Friday 25th March 2016 Blenheim

We slept in, till 9am. It's Good Friday, everything is closed, and there was no need to get up. After breakfast of our hot cross loaf, we drove a little out of town to the Wairau wetlands, to go for a walk – across the wetlands to the rusted hulk of the “Waverley”. This was meant to take 2½ hours, but took us less than half that. This, despite having to walk through water for a lot of the way, getting my sandals soaked, and Alison climbing the hull of the ship.

We walked back the long way. There were not many birds to see, though; some swans, shags, and a little brown bird. We drove home for lunch, then we labelled some photos and updated the website – a very overdue job.

And after dinner we walked down to the cinema and watched a film - “Mahane”, a good NZ film about a Maori family. It's ages since Alison and I have been out to a film like that, and it was good. Then we walked home in the quiet Good Friday evening roads.

It's been a very low-key day, but quite a nice one.

Saturday 26th March 2016 Wakefield

Today did not go as expected.

We woke up, and checked out; and drove down into Blenheim. Walked around town a bit – a “normal” Saturday morning, after Good Friday. After finishing the morning with a coffee we drove out, to the “boutique chocolate factory” which was a bit ordinary and very overpriced; then through Renwick, a tiny town but the centre of the wine-growing area; and off towards St. Arnaud and Nelson Lakes.

After lunch at a historic site(a water trough) , we picked up a Taiwanese hitch-hiker headed for St. Arnaud, from where she was going on a six-day walk. As we got closer, the clouds grew blacker; rain began, getting very heavy and needing double-speed windscreen wipers. At the DOC Office in St. Arnaud I dropped her and Alison at the front door, so they could run in without getting too wet, while I parked the car.

Inside, we found there were orienteering championships going on here; so not only is it raining hard, there are people eveywhere and there is nowhere to stay. Even the overflow camping ground is full. So we drove the Taiwanese girl up to the start of her walk, said goodbye, looked at the lake in the cloud and rain, and drove off to somewhere less crowded and drier.

This meant going back towards Nelson. More heavy rain. We stopped at a lookout in the rain (at Hope Saddle), then had a long descent into clearer weather. We started looking for somewhere to stay. First was a Holiday Park – full. Just before Wakefield we saw a sign to Get Real Backpackers; and after a long drive on a gravel road, wondering where we were going, up a hill, we got the house on top. There was no-one here, but a sign on the door said come in and make yourself at home. Hmmm. We went in.

A little later two blokes turned up – Matt and Rich. All is OK, they said. We were still unsure. Later arrived Trevor, the owner; and it is all fine. Alison cooked dinner, and we had a very sociable time talking, mainly to Trevor, and Emma (Australia), her partner Sebastian (Canada) and Sebastian's mother, Carole, from Quebec via Toronto.

It was a very pleasant and very sociable evening.

Sunday 27th March 2016 Marahau

Easter Sunday. We had the option of staying longer at Get Real, but after more chatting at breakfast we said goodbye and moved on. To where? No real idea, and it's the middle of a long weekend with vacant accommodation thin on the ground.

(Trevor told us the story of his motorcycle. Some years ago his wife had left him, his business was going bad; he was down in the dumps but not clinically depressed. He received a call from the Harley Davidson dealer in Christchurch; someone had given him a Harley, on condition that he ride it at least once a week, keep it clean, and not kill himself on it. He has some ideas, but still does not know who gave it to him. But he hasn't been down in the dumps since!)

We drove towards Nelson. I was in a relaxed frame of mind – until I saw the flashing lights behind me! I pulled over. What had I done wrong? I'd been driving too slowly; bad, because it annoys cars behind me. So I drove off; more quickly now, but turned off to Mapua, where Trevor had said there was a big Easter Fair. And there was, with ten hectares of free parking. We joined the queue, parked, and went in. It was very big; we spent a few hours there, then went down to the estuary and ate lunch before heading north.

We got to the biggish town of Motueka and went to the i-site. Asking about accommodation, they'd just been notified of a vacant “chalet” in Marehau, ~ ten minutes further on and at the entrance to Abel Tasman National Park. So we said “yes please”, and here we are. It is very quiet and comfortable. Rose, the proprietress, told us how we can take a water taxi tomorrow and do a walk in the best part of the National Park, so we've decided to do that and then stay here tomorrow night as well. Then on Tuesday we'll need to return to Nelson, an hour away.

So, serendipitously, the end of this trip is turning out well. We'd not planned to come to Abel Tasman because of the crowds, but.... it's worked out well.

We went out for a little walk around the little town; up to the National Park entrance, and back along the beach – the tide a long way out and families out there collecting cockles. 75 cockles per person per day are allowed.

Then we had dinner – we are getting down to the dregs of our food, which is good – and we labelled photos. Alison is up to current! So different from the Iceland trip.

Monday 28th March 2016 Marahau

I had to get up in the night to remove the battery from the dying smoke alarm. But apart from that I slept.

We went next door, to the Aqua Taxi, after breakfast, and got into our boat – which was then towed down the main street behind a tractor, out onto the sand, and floated into the water. It took us first down to “Split Apple Rock”, a little way south; then past an island with seals on the rocks; and then up to Torrent Bay, where we got off.

There is a little settlement here, dating from prior to the formation of Abel Tasman National Park in 1984. (Not surprisingly, we saw various buildings along the coastline – not as many as on Queen Charlotte, but not dissimilar).

Then, we walked; two hours walk through the bush, over to Bark Bay. There were quite a lot of walkers on the track; 95%+ day walkers – those with proper packs we quite unusual. The bush was nice, moister and denser in general than the bush on Queen Charlotte; and there were no mountain bikers. We had a bite to eat, then continued on, to Tonga Quarry campsite (quite nice, on a beach where there used to be a granite quarry) and then on to Onetahuti Bay – getting there at 2.30pm, an hour before our water taxi was due. So we walked the beach a bit, and lay in the sun; we could have swum, but the water was quite cold.

And we were picked up and returned to Marahau, via some more seals.

I'm glad to have walked a bit of Abel Tasman – but it begs comparison with Wilson's Prom. And Wilson's Prom has animals, no private buildings, fewer tourists, and far less commercial activity – water taxis, kayaking, etc.

Now it's time to pack up because we're nearly at the end of our trip. We walked down to the shop – where there is phone reception; here, around the corner, there is none – bought health food – wine and chips – checked our emails, and came home. Here, we sat on the bed watching bad TV while consuming the wine and chips. It was very pleasant.

Then Alison whipped up some dinner.

Tuesday 29th March 2016 Nelson

We had a nice good sleep and sleep in, and got up and packed up; and said goodbye (at length) to Rose, the proprietress. We drove back towards Nelson, through Kaiteriteri (with a nice beach and lots of tourist activity) to Motueka, where we stopped for morning coffee and then visited some op shops.

Then on along the coast towards Nelson. We stopped at a glass gallery at Richmond, then headed on – looking for a park to have lunch in. This was not easy, but we eventually stopped in Isel Park. This was a lovely park, with lots of very mature trees and flower beds; we wandered around it after lunch, then continued on. To Save-Mart (with somewhat high prices, we thought), and then to the Museum of Wearable Art. Here we had our afternoon coffee, and looked through a book about it. Interesting, but we opted not to pay our money to go inside. We came “home” to Dana & Ian's instead.

We unpacked everything. Not too much more to do. And walked back down into and around Nelson, and ate the same fish dinner at the same place we ate on our first night here, 2 weeks ago. And back home.