With Christmas and New Year behind us, it suddenly seems that our days are dwindling on our jaunt around southern hemisphere. The list of bookings and sight seeing opportunities that once was so long has now withered away to just 8 flicks of my diary pages. Don’t get me wrong, we are not complaining. How could we when we have had the opportunity to undertake such a fantastic adventure but we all know how it feels when you know your precious holiday is coming to a close. Anyway enough of that sentimental tosh back to what is really going on in the here and now.
First of all I have to point out that my fellow traveller/husband/love of my life made a boo boo in the last blog. He said that we were off to our last stop on the South Island, Nelson. In fact that is not true because I am currently sitting in yet another fantastic Airbnb that definitely is our last location in South Island. More about that further on. First of all….
As you may have guessed, named after Admiral Nelson though cannot get to the bottom of why. I think it was because everything seems to have been named after someone or some place deemed wonderful from the British Empire even though the Maori settlers were here a mere 700 years before. The journey from Kaikoura started along a sunny east coast where seals were basking in the sunshine. Then we headed in land where the road straightened out for a while but the last 20 km or so was another one of those never to be forgotten drives. The road up over the “saddle” as they call it was a long slow climb but coming down was hairpin after hairpin with huge drops to the passenger side. Jonno must have been confident because he decided to have a little nap so he missed all the lorries (car transporters, fuel tankers and loads of log trailers) thundering past on the opposite side their way south from the coast.
We arrived at our Airbnb to be welcomed by Thomas. We had difficulty pinning down his accent but discovered he was of Greek, Polish and German extraction. Communication sometimes was a bit tricky because he had a very strong German accent (like something out of Hello Hello) and he was quite deaf. In fact, so deaf shouting was necessary. He had 4 rooms of guests at his beautiful little villa style house. Thomas and his son also lived there and it took us a while to figure out where they slept. It turned out his son, Philip slept in the garage and Thomas got a ladder out every night and squeeze himself through a loft hatch in the laundry to sleep in the loft. As with most houses here, it had a metal roof so he must have baked up there. He was very welcoming though and every evening had an international flavour. During our 5 days there, we met other Dutch, German, English and Korean travellers. Even though we all shared the same kitchen and bathroom area it all seemed to work without a hitch.
Nelson itself is a great town. We did our usual mammoth walk to see the harbour, Anzac Gardens, museum, cathedral and Queens Gardens. Every place had a good atmosphere which was only enhanced by the street pianos left out for people to play. There were some very talented backpackers which we listened to for a long while. We decided they must be music students on their travels just to make our us feel better about our musical inadequacy.
On our tour round the town we had seen signs to the “Centre of New Zealand”. Thomas had recommended this but somehow it was lost in translation so we ventured off up a path to find out more. After an extremely steep 30 minute walk which tested even our newly acquired stamina, we arrived at the summit of Centre of New Zealand. We thought, in our innocence, that perhaps it could be the geographical centre of both the North and South Islands plus the Tasman Sea combined. This is only roughly true but it is the point where the first trigonometrical surveys of New Zealand were started in the 1870s. We had great views of the Nelson harbour below.
From our vantage point we spied another path across the hills so headed off for another hour of breathtaking views before descending to heritage village which included a rebuilt windmill and lots of Nelson’s original buildings rescued and restored. There was even a brewery. Well it was a very lot and very long walk!
After a day of some very serious rain and a couple more laid back days in Nelson, it was time to move on. This is where the correction is needed. We had indeed handed back our trusty Nissan Notey and the tinsel and pine cone collection had been donated to Thomas. So it was Intercity buses that had the pleasure of whisking us back along the Coast to Picton.
Jonno, as always, had done his research and decided to avoid Naked Bus, I think he is just too well brought up to consider this option so he booked with Intercity. We were ready and waiting at Nelson Bus Station at 8am. The bus was sitting there on the far side of the forecourt. The driver was changing signs and checking his manifest (don’t know if that is the right word but I just like it!). The concern started when he tried to start the bus. After about six lengthy attempts the engine sprung to life and we decided it must have just been damp or cold after sitting on the forecourt all night. Wrong! Whenever the bus was idling, ie he didn’t have his foot on the gas, the engine cut out. The driver discovered this on the return journey we had to do over the hairpin gorge saddle road. We were sat a few seats behind him and could see that he was constantly jump starting the bus on the downhill slopes. Weird how we avoided the adrenalin rides on offer but had one for free courtesy of Intercity. After about 30km he had to stop to pick up a passenger at the side of the road in Canvas Town. The driver, Eric although Jonno kept calling him Claude, left the engine running in hope but it just died. Valiant attempts which almost flattened the battery got it going to the next stop but he decided he wasn’t going to take his foot off the gas until we got there. A few near misses with other roundabout users and at pedestrian crossings but he did it. We had arrived at Blenheim where we waited for a replacement to arrive. Quite a dull ride after that. We miss our Notey
Our poor next Airbnb host, Barb, had been waiting in Picton for our bus to arrive at 10.40am and we had now way to contact her. We arrived at 11.45 am and managed to get wifi to give our apologies. It seems like the norm for the coaches here so she took it in her stride.
Picton has the terminal for ferries to the North Island but rather than just whizzing through we wanted to explore so had booked 2 days here. After being cooped up longer than expected on the bus we were eager to get out. Literally at the end of the garden is a track that takes you either to Picton town centre, Waikawa Bay or up a very steep hill to see the Queen Charlotte Sound and Queen Charlotte walking track. No guessing which one we chose. Yep the steep hill wins every time. It made the Centre of New Zealand walk seem like a stroll in the park but once again it was so worth it. Luckily for us there was a regatta taking place on the Sound so there were lots of sail boats to be seen apart from the stunning view.
We are looking forward to the ferry ride even more now. I think there is about 20km of Sound before making the crossing out onto the sea to Wellington.
So this time, it really is bye bye South Island. It is the most perfect place with breath-taking views and landscape at every turn. Strangely we met a lady on our travels who asked how long we had been in NZ, when we replied, “Since early December” she couldn’t believe it and said, “You can see everything in about 10 days – what are you going to do with yourselves?” She must be as mad as a box of frogs. I genuinely think you could live here and still not see every walking track, valley, cove, gorge, lake, glacier – although it would be fun to try!
4.1 – 10.1.2016