The train trip to Christchurch is billed as one of the most scenic in the world and they are not wrong. A combination of colour with swathes of flowers lupins, yellow, purple and pink and gorse, mountains, valleys, water and bush. Some amazing views of the valleys we crossed on huge viaducts, so high, eek. Small communities. There was one tiny place where a charity had bought all the houses and they let them at low rents to people who understood that the climate was going to be quite poor and even extreme all year around. It is without a doubt the most beautiful train journey I have ever been on, but I didn’t manage to get many photographs, not sure why. I was probably processing the last couple of weeks, and thinking about Christchurch. I really did not know what to expect as both Derek and Lynn had been saying it’s very sad and unrecognisable as many of the landmarks had disappeared.
Arrival in Christchurch was a bit of a kerfuffle. The luggage appeared on the platform on a conveyor, I took my time and ordered an Uber. There had been a couple sitting on the opposite aisle to me on the train. They were also trying to get an Uber, but clearly got it wrong, because mine arrived first, haha. That will teach them for drinking their own alcohol on the train against the rules.
Anyway dropped off at my latest abode, I got settled in after a short trip to the shops and had an early night, after the rigours of a travelling day. The host seemed very nice and there was a lovely garden and a cat called Mr Jones, and my first Christmas tree. He had just put it up that day. It was December 2nd and his only opportunity to put the tree up that month.
The next morning I was up early and off into Christchurch, it didn’t take long on the bus, and I found myself in a road which had a lot of brand new shops and some of the remaining temporary container shops including a bank ina cintrainer. After a little wandering around I decided to head for the Cathedral because Derek had told me that the information point was there. There had been quite a bit of discussion about the cathedral in the West Country, and how nothing had happened to it yet and they hadn’t made any decisions about whether to repair or demolish and rebuild. Nothing prepared me for the saddest sight so far of my trip. With hoardings all around and few places you could take photographs, it was such a sorry sight. At the front there was a archway built with plants growing through which was quite beautiful given everything else.
The information centre wasn’t there but the tram stop was so I thought I might get a ticket for that. Derek had also mentioned an earthquake tour and this was my primary reason for wanting the information centre. So I followed the instructions to find it further down the road. It is a really interesting experience walking through the city centre, a combination of old perfectly intact, the temporary containers made into shops and banks, the very broken propped up and cordoned off, often right next to the perfectly untouched and the brand new. I have to say I did feel quite a buzz about the place. In the information centre I booked the tram and also a ride on a punt on the River Avon. The Quake tour had been replaced by Quake City a fully curated exhibition, but I didn’t buy my ticket because I could get in cheaper on the door being a pensioner.... there are some benefits to getting on. I was having a chat to the woman in the centre about what it had been like living though this and what it was like now. She told me that the little Sunday market in the square next to where we were had reopened there today for the first time since the Quake. You would never have known that, I had already had a wander around and it was lovely, I could have but didn’t, spent a fortune. She said that she felt there was a new air of optimism about the city, and I definitely felt that. I was booked on a punt at 4 pm and was going to do the tram the next day. The plan was to spend some time in the Botanic Gardens until then but I found a shop full of pleasure and wonder in the same building, yes you have guessed it a jewellery shop all hand made. I saw a beautiful pair of earrings, much more expensive than the ones Derek discouraged me from buying. I said to the assistant that I wasn’t supposed to be spending money but I would have a think about it. I spent some time in the Botanic gardens which were beautiful, and had a coffee and cake in the cafe and then off for a punt.
The punting was lovely. Very peaceful lots of ducks on the river, one type of duck dives and even the babies are able to dive from a very young age and we saw some diving. Not just putting their head in the water but actually diving beneath the water. Off the boat I made the decision to buy the earrings I had seen as my keepsake from New Zealand, as my Christmas present from the old man, the least he could do I thought! The shop keeper looked really surprised as I appeared at the doorway just before closing time, but pleased too. I have to say I am really delighted with my new earrings, they have brought me great joy... just in case you are reading Derek.
After the earring purchase I retraced my steps back to the bus station looking for somewhere to eat and the only place I could find was a place in some alley near the bus station with some live music and a funny layout. Anyway I settled on it rather than starve, it was ok. Chatting to my waitress later she said that this had been the only business open for a very long time, but now every day something new opens. I had thought to go to the cinema that evening, but went around in circles trying to use the sat nav, so went back to my place of residence instead.
