tasman National Park either by foot or water taxi.  The Māori meaning of the name Marahau is ‘windy garden’, apparently once a site for growing crops.  Today it is a popular summer holiday destination with a permanent population of around 500.

We arrived at the campground and got the tent up just before the heavy rain started – oh and the thunder.  In all honesty it was a great thunderstorm (which I love), and it was topped off by an incredible rainbow across the bay – huge and full of colour.  Not surprisingly, I abandoned my dinner to run across the road to take a photo of it lol.

We had time for a quick walk before we headed back to the tent, just in time for the rain to start up again, so the rest of the evening was spent snuggled under blankets with some wine in my enamel mug (for me) in real camping style – this is truly shaping up to be a classic kiwi holiday 😂.

The joys of camping, as the rain continued the water level rose and the ground sheet stood no chance against the growing puddle … soon water started seeping through the front part of the tent and pooling on the floor. We made sure everything not waterproof was off the floor on top of the chairs and retired to our ‘sleeping chamber’ with camp stretches in the hope that the roof did not start leaking before the rain stopped – it was a waiting game as to which would happen first!   On the bright side we had missed a massive hailstorm that hit the neighbouring town 🥴

The rain calmed and we survived the night (although it was clear my one season sleeping bag – that one season being summer was not going to cut it!) and we woke to a sunny albeit not hot, morning.

Thankfully, the pond around (and a little in) the tent had dried up by morning and we managed to get most stuff dry whilst having breakfast, before heading out for a short walk in the Abel Tasman National park – well, me a walk, my nephew a run as he is an athlete in training (he is only 14 but competes in distance running at a national level so had a training schedule to keep to) I most certainly am not an athlete😂!

It had started off as a cool day, but I got warm fast walking and I was obviously over dressed lol.  The walk was beautiful walk, and I loved the flax in flower and all the tuis feeding on the nectar.  I was obsessed with trying to get the perfect shot (I think I did ok).

My walk took me on a short part of the Abel Tasman Great walk (I have done other parts of it on another trip but never the whole thing).  This time I passed Porters Beach and ended up at Stu’s Lookout – I am not sure who Stu is, but I thank him for this lovely lookout.

After our run/walk we stopped for a drink in the lovely Park Cafe, right by the car park to the national park before taking a gentle stroll along the shore to the campground for some lunch and a relaxing afternoon.  We have a couple of full days coming up so wanted to enjoy some down time too.

We had a better night’s sleep without the threat of floating away, which I was grateful for as we had a big day ahead.  We set off relatively early for our day trip further around the coast.  It wasn’t such a long drive but included the infamous Takaka Hill which is very windy and well known for its frequent slips in heavy rain leading to constant roadworks and lane closures! 

Our first stop was at Te Waikoropupū (Māori for “bubbling water”) Springs (locally known as Pupū Springs), the largest freshwater springs in the country which contains some of the clearest water ever measured, some say the clearest (as measured in 1993 by NIWA, finding the visibility to be 63 metres!). To maintain the clearness of the water it is forbidden to have any contact with the water – this includes fishing, swimming, diving, boating, drinking etc.

After walking through the small information area, it is just a short 30 minute walk through the bush to the view platform over the springs – there is lots of water bubbling up (can you believe 14,000 litres of water gush out of the spring every second … yes, every second!) and yes, they are very, very clear. 

The site is sacred to the local Māori (Ngāti Rārua) and a place of cultural and spiritual significance with the springs representing the life blood of Papatuanuku, the Earth Goddess and the tears of Ramgini, the Sky God.

It’s probably worth noting that there is no charge to visit the springs so definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.

From the Springs it was only a short 30 minute drive to the small town of Collingwood in the Golden Bay area.  One of New Zealand’s oldest towns, it was originally settled in 1852 and grew substantially after the discovery of gold deposits nearby.  Unfortunately, the gold rush was short lived in the area and it was only a few years before the gold miners moved on to other parts of the country in search of richer mines.

The town went on to have a second boom with the establishment of coal mines in the area.  In fact, it was even considered as a possible capital ‘city’ when the British were looking for a more central location (they settled on Wellington).

Over the years, the town has suffered a number of large fires destroying most of the original buildings.  Today, the town has had a bit of a resurgence due to its close proximity to Kahurangi National Park and it being the starting point for trips to Farewell Spit (or Onetahua) – this is reason we were here.  We had a little time before our tour started so we had a brief walk around the town (which to be honest only takes 10 minutes lol) and to have some lunch.  I probably spent more time admiring the Pohutakawa in bloom (I love them!)

To avoid boring you with a very very long blog post, this trip will form the next blog – something for you to look forward to.

After sitting in a car or on a bus most of the previous day, we decided to do something a little more active for our last day, Sea Kayaking – it sounded like fun at the time 🥴 There are a number of companies that offer similar kayaking experiences and hire kayaks for self-guided tour, but we decided to go on a guided tour with Marahau Sea Kayaking which was based just across the road from the campground. 

After kitting up (in so much gear I could barely move) and having our safety briefing, we loaded the kayaks up on the trail and headed down to the river at the end of town.  Apparently, they normally enter from a sand spit but decided to try the river on this day.   And so our small crew – our lovely Canadian guide, a couple from the US who live in Nelson and us, jumped in our kayaks and had a calm and relaxed paddle down the river as we got used to the boats and headed towards the river mouth and the sea … I guess it is called sea kayaking for a reason right?

Out at sea we travelled down the coast, into a small lagoon around Apple Tree Bay (we were fortunate with the tides which allowed us to get in the narrow access point into the lagoon).  From here it was decided that we would cross the small channel to Adele Island, a small pest free island that is a sanctuary for birds and seals.

The winds had picked up a bit and as soon as we left the relative shelter of the coastline it was really hard work paddling across this small section of open ocean and I was exhausted by the time we reached the island and dreaded the return journey!!  I was so happy when we finally got back to Observation Beach for a rest with some snacks and a drink. 

It was a lovely little beach and picture perfect – one of the other small groups on the beach was playing some Six60 – a New Zealand band and to me, their music is the sound of summer.

We had opted to do the half day kayaking which meant from here we caught one of the water taxis back to Marahau.  Not only did we get in the water taxi, but they also had to stack the kayaks on the back, making it so heavy that a couple of the crew had to get off and push the boat off the beach.  Back in Marahau, the boat drove straight on to the waiting trailer – waiting in a long line of trailers towed by tractors in the shallow waters of the incoming tide.  And the final leg of the journey was ‘Road boating’ 😂 – sitting in the boat, which is sitting on the trailer as the tractor drives it back to base lol.

It was a great end to a lovely few days having a true kiwi summer break.

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