day thirty: october 29, 2015: cable bay/sterling point + elaine bay
We did a quick, but super steep hike from the holiday park up to Sterling Point. The hike was all through private sheep pastures and we had to avoid sheep poop for most of the way. Luckily, it wasn't smelly. After watching sheep all around us, Jonathan and I were impressed thinking about how they and other animals are able to move quickly on such steep terrain. Once we got to the top, we were rewarded with amazing views of Tasman and Cable Bay. Cable Bay was where New Zealand's first telegraph cable linked it to Australia and the rest of the world in 1876. A message from New Zealand to the United Kingdom would take six months, could now be received four days!
We stopped for a quick lunch at the Cable Bay Cafe. Lucky for us, it was their first day of being open for summer! We then drove about two hours to Elaine Bay, where we camped for the night. Jonathan was able to capture a pretty cool time lapse of the bay and another camper and his dog trying to catch their dinner.
day thirty-one: october 30, 2015: archer track + french pass
From the campground, we were able to catch the beginning of the Archer Track. This was a super easy, leisure walk that offered up great views of Elaine Bay and the Tennyson Inlet. We walked 5km to Deep Cove then made our way back. Nice, flat hike with so many things to look at - bays, coves, islands, mountains, and emerald-blue ocean views.
We were told that the road to French Pass was narrow and windy but the views were worth the drive. And yes, they totally were! This has to be hands-down the BEST scenic drive of the trip. We were driving along very steep hills, sprinkled with sheep and cows overlooking the bluest water we've ever seen. Truly amazing. Our timing put us close to high-tide which was suggested in the guidebook. During high tide the water flow changes between the two bays and looks and sounds just like a roaring river. Pretty impressive to see.
After checking out the lookout, we rerouted to the small beach nearby for lunch. After lunch, I started poking around in the sand and realized the beach wasn't really sand, but made up of small colored stones and shells. Once we realized what was beneath our feet we spent some time treasure hunting and found some pretty cool stuff!
Our original plan was to camp at the beach at French Pass, but instead, we decided to search for this freedom campsite perched up on the hill off the road leading into Elaine Bay and French Pass. Thanks to our guidebook and a little bit of poking around, we found the pull off and had an awesome view of the area for the sunset.
day thirty-two: october 31, 2015: onahau lookout + mistletoe bay
The next day we drove toward Mistletoe Bay where we had read some positive reviews of the Eco Village there. We also were in need of some hot showers. Just above the bay, we stopped and did a short hike up to Onahau Lookout. This lookout is at the end of the Queen Charlotte Track. Most hikers opt out of the last steep climb to the top of the hill since they're at the end of their multi-day trek, but it's definitely well worth the effort (of course...we didn't actually do the whole Queen Charlotte Track first, so we cheated...). Either way, it was well worth the effort. Jonathan told me it would be our last hike before doing the Milford Track. We'll see if that stays true.
We spent the night at the Mistletoe Bay Eco Village and were the only campers there. Pretty awesome to have a entire place all to ourselves. We also were treated to some amazing star gazing with clear skies and almost no wind. The stars were incredible and some were even bright enough to see their reflections on the bay.
day thirty-three: november 1, 2015: marlborough sounds
We headed out of the Marlborough Sounds by route of Picton and the Port Underwood Road. This 42km stretch of road is the scenic drive between Picton and Blenheim. It's super windy and wraps around the north-east coast. The drive was nice and we were able to find a big pullout to have some lunch with a great view.
This positioned us just north of Kaikoura to camp for the night. After grabbing a bite to eat at the nearby cafe, we settled in for the afternoon/evening. A couple hours after, Jonathan had an idea. He had been looking at the Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights) prediction site, his maps and suggested that instead of bumming around Kaikoura for a day, that instead we head south to Tekapo again to take our chances with seeing the Southern Lights. And so we did...we decided to break up our six hour drive, and stay at our midway point, which was just outside of Christchurch.