After breakfast in Nelson we had a group photo taken on the winding staircase in the hotel reception then set off to Lake Rotoroa where we would be given time to follow a nature path through the woods where it was supposed to ‘resound to the chorus of native birds’.
On the journey there we were very surprised at how little traffic there was on the roads, it was a Saturday morning and at one stage I timed how long it was between passing cars and it was 20 minutes!
When we arrived at the lake we found that the local school was having a local fundraising event – a power boat competition. The noise was tremendous – certainly so loud it would frighten off many of the native birds. Still we did our walk in the woods and then came back to the jet at the car park to watch the boats for a while and to see the black swan and local mallard ducks being fed. From the jetty we were amazed to see 2 extremely large eels (between 1 and 2 metres long) just swimming in the water.
We then got back in the coach and travelled to a place just south of Cape Foulwind where we had a walk along the coast for about 3-4 kilometres where the coach would pick us up again. It was beautiful, and at the end of it there was an ice cream van where we could try a cone of the famous Hokey Kokey ice cream. We also encountered the weka birds foraging about – they are a relative of the kiwi and obviously understood that where there were humans there were also normally scraps of food to be had.
We carried on in the coach for another couple of hours along some spectacular coastal scenery and finally arrived at Punakaiki where we walked around a path to look at the famous Pancake rocks. They are limestone formations in layers that look like stacks of pancakes. They are also famous because of the huge water spouts that happen when the tide is high, but in our case that wouldn’t be until later on at night.
Our hotel was no more than half a mile down the road from here and what a fantastic situation it was in – right on the beach. We had a long saunter along the beach and a paddle in the sea but it was far too rough to go in for a swim.
On arriving at South Island we were told that the sand flies can be quite ferocious and we would need to cover ourselves in insect repellent in order to prevent ourselves from being bitten. We had done this religiously every day. After the walk along the beach we had showers and then entered the hotel for our diner but didn’t re-apply the insect repellent as we thought we would be inside. We were inside the restaurant but there was also a balcony where a number of other diners were eating so there were French doors which were permanently open and by next day we had been bitten a number of times, mainly round the ankles.
To me this was one of the best locations, it was quiet and right on the beach, a plus was also the weather which we were told by both our driver and guide that it wasn’t normally as warm, sunny and dry as it was for us.