A GOLDEN BAY GETAWAY
“When the wind calls, you know, that somewhere in the mountains, it has found the answers that you were looking for. The pull of the horizon overcomes the inertia of reason…And you just have to go.”
Looking back at a rewarding year, my wife and I were excited to celebrate her life-long dream, of being a self-employed midwife. We escaped to somewhere our souls and minds could rest so we could regather ourselves, as this new chapter of our lives was about to begin.
After a quick look on grab-a-seat for the cheapest flights to a place we hadn’t been before, and were booked to visit the beautiful Golden Bay. Having traveled to Nelson previously for work, I had longed for the chance to explore the rivers, mountains, and golden beaches I had heard so much about in the surrounding area. The count down to the trip had started.
An early morning flight saw us follow the rising sun down from Auckland all the way south with hardly a cloud in sight, the warm light filling the cabin with a golden glow. As we stepped off the plane and the fresh southern air kissed our faces, I knew then this was going to be an unforgettable trip.
Making our way west from Nelson we climbed over the Takaka Hills, which for those who have experienced before will know its frequent sharp corners. This is a fun drive if you had dreams of being a rally driver like I did as a child. But if you don’t share the same notion, I would advise making the most of the regular scenic stops to let your stomach settle and to enjoy the breath taking views.
Once you are over the Takaka Hills, you come down to a very classic New Zealand valley, where midway up the mountain ranges are lined with forestry and native bush that decorate the horizon. The valley floor is cut by rivers and streams, criss crossed with farm land and grassing animals. We stopped at the Uruwhenua Reserve to walk along the Takaka River where the autumn colours had turned to full vibrancy! What a place to fill the senses, I felt like I had come home.
Our short term home for the 4 days we were there was one of the incredible canopy camping escapes, Quartz Clearing. A log wood cabin and small hut tucked away in native bush on the edge of the Kahurangi National Park with a small stream running past, was just the place for us to be completely disconnected from the outside world and to be able to spend some quality time together. The simplicity of only having solar powered lights, a fire place and no cellphone reception removed all the distractions, really grounding us in the moment and time seemed to pass so slowly.
One of my favourite times of the day was early morning. As the sun rose into the valley it would dance over the tree tops and stream into the cabin. The dew covered spider webs would sparkle in the light and the sound of native birds would be our alarm.
The first couple of days passed by and we were feeling so relaxed. It was time to book in some adventures. Adventure number one was to kayak into the Abel Tasman Nation park and explore the deep blue waters and golden sand beaches. Our two hour guided trip saw us explore some islands that were guarded by a large variety of sea birds. The super low tide created by the full moon and king tide, meant we could see the large blue lipped muscles and colourful star fish on full display. Our guide had such a great knowledge and passion for the area, and it was such a pleasure to hear the many stories and significance of where we were paddling. What an epic way to see ocean life that is so easily accessible to us here in Aotearoa, I could not recommend it more!
An hours drive west to the rugged Wharariki beach and we got to see some very cute seal pups playing in the rock pools- the adult seals seeing it as a great time to do some sun bathing! Not much different to us I guess.
The big rolling sand dunes and large sand stone rocks created the most beautiful mixture of form, texture and colour! I could easily spend a week shooting at this beach and still be finding new compositions.
Our last full day and it was time for me to give my wife a present I had promised her a long time ago. A horse ride across the base of Farewell Spit and across a mountain ridge where we could take in the panoramic views of the furthest point north of the South Island.
The horses we were given had such large personalities! My wife’s horse was a perfect match for her. A calm and gentle manner, but enough gusto to get anywhere meant she was having the time of her life. I don’t think the smile ever left her face. My horse on the other hand, was the youngest of the group. He had a bit of an ego and alway had a point to prove. A full spirited attitude meant I often had to keep him in check. With that said though, he was strong and I think we shared the same spirit of adventure, always wanting to see what is around the next bend.
The trail we took was 16km’s of ever changing terrain; from gentle farm land and dirt roads we made our way through the full tided estuary, through open fields, up narrow sand stone tracks, and back down river stone roads. Having only rode a couple times before this was the perfect trip to gain the confidence to ride again, even so much that I think I want to buy a horse…
The hours were counting down till we needed to make our way home, and we decided to end the trip with what was a jaw dropping sunset. On the first outing to Wharariki Beach I had seen a vantage point that looked down the sand dunes and out to sea. Using the very useful Sun Survey app I planned out my shot I wanted to get. It was just a matter of hoping the clouds would play ball - as so often on the west coast you can get caught out with a large thick band of clouds sitting on the horizon, just in the right place to block out the sun. This time however, we scored it just right, the scattered clouds created some stunning textures, reflecting the colours perfectly. I think this image will be one for the walls in our home. I have to thank my wife again for standing in the chilly wind on the end of the dunes to give me a way to convey the scale of this enormous beach.
The trip to Golden Bay has opened a new place in our hearts that we hope to fill with travels again and again. There is something about being so close to the rugged mountains, but being able drive an hour and be on golden sandy beaches that makes this place so unique. I think if you have a sense of wonder and a love for adventure, go to Golden Bay. Let the roads and rivers guide you and I know you will find places that will fill your soul with a rhythm of peace and your mind with the clarity of the air you breathe while you are there.