We left out hostel in Abel Tasman today and went to the airfield to pick up the skydivers and hand gliders. On the spur of the moment I decided to go hand gliding, there went my plan to save a bit of money. It was such a beautiful day and hand gliding sounded like great fun. I asked about doing it further south but you get the longest flight here as another plane tows you up, rather than just jumping off a mountain. We got strapped underneath the giant kite hovering horizontally, me above the pilot (is he really a pilot if there is no engine?) and a long cord attached us to the little microlite plane (sort of an egg on wheels with a kite above it). He drove down the runway with us attached and we actually took off before him. He dragged us into the air 2,500 ft high and it was a really cool feeling, like water skiing or knee bearding but in the air. The views were amazing, best I've seen yet. You had vineyards and kiwi vines below, mountains on one side, the ocean and then more mountins from the opposite side of the bay on the other. Then the tow was dropped and we were gliding threw the air, it was a totally different feeling. Its the closest thing a human can get to being a bird, thats what the instructor said. It was absolutely incredible, one of the best things I've ever done. Its not like the skydive where its crazy mad adrenaline, its more calm and peaceful. Even when the parachute was pulled the feeling is different to gliding, I can't really describe it. We did a few turns and spirals, but nothing to crazy, I didn't want to lose my glasses. The landing was better to as the glider is on wheels and we just swooped in, it was so smooth. didn't break any bones this time either! I would say they were both amazing experiences but very different. I think hand gliding is better value for money, as it was a lot cheaper but still awesome and I'de love to do it again.
A little about Abel Tasman, who the park is named after. He was the first European to discover New Zealand in 1642, he was Dutch and when he saw the Maori he decided to try to land. The Maori sounded on the conch (a large shell that makes a horn sound) which is meant to ascertain whether those arriving are there for war or piece. The Dutch obviously didn't know this, blew on their horn and sent a few men in a little boat. The Maori expected a battle, killed the men and ate one of them and Abel Tasman sailed away. The area was called Murderers bay although now it is Golden Bay. It wasn't until 1769 that Captain Cook became the first European to set foot on New Zealand.
After that little adventure we left and headed south the the wild west coast. It was settled during the Gold Rush in the early 19th century. That was when the capital moved to Wellington as it was closer to the middle of the country. We stopped at the pancakes rocks, cliffs which are layers of sedimentary rocks and look like stacks of pancakes.
We arrived in Greymouth, a small mining town with a logging industry as well. Things havn't been greatest in Greymouth lately as in November there was an explosion at a coal mining killing 29 people. It was a terrible tragedy to hit such a small county and a small community like Greymouth. The mines were all shut down by the government for safety reviews and are only just getting re-opening. The hostel is amazing though, free internet, sky tv (to watch the royal wedding on), comfy sofas, pool, darts, and no bunk beds!!