I am writing up my gap year travels from 2006-2007 so that I can self-publish a book to pass on to my niece and nephews. I hope they will read about my adventures and be inspired to explore themselves…and I hope you enjoy my travel tales.
Nelson, New Zealand, April 2006
Despite my trepidation about the three-hour ferry journey across the Cook Strait from Wellington (North Island) to Picton (South Island), the water was very smooth on the day. It was also a very pretty journey, taking us past lush emerald green islets, set against a background of cornflower sky and azure sea. I met a friendly couple of girls on the boat from Berkshire, who were also travelling on the Magic Bus, so it was nice to have some company and swap travel notes with them.
I stayed in Nelson for a few nights at the YHA, which was (like most YHAs) clean, comfortable and practical. Nelson is referred to as the ‘sunshine capital of New Zealand’ and it certainly was wall to wall sun on the day I took a trip to the Abel Tasman National Park. A group of us took a bus transfer from Nelson to Kaiteriteri, where we boarded a boat for an hour-long cruise up the coast to Torrent Bay. We hopped off, straight on the white-sand beach, and started a hike back down the coast to a place called Marahau.
Four of us naturally formed a group – myself, Deborah and Valentina from Sardinia, and Clare from Bath. We were told that the walk should take about four hours, but we ended up having to take a detour as it was high tide, so it took closer to six. It was very steep in places and hard going, and we wondered whether we would make it back to the meeting point in time for the last bus. There were a few panicky moments about directions, and whether we had enough food and water with us to fuel our bodies, but it also turned out to be quite the team bonding experience. At some points we felt quite the intrepid explorers, battling through bush and rainforest, and then we would be rewarded with spectacular views from the vantage points that we reached, which made all the effort worthwhile.
As we neared the café in Marahau which marked our end point, the experience was rounded off nicely for me by spotting a pukeko (also known as an Australasian swamp hen). I was rather taken with this funny little bird with it’s bright red beak, spindly red legs, and vibrant blue breast, and it was lovely to just stumble across it in the wild.
When we finally arrived at the café we rewarded ourselves with well-deserved hot drinks and cakes, and reflected on a wonderful experience. Clare turned out to be one of the key people I met during my gap year, and Abel Tasman marked the first of many adventures we embarked upon together. On the bus on the way back to Nelson I experienced a travelling ‘moment’ – I felt quite overcome with emotion about where I was and what I was doing. It still felt quite surreal that I was out there doing it, on my own. And meeting and bonding with some lovely people just added to my sense of immense gratitude.
The following morning, Clare and I met up for brunch and, as it was a greyer day, we decided to head to the nearby Bead Gallery, where we spent a few happy hours making jewellery, most of which I ended up sending home to friends as birthday presents. It was a good reminder of my love of creativity…something I had not indulged in for many years, and so I made a mental note to do more when I returned home.
Previous travel tales:
#3: Tug boats, peaks & pandas
#4: Islands, animals & markets
#5: Sunshine & hostels
#6: Fun & feijoa flavoured vodka
#7: Bays, bravery & the meeting of oceans
#8: Dolphins & premieres
#9: Glow-worms & geysers
#10: Thermal baths & wonderlands
#11: Prisons, earthquakes & wineries
#12: Surf and scenery
#13: Farms & galloping horses
#14: Homestays & Wellington suburbs
#15: Windy Wellington