Tim Stead - Fantasy Writer


This is an occasional blog, and will be updated as and when something occurs to me. Happy reading. Any opinions expressed here are just that - opinions. They are not intended to represent anything else. There is no intent to offend. Anyway, it's all © Tim Stead.

30th August 2014 - Golden Bay

Kaituna Track Golden Bay Beach Waikoropupu Springs Hillside Walkway
I've been to Golden Bay three times. It's one of the quietest parts of New Zealand, tucked away on the north west tip of the south island. It has a reputation as a place that people go to live if they have a yen for a different kind of life. It's quiet and sunny and you can walk through the largest settlements (you can't call them towns) in a couple of minutes.

To get there you have to drive over from Nelson, usually via Motueka, and then up a winding road that passes over a high saddle and finally down into the bay. It boasts a couple of very famous sights (world famous in New Zealand, anyway). The first of these is Waikoropupu Springs, which until 2011 was reckoned to be the clearest fresh water in the world (average visibility of 63 metres).

I was fortunate enough to dive the springs while it was still permitted to do so, and lucky enough to do it in a dry suit. The water is a fraction below 12 degrees C, and stays like that all year, welling up from deep below and filtered by the rocks themselves. I can vouch for the clarity of the water, though truth be told there wasn't a great deal to see in the way of life - some small fish, a couple of baby crays. The principle source of fun was cruising over the vents in the bottom of thre spring and bouncing up as you passed over them. It was about 30C on land, and getting into the drysuit was torture, but worth it once in the spring. I didn't run into any taniwha.

The other attraction that draws people in is Farewell Spit. This is a great, hooking sandspit that forms the northernmost promontory of the south island. It's about 25km long and you can take a tour out onto the sand to look at waders, seals, and waves breaking. The name comes from Captain Cook, as it was the last piece of land he saw after his first visit here in 1770.

There are some spectacular walks and some real wild country here.

The bay was originally christened Murderer's Bay by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, who lost a few men to the local Maori. The French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville called it Massacre Bay, and our old friend James Cook called it Blind Bay. In the 1850's gold was discovered here, and so the modern name arrived.

I expected to be blown away by Golden Bay, but wasn't. Maybe it was the toilet paper washed up on the beach. Maybe it was that everything seemed a little more expensive and a little too small. Maybe I'm just not cut out for a different kind of life.

One of the things we tried was a walk down the Kaituna track. This is a forested walk, but after an hour or so you come to a river that needs to be crossed. At certain times of year this is quite inadvisable, so we turned back and went to have lunch in The Naked Possum. This is a pleasant cafe at the start of the track that serves decent food in a good atmosphere (though not especially cheap). Outside dining recommended. I should probably mention that possums are not native to New Zealand. They were introduced from Australia in an attempt to create a fur industry. They are without natural predators here and their population has exploded, causing great damage to the native forest. It is often noted that sheep in New Zealand outnumber people by about five to one. Possums outnumber sheep around three to one, so possum hunting and the sale of possum fur is considered beneficial here.