Exploring Abel Tasman National Park by kayak. The Dutchman Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand in the 15th century. So, the Kiwi, being New Zealand’s national symbol, is very lucky it is not extinct. Remember the Dodo, all eaten by the Dutch (that annoying and ugly bird probably got what it deserved).
Abel Tasman NP is famous for its turquoise water and white sand beaches on golden, remote, paradise bays, only easy reachable by kayak. On the shores of the island, visible on the first below picture, we could spot a seal colony.
On a two-day hike in the Nelson Lakes National Park. We walked over Roberts beautiful ridge, although haven’t met Robert. Robert ridge was a very nice walk, only possible in good weather conditions. This was again, one of those rare little less beaten tracks (how Sabrina and I like them, and difficult to find in New Zealand). You don’t hear and read that much about Nelson Lakes National Park, so, if you want to see something pure and less exploited, this region is truly worth a visit. Read “less exploited”, not “unexploited”. Still, there is a nice car park and you MUST book your places in the Angelus hut in advance.
The Hokatika gorge. Driving home again we had to cross another car on a small grind road. I professionally parked the car with 2 wheels next to the road, so that the other car could pass easily and our car couldn’t move an inch anymore. Other people called it an accident, but I call it anti-car-theft parking technique. We needed the help of 2 locals with a 4 WD Toyota to pull us out again.
No, we’re not posing for the picture. We are trying to hit the incredible annoying sandflies. There bites become very itchy, and they seem to love Tom more than the rest of us. Tom is bleeding with every bite he gets. He’s hitting around with his arms like a crazy man, while being short on hands to scratch the itchy spots. They are everywhere. He runs to the car to escape from those terrible creatures. Bleeding everywhere, we are short on towels … he faints … we drive him to the hospital as quickly as possible, where he wakes up in the middle of the night, bathing in his own sweat. Getting a kiss from the teacher (Tinne), he realises it was just a dream.
Luckily for Tom the kiss was real.
Franz Josef glacier viewpoint on our way to the Alex Knob summit (for even worse views due to upcoming clouds). Coming from Nepal, where we walked the Kanchenjunga region and climbed Mera Peak, or if you have visited countries like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, these glaciers are quite disappointing. They are so exploited with car parks, scenic helicopter flights, lots of easy walking tracks, it again takes away all the charm of being in the outdoors. You can’t even come close to the glaciers, and you get hundreds of warnings about the incredible dangers (people died this year and that year, … ). Even well experienced mountaineers cannot access the glaciers. Unless, of course, you pay for a guided tour, or pay hundreds of dollars for the scenic helicopter flights, they put you on the glacier somewhere. These helicopters were flying the same route over and over again. While we were walking to the Alex Knob summit, a helicopter flew over about every 10 minutes.
To be able to see the Southern alps mirrored in Lake Matheson during sunrise, we woke up at 5:30 am, and, at first, were almost alone at the lake. This is really worth a visit, though again this lake is very exploited with a huge car park, coffee and souvenir shops, a nice built viewpoint, and not to forget, it is self-declared as the worlds most beautiful mirror lake. Luckily the busses with dozens of tourists arrived a bit late (around 7:30 am).
The New Zealand South Island was said to be more beautiful then the North Island, and it is. There are nice things to see in the North, but I would dare to say, aside from Tongariro NP (with Mount Doom) and Wellington (with the Te Papa museum), you can skip the complete North island. You can see glowworm caves for free on the South island, so you can skip the Waitomo caves. If you have seen thermal areas anywhere else in the world (Iceland, US, Bolivia), you can easily skip the complete Rotorua area. Bay of Islands is of course very sunny and tropical with all those little sandy bays and islands, but if you visit Abel Tasman National Park in the South, you can skip this as well.
Nevertheless, all things to see and visit on the South island are still very exploited, as in the North. And actually that is exactly what takes away all the charm in complete New Zealand. You can read everywhere about self-declared “worlds most beautiful lakes”, “worlds wildest glaciers”, “the alps can easily compete with those from Europe” (well New Zealand, they cannot), “fjords probably more beautiful than those from Norway”, “worlds deepest lake”, “worlds biggest volcano crater”, “worlds most perfect cone volcano”,
… and for next week we booked the Milford track, “the finest walk in the world”. To be able to walk this track in january 2014, we had to book the track and huts in february 2013. Well, it probably will be a nice walk, but we already heard from other travellers, you can almost do the walk in a wheelchair these days.
For a more detailed day-to-day description, you can read the Dutch written blog of our travel friends Tom and Tinne.