We left Murchison yesterday (Jan. 22), heading northeasterly toward the northern shore and the city of Nelson, on the Tasman Bay.
It was a beautiful drive, a gorgeous sunny day when New Zealand shines and feels like summer, the trees either deep dark evergreen or bright spring new-leaves-green against the clear blue cerulean sky. Rivers sparkle, streams glisten, waterfalls and snow on the distant peaks shine brightly in the sun. And the sun here is intense – even more intense than the sun in the USVI. We didn’t realize that the hole in the ozone layer is closer to this part of the world that up in the northern hemisphere, so that the sun is quite bright and intense – my head gets extremely hot, almost burning here. That was one of those unexpected moments of realization that we encounter when traveling – who knew?
We stopped at the occasional scenic overlook – one spot, Saddle Pass (I think that was the name – Saddle Something), provided an incredible view of the northern end of the NZ Alps, which seemed to stretch on forever. Beautiful purple mountains majesty in the distance, beyond the grey-green foothills, and the intensely green trees right where I was standing. Strange to see snow when my head was getting toastier by the minute! And this was another trig point – one of those high-up 360 degree view points, where the national surveying organization puts up a big white and black monument to use for surveying and mapping – there are trig points all over the country, and surveyors actually use those weird trigonometry formulas we learned in school – side-angle-side, angle-side-angle, whatever. (One of those things that we learned at the time and promptly forgot.) Anyway, beautiful views!
On we drove, moving out of the hills and valleys and into the coastal plain, much of which is a wetland with all kinds of birds. (Did you know that when the Maori came to New Zealand, there weren’t any land mammals here? Sea otters, seals, dolphins and whales were the only mammals around – and the only land animals were insects and birds, with a bunch of flightless birds that weren’t found anywhere else in the world, and some of which are now extinct. This is truly bird country!)
And then Nelson – another pretty port town, with Victorian buildings mixed in with the modern, situated on the Tasman Bay, and our base for a few days while we explore the region. The famous Abel Tasman National Park is to our west, just a short drive away. South and east of Nelson is wine country, all kinds of vineyards and wineries, with the fun of wine tasting. And time to explore Nelson, which is what we did today, just wandering around, trying out a few cafés for tea or coffee (with a fancy latte for me) and incredible gelato (the shop is in nearby Richmond – here’s a link: http://thechildrensguide.co.nz/nelson/out-and-about/buonissimo/).
We also spent time in a neighborhood
pub, having a nice dinner (complete with Pavlova, my new favorite dessert, which isn't even chocolate and, as desserts go, is not too bad calorically), playing the slot machines (with small wins), and chatting with the owner. We even ran into the pub owner today, and almost didn't recognize him, because we didn't expect to know anyone after our first day in town!
Another fun thing about Nelson – we found sculpture in the parking lot of the supermarket! I have no idea why or who or how this was sponsored, but I thought this was just very cool! "Mother Nature" is sculpted from Oamaru stone (just like the buildings in Oamaru); and I couldn't find a title or any information about the funny welded metal sculpture that looked like a cross between trees and apostrophes, but they were just fun to see in the midst of rows of parked cars!
found for us – A Woodsy House, in a neighborhood called The Woods, kind of on the eastern side of Nelson – their website doesn’t do the place justice: http://awoodsyhouse.com. This place is so comfortable and beautiful, situated up a hill so that the view from the balcony is across the town of Nelson and the port, with sunsets in the evening. We’re the only guests right now, in the lovely Topaz Room, with golden walls and antique furniture and a rosy bathroom with the largest old claw-foot tub I’ve ever seen. Plus a shower with two showerheads, and bathrobes – my idea of luxury is a hotel or B&B with a bathrobe for my use. And, icing on the cake, even beyond the guest sitting room downstairs furnished in antique sofa and armchairs – beyond the free wifi – beyond the tea and cookies always available – is the most beautiful Birman cat, Sophie, who is a retired show cat and regally allows guests to pet her. She’s absolutely gorgeous, Richard described her as the most beautiful cat he’s ever seen. Really, she made our morning! (The hosts Shane and Selene are wonderful, but we were just entranced with Sophie, LOL.)
Tomorrow we plan to explore beyond Nelson – today was our adjusting and staying put day, after several days of distance driving. And this is truly the house in which to relax and decompress. I wouldn’t mind staying here forever!