Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 4 - Motueka

July 4 - Motueka

We got up this morning around 8 AM. I was warm most of the night to the point that I didn’t really need my sleeping bag, but I laid in it anyway. There were no blankets provided in the cabin, but it was fine. We didn’t really have anything planned since we were supposed to still be in Nelson Lakes National Park at this point. We decided we wanted to be in Motueka early so we wouldn’t have to have such a long drive in the morning of July 5 before our kayaking trip. It ended up being a good choice.

The weather was much warmer in Motueka. It was probably the warmest our trip had been. It was around 12 degrees Celsius for the day. At night it only got down to around 6 degrees Celsius. We went to the kitchen to make breakfast. It had rained a little bit during the night, but it didn’t seem really hard like we were told it would be. They made it sound like a hurricane was coming. It was barely even wet outside if at all. We wanted to get rid of some of our food that wouldn’t last since we were about to be going on a 3 day trip.

We made three eggs with cheese that we shared, a piece of jelly toast, and fried potatoes with some tea. It was a good breakfast. The eggs are really good. During breakfast I read in the Lonely Planet that there were a few good hikes in the area. They included driving north a little bit to Takaka Hill. One was a guided walk at Ngarua Cave which cost money and didn’t operate on weekdays in the winter according to our guidebook and the others were Takaka Hill Hike and Harwoods Hole.

We decided we wanted to do the Takaka Hill Hike. It was a 3 hour loop. Afterwards we were maybe going to do the Harwoods Hole trail. It was 1 ½ hours, but was down an 11 kilometer gravel road. It was the site of Chetwood Forest in Lord of the Rings.

The drive to Takaka Hill was very steep. Probably one of the steepest roads we had been on so far. It was really curvy as well. It seemed like a road from a video game and reminded us of roads in Costa Rica. There wasn’t much traffic on it at all and we weren’t driving very fast. Our car seems to have trouble getting up hills and taking sharp turns. Other cars go really fast and weave around really easily. They must have more practice at it.

The weather was a little overcast, but we were hoping the weather would clear up by the time we got to the hike. It was only about 25 kilometers to drive there, but with the roads the way they were it took longer to get there than it should have.

Along the way we stopped at a lookout which offered views of Abel Tasman National Park, Tasman Bay, and Motueka. Farther in the distance was the town of Nelson. The hike to the lookout was about 400 meters. We were in a hurry so we just ran the entire way. It was a boardwalk for most of the way with a very minimal climb. Running to the end was kind of tiring. I was wanting to stop, but also wanted to get to the end.

After a few minutes we finally reached the viewing platform. The views were pretty good. It was still cloudy, but we could see enough. We ran back to the car, but stopped along the way to take pictures of small pointy rocks that were on the side of the trail. Andy had seen them before on the way up, but I wasn’t really paying attention because I didn’t even notice them.

As we were taking pictures a guy and a girl passed us,. The guy was smoking on the trail. I got my pictures and then ran. I wanted to get away from the smoke smell. It took about 30 seconds to finally get away from the smell. The run down was much easier. It must have been because it was downhill a little bit.

We got back in the car and continued driving. We made it to the Ngarau Caves and it said the last tour was at 2 PM. It was about 10:45 PM at this point. We pulled off the main road at the entrance to the caves because it said there were good views. The views were ok, but we thought we could see better if we drove down the gravel road.

The road was a little steep. As we were entering a pickup truck was leaving. It pulled over so we could pass. It was only about 400 meters to the cave. There was a small building with a few cars parked outside. It looked like a tour was about to go since people were inside putting on helmets. I’m sure the cave would have been neat, but for the price it didn’t seem worth it. I’ve seen caves before anyway.

We took a few pictures from the parking lot of the Tasman Bay. A family with two young kids came walking out. The dad asked the little boy if he liked the cave and he said it was the boringest thing in the world and he hated it. The dad said he didn’t and then the boy said it was awesome.

We got back in the car and drove back down the gravel road and to our next stop, Takaka Hill. It was about 5 minutes more of driving. The parking lot was empty. I left my backpack because I thought I wouldn’t need my telephoto lens. I brought my small camera bag with a granola bar and carried my gopro. It was a little cold outside, windy, and it looked like it could possibly rain so I wore my fleece and my rain jacket.

It looked like it had rained a lot in this area because the first part of the trail had lots of puddles. We chose to do this hike because it was supposed to have good views of the surrounding area and marble karst rock formations along the trail. We started at about 1:15 PM.

