That night we stayed at a campground called Old McDonald's Farm
. It was an interesting place because there were dogs, chickens, ducks, and many other animals that roamed around the property begging for bread crumbs and any other kind of food we were willing to give them. Not to mention we think that they charged us $50 to stay in a 6X6 tool shed they transformed into a "guest room". Still it was very nice because the camp was located right alongside the national park. In the morning, we hired an Aqua Taxi to take us up the coast and drop us off at a beach in the Abel-Tasman National Park, so we could walk through the park back to where we left our car at the campground. The trail offered some really great views of both the park and the coastline. Because it was high-tide, we had to take the alternative routes all the way back to the starting point, which ended up making the hike more than 25 km one way. Needless to say, we were both pretty worn out when we got back to the camp. Of course, Tara passed out in the passenger seat on our way to the next stop, leaving me to drive and self-navigate (gumby-legged from the hike) to our next destination on the opposite side of the national park, a town called Takaka. We had a nice little motel room booked there that we paid just a little bit more than what we would have liked to pay, so the next day we got up and looked for cheaper accommodation. We ended up staying at the dive of all dives, a hotel that was attached to the sleaziest pub in the southern hemisphere. I was trying to ignore the fact that we had to stay at this flea-bitten motel so I could get some rest that night, but Tara kept saying over and over again that it reminded her of a hotel in a horror movie, so neither of us slept very well that night
. But we got to see a lot of the sites around the area. We saw the region's famous sandspit called the Farewell Spit, and a place called The Grove, which offered some amazing rock formations. We also hiked to a beautiful waterfall and saw the Pupu Springs, which has the clearest water in the world.
Today we got up and hiked to an attraction called Harwood's Hole. It is the deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand. It might have been the cavern the guy is base-jumping into at the start of that Planet Earth episode, but we're not sure. Looking down into the hole made us both kind of queazy because it was a vertical drop, several hundreds of feet into the earth, and there was no way to see the bottom without repelling down into it; not exactly something either of us were interested in attempting. We then walked to an amazing viewpoint that was probably a thousand feet above the valley floor, where we were able to see where we had started driving earlier that day. I was not exactly stoked about the heights that we had to deal with today, but I could see that Tara was as nervous as I was, so I felt a little bit better. For all the horrible things she made me climb in Europe I figured that this was a good time to scare her a bit and get my vengeance, so I made her hike to the highest point on the mountain with me and look over into the valley below to get her goat. Ha ha! She was not happy with me....
After we finished hiking at Harwood's, we said goodbye to Abel-Tasman and got back in the car and drove many hours south-west to the west coast of the south island. Along the way, we picked up some smelly hippy hitchhikers that turned out be from Sonoma County, go figure! The girl's armpit hair could have put Paul Bunyan to shame! But they were really nice people and it was nice to talk to another American for the first time in quite a while. We dropped them off along our way and continued to Punakaiki, where we took some pictures of the pancake rocks and the famous blowhole, then continued on to Greymouth. We will stay here for two nights, probably catch up on some much needed sleep after our not so nice stay at the Murder Motel, and then we continue down to Fox and Franz-Joseph Glaciers for Christmas.
We left Wellington early in the morning to catch our ferry across the straight to the south island. The views from the boat were really amazing. After some confusion about which rental car company we had previously booked our car with, we finally figured it out and took a scenic drive along the north coast of the south island to where we stayed in Nelson. It is much easier to drive the Nissan "Sunny" than it was to drive the crappy Wicked van, so I am relieved that driving around in New Zealand will not be as much of a chore as it was in Australia. I'm actually getting very used to driving on the left side of the road. We took a hike along the coast in Nelson first thing in the morning the next day. The trail wasn't as scenic as we had expected so we turned around before even finishing half of it and went to find a more scenic one. Along the way to our next destination, we stopped several times and hiked some of the amazing trails that were in that area.