New Zealand: Abel Tasman National Park: 30/03/04: a walk with fantastic views on white beaches

This morning, another day of blue sky, so it would be a waste to sit in the car. I decided to do a part of the Coastal Track in the Abel Tasman Nat Park.

The park is well-known for its white beaches. I took the watertaxi again, and yes it is true: along the track, you have great views on these little bays and coves, with blue sea, white sand. You don’t need to go to the tropics for these beaches.
It was >20C, so an enjoyable day-walk.
Now, I have to give my feet a rest for a day, I think: it is “blister-time”

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New Zealand: Picton: 29/03/04: Queen Charlotte Track: walking in the fjords of Marlborough sounds

Too bad, the wind is not good for diving the “Lermontov” wreck. Wind is from the wrong direction which causes a bad visibility (3m). And for this huge price they ask, you want to see a bit more.

As an alternative, I decided to walk part of the Queen Charlotte Track. I made sure it was the part that included the lookout point. It was a good climb, but the view was fantastic. As it was another day of sunshine, you could see different fjords,… A big part of the walk is in the forest with regularly sightings of the sea.
To go to the track, you have to take a watertaxi. You also agree on a time and place to pick you up at the end of the walk. These watertaxis make life a lot easier: this way you can pick your own part of the 3-day walk. They even transport your luggage if you don’t want to carry it.
And again, you notice that it is low season. Almost nobody on the track, which is great.
I must say that I spent so much time away from people these past weeks, that I will have problems to adapt again in a crowd, I think.

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New Zealand: Wellington area: 27-28/03/04: a little Belgium in New-Zealand

I knew Wellington would be windy, (its nickname is “windy wellington”), but it was a bit more than that.

Already driving from Napier (which is a nice art-deco village) to Wellington, I had sometimes difficulties to keep the van on the road. There was a very strong wind in the Hawkes Bay area. (Later, I heard on the radio that people had to drive carefull due to the stormy weather).

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In Wellington, the clouds still didn’t promise all that good, but it kept being dry. The Tasman Sea was very wavy (I wouldn’t have liked to cross to the Southern Island with that wind and these waves). I did visit the “Te Papa” museum, which gives a good overview of New Zealand in all its aspects. (flora, fauna, geology, culture, …). I went up with the cable car, and via the botanic gardens back down, and had a stroll in the city. I liked it much more than Auckland. Wellington is very modern, with lots of modern restaurants/cafes, ….

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On Sunday, (after having visited the Kapiti coast and a bird national park), I headed back to Wellington to catch the boat to the South-Island. The weather had completely changed: sunny again, calm sea, …
Before embarking, I decided to take a good lunch. Much to my surprise, I saw this restaurant/cafe called “LEUVEN” (this is actually my hometown.). Everything was belgian in there: the writing on the walls, belgian beer posters, belgian flag, even a picture of our king and queen (although, it was our previous king and queen). So, this was definitely the place where I would eat.
The menu was totally in dutch and french (with english explanations): but the food on it was definitely adapted to New Zealand cuisine. Of course, I took “biefstuk friet” but this was placed in the breakfast part of the menu. We would never eat this as breakfast. It also came with an egg on top of it! You could also choose: mosselen friet, vogel zonder kop, stoverij, waterzooi, … So really belgian things.

New Zealand: Thanks Leanne, Brent and kids

I have met very nice people when camping on a “so I thought” deserted parking.

Saturday night, I didn’t want to spend the evening on a camping place near Wellington, so I drove up the Kapiti Coast as I was certain there would be nice spots to park the campervan for the night.
My first ideal spot was right next to the Tasman Sea. But I quickly realised it wasn’t a good choice, as it was a bit stormy, so the van was shaking in the wind.
I went a bit in-land and found a deserted car park of the local crocket club. A bit later, a father arrived with its 2 kids, to have the children driving a stockcar in a controlled area. I started talking with them, and I found out that my quiet sleeping spot wouldn’t be so quiet. The parking is used at night by teenagers to race.
So, he invited me to park next to his house. I also was introduced to his wife (Leanne, Brent and the children James and Abbie). I slept perfectly well, received some tea in the morning and could use their facilities. They also provided me with some addresses on the South-Island, where I can park at their friends and family houses.
Yesterday evening, I arrived in Picton with the ferry from Wellington, and I only needed to find the address which was given by Leanne. I actually hope I was parked in front of the correct house! But it is definitely easy this way as I don’t need to look for a spot to camp at night.
Thanks again!

