This post is a bit awkward because of what's happened in Christchurch so I'll try and summarize our activities with a little compassion.We had another full day available for outings in Wellington before we left for the South island via the ferry. The day started with a Lord of the Rings tour in the morning which was pretty good followed by an afternoon at the Weta Cave and dining in the city at Sweet Mothers Kitchen again and then an evening tour in a wildlife sanctuary just 15mins outside the city at a place called Zealandia. I've attached a few photo's of the Lord of the Rings tour. Just to give you a flavour of the tour it started with lots of hobbit/ lord of the rings language which only Ruth could interpret and had loads of visits to film location sites around Wellington which needed a bit of imagination to visualise as the sets had been there at least 10 years prior. We both enjoyed the tour and followed it up with a short trip to Miramar, 20mins bus ride from central Wellington which is home to Peter Jackson (director of LOTR) and the Weta workshop (creators of all the special effects and visuals for the LOTR films). The Weta Cave studio tour was smart that's all I can say anyone who watches the films if they have a chance visit this place there are some seriously artistic and talented people working there, unfortunately no sign of new Hobbit film props yet! although you were able to buy a set of latex hobbit ears small or large struck from the same mould as the originals but at $52.00 we gave them a miss. Away back to the city we dined again in the now famous Sweet Mothers Kitchen, the food was quality again, all the veggies have taste here, all locally grown. In the evening we were picked up for our night tour at Zealandia, we were once again the only ones so after a quick bag check to make sure we weren't sneaking any rats in by mistake we set off. The first things we saw were some little green geckos, then in a large enclosure there was a lot of rustling and we saw several Tuatara - these are ancient reptiles that look a bit like small Iguana. We then went off in search of the elusive Kiwi, we could hear them around us but no sign, the stars were fab though and we went via some amazing glowworm banks. We went right around the sanctuary with no sightings at all, back at the Tuatara enclosure we saw Weta (nasty, big grasshopper things) and a stick insect, giving up for the night we headed back to the visitor centre and there by the path was a Kiwi just grubbing about for its tea quite happily. Kiwis have a strong sense of smell and as soon as Ruth got to near it legged it, not sure what that means!
The morning meant a thankfully non choppy three hour ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton on the South Island, it was windy and cold on the boat but the views were great of the Marlborough Sounds. At Picton it was hot, we got the tent assembled and wandered into town, after booking onto the water taxi for the following morning we were at a bit of a loose end so ended up in an Irish pub where we spent an entertaining evening chatting to Kevin Iro's uncle. The next morning was misty with rain, we got the water taxi (a bit more reliable than Critchleys), with high hopes that the weather would clear. After about 30 minutes we landed at Motuara Island which similarly to Zealandia has eradicated all pests to allow the native birds to recover, we saw lots of nice things including more geckos, these ones black like lumps of rubber. Back to the water taxi for a 5 minute trip in the rain to Ship Cove where Capt Cook landed and the start of the Queen Charlotte Track, you have to understand the scenery here is stunning, we saw it from the ferry the day before, that was a good thing because you could see nowt now! We set off on the track about 11am, we had 15km to do before our pickup at 4pm, we got to the first top pretty quickly, though there were no views because of the bush and the mist it was still really pretty, lots of Tree Ferns and birds and really humid even though it was hammering down. Carrying on we made good time around the headlands until we got to the last high point of the day, we decided on sandwiches in the rain but the minute we sat down we were mugged by three Weka. These are small chubby brown birds, flightless and dead cheeky, we shared our bread with them and watched them fight over each bit. By the time we got towards the end of the day at Furneaux Lodge we were getting a bit fed up of the damp, everything was soaked but this all meant nothing as soon as we arrived at the lodge. Everyone there had just stopped to watch the TV as the news was just coming through about the earthquake in Christchurch, made our moans seem a bit trivial. One other thing to say though, sandflies, total nightmare.
The next stage of our journey was kayaking in Abel Tasman national park, so after a day spent on buses we found ourselves in Motueka in the north of the South Island, we had a day to prepare before the kayaking so just had a wander around in the sun trying to confirm our booking with the company (who's computer server was in Christchurch). We were picked up the following morning and taken to Marahau where we stored most of our kit and just packed what we would need in dry bags. We loaded all the stuff onto a boat getting towed by a tractor and then got on ourselves, seemed a bit odd sitting in a boat with life jackets on driving through the streets behind a tractor, but then this seems a bit of a weird country at times. We arrived at Awaroa Bay after about half an hour on the boat, got the kayaks packed and set off. The day was lovely and sunny, the views stunning and the lunch tasty which is all important. The sand on the beaches was really golden and massive granules, some New Zealand Fur Seals came up to the beach to see what we were doing, altogether a grand day on the water. The campsite that evening was at Mosquito Bay (turned out they'd been scared away by sandflies), it was everything Ruth hates, a pit toilet, no showers, huge bush spiders. We had a good evening though, nice food, beer and wine and good company, as we went to sleep the possums were coming out. The night was not so good, heavy rain and a leaky tent made for a poor nights sleep. The morning was cool and damp with millions of sandflies, the smell of the pit toilet was all over the campsite due to a change in wind direction! The sea was choppy for kayaking today, more like what we hope for with our boards in the North Sea, still we survived even if we did feel a little queasy at the end of is all. A restoring pint of beer at Marahau with the others at the end worked wonders. Back to the Top 10 campsite at Motueka for a couple of nights planning what next.