Day 5 – Pohara beach to Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes

To my dismay, I discovered I would have to return the same way I had come to reach Golden Bay – the hairpin bends (which turned out to be more like 30kms than 45kms. I did not take in to account the valley afterwards). I made the most of the district before I left though. It had rained overnight and the clouds still threatened, but I think I missed the worst of it which was coming down in the east coast and Wellington.

My brother had left me a few tips for places to see, and so, because the camp managers had not arrived, (Office 9 to 5), I went off to fill up on diesel, and then go and visit The Grove. The Grove was one of those unexpected delights, where you turn up at a small parking bay and nothing but a path leads off into the wild. Another vehicle arrived and the couple disappeared up the path, so I waited until they had gone and followed on. Up and up it wound through old tall Nikau palms and great slabs of rock forming walls on either side. Eventually I turned at a sign pointing out a look out, and lo and behold, a narrow corridor between gigantic rock faces lead out on to a viewing platform that took in the whole sweep of valley below. Impressive!

Returning to the holiday park, I found a friendly manager who took my $24 for the overnight stay, and suggested I go and visit the Pupu Springs. As my brother had already mentioned these (Waikoropupu Springs) in his precis, I didn’t need any further pushing. I turned on my trusty Apple Maps, and let the guide lead me. Except once more, the guide failed dismally! I followed it into what looked like (and WAS) private land, over a dirt/rock road, through fields, and pastures and barns, through fences, startling a small cluster of new calves! It thinned and tapered and became a four wheel drive track, and still my huge camper van lumbered on. I could not turn around! The sweet voice on the phone insisted I was doing the right thing, and great was my relief when I rounded a tight bend and found the paved two-lane road that leads to the Springs before me! If the farmer ever reads this: I’m truly sorry.

This car park was much bigger, and with a lot of information boards, and I began to get a sense of the mana (spirituality) of this place. It is a loop track of about 1 km, that winds down to follow the river and crosses it in places on a continuous and sinuous boardwalk. It feels very special to be walking over and beside the crystal clear waters as they bubble and gurgle beside you. AND THEN I came out into a wide vista which was the springs themselves. I don’t think any pictures could do justice to them, and at the moment I can’t upload any, you’ll have to believe me when I say that they were clear and showed sparkling depths with azure and turquoise colours below, and bubbling masses which indicate that there are indeed springs that feed this water way. It was breathtaking. The path continues back and around with glimpses of springs and flowing water, all beautiful and sacred. Back at the carpark and I breathed a sigh of regret to be leaving the place.

Getting into the van, a bird the size of a chicken with orange sharp bill and legs rushed up to me and looked keen to hop in. A weka I believe, and much friendlier than Pukeko.

So began my drive back through the golden valley and up into the scissoring road that crosses to Motueka on the Nelson side. At the top there is an extensive cave network, and a cafe and Woolshed run by locals. I stopped and admired the black rocks littering the landscape – our native marble. Inside the rustic tearoom and shop I purchased a woollen hat for further south, and some wool. And had a Devonshire tea to fortify myself. Even the basin in the restroom was made of the local marble.

Down through Motueka and then south, to get to Nelson lakes. The plain that is the bay of Nelson gives way to hills and then forestry, winding higher and higher gradually and giving glimpses now and then of the snow tipped peaks of the mountain ranges further south.

I was here at St Arnaud on the shores of Lake Rotoiti by 2.40pm which was fine by me. Driving through the tiny village which seems like an alpine resort I found the carpark and the lake beyond, the perfect setting for the jutting snow capped peaks in the distance. Another breathtaking and familiar view.

Lake Rotoiti

The DOC (Department of Conservation) camp ground is just there, beyond the public car park, and so I drive in to the virtually empty grounds and selected a powered site at random. Found out all I had to do was get on line to DOC and book it, which I did. Another cheap night of around $26 for ablution block, kitchen with bbqs, power, water and the SETTING to beat all.

Oh, and the midgies. Yeah, I only had my sliding door on the van open for 15 minutes and hastily slammed it shut. Already the blighters were inside and making their presence felt. Out came my insect repellant and the cheap wee insect repelling lamp I bought, and hopefully I’ve dealt to it. I had a power nap, and then got my boots on and did a loop walk and a wander down by the lake. It was empty of any tourists. Two camper vans are next to me – to my relief – and the toilets not far away, so I’m sitting pretty. The lake is spectacular. I can’t wait to see it in the morning at first light.

So now I’ve made dinner of toast with fried eggs, ham, coleslaw, and a cup of Earl Grey tea. I might put my wee fan heater on, and the lights, and do my dishes. Even they feel like a treat, when the vista in front of me is a suggestion of lake through the trees.

Every day I don’t think it can get any better, and I am wrong. It can!

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