On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

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31 March 2017

Last moments on South Island

Exploration of Farewell Spit and cycle along the Tasman region to reach Picton and the ferry to the North Island.
Farewell Spit, Tasman region, South Island of New Zealand © Claire Blumenfeld
DISPATCH

After my hike on the Abel Tasman Track, I continue my discovery of the Tasman region by exploring the Golden Bay. I hitchhike and reach the place using several cars. The area extends approximately from Abel Tasman National Park to Farewell Spit. Farewell Spit is an almost island sinking into the sea from Cape Farewell. It is located just north of the South Island and looks strangely like the long beak of a kiwi (bird) when viewed on a map. The almost island is a long sandbank, full of colonies of birds and which is unfortunately only accessible to the public through organized tours. The tour being very expensive, I give up the idea.

Instead I go for a walk on the cliffs around, along the coast to Cape Farewell to reach Wharariki Beach. A nice three hour walk with passages really close to the edge. The cliffs are very beautiful with many arches. Wharariki Beach is a beach renowned for its beauty with its pretty white sand dunes. There are not many people. The weather is overcast and the colors are a bit dull. What amazes me most is the possibility of observing fur seals up close! Indeed, in a corner of the beach, rocks form a natural pool where a colony of fur seals has established itself. Right now, it’s learning time for the little ones! It is amazing to see them swimming, playing, shouting, lounging on the rocks a few meters from the tourists who came to watch them. I could have spent hours watching them being so cute and fascinating. The presence of human beings does not seem to bother them too much, but I doubt that taking selfies with the animal will do the colony any good.

Back at the beach parking lot I enjoy a very good meal at the only small cafe in the area. It changes me from noodles and cans. Two magnificent peacocks appear, interested in the crumbs of my meal. They stand a few inches from me. I have rarely seen these birds up close. They are of a deep blue color. I watch them for a long time and then get back on the road to go back.

A car drops me off at Collingwood and I camp at Canaan Downs, a valley in the hills just behind Abel Tasman National Park. The place is used for festivals and rave-parties and wooden sculptures are present everywhere. It is nice except that it is raining and the place is covered in fog. I am alone in the wet meadow in the middle of the forest, surrounded by funny statues. The atmosphere is a bit murky. I then descend to Motueka where I left my bike several days before. Back on my horse, I head to Nelson, the big city in the region. It is raining again. For my last days on the South Island, the good weather decide to fail. From Nelson, I take the bus which drops me off at Pelorus Bridge where there is a DOC campsite. A pretty river with a very dark color makes the fame of the corner. I camp again in the fog with my spirit in my socks.

The next day, the weather clears a bit as I pedal through the misty mountains to reach Picton. I reach Havelock, a very pretty village and then take the Queen Charlotte Drive which zigzags through the hills on the edge of small fjords. It is very beautiful and it reminds me of Fiordland. In Picton, I am entitled to a day of good weather. Just enough to take a few strolls on the surrounding hills to enjoy the view of the Queen Charlotte Sound.

I leave South Island, Wednesday April 29, taking the ferry. After nine months on this side of New Zealand, I change island again. Return to the North Island. The weather is overcast and I feel a little sad. There are so many places that I couldn’t go visit. So many hikes that I haven’t done. Time has passed far too quickly. The start of the crossing allows me to appreciate the extent of the fjords that make up the Marlborough region. After an hour and a half we reach the cliffs signaling the end of the island. I watch it disappear in the fog with a little twinge in the heart. My time on the South Island is over. There have been ups and downs but the year has passed without me realizing it. And then the beauty of the island is indisputable. Two hours later, Wellington also appeared in the fog. I have the strange feeling of never having left it. I have stayed there a week, nine months ago and it feels like coming home.  A part of my trip ends. Another begins.

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