It was basically a gravel road that had about a 30 degree angle that went for about 200 meters. It was pretty tough walking, but we managed it. At the top of this part the trail looks more like a normal hike. There were two routes to take. We could go left or right. There was an arrow that pointed to the right so we followed it. It was a loop trail so we assumed it would end up coming from the left on the way back. There was a post with a slot that asked for donations for the trails upkeep. We see these signs on most trails, but this one should have been an omen.

The hike started out really easy. It was slightly wet with small trees and bushes around. We were above the tree line and walking at the height of the hill we were on. Ahead there was a slight climb to a weather station of some kind. Along the way we passed lots of the marble karst formations.

I was thinking they were going to be bigger, but after seeing them on the hike to the lookout this is what I thought they would look like. They were mostly 2-3 foot rocks scattered around with a dark black or gray color and very pointy tops.

We took a lot of pictures of them. They were hard to walk across because they wobbled when we stepped on them and it wasn’t easy to put our feet down since there weren’t many flat sides to stand on. At one point Andy was stopped taking pictures and I had already gotten mine so I went ahead.

I saw a point on the trail that was wet and I didn’t want to walk through it. I thought it would be a good idea to walk on the karst rocks on the side of the trail and go around the mud. I stepped up onto a rock with my right foot, then onto another on my left. At this point I didn’t know which way to go because the next step was going to have to be on one of the jagged rocks with sharp edges. As I was standing there somehow in those few seconds I started to lose my balance.

If I fell backwards it was all sharp rocks. Based on how I was standing the trail was slightly behind me and to my left side. I thought quickly and turned my body as I jumped for the trail. Not being able to see what was to my side as I was falling backwards I twisted in the air like a cat. Upon doing so I landed on the trail, but my momentum was pulling me backwards. I hit the ground with both feet and immediately fell onto my back and into a bush.

Had I been a foot to my left I would have fallen straight back into the sharp rocks. I thought for sure I was going to get hurt. My heart was pounding, but at the same time I was laughing about what just took place. I had cheated death.

I ran back to where Andy was taking pictures and told him to come ahead and see what had happened. He came up the trail and I re-enacted what took place. This time I just walked through the muddy part of the trail. It wasn’t even that bad anyway and it was only a few feet.

As we walked further the trail started to get steep. The bushes and small trees disappeared and it was just rocky areas. It was similar to Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho in terms of the landscape. It looked like it could be remnants from a volcano although I didn’t see anything that looked like it could be a volcano in the area.

We made it to the top of the hills and had good views of the Takaka River Valley and the Tasman Bay. The sun was starting to shine through the clouds so the water in the bay was a turquoise color on some parts. It was pretty far, but it was still pretty. We were hoping the trail would loop back to our left and stay along the ridgeline to give better views. Below the ridge there was a forest with larger trees mixed with areas of small brush and rocks.

The trail did go left like we wanted, but it wasn’t staying on the ridgeline. Instead it started going down, which meant two things. We weren’t going any higher, or eventually we would have to walk uphill. Two things I didn’t like thinking about.

The trail meandered through forests, over rocks, and into the bushes randomly. It seemed like the development of the trail wasn’t well planned out. I was thinking we would just have good views all the way around, but instead we just wandered aimlessly. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for us to be walking through forests and bushes. I could understand the rocks since that was part of the attraction to the hike, but the rest was pointless.

All along the way we were taking pictures and videos of the things we saw, but we weren’t stopping too often. We got to a point where we thought would be good to have our snacks. I thought maybe we should walk slightly farther to a viewpoint from above and then have snacks.

We walked on a little bit, but we didn’t seem to be getting any higher. In fact, the trail didn’t seem to exist anymore. There was a path, but it was hard to tell if it was a sheep trail, or the trail for hikers. On either side of the path were bushes with thorns. Most of them were small, but when they poked me it felt like someone was poking me with a hundred needles in my legs. It was only a sharp pain for a second, but it didn’t feel good at all.

These parts were minimal compared to what lay ahead. The thorn bushes we had just passed were only a few feet to get through and they were mostly knee high. I didn’t feel like getting poked anymore so when the trail branched off to the left on the same gravel road we saw before I wanted to turn. Andy wanted to go a little further because to our right was a rocky area above that we thought the trail may lead to eventually. Ahead of us was another ridge and we thought the trail may lead there as well, which would give good views of the Tasman Bay.

