The Inter Islander leaves from Wellington, sails through the Cook Strait and takes around 3 hours to reach Picton. It's a beautiful trip, particularly as you approach the South Island; reminds me of our BC ferries.
Time to drive. Our destination? Nelson, and the location of one of the most awesome-nest places on earth. The drive is stunning, as usual, and a stop in the small town of Havelock is a must if you like mussels. We stop to enjoy a feast and allow the kids to stretch their legs.
Motueka is where we stayed. It's a small town about 1/2 hour drive from Nelson. A much better spot than Nelson for vacationers, and at the door step of Abel Tasman National Park. After a full day of travel, the pool and play grounds were a welcomed sight. We'd had enough of the kids by this point and they'd certainly had enough of us!
The following morning, I prepped for "The Ride". After packing the bike, and a few things to eat, I headed back to Nelson. The Dun Mountain trail was my mission. It's a 40 km loop that starts in Nelson, making it very accessible. You can access the trail via a few different spots, but I started the ride at Brook Street and parked the car near the Dun Mountain trail sign. It's hard to miss; going south on Brook, it's on your left. Once there, just park the car on the street.
Be prepared, this trail is far from anything and at times, very exposed. I was lucky, on that day the weather was perfect, but like many trails like this, the weather can change quickly.
The trail follows an old mine railway, making the climb fairly level. Don't be fooled by what seems easy, you do gain almost a 1000 vertical meters so it's not for beginners and a good challenge for intermediate riders. The ride up goes through varied terrain, from open farmland to lush dense forest. Wonderful views of the city and the ocean in the distance, at one point I was starting to feel like a Japanese tourist, taking way too many pictures of the same things.
First stop, Third House, a good place for a quick snack and the perfect rain shelter if you need it. This is where you decide: keep going or turn back the way you came. If you choose to keep going, this point is where the loop gets serious and where the true back country starts. From here you're on your own and must commit (I'm not 100% sure but I don't think there's cell coverage anymore).
Getting closer to the top, the true spirit of the trail shows itself. You feel so small surrounded by the never ending mountains, you can see for kilometers. Every time I'm far away from civilization and surrounded by peaks like this, I'm always humbled.
Made it! On the top I stand! And now for the super ultra weird: I'm 12000 kilometers from Vancouver in the southern hemisphere and it's here where I bump into this guy that works in Prince George, BC, Canada. WTF!?!?! Lee is originally from Nelson, now living in BC, and was down on holidays visiting family. Still, what a truly small world!
What goes up must come down. After chatting a bit, we hit the downhill together. Man, it must have taken a lot of work to build this; the trail winds down a perfect gradient - never too steep and never too slow. You can build up some serious speed, so be careful. Next time you see trail builders, thank them, as they are the mountain bike angels sent from above.
As it turned out, I was guided back to the car by the perfect guide. Lee showed me a few more hidden trails that, without him, I never would have ridden - complete with a trail that went through a sheep farm (so Kiwi)! What a perfect day. Thanks Lee - see you at the TOM.
We headed to Abel Tasman National Park the next day with the kids. It's a fairly easy walk on a very well maintained path, perfect for the young ones. White sandy beaches, beautiful landscapes; everything you can dream of. After spending the previous day in the mountain, I am now only 30 minutes away sitting on a log watching my kids swim in the warm ocean. I could see myself living here, that's for sure!
After a few days in the Nelson area we're off again, driving south towards Hanmer Springs and the last part of our trip. This was one of my kids' favorite spots: the hot pools and water slides. They just couldn't get enough of it (I did, but they needed to have fun as well!). In Hanmer Springs, we took our time, relaxed, did a bit of shopping and enjoyed dinner outside with some good Kiwi wine.
We headed back to Wellington for one last day down under before our flight back to BC. What better way to end things than with a dance party in the Young living room. What a great time we had. We didn't feel much like leaving and could easily have stayed a few more weeks. This trip was such a success and couldn't have been done without the kiwi hospitality of our good friends, the Young Family. Thanks for everything guys, big kisses and we'll see you soon. Kia Ora!