29.11.2010 - 05.12.2010 25 °C
We took an early morning ferry to Picton, across the Cook Straights and through the peaceful beauty of the Marlborough Sounds.
As we sat admiring the views on fine sunny day, a guy sitting next to us noticed our cycling attire and got chatting. Turns out he used to be a professional cyclist and was in a team with Lance Armstrong. As we pulled in to Picton, he noted down his contact details and invited us to stay with him in Christchurch - the cycling fraternity is certainly a tightly knit community.
After a quick bite to eat at the local bakery we cycled along the Queen Charlotte Drive with stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds; deep blue waters nestled in amongst lush green hills and tiny coves dotted with sailing boats.
We camped at Havelock, a squalid little place but notorious for its huge green lipped muscles.
We feasted on them in gluttinous quantities, first for dinner than again the following evening after an undulating cycling into Nelson; the sunshine captial of NZ. The town lived up to its name and we enjoyed sunshine and blue skies every day for the next 10 days as we made our way around the northern section of the south island.
Abel Tasman national park is NZ's most visited park but the photos of perfect sandy beaches and the opportunity to try some sea kayaking lured us in and we decided to hire a kayak for 3 days. After being briefed on safety issues off we set in our sea kayak, loaded with food and provisions. As we have experienced a number of times, "busy" in NZ has a totally different meaning. The place was deserted by UK standards and as we travelled from one gob smackingly beautiful beack to another, along turqouise waters, we often found we had an entire beack to ourselves.
The campsites we stayed at were amongst some of the finest I have ever seen. One was only accessible by canoe, had a gorgeous sandy beach, was backed by a tropical lagoon and surrounded by lush vegetation.
We settled down for the evening with sore upper bodies from all the paddling (our training wasn't geared for this) and whipped up some veggies and rice for dinner. On the final day we visited a seal colony and then paddled out to an island where we discoved another picture postcard beach all to ourselves. We had run on low on food provisions but luckily the rocks around the beach were loaded with muscles so we helped ourselves to natures bounty, steamed them up with a bit of garlic and stock, and tucked into another delicious seafood feast.
After 3 days on the water it felt good to be back on the bikes. We made our way over the the west coast, known for its abundance of rain, sandflies, as well as beautiful coastline and mountains.