Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Zealand 2016 Day 19. Greymouth to Abel Tasman National Park

A little incident marred the quiet of the morning. Anna had forgotten her jacket the previous night at the kitchen of the campground, so she was happy to see it the following morning as we prepared for showers and breakfast (she is paranoid someone is going to steal her things, and I keep telling her that no one wants our used stuff). To our surprise, by the time we had finished breakfast someone had actually taken her jacket! She figured maybe someone had taken it to the front desk, as a lost and found item. No, it was not there, but the guy in charge said he would look through the security tapes (I didn’t know Big Brother was watching us in the kitchen). Lo and behold, there it was: a woman with four children had lifted the jacket, checked it out, and then simply taken it with her. Anna was furious, but the guy told her to wait and went to get the jacket himself. The lady claimed she had taken it by mistake, but according to the tape she took a careful look at it before pocketing it. The graffiti in our van put it succinctly: “Thou shall not steal. God is watching, you thieving bastard”.

Today was a travel day. We were driving about 300 km from the west coast to the north coast. The west coast is spectacular, with tall mountains coming to the edge of the water and jagged coastal cliffs. The west coast is bathed by the waters of the Sea of Tasman, named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who in the early 1600’s became the first European to set eyes in Tasmania and the South Island of New Zealand. In practical terms, however, the Sea of Tasman is part of the Circum-Antarctic Ocean, famous for its rough seas due to the Roaring 40’s (the westerly winds that are practically unimpeded by a major landmass at 40 to 50 degrees south latitude), so it is no big surprise that coastal erosion is such an active geologic process here.

As the highway turned inland, however, we crossed as pretty a country as any you could imagine. Broad fluvial valleys support large pasture fields, dotted with sheep, cows, and deer (yes, here deer are raised as a meat animal in herds of 30 to 50 individuals). The hills are not as rugged and are covered by a mix of pines and deciduous trees, only generally similar to the ones we are used back home. New Zealand is a paradise to botanists, who get to identify a new species every few steps. The last 60 km we followed the valley of the Motukea River, which is definitely a place Anna could live. Once we reached the coast it was but a short drive to Marahau, which claims to be the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park.

We arrived at low tide, and I was surprised to see a large number of boats resting on the muddy floor of a large, dry bay. A few children were playing in the mud, sinking in it down to their knees. I could also see a good number of people looking for mussels and clams. By the time we had found a camping place the tide had turned, and in an astonishing 10 minutes the muddy bay became a shallow harbor, and the clam diggers were replaced by tourists in bathing suits (including one A. Kobberger).

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