The road eventually led us to Takaka, an arty-type place but very relaxed with great craft shops - Kev, however, was glad to leave being fed up with 'craft shopping'. We stopped for another break at Collingwood, in particular for Rosy Glow Chocolate House, mmmm..... We finally arrived at the visitors centre at Farewell Spit and took time to go inside and have a look at their displays, we found a room off to the side with large glass windows and a telescope and the view was simply incredible - a huge curved sandbank stretched out into the distance - 26 km long. With the telescope it was possible to see the many sea birds and waders taking advantage of the calm shallow waters to the right of the Spit. The wetland here is of international importance and a renowed bird sanctuary but is also the site of many whale beachings for which the visitor centre asks for donations to run and equip their rescue team. We decided to take a closer look, there are tour companies that do come here and drive 4WD the length of the Spit when the tide is right, but the thought of the roaring engine and wheels ripping the dunes apart did not sit comfortably with us so a 2 hour walk across farmland to the northern side, a walk down the beach and back across the dunes to the wetlands felt more our style. We didn't really wear the correct foot apparel for the uphill trek across the farmland and coming face to face with a huge cow over a stile came as a bit of a shock, but once we left the sheep and cattle behind we felt a little more at ease and started to enjoy the journey, especially as the grass started to turn sandy. Eventually we kicked off our thongs (sandals) and ran through the soft sand and headed for the sea. To our right we caught sight of a great big sea lion and stopped dead in our tracks, given our previous experience with these animals, we had to be cautious. Slowly we walked away from their resting places and, when we were at a safe enough distance, looked around, we realised that we were the only ones here and the Tasman Sea was wild on this side of the Spit
. With dunes to one side and crashing waves to the other, we felt like we had been deserted on an island and wanted to stay there forever. Eventually we headed back across the dunes and found a message left by previous visitors written with stones. Back on the southern side, we could not believe the difference in tides - here the water was like a pond with numerous birds fishing for dinner. We slowly wandered back towards the van trying to capture the birds on film - I wish I could have taken a picture of Kev taking a picture of what I think was an Australasian gannet, who did not want to be photographed!!
We bid farewell to the Spit and headed back towards Takaka, after stopping in at several very expensive camp grounds, we spotted a field next to a river with several campervans parked up. We decided to take a look in the hope that these people were free camping, and indeed they were. We found a nice spot, cracked a beer and cooked dinner. We were later joined by 3 fellow travellers for beers and story swapping but I later became very distracted with very itchy cheeks - bottom cheeks that is! We went to bed and I was finally able to investigate the infernal itching. Every night after closing down the van, we investigate every nook and cranny to eradicate the mosquitoes and sandfies with a citronella candle that, when held under them, they just seem to dive straight in to the hot wax - brilliant. However, it would appear that one sandfly was intent on revenge as my bottom was covered with bites, 8 to be exact, and how do I know that it was a sandfly? Because sandfly bites start to itch exactly 24 hours after and as far as I could remember, I hadn't exposed my arse for long enough to achieve that many bites during the day!
After a very disturbed night we left Takaka and returned along the same road to take the turnoff to Kaiteriteri and Abel Tasman national park. We spent the warm afternoon sunbathing, swimming and frisbee throwing before retiring early in preparation for the following days kayaking adventures.
We left Motueka and headed north along the only road to Farewell Spit, we would pass Abel Tasman NP but planned to visit there on our way back. We passed a sign to Pupu Springs (Te Waikoropupu Springs - to give it its full name) and had read about these, the largest freshwater springs in NZ which are supposed to be the clearest in the world. The springs are amongst regenerating forest and the water is forced up through the ground at a rate of about 14,000 litres a second. The water is incredibly inviting but swimming here is forbiden, not only would it be offensive to the Maori people but the risk of contamination is too great. There is a special underwater viewing device but it couldn't really compare to how the water would feel on your skin. Continuing on, the highway winds over Takaka Hill, the scenery is wonderful but the drive itself is a little hairy in parts, I'm glad the van isn't that big. At the crest of the hill you can see Tasman Bay to one side and Golden Bay to the other.