No matter where I go in New Zealand I am surrounded by beauty and silence. New Zealanders are proud of their land and are very environmentally aware. Ten to fifteen percent of the country has been declared protected national parkland.
“There are five national parks within an hour of us,” says my neighbour at a bar in Nelson, as we sit enjoying a beer from a microbrewery. This small city of 46,000 people sits at the northernmost tip of South Island, within wine-spitting distance of the Marlborough vineyards.
I soon learn that you cannot just watch the landscape from afar here. No, the wilderness is to be experienced. Activity Number One is “tramping”, the Kiwi word for hiking. The Abel Tasman Coast Track runs for 35 miles through the rolling landscape of Abel Tasman National Park and takes from three to five days to complete, with plenty of huts and campsites.
I also spend an afternoon mountain-biking high above the town center on trails maintained by the local government. The next day, I go sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park. At Waikaropupu, I see the “Clearest springs on Earth” and at Farewell Spit, a beach of golden sand points toward North Island in the “Longest sand spit on Earth”.
More superlatives are spent on a horse ride around Golden Bay and Wharariki Beach which, with its sand dunes, lakes and eroded rock formations, has been called the “Most beautiful beach on Earth”.
Seeing it at sunset, I can’t argue with that description.
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