Sunday - Turned in the rental car and boarded the ferry for Picton. It was a BIG ferry - they loaded dozens of cars, semi trucks and a train! The seas in Cook Straits are rough and we were advised at the terminal not to eat till we were across Cook Straits. We waited and it was smart. Once we got to Queen Charlotte Sound the scenery was gorgeous. Many cool lodges in the sounds that you can only get to on foot or by water taxi. We arrived in Picton - pop 4000 - around 5 PM. Figured we had around an hour to find a room before dark. Picked up the phone in the terminal and called the "Harbour View Inn". Yes they had a room and sent a car to pick us up. Nice harbour view, good cafe a few blocks away.
Monday morning we rented our next car. A 1996 Mazda that Harry has to shoehorn himself into. It makes some strange noises, but goes down the road well enough. We loaded up and headed off on the Queen Charlotte Drive across the top of the south island. The road was billed as "Scenic and winding". I was driving - the road was very narrow and very winding. Seemingly endless "S" curves - no shoulder. Harry was in danger from holding his breath - the scenery was gorgeous with Queen Charlotte Sound below us - I don't Harry saw it. Harry had wanted to make Havelock - the self proclaimed "Green Lipped Mussel Capitol fo the World" for lunch - and so we did early afternoon. Lunch at "Mussel Boys" - Harry had "Flats" with garlic and wine, I had "Steamers". Lovely lunch in a shaded courtyard. We drove on to Nelson - a lovely small city on the Tasman Bay. Decided to drive to the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. We drove to Motueka - just south of the park and found a "studio" apt with full kitchen for $80 NZ - about $60 US. We went to the local grocery to stock up and were impressed to see that the place was absolutely full of young people. We were thinking that they were all trampers (hikers) until we checked out. The lady at the checkout told us that this is harvest season and that many young people come from all over to work as migrants! The area is full of orchards and vinyards. Currently it is apple picking, kiwi next.
We stayed in Motueka three nights and took advantage of cooking in.
Tuesday we drove to Kaiteriteri to catch a water taxi up into the Able Tasman Park. We did the hike from "Bark Bay" to Torrent Bay" - rated at 2.5 hrs. We opted to have our water taxi pickup in 3.75 hour. Good thing since we took a scenic side trip and ate our picniclunch, took pics and watched birds. This is rain forest very green with very large ferns. Altho it is fall here - everything is green on the Tasman Bay. We arrived at Torrent Bay in 3+ hrs and the taxi soon appreared. This location was a 45 min taxi ride up into the park.