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New Zealand: Tongariro Crossing: 25/03/04: Amazing views, moon/Mars-like landscape

Today, the weather was perfect to walk the Tongariro crossing: blue sky and not too much wind.

The Tongariro Crossing is a 1-day walk up to a few craters and craterlakes. I agree on this one: it is a very nice walk. One of the best I have done so far in my life. The views are spectacular.

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I left off early in the morning as it is a well-visited track (in high season, there can be up to 1700 people in 1 day doing the track). There were not so many people there yet, and I immediately started off in “high speed mode”, not to be stuck behind others.
The walk goes from 1100m up to 1900m and then down to 700m, with 2 quite steep climbs in it. But the views are rewarding after the climb. You pass close by different volcanoes, on top of other volcanoes, along craters (1 is actually red), pass craterlakes, … The first part of the hike really looks like the moon or Mars (would NASA shoot their pictures from the marslander here?). The second part has lots of vegetation and you end in a forest.

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It is a bit chilly up the mountain with the wind blowing, but there was blue sky the whole day long.
Walking this trail makes you realise that you don’t need much in life to be happy!

New Zealand: some thoughts about commercialisation of the tourism business

Lots of countries could make more money from tourism, by taking NZ as an example.

First of all: it really is a nice country with great nature. But everything is here commercialised and turned into a big business.
It starts already in Auckland: if a building or bridge is high enough, they have a possibility to climb it or jump from it. (for a nice price of course).
And the “-est” als start: what do I mean with this: everything seem to be here the biggest, smalles, oldest, tallest, … If not “in the world”, then “in the southern hemisphere”, in NZ, … After a while, it makes you smile a bit. And you start to be able to identify what is really worth a visit, and what is just nice to see if you have more time.
For example: they even have walks to the 7th largest Kauri tree in NZ. ( I saw the largest, the second largest, but where does it end).
Everything here is marked, trailed, and it will have in the description “-est”.
Tomorrow, I will do “the best 1 day walk” in NZ. But I am sure that this one I will really enjoy.
As a conclusion: NZ is a really beautifull country but you have to filter a lot what you read.

New Zealand: 23-24/03/04: hot water, steam and volcanoes

Although I had plans to visit Rotorua, they were quickly changed when entering the city.

Rotorua is supposed to be the center of tourism on the Northern Island. It is also called “Roto-Vegas”. As soon as I entered it, I decided not to stop here, as it would stress me, instead of relax me.
So I headed south to the thermal active areas of Wai-O-Tapu. The whole area around Rotorua has a well-known smell: rotten eggs. Yes, hydrogen sulphide of course. This is always associated with geysers and other geothermal activities.
Another day of blue sky, perfect weather to visit these active areas. The geyser “Lady Knox” goes off at 10:15 am. The reason it is so well timed, is because they give it a hand. They poor in some soap to let it go off. They don’t call it a trick, as otherwise it would go off as well but unpredictable at what time intervall. The whole area in Wai-O-Tapu is smoking, is filled with mud pools, special colours of water and lake borders due to different mineral elements (sulphur, manganese, iron oxide, …).

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The drive further south was really scenic. A perfect view on lake Taupo and the volcanoes Mt Ruapehu(2797m), Mt Tongariro (1967m), Mt Pukekaikiore (1692m) and Mt Ngauruhoe (2287m).
As the weather is so nice, and I want to do the Tongariro Crossing (a 7 hours walk across the volcanoes), I decided to detour first to the national park and visit Taupo later. (this walk is quite often impossible to do, due to bad weather).
But I shouldn’t have changed my plans: exact 1 day of bad weather is foreseen for the national park: 24/03. In the morning, it was according the predicitions: very cloudy. Some people left off anyway for the crossing, but I decided to wait a day, read a bit, enjoy the views in the afternoon (as it cleared out) and relax for the walk of tomorrow.
I do notice that I am already at higher altitude: eventhough the sun is shining, I can’t sit outside in T-shirt anymore.