IMG_3326The road-trip continues… From Punakaki and the rejuvinating retreat besides the ocean, Annelie and I headed north again. But before doing so, we stopped in at the Pancake Rocks, a fantastic landscape in which waves crash againt the limestone rock sending explosions of water into the air and echoing booms up and down the coastline. It’s a short walk, taking a mere hour, much of the time spend pausing to watch the blowholes, chimneys and unique landscape come alove at high-tide. It’s a must-see for south island visitors, a geological wonder of the world.

From there, us two adventure-bound girls headed up the west coast, tempted to reach the end of the road desintation of Kaikora. But the scenry simply wasn’t that enticing and as we thought up other ideas, we also thought of tossing a coin to help aid or decision making. With the flip of the $2 coin, we headed inland, toward the mountains, and toward the place that my heart always yearns for. We drove to Nelson Lakes, and like what would become a theme to our trip together, to a place that was always one step ahead of the storm. Channeling my inner sun-totem, I led the way to blue-sky bound days.

IMG_3365At Nelson, we returned to a place I had hiked through while on the Te Araroa. It is a place that Annelie has also visited, but it’s a place boasting with hiking trails and other adveturous pursuits. It’s also a place that gives a much different impression during the heat of the summer, compared to now when things are cooler, with the weather unpredictable and the buzz of the forest quieting down for the season. We chose a trail that neiter of us had hiked, called Parachute Rocks, which climbed 1,000meters up through red,silver and mountain beech until reaching treeline and an expansive and spectacular viewpoint overlooking Nelson Lakes NP, Rotoiti Lake and the Wairau River.

That night we freedom camped a kilomter up the road where we drank some wine and lazed about in her 2-man tent while jamming to tunes and the gentle patter of rain on the tent walls. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed music on my journey, and although yes, it allows for a deeper spiritual experience, at times—more often than I’d like to admit— it has left me feeling emotionally drained, uninspired or depressed. That is a tpoic for another time, one I will share, but one I need to write when I’m not at a hostel paying $1 NZ/15 minutes while the TV blasts a movie to the roomful of folks trying to keep busy while a damp, dreary day unfolds outside.

IMG_3389By morning we left for the city of Nelson, an hour or two north depending on how many wineries you stop at to sample some of the best flavors of reisling and chardonay the world has to offer. But before doing so, we were blessed by a sight I so looked forward to: snow-crested mountaintops. Now, this wasn’t the iconesque scene you may see when looking at images of NZ, but it was spectacular sight and I was glad to see it before leaving. Yet another reason that returning home feels right.

IMG_3484After the wine tour one of what would become three pit-stops in Nelson, we drove to THE Abel Tasman where our 2-day kayak and 1-day hike would begin. There is so much to say of Abel Tasman. It is a gem of New Zealand and this world, and channeling my inner sun-totem, we were rewarded with three days of calm waters, blue skies and weather the AT hasn’t seen in over 1 1/2 months. We paddled a two-man sea-kayak up the Abel Tasman’s coast rich with beauty, seals, shags and memorable experiences. Having a relaxed first day, we took our time paddling around Adele Island, where heaps of baby seal pups calling for their mothers who lazed upon the warm coastal rock. Heaps and heaps of shags(a coastal fish bird) dried their wings in the warmer autumn air or popped their heads out of the water while bobbing for fish. The second day we continued contouring around the white sand beaches into estuaries and jungle-like tributaries only accessible at high-tide. Tropically colored waters, more seals, stunningly still ocean waters and gentle waves. After dropping our kayak at a beach, we donned our packs, which were rather heavy considering we were carrying fresh vegetables, wine and post-thru hike, things like a towel and other creature comforts. And that night, camping on the beach, I starred up into the NZ sky, savoring the inky black band of the milky way one last time.

The following day we were picked up at a beach farther to the north. Donning my puffy jacket, my new possum-fur merino neckwarmer, a pair of shorts and a wee bottle of wine, I let my hair flow wildly into the wind as our taxi cruised back the distance we’d paddled. We stopped in a another hidden gem, only accenssible at high-tide (again so lucky), and watched baby seal pups dive in and out of the water. And then, once returning to the sea, we spotted a few blue penguins, the smallest of the species. Just a few of them diving in and out of the sea.

When the sea-adventure ended, another began. It was time to sample some beers as the Nelson area is the NZ craft brewing capital. Macs, Hop Federation, Sprig & the Fern and my favorite, the Mussle Inn. Way up in Golden Bay is a tiny, 800-liter (what’s that in barrels?…) brewery and pub. And this pub is by far the most artistically rustic I’ve seen. It’s a small pub, with an assortment of knick knacks and ecclectic things hanging about. The air is warm and scented by a nice open fire. You order evrything at the front and take a seat at one of the big community tables. Annelie and I enjoyed a few good pints and the best plate of steamed mussles and chowder EVER. And before leaving we hopped onto a brewery tour, which I can’t wait to tell my buddy Marco and the folks of Hop Valley about. But the best thing of the night has to be the experience only a small handful of the world’s population has ever experienced, let alone heard about: Table Traverse. Wow. Summing it up is hard, please ask me to tell you the story in person. What you need is a laid-back pub, a 15-person big, wooden table and the ability to clear it’s surface of any ongoing pint glasses. Then, leap forward onto it’s surface, seal slide across and with precision, swing yourself under and begin and monkey-like, upside down crab traverse of the tables lenght. If your lucky, traversing it’s lenght will be good enough. And if you really good, you’ll be able to pull your body back up and over the table. Out of twenty of us, 4 girls included, 3 men could make it back up. I was very proud to have negotiated it’s lenght, appartently very capable of such upside down monkey business. After that KIWI experience, I can go home….

And there’s heaps more of adventure, including Harwoods Hole, Gotlan Sheep, the Banff Film Fest (which so surprisingly I ran into Dylan and Jeb, tho our timing was bittersweet and our conversation limited to the intermission….come visit me in Bend boys!). We’ve also successfully drove along the impressively windy gravel roads of NZ while not falling off the edge and negotiating through a massive herd of sheep.

But alas, I’m portland-bound tomorrow, catching my flight out of Nelson, pit-stopping in Auckland and then taking the long flight across the ocean. I’ll see ya soon Bend.

PS…here’s a few pics. More to come soon, including DAYS 2 and 3 of Abel Tasman. As usual, my darn internet session is about to expire and, well, I have a flight to catch!


  1. Have a safe trip home Mary, was nice to have met you on your travels through NZ & have enjoyed reading all about your trip through this amazing country I now call my adopted home. Pleased to see you managed to explore more of it away from the TA trail. Funny to find that we spent some time in Dunedin, near the Botanical gardens, about 2 days after you camped out there! A small country really. Happy travels wherever your feet take you. (Jan & Mike from Whangarei, Northland)


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