Episode two - Abel Tasman, Nelson Lakes
Gus takes a journey through memory lane. Having grown up in Nelson he’s thinks he’s seen all Abel Tasman has to offer, but this National Park has a few secrets it still holds close.
The park is known for its golden beaches and high sunshine hours but there is a dark and dramatic side to this park...the incredible carved granite terrain of its inaccessible interior.
This land is riddled with some of the biggest sinkholes in the Southern Hemisphere. Gus takes the plunge into unchartered territory with canyoning enthusiast Toine Houtenbos, and glimpses the mysterious interior pretty much untouched by humans.
On the coast, Gus discovers a different story. From the 1850s colonists milled the coastal forests destroying much of the local fauna, but the land fought back; the granite bedrock eventually forced farmers to abandon their struggling crops. The forest is now regenerating, and with Adele Island predator free, the birds are starting to return too.
Gus visits Rollo Wilkinson of Bark Bay, one of the park’s last remaining bach owners – a remnant of the parks more permanently populated past. And then takes a swim with one animal whose population is growing - the fur seal is returning to the coastline now that the Tonga Island Marine Reserve prohibits fishing within one nautical mile off-shore around the park’s coastline.
From here Gus crosses to Nelson Lakes National Park where the terrain is dramatic, shifting from vertiginous mountains, down immense scree slopes, to alpine tundra and beech forest valleys.
Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti look pristine, but their surrounding forests have been besieged by a small yet brutal predator… an introduced wasp which preys on the defenceless honeydew bug. Left to their own devices, the wasps will decimate the food supply, starving the native fauna. Gus goes on a wasp mission with Drew Hunter, a Rotoiti local dedicated to getting rid of the wasps.
The pure waters of Lake Rotoiti are home to the mysterious and ancient New Zealand Long-fin eels. Gus gets to handle these stroppy, slippery critters when he helps out with a tagging programme to reveal more about their mysterious migratory habits – they’ve been known to travel as far as Fiji.
And Gus reacquaints himself with the alpine tarns, as he heads up into the mountains of Nelson Lakes National Park which form the beginning of the Southern Alps. It is a rugged landscape; the wind can hit 200 kilometres per hour and the tramping hut roofs are built to hold up to five metres of snow. The park holds good memories for Gus as it was the site of his first big overnight tramp: the place has hardly changed in 30 years.
Cloistered in these alpine heights is the Blue Lake. Scientists believe it holds the clearest fresh water in the world and Gus gets to see a glimpse of this crystal clear lake’s inhabitants via a submersible mechanical eye.
These last images will stick forever in Gus’ memory, reminding him that these parks and their precious inhabitants still have many secrets to reveal.