The intrepid explorer (sans machete)

I enjoyed the extravagant luxury of my own room last night, including an en-suite bathroom, and slept incredibly well as a result – bliss. So I was raring to go in the morning, despite waking to low cloud and the threat of rain. The sea still shone a defiantly bright milky-turquoise and the birds still seemed perfectly chipper, so the stage was set for another great day’s walking.

The trail began with a rather unsympathetic steep climb, and I felt my hill-walking muscles (which used to be highly-tuned when I was living in the Lake District, but have since become rather soft round the edges) wake from their dormancy and grind into action – it felt good. In fact I have a strange liking of going uphill, whether it be walking, running or cycling – I know, I’m a wrong’un. As I took in the view at the top of the first hill I also felt that slightly trippy sensation of the horizon moving steadily away from me that I remember so well from my mountain walks in the Lakes – is that just me, or does anyone else get that?!

Today the trail stuck to the ridge-line more, in habitat dominated by gorse, bracken and something that looked a bit like laurel or oversize bilberry. The more open landscape afforded views across the Sound on both sides for much of the time, which was wonderful. The tuis and bellbirds were less prevalent this high up, and my main bird companions were instead the ubiquitous cheeky fantails, who constantly flick out their beautiful white, fluted tails when agitated, which seems to be often – they go around in bickering groups, like a load of old married couples (no offence, married couples).

Halfway through the walk, I was way ahead of schedule to pick up my water taxi to Picton, so I decided to take a detour down to the water’s edge for lunch. I thought I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew as I fought my way down a very steep slope through fallen trees, heaps of fern litter and tangles of tree roots and splashed across streams, especially as the rain began at that point. It all felt rather exciting, and I wished I had a machete, to add to my intrepid mental image. The ‘path’ followed a dry ridge at first, dominated by Southern beech trees (not like our beech at all – they’re evergreen for a start, and have small leaves like birch). It then dipped lower into ancient-feeling rainforest, with some grand old native rima trees nestling amongst the silver tree ferns, and long, shiny black vines hanging from the trees, which I later learnt are from a plant called supplejack. They looked disconcertingly like shiny plastic tubing, incongruous in this inaccessible wilderness.

It was worth the climb down though, as at the bottom I found my way onto a deserted little cove and sat on the sand in the tickling rain, eating my sandwiches and watching fish jump in the water. It felt very special. For all of the indisputable grandeur and awesomeness of the views across the Sound, I sometimes prefer these personal, un-looked-for moments, as if the world has opened a brand new page, just at that moment, just for you. When those fish jumped it felt like it was especially for me. Don’t get me wrong, I totally loved the majesty of the Sound, but it’s just that views of that scale kind of scream at you: “Look at me! I’m amazing!” and, along with all the other people who have come specially to enjoy the same views, they take your collective breath away. Whereas those personal ‘hidden moments’ tend to elicit more of a sigh than a gasp; breath-giving rather than breath-taking…

Anyway, it was with pleasure, and a slight sadness at rejoining the normal world, that I reached the end of the trail and rewarded myself with a huge icecream. I am now sitting in my hostel in Nelson, ready to start on my kayaking trip in Abel Tasman tomorrow. It’s been raining all day (guess there’s a reason why it’s so green here) and I arrived here, in NZ’s officially sunniest town, in a heavy downpour, d’oh. However, I was told that the forecast is set to improve over the next few days, so hopefully I should see some sunshine. But I have also been told previously by countless kiwis never to trust the weather forecast here, so we’ll see…

I’ll be back in a few days with tales of how my kayaking adventures went – wish me luck! (And I promise you, I do need it –  some of you may already know that my one irrational fear in life is being on any kind of boat, including kayaks, and this trip is all part of my attempt to get over such silliness – we’ll see how it goes!)

Photo of my ‘special’ lunchtime cove – not mind-blowing, but that’s kind of my point…

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3 Responses to The intrepid explorer (sans machete)

  1. christopher says:

    Their is nothing better than bobbing around in a kayak and letting the water sweep you along. Overcome the fear and enjoy, i look forward to the next instalment of Becky’s adventure.

  2. Pru says:

    Weirdly, we arrived in Nelson in the pouring rain too! We really liked the laid back, arty feel to Nelson and there is an amazing cafe there for brekkie but couldn’t tell you the name! There was also a jazz festival on then too- ‘nice’! Anyway, enjoy Abel Tasman AND the kayaking- go Becks!! It will either conquer your fears or you’ll be ragged by the end of it and never want to be in a kayak ever again!! Good luck!! xx

  3. Nadine says:

    hey Bex, have fun with the kayaking trip – that’s something we are planning on doing in Finland some time… Love to catch up with you via your blog and finding myself miles away being on holiday as well! Lots of love and hugs from us two.

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