Finally, here we go. I'll stop depressing everyone with my winter tales from Cleveland for a day or two. :o) Really it's not that bad -- it's just super crazy cold right now and it's a bit startling. The snow and ice are quite beautiful and the cities do a good job of keeping the roads clear and drivable (Can that be spelled correctly? It looks weird!). I was just not prepared for 7˚ at the bus stop. It's better when you can ease into it.
So Abel Tasman. Wow. This lovely girl that works at Mustard Seed Market told me yesterday that photos of NZ that she saw when she was a child started her on a lifelong dream to visit. I immediately said that I bet they were photos of the water at Abel Tasman park. You can see on the map (thank goodness for Google Maps, btw!) it's a chunk of the northern tip of the South Island that is unreachable by auto. You can walk or boat in from the nearby towns of Marahau and Totaranui, and from there you'd either walk the track (paths through the bush and along the coast) and camp at night or stay in the DOC (Dept. of Conservation) huts. Remember that word -- the huts -- I'll cover those in a bit.
One might also choose to do part of the track and then take a water ferry back to civilization. Or you can kayak along the coast and combine that with the walking track. The possibilities are endless. But if you were to do the whole track, it would typically take 3-5 days to walk the approximately 55km (34mi).
You might remember that I've mentioned New Zealanders' penchant for tramping? Though my friend Michelle likes to think I'm talking about her, this is tramping. When we first heard of all of the great walks of New Zealand and learned that most everyone we met had done many of them, often with their children, we were definitely befuddled! It's never crossed my mind that maybe I should gather us all up and go to the middle of nowhere and walk for 5 days. But by the end of our six months, it didn't sound crazy at all! To be able to spend a few days hiking through this heartbreakingly gorgeous land and see the scenery and wildlife all together as a family (or by yourself, which would be another totally different sort of cool experience) is just mind-blowingly cool! We definitely experienced firsthand the benefits and joy of getting away from it all while we were there and these tramps are the epitome of that. And the DOC makes it quite easy (except that they don't climb those mountains for you) to prepare and figure out how exactly to do them.
You can probably already guess if you've read any of my previous ramblings that we did not do the entire track. Many of our friends have, but they are Kiwis. The four of us saw the park for the first time on Christmas morning when we took a 3 hour boat ride up and down the coast, from Kaiteriteri to Awaroa and then back. A lovely beautiful warm sunny gorgeous day and all we had to do was sit and look at the golden beaches and breathe in the sea air. After we opened our presents of course!
This was a Christmas that we'd be happy to repeat each year! Magical mystery breakfast at Lemonade Farm and then these views... ahhhhh....
But it wasn't over yet. I wouldn't forget about dinner! What a treat that was! In browsing the grocery magazine racks and the bookstores, I quickly discovered that New Zealand has some fantastic publications! Especially enjoyable are Cuisine and Dish magazines for food and Fashion Quarterly. I read about the Boat Shed Café in Cuisine's article about Nelson restaurants. Loved the idea of the Trust the Chef menu so I called and found out they were doing a Christmas dinner. Hooray!! We were in. We had no idea what the chef might come up with but he sounded cool, so we trusted him.
Not surprisingly, the menu was made up of fresh local foods and of course there were at least a couple strangely placed eggs, but no worries. My favorite was the fried whitebait, the scads of tiny little fish that we tried in a fritter in Whakatane. I didn't love that fritter, but the lightly floured fried tiny fishies were delectable!!!! I could've eaten millions of them!! As it was, we probably ate hundreds. Eyes, tails, and all.
No matter how many times you've done something elsewhere, if you do it in New Zealand, you'll get a whole fresh new take on it. I have to admit that I'm already looking at the calendar to see when we can return.