Wednesday, 23 January 2008

From the Pacific to the Tasman

Where in the world can you cross from the shore of the Pacific Ocean to the shore of the Tasman Sea in 20 minutes on foot?

On the coast of the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean low tide in the bay below the Farewell Spit

20 minutes later: Standing in the water of the Tasman Sea
In the Tasman Sea

Answer: At the base of the Farewell Spit - the Northern most part of the South Island in New Zealand.

While I was up in Takaka, we decided to make a trip out to see the spit, it being a good day with not much wind about. Of course before actually starting out on what would be a longer walk than I expected, we needed some "fortification" which Garth's parents kindly provided with lunch at the Paddle Crab.

The Paddle Crab is a (really expensive) cafe that overlooks the Farewell Spit from the Pacific Ocean side.

View of the Farewell Spit from the Paddle Crab
View of the Farewell Spit from the Paddle Crab

They've even got a little viewing room with a telescope through which you can look at spit all the way to the end. They also have the most awesome seafood meal for 2, which includes mussels, cockles, cold meats, and a paddle crab. Yum!

Seafood for 2
Awesome seafood meal at The Paddle Crab

Following a most satisfying lunch, we started the walk along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, which lines the bay just below the Farewell Spit. At low tide, the water recedes for miles leaving a wide expanse of mushy sand. It's not uncommon for whales to get beached here because the tide goes out so far, and the locals around the area are familiar with trying to save the whales (from a single one to an entire school).

The tide travels a long distance out
Low tide - the sea goes out far out

Half an hour and 1 dead very smelly sunfish later (Sunfish are huge, round and flat, and this one was larger than a bus tire), we reached a point where you could cut through the bush to get up to the lower part of the spit. The bush wasn't very dense, and there was only some gorse...and I rode of Garth's shoulders mostly (I'm so glad I've got a strong bf!!). So the hardest part really was climbing up a steep incline of sand to get onto the spit. What's so hard about it? The sand was burning hot after having absorbed the heat of the sun for hours. Honestly, it was scorching, and it isn't me just being a girl since the men found it very hot too. Garth's dad had it the worst since he decided to go barefooted and left his sandals in the car at the start of the walk.

When we reached the top, we saw...

Endless sand dunes - Some sign of vegetation!

sand. Lots of sand. A whole wide expanse of sand, as though we had warped into a desert. Basically the Farewell Spit consists of sand dunes. Many many sand dunes. Since there was no wind and no clouds, and the sun was really hot, it pretty much nicely fit it with the whole desert theme.

We started across the sand, with Ian (Garth's dad) trying to find cooler spots to step in since the sand was scorching (it wasn't a very fruitful endeavour because all the sand had been getting sun for hours). When we got a quarter of the way across, we could no longer see the vegetation bit from whence we first came up. Then there was nothing but sky and sand. And the sand dunes seemed endless.

An endless expanse of hot white sand
Expanse of white sand Sand dunes on the spit

Eventually though, (and much to Ian's relief) we came across a damp area, kinda like an oasis in the desert. The wind had blown the sand into little stiff peaks across a damp patch. The damp sand, of course, was much cooler and nicer to stand on barefooted.

Hurray for cooler sand
On cooler sand

The patterns in the sand made by the wind was a fascinating view of nature's artwork.

Nature's artwork: Patterns in the sand
Wind blew the damp sand to form peaks Nature's artwork

About 5 minutes from the other side in the middle of the sand dunes, we came across an area filled with pebbles. Strange huh? These were pretty large pebbles too, the kind you'd find along the riverbed. And no, there was no river in sight. Just sand.

Huh? Pebbles?
Pebbles in the middle of the spit?

Since the area has seen its fair share of ship wrecks in its time, Ian thought it may have come from ships, since ships put pebbles in their hull when they need more weight.

And then...the first sign of water!! A sight for sore eyes and hot feet 8)
It's so hot!!

Yes we had arrived at the other side of the spit, the Tasman Sea! And while the tide was out, it wasn't as far out as we saw on the Pacific Ocean. It was far out enough though to form little pools of sun-warmed water, just nice for soaking your feet in...


...although much later on I realised that it wasn't a very good idea to dip your feet into "nice" warm puddles without first checking for jellyfish, after Garth nearly stepped onto a very poisonous blue jellyfish that looked like a ring of blue plastic (the kind around a Sprite bottle).

And of course we had to get our feet wet in the Tasman Sea after all that hot sand.

The Tasman Sea
The other side of the spit: The Tasman Sea

Frolicking in the water
Frolicking in the Tasman Sea More splashing

Getting quite wet
Getting wet

Ok I'm tired

Thankfully, when it was time to head back, we had an alternative path to take, which didn't require going back over the "desert". Instead, we wound up cutting through a farm i.e. there was a path. Along the way we also almost got attacked by some native birds who thought we might be trying to attack their chick, which we could see was frantically running off in a distance while its parents tried to distract us.

All in all, a good if rather tiring day out crossing from the east to the west coast of the South Island on foot. 8)

And just to end off with a twisty fact, the North of the South Island is North of the South of the North Island!

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