She’s a sturdy girl, that Mary-Ann, wide across the beam and built for comfort…and what a great name for a bus! Her driver, Elaine, handles her well through gravelled roads, bumpy hills and a long stretch of gorgeous beach. Elaine is the perfect Tour Guide, with an easy listening Kiwi drawl, warm and friendly. That’s how the Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay starts!
The Farewell Spit Eco Tour bus is leaving from Collingwood at 11.00am sharp and we’ll be on it for a six-hour leisurely drive through the most beautiful scenery imaginable with a couple of stops on the way. Quick coffee at this cute little café then time to board the bus.
There’s a good selection of people of the bus today – Kiwis, Germans, French and endearingly polite Japanese. For the next half hour we meander past Harakeke Flax in full bloom, the signs of a hot summer to come. There’s a gasp from Elaine. She’s spotted two black swans with 6 babies, and click go the cameras. Our first stop is at Cape Farewell. We clamber out of the bus and split up, some of us heading up the steep part of the hill and others down to the viewing platform. Isn’t this a magnificent sight?
We could have stayed here for ages watching the Godwits who arrive each year from Alaska and Siberia to nest. And it’s the first time I’ve seen Oyster Catchers up close – love their shiny feathers and bright red beaks. Back on the bus for the main part of the journey which is travelling almost 29 kms along the beach to the lighthouse. First stop at Fossil Point and many interesting rock formations to be seen during our Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay.
Handy hint: never get between a Fur Seal and the sea! A direct escape route to the sea provides security for fur seals, just in case they need to make a flippered run for it.
The Farewell Spit Eco Tour Company has a concession to go past the 4km mark where public access ends and that’s a good thing. The wildlife and the pristine environment need to be protected. And believe me, it’s very easy to become dehydrated and disoriented in the sandstorms that whip up around here, although they do provide amazing textural furrows for an arty photo.
Back on the bus and we’re heading towards the lighthouse reserve. This lighthouse is the only steel latticed framework lighthouse in the country and once employed the Head Lighthouse Keeper, and two assistants.
We stop for about an hour at the original lighthouse keeper’s house, have a cuppa and do our own thing for a while. Back on the bus and we head back down the beach, passing a fur seal and her newly born pup. There’s a mad scramble for photos but this time Elaine takes a much wider berth with the bus, moving on to leave mother and pup in peace.
It’s showtime folks! Finally we return to the sand dune at Mullet Channel for panoramic views of the intertidal plain and a climb to the top for a fun ‘roly poly’ to the bottom. I’m expected to volunteer for this…
… negotiations begin and I finally agree to a flatfooted stomp all the way down…
…and it’s fun making your own tracks in this sand dune knowing they’ll soon be erased by the wind. No footprints left behind here, dear traveller at this Farewell Spit Tours Golden Bay.