Neither of these things turned out to be the case. Instead the trail went further into the valley and deeper into the thorns. These bushes were head high, sometimes higher. They sometimes lasted up to 10-15 yards in length. The path was virtually nonexistent and the only way we knew where to go was based on the green stakes with an arrow on them. We just tried to walk towards them the best we could.

I don’t think we ever left the trail, but apparently the owners haven’t received many donations for trail upkeep. I don’t think anyone had done this trail in months, and if they had they were probably regretting it as much as I was.

At first I tried to go slow through the thorns to try and avoid them, but now that wasn’t an option. I tried stomping on them at times and that also failed. They were too high to step on and no way to avoid. I just walked through them quickly when I could. My rain jacket is pretty thick and durable so I started to tuck my arms in and use my arms to spread the thorns wide as I walked through.

It actually worked for the most part except when the thorns were too low to avoid or block. If I would have had my camera bag I would have used it as a shield. We probably walked around in the thorn infested areas for about an hour. Occasionally the trail would open up again or lead into a forest and give us a reprieve from the killer plants.

The pain was only momentary, but it still felt terrible. I couldn’t figure out why the trail would go in this route. It made no sense. There were no views, no rocks, nothing. Just thorn bushes hoping to torture the tourists. We walked really quickly once we got to the forest and escaped the thorns for the last time.

We had passed signs along the trail that said “Danger” and showed a picture of a person falling from a rockslide, but it made no sense to us. There were no rock areas to fall off of in these locations. We finally figured out that it wasn’t rockslides that were the problem. In the forest there were more of these signs and next to them were huge sink holes. There must have been 4 or 5 really big ones.

I peed in the forest like I had been on most of the other trails. I’ve peed all over this country. The forest walk was nice. We made it back out to the gravel road and started walking up the final hill to the fork in the road we had passed earlier.

We made it to the top and started the decent down the steep hill. We had made it. We survived Takaka Hill. It was about 4:30 PM when we got back to the car. The trail was cool, but if I did it again I would probably just go to the weather station lookout since the rest was not necessary. I would also go at a time of year when the trail upkeep was better.

It was too late to do anything else and we wanted to get some groceries so we drove back to Motueka. Along the way we passed through the town of Riwaka and looked for the hostel we were wanting to stay at the night before. We still didn’t see the road. We had driven through this tiny town 4 times now and couldn’t find it anywhere.

We saw there was a New World on the other side of Motueka, which was about 3 minutes from our hostel. It was the 4th of July and we had access to a grill so Andy wanted to make hotdogs on the grill. We also needed to get more bread and a few other items we would need for the Abel Tasman Kayaking.  

We bought hotdogs, ham, bread, buns, apples, fiber one bars, a new toothpaste for me and Andy got some new razors since he dropped his a few days ago and it broke. We got some chocolate as well for when we got back from the trip to reward ourselves. We mostly just wanted the hotdogs. We drove back to the Top 10 Holiday Park to book a room for the night. Even though it was slightly more to sleep in the cabins we didn’t want to get our things wet and we needed to leave early in the morning so not having to take down a tent would be nice.

We went inside to ask about staying in the same cabin. It was a different lady working than from the night before, but she knew who we were and that we would be coming back. The other lady had told her about us. As we were sorting things out with the room I saw that there was a sign that mentioned if you stay two nights in a row the second night is half off. I hadn’t seen that the day before so I made a comment about getting half on for the night’s rate.

The lady said that must be done at the time of booking the first night. I told her I was unaware of that and had I known we would have booked the second night immediately because it would have been cheaper and made us want to stay in the cabin without hesitation. She said that she would do it for us and that if she didn’t have a job in the morning she would come find me.

As she was doing the necessary stuff on the computer to book the room she made a comment that the other lady had told her she forgot to tell us about the special deal. I wish all the Top 10 Holiday Parks from now on have this special deal. It is only a winter thing, but I hadn’t seen it at the other ones. Most of the others we didn’t stay multiple nights though.

We were put in the same cabin, which was fine with me. My shoes had gotten wet again from the hike and so did my pants so I needed to dry some things out. We went to the room and laid out all the stuff we wanted to dry. I put my shoes and socks in front of the small heater. Andy put his boots and shoes in front of it.

We stayed in the room for a little while to sort out our things and pack what we needed for the kayaking trip. We had bought bread in order to make the sandwiches we would take for our meals. We had no stove, so cooking wasn’t going to be an option. Everything we were taking would be cold foods.

