Well, we finally got to the South Island….by boat. We sailed from Mangonui at the end of Januaury over the top of the North Island and down the west cost to Abel Tasmin National Park. It took us three days. The anchorages along the coastal track of the park are magnificent. We spent three weeks in the park doing trail walks and kayaking with seals. And very little boat work!
On one of Liliane’s kayak outings, she came across a little blue penguin that seemed to have difficulty swimming. Normally we keep our distance from the wildlife. After observation and the approach of the penguin towards her kayak, which normally they don’t do, she picked him up and put him in the kayak. He then waddled up between her legs, took a little pinch of her belly with his beak, then fell asleep for at least a half hour. You can see a small wound on his back in the picture.
After he was rested, she turned him over to the park office. It was a pretty amazing experience. Blue penguins by the way are the smallest penguins in the world.
Our goal was to do most of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. The trail follows the coast, and there is no road access. Normally it would take five days to complete the trail, stopping each night at a Dept of Conservation camping area or hut. The beauty of being on a boat is that we could access a different part of the trail at each anchorage. One fun part was Cleopatra’s Pools, multi-level fresh water pools with natural rock slide. But the water was cold!
While in Port Golden, we had coffee on the Jacques Cousteau Expresso Ship just across from Meikyo. The ship was once part of the original Cousteau fleet, but now it is a pretty neat place to have a cappuccino.
After 3 weeks in Abel Tasman Park we sailed down to Nelson where we stayed a week. Nelson is a very interesting town. It is referred to as the arts capital of New Zealand. Each Saturday there is a large craft market in the middle of the city. Liliane took a one day bone carving class with a Stephan Gilberg, a local artist. See the amazing result and the process below:
The carving I (Liliane ) designed is a combination of a hei matau (fishhook) and tohora (whale). The fishhook symbolizes good luck and protection on journeys, especially over the waters as well as prosperity and fulfilled life. The whale symbolizes power, might and strength as well as free spirit. The whale are believed to be the oldest children of “Tangaroa” god of the sea. This combination is most appropriate when living on the ocean. To represent water I embedded a Paua shell which are largely found in new Zealand. Our teacher was really fantastic helping and guiding us to achieve our carving.
Now she’s looking for bones! Next stop, the butcher shop.
Before our trip to the South Island, we had a nice cruisers pot luck on Pine Island. For the last three years we have admired the view of Pine Island from our mooring in Opua, but never set foot on it till now. We were really amazed how nice it was up there. You just have to make the steep climb.
And we save the best for last. After all these years at sea, we had a dolphin encounter that was spectacular. We have had dolphins many times come to the boat while travelling at sea. It is always a wonderful experience. But this one blew us away. They were performing for us. They also would get very close and role on their backs to look up at us. Check out the picture and video below:
So here we are in Nelson, getting ready for the next stage of our New Zealand journey. We plan to cruise Marlborough Sounds, Picton, then up the east side of the North Island to arrive back in Opua by the end of April. By then it will be getting colder here, and time to head north to the tropics.