Old Macdonald's Farm Campsite, Marahau, New Zealand
The sun shone down relentlessly on my lilly white skin, but I didn't care. I was stretched out in front of my tent, wearing shorts and not a lot else, letting the uninhibited UV rays give me a blast of solar radiation. In hindsight, considering the days of agony and peeling skin that lay in store, it was not a good idea, but my Dad always said that the best lessons are learned the hard way (he taught me to ride a horse as a four year old, hoisting my bruised and crying body back onto the colossal creature's back every time I fell off).
I was at Old Macdonald's Farm, a campsite situated at Marahau, at the top of the South Island of New Zealand, right on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park. There is no Ozone protection above this part of the world, and the sun is harsh and unbelievably powerful.
Old Macdonald's is a 100 acre farm that offers travellers several types of accommodation, as well as wide open spaces, golden beaches, easy access onto the Abel Tasman Track, BBQ facilities, clean shower and toilet blocks (with free hot water), fresh water swimming holes in the river that runs past the tent sites, and an onsite cafe. Also on the farm is possibly the best kayak company in Marahau, a town famous for its kayaking (ask for Mitch at the camp reception, he's one of the friendliest people I've ever met).
The people at reception are also happy to book water taxis and sailing trips, but you usually have to dodge a menagerie of farm animals to get the door. The tent area is roamed by a big black and white cat that I came to know quite well. I called him Puss Puss, and if you see him, throw him some food for me.
Marahau also offers a good base to reach nearby Motueka for skydiving and aerobatic flights in a Pitts Special. A few minutes walk from Old Macs brings you to the Park Cafe, which provides ample and delicious evening meals, and a chance to meet the locals. Across the road from the restaurant is a wood carving studio, where local artists create the most intricate and beautiful sculptures, many of them representing Maori myths and legends.
Tent sites at Old Macs cost $12, and dorms are avaliable for $22. Cabins that sleep two people can be rented for $70. [more]
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