Drove northeast from Westport on Route 6 passing thru the narrow gorge between the Victoria Forest Park & Kahurangi National Forest. Heading to the Abel Tasman National Park area. Decided to go past Tasman to Collingwood & Farewell Spit; the farthest north one can get on the South Island. Farewell Spit is basically an 18 mile long, & half mile wide, sand bar. Unless on a guided tour you can walk only the first 2.5 miles; which is quite enough to feel very removed from 'civilization'. Most people we saw walked only the 1st mile or less.
Crossing over the Takaka Hills the road, Route 60, disappeared into the fog. Luckily could see the white lines in the center of, and on the passenger side of, the road. 15 minutes of driving nearly blind around narrow hairpin curves up & over the mountain crest was enough, and dropping below the cloud/fog level to clear visibility was a welcome relief.
Collingwood is a small town on Golden Bay about an 18 mile drive, across many small one-way bridges, to Farewell Spit. Collingwood has a small grocery store, a cafe, and a pub/restaurant, so there is food to be found; Lidia really enjoyed the White-Bait sandwich at the cafe. Stayed at the Zatori Retreat which sits on a bluff overlooking the Ruataniwha Inlet on the edge of which sits Collingwood. Zatori is very comfortable and spacious, and we liked it so much we stayed an extra day.
The first day we went to the Spit was early in the evening as the tide came in, and as dusk fell so too did the cloud level. The clouds were about only 100 feet above our heads, and the remaining daylight had gone dimly grey; reminiscent of a 1930's film noire set in winter time London. And then as if dropping from the sky on the film director's queue about 150 Bar-Tailed Godwits accompanied by ~50 Lesser Knots swirled out of the cloud cover to search for a choice landing spot near the water's edge. Then another 250 swirled in, then 300 more, and finally the final 400 or so ! Resting, preening and cleaning were before us more than a thousand migratory birds. As this scene plays the flood tide has carried the 100's of Black Swans closer to the shore; they were always just at the edge of the beach, knee deep, or so, water, and so sometimes 300 yards away at low tide, or 25 feet away at high tide. We were the only people on the beach that evening to witness that incredible surreal sight.
The next day we walked the full 2.5 miles allowed without a guide; started out the Golden Bay side, crossed the half mile of the Spit to the Tasman Sea side, and then 2.5 miles back along that Tasman side. Saw only one other couple the whole 5 mile hike, and that was while crossing the Spit width through the sand dunes, and the meadows in the middle. The sand dunes sculpted by the wind created some interesting shapes, and the wind blown mixture of white, grey, brown, & black sands created geometric atmospheric swirling etch-a-sketch patterns seemingly by some cosmic artist- I guess they were !!
While walking the Tasman side beach in very stiff winds we come across, yup, the 1,000 or so Godwits & Knots facing into the wind, and often on one leg. Back to back lucky days.
Had dinner one night at a famous cafe near Collingwood, The Mussel Inn. Met a young lady from Minnesota who had just finished doing the set effects control for the Fleetwood Mac tour in New Zealand. Next up for her is Black Sabbath in North America starting in February or March.
Next we're to Marahau on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park to do some hiking on the Abel Tasman Track.
On our drive there we stopped at Te Waikoropupu Springs. They are considered the purest natural springs in New Zealand, and one of the top five purest in the world. They are absolutely crystal clear, and the surrounding walks in the forests and meadows were idyllic. The Maori greatly respect this site, and so ask all to refrain from touching the water, so I can't comment on the water's texture, or taste.
Ciao for now