On the eastern coast of the most northern part of the South Island lies Golden Bay, a huge crescent-shaped coastline stretching around 50km. The drive north from Nelson skirts round Abel Tasman National Park and takes you over the hair-raising Takaka Hill, where the road changes direction more often than:
1. A New Zealand weather vane (choose this option for a safe, wry joke about NZ’s weather)
2. Ed Miliband’s Labour party (the ‘politics’ option, guaranteed to result in frothy, pointless debate)
3. Leonard Shelby in a sign shop (the movie-buff option)
It’s a comfortable day out from Nelson if you’ve got a car. We don’t, so we rent one, and set off on our road trip.
10.20am First win of the day, convincing the hostel manager to drive us to the car rental place so we don’t have to, y’know, walk.
10.30am Yay, car.
10.31am Goddammit, how do you drive an automatic? Why is the handbrake there? Why is the gearstick there?
10.36am We wanted to drive to Nelson Airport, right? No? Then I have no idea where we are.
10.38am How do you open the fuel tank? Great, now the car won’t start. Oh, it’s because I’m not in park.
10.46am Yay, car.
11am Right, we’ve got a long way to drive, so we’re not going to keep stopping.
Soon OMG, TAME EELS? STOP!
Soon Okay, fine, let’s just stop every three-and-a-half minutes instead. Stupid New Zealand.
Eventually Finally over the hill. Let’s make sure we don’t have to drive back over it in the dark. (COULD THIS BE SETTING UP A JOKE MAYBE?)
Takaka A charming little town and the gateway to Golden Bay, essentially just one street but bustling with museums, art galleries and shops. The only issue is how the hell you pronounce it. TA-ka-ka? ta-KA-ka? tar-KA-ka? TAR-ka-ka? TA-KA-KA? TAR-ka-KA?
Ligar Bay Our first beach of the day, just a short drive east from Takaka.
Pupu Springs Full name: Te Waikoropupu Springs. Hard to pronounce and less funny. This is reputedly the clearest water in the Southern Hemisphere, although goodness knows how on earth you could be sure of that. I would imagine we keep losing the clearest water in the Southern Hemisphere because no-one can see it.
The Far North The largest town past Takaka is Collingwood. It has about one shop (literally). Still, that’s more than all the other settlements up on the bay. Most of the ones marked on the map pass by without us even noticing them. We stop to pick up a hitch-hiker who lives in the middle of nowhere and wants to go to Collingwood, because I guess that’s where all the great shopping is.
Farewell Spit After Collingwood, a scenic drive takes us to Farewell Spit, the northern point of the island and a huge spit that protrudes out into the sea, sheltering the bay and providing a home to a whole ecosystem that is protected by the Department of Conservation. Visitors are only allowed to walk a short distance down it, but it’s still beautiful and remote and weathered.
Wharariki The highlight of the trip, and one of my highlights of New Zealand so far. A torturous gravel ‘road’ from Farewell Spit takes you west to a car park. A short walk through farmland and cows takes you to coastal forest and the lonely swept dunes of a magical beach…
Shut up, New Zealand We would have loved to stay on the beach till sunset, but it was at least a three hour drive back to Nelson, so we tore ourselves away and began the journey back. We wanted to get to the famed Mussel Inn by 9pm for dinner, but somehow New Zealand just never lets you keep driving. The plan: don’t stop the car. The reality: a lot of swearing at the sunset for making us stop AGAIN.
9.30pm Half an hour late to the pub, but at least they still served us pies.
10pm Time to head home.
10.30pm Driving over the Hill of Evil in the dark. No cars and no lights. A single working radio station with nothing but static. Gah.
11pm Still driving over the hill.
12am Alive and home. Win.
FINAL COMMENT THE WORDPRESS BLOG EDITOR IS THE WORST THING EVER CREATED BY MANKIND. ITS INTERFACE IS AS LOGICAL AS A WALRUS WEARING ARMBANDS ON THE MOON. I KNOW WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY WILL BE OFFENSIVE TO MANY BUT IT MUST BE SAID. THE WORDPRESS BLOG IS LITERALLY WORSE THAN THE TABLES FUNCTIONALITY OF MICROSOFT WORD. SERIOUSLY I’VE JUST HAD TO GO IN AND EDIT ALL THE HTML MYSELF. IT’S TOO BEAUTIFUL OUTSIDE TO BE DOING THIS.
Also, I just had this conversation while trying to fix it.
ME: I’m a…
MIKAELA: Genius? An Einstein?
ME: No, it’s gone wrong.
MIKAELA: Ha, you’re a Nein-stein!
(This is funnier in New Zealand because everyone is German.)