My socks are heavy with melted snow. My cycling helmet is splattered with mud, sand is crunching inside my sneakers and my hair is salt encrusted madness. In less than 34 hours I’ve careened down mountain bike trails, sailed and sea kayaked, hiked through native forest and stomped about in snow at an altitude of almost 6000 feet.
Seasoned travellers might maintain that you can’t see a destination in a couple of days but that doesn’t wash with Nelson based experiential company Simply Wild Journeys. Hand over two days of your travel itinerary (or four depending on you) time and budget) and by the end of them you’ll wonder how you could have experienced so much and reached such far-flung places in such an impossibly short time.
But no matter how action packed the journey, there’s no feeling of being rushed from one adventure to the next. By car, helicopter, mountain-bike, yacht and kayak, I’m taken to the mountainous ranges behind Nelson City, out into Tasman Bay, onto beaches, into tranquil lagoons where rivers meet the sea, along native bush paths and swept to mountains to the west with deep snowy carpets and stunning views.
Although we were asked to dress warmly for some fast-paced adventures during a winter period, my two day Journeys at the Edge sports adventure starts off surprisingly gently. Rob Douglas, our tour director and guide, whisks us to the warmth of Broccoli Row Café for coffee and fresh baking.
Broccoli Row owner Sue McNulty, who is Rob’s wife, is to become our chef for two days, leaving the running of her kitchen to her capable staff. She’s London trained, and well known to locals for her seafood and vegetarian fare.
Fifteen minutes after draining the dregs of our coffees, we’re trying out our mountain-bikes for size, surrounded by the forests and towering ranges of the Maitai Valley. The bikes are scooped up by helicopter and flown to Coppermine Saddle. Later we’ll retrieve them for a fifteen kilometre downhill cycle.
But first a hike. As Rob is giving us our safety tips, our own helicopter-a surprisingly compact, glass bubbled version-appears on the horizon and heads straight for us. Pilot Noel Boyd carries us smoothly over valleys and craggy hilltops to a rocky spot 900 metres up.
With songs of bellbirds and fantails all around us, we walk native trre-lined paths while Rob recounts Dun Mountains history. In the mid-1800’s people lived in this wild and woolly place, mined for minerals and built the now-disused railway line to Nelson (today a favourite route of avid mountain-bikers hikers and runners).
When we reach Coppermine saddle, our bikes are waiting and we begin biking along the trail, now one of New Zealand’s best mountain biking trails. Initially we’re in expansive open tussock country before the trail winds through beautiful beech forest. Rob and our second guide Tim are quick to sense the pace each of us feels comfortable with-some a little crazier than others.
We leave the mountains behind and head for the sea, riding alongside the Maitai River on the city’s edge to the Nelson marina where Simply Wild, a 50-foot Beneteau yacht, and her skipper Milo are waiting for us. Sue is aboard too, creating a lunch that sends mouth -watering smells wafting from the galley.
We cruise Tasman Bay and head to Abel Tasman National Park, where we dine on deck while seabirds work schools of fish for their own lunch.
Simply Wild is our home for the night, each of us allocated a comfortable cabin. Moored in a bay known as The Anchorage, we dine in the warmth of the main cabin and talk into the night.
Next morning, our kayaks arrive as we finish a leisurely breakfast. On the beach, we’re given a thorough safety instruction before leaving for Onetahuti bay. We paddle past little beaches with enchanting names, and lunch in Mosquito Bay, where nary a mosquito is seen.
The final leg of our journey is an adrenaline-rush flight in a multi-million-dollar helicopter, complete with seven leather armchair seats. Shaun Rolls flies us over Seperation Point where Tasman Bay meets Golden Bay, over beachside holiday playgrounds, then into the breathtaking mountains of the Kahurangi National Park.
We land at Boulder Lake and discover a postcard perfect waterfall before Shaun lowers us onto a mountain-top where we stomp about laughing, sinking knee-deep in the pristine snow.