I used the old loaf of bread for my two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and ham sandwich. I needed a few pieces from the new loaf to make the tuna sandwich. I was able to make my peanut butter and jelly and ham sandwiches before we went to go make dinner. Andy was sorting through his things so he would need to wait until after dinner to make food.

We went to grill the hotdogs and make the rest of our food. Andy turned on the gas grill and fixed the hotdogs. He also cut up the vegetables for the salad and cut the cheese. I made the lettuce and put in the cut up ingredients for the salad and made the tuna for our sandwiches. We were also boiling a few eggs to take on the hike to go with the others we already had. I had been wanting to take eggs on the hike since the first time we bought eggs and boiled them.

I went ahead and made both the tuna sandwiches and then took them to the room. When I got back it was time to have our hotdogs. We heated up the buns in the microwave and put mustard on them. We had two each. They were a different kind than what we had before. They were really chewy on the inside, but shriveled up on the outside. They tasted more like a sausage. It was ok though. It didn’t really grill them how we were hoping, but it was a gas grill.

Andy also made French fries and cooked spinach afterwards and we ate our salad. We had a few cookies and chocolate with tea to go with it. We also had a glass of milk since we had bought a huge thing of milk a few days before and didn’t think it would keep in our parked car for three days. I was glad to drink milk because I’m tired of water and tea all the time.

After dinner we went back to the room to continue packing. I had most of my food packed. I took four sandwiches, one for each lunch and one for each dinner for the first two days. The final day was only a half day so I wasn’t going to need a sandwich. I also took three apples, one for each lunch. I had three boiled eggs, a granola bar for each day, and three fiber one bars. We also had cheese, carrots, and cucumber cut up plus a roll of Oreo cookies to share.

My meal plan was as follows:

Lunch 1 - Tuna sandwich, apple, granola bar, carrots, cheese
Dinner 1 - Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrots, cookies
Breakfast 1 - Boiled egg, fiber one bar, and banana bread
Lunch 2 - Ham sandwich, carrots, cheese, cucumber, apple, granola bar
Dinner 2 - Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cheese, carrots, cookies
Breakfast 2 - Boiled egg, fiber one bar, and banana bread
Lunch 3 - Apple, boiled egg,  granola bar

I was able to pack all of my food, clothes, and sleeping pad, but I needed my sleeping bag for the night. I also brought my tooth brush and toothpaste along with my contacts case and solution. I packed all of those things into my dry bag that I bought. I only planned to bring my camera and gopro in my small camera bag which could also fit in my dry bag, although we were told that a dry bag would be provided for cameras.

For clothes I packed a pair of pants, socks and my merino wool long-sleeve shirt to sleep in and hike in on the last day. I also brought a pair of underwear. For the kayaking portion I planned to wear my swimsuit and my black “One Man, One Journey” shirt since it was lightweight and could dry quickly if it got wet.

I was planning to only bring my toe shoes since I could kayak in those and hike in them on the last day. Part of the hiking including crossing an inlet at low tide so I figured it could be muddy or wet and I didn’t want my shoes getting wet again. I also didn’t think I would have room for them since I didn’t know how much space I would have in the kayak compartments.

Andy was going to empty out his backpack so we could put the tent and other items in there. If it would fit in the kayak it would be perfect. Otherwise we would have to carry the tent in our hands and that would be a much bigger hassle. I was gong to be carrying my dry bag in my hand on the hiking portion. If I could dump some of my stuff on Andy that would be better.
I finished packing around 9:30 PM or so. During that time I was transferring pictures and clearing off cards. I also had three gopro batteries and two T2i batteries to charge for my cameras. Andy had to charge his batteries as well and transfer pictures. Most of my cards and batteries were ready to go, but I needed to make sure everything would be fine. It would be terrible to pay all this money and then run out of memory card space or have dead batteries and not be able to get pictures of everything we did.

The campsites we were staying at didn’t have electricity of any kind and some didn’t have drinkable water. I had to pack two 2-litre bottles of water. I wanted to have more than enough. Andy was also packing a bottle of water and a 2-litre bottle. We had way too much water. I probably hadn’t drank that much the whole trip combined.

I think I finally went to bed around 11:30 PM after packing my things and typing in my journal for a while. We were hoping to get up early in the morning and finish off some of our perishable food and get to the kayak rental place around 8:15 AM. It is in Marahau, a small town about 18 kilometers from where we are staying, but the roads are curvy most of the way and we didn’t know how long it would take to get there.

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