Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Unicycling around the islands

[One of the beaches and coves that are sprinkled along the Abel Tasman Track]

Of all the strangest sights we've seen, a pair of robust folk unicycling through the rain along the Marlborough Sounds was one of the more illustrious. And they weren't just out for an excursion - with packs and all, they are going round New Zealand on holiday, so the papers say. We had reached the enchanted area of the Sounds via the vineyards of the Marlborough region (Sav Blanc, as they term it, their speciality - and we had to sample some (hic!) and buy some (ouch!) - but it was excellent quality! We had a night (alas more rain!) beside the atmospheric waters (cross the Lake District with the Norwegian fjords) in a small backpackers lovingly converted from a historic settler-style villa. J's favourite place so far.

Before that, the sun blessed us for our sample of the Abel Tasman trail. The full walk takes 3-4 days along some beautiful coastline on the north-west corner of South Island, sandy coves and native bush alternating. We had a little cheat, taking a boat along its length and then being dropped to do 3 1/2 hours of the most favoured middle section (and a boat home). Charming - and if the technicalities didn't overwhelm me against the clock on this hostel computer I would post a South-Sea image of blue seas and white sands - with yellow kayaks and red-faced backpackers thrown in. Two days later we repeated the cheat on the Queen Charlotte Track, walking the end bit near the Anakiwa hostel and then exploring a middle slice too, before making it finally to Picton to prepare for todays crossing of Cook Strait.

Allowing a good margin of leeway for checking in paid off unexpectedly: I had managed to book the crossing in the opposite direction, the boat leaving 20 mins after ours, so when the official kindly converted the booking with no fuss I woke up to the fact that we'd only just snuck in under the deadline for the earlier departure. Enough excitement for an early morning you might think, but the "moderate" crossing turned into quite a rough one and various people (no names but not including me) were less than well. But after 3 hours it was over and as we drove up North Island the sky lightened. Arriving in Wanganui, we were more than pleased to see the "historic" (old-style anyway) hostel and to secure a stylish first-floor room with a view out over the river (complete with practising scullers and eights) - and The Sun!

[J and a weka, indigenous species - the weka, that is - an inquisitive flightless bush bird]

Weather forecasts for two days ahead look good for the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing so that's where we're heading tomorrow!


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