The next day I got a reasonably early start and went for my tram ride, the first driver was from Liverpool and it was just me and him for the first part of the journey so I got a personalised tour. He was telling me how areas are demolished in turn and then rebuilt so the way you get around changes all the time. Also all the new buildings can only be a certain height and the foundations are as deep as the height of the building. The tram goes around two loops the first around the town and then the second around the other side which is where I got dropped off for the Quake city exhibition.
I have to say at this point that the exhibition was fantastic, there were all sorts of things in there including some footage of the earthquake actually happening, people in the street running all over the place not knowing where to go and then the aftermath as a building collapses and the dust everywhere. There was a lot of information about all the quakes that had hit the city, the severity and the impact they had. But for me the most astounding piece was a film with about a dozen people giving their account of what had happened to them and their families on that day. Those of you that know me, would know that this would move me to tears and indeed it did, both the happy and the incredibly sad outcomes. One husband was in Auckland and managed to get someone with a private plane to fly him back and he stood outside the building his wife was in for thirty hours, in the hope she would be found safe. She wasn’t, but he told the story with such humility and honesty. Even now it has moved me to tears thinking about him and his story. He saw the building had collapsed when he was in Auckland he was so determined to find a way home and then wait outside for her. There was also another man who talked about going into a building to help with the rescue effort and finding people both dead and alive, and how it taught him so much about humanity, humility team work and caring. The other story that really stayed with me was one of a woman who had an office in a tower in the cathedral and she didn’t think she was going to survive as the whole structure moved around her, you can imagine she climbed up a spiral stone staircase to get to her little cubby hole as she called it. She managed to look out of her little window and saw her colleagues gathered outside and called down to them to help her and they got her out. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Museum, it certainly taught me a lot about what had happened to the city and it’s people.
Back on the tram and around to another part of the city I hadn’t yet explored, where there were some places to eat, and then on to the cinema, which was a fabulous tiny place with two small screens and a film library which was huge. Buying a cinema ticket allowed free hire of any dvd, shame I did not have time. It was very civilised, a was able to have a glass of wine whilst I watched, it was very comfortable and the film was a New Zealand called Human Traces set in the Antarctic. Very enjoyable all in all. Below is the mural outside the cinema which is named Alice.
There are many pieces of art around the city, they were commissioned to help to brighten the city’s landscape whilst the city is regenerated. Some examples below.
Back home after a wonderful day, I didn’t get to any art galleries but I felt I had experienced a lot of the city and I have to say I really loved it, a city in transition which is growing in vibrancy and has possibilities again. I probably caught it at just the right time. Below some more photographs.
The following day I was getting my washing done packing and moving in to the airport hotel for my last night in New Zealand. It was a 4 am start with the following morning so attempted an early night and as usual spent most of the night awake. Of well it seems since I dont have to get up in the morning I worry too much about actually being able to get up. Need to work on that!
Tomorrow it’s Brisbane Australia. Country number four
My time in Nelson had come to an end, and I was being taken by Phil and Derek for a trip down to the West Coast. There were three objectives, end up in Greymouth to catch my train to Christchurch, visit Erik’s father Pete in Granity and see the church he and Helga bought at an auction which was the start of them moving to New Zealand and spend a couple of days in a Bach on the West Coast belonging to friends of Phil and Derek. I hadn’t really questioned much about this Bach and therefore had absolutely no idea what I was going to experience.
We were ten minutes late setting off, my fault I could not get my act together after the previous night out. I don’t seem to have the same stamina I used to have, not sure whether I am just out of practice or it’s an age thing, probably out of practice. It was a four hour drive to Granity and after a while the road hugged the coast, with little places like bridges and overhangs which were one way, and quite interesting to traverse. One in particular stuck in my mind, one way but we couldn’t see the other end as it went around a bend and we had to give way to oncoming traffic, apparently it had flooded many times and Derek was trying to show me the water mark but I was more worried about what might appear from around the corner any minute now. I really must stop worrying about everything. There was a railway line, which we crossed at least three and maybe four times, and it actually runs around the back of the church and the house next door which they also bought and lived in.
There were also a lot of roadworks on the way and men and women holding stop and go slow signs at either end. At one particular stop we were the first car in the queue and the young man told us that it would be a while, we asked if he got to do other jobs or just this one? Just this one because I am a foreigner, laughter. Then we got out of the car for a stretch and he offered to let Phil try his hat on and hold the stop sign, here is the evidence, I definitely think she should consider a career change.
We stopped en route for tea and coffee in a little town I think it was called Karamea and the coffee shop we went into had a little shop at the back which Phil and I went to peruse. I spotted these possum fur nipple warmers. I am afraid I shrieked like a 14 year old, and the owner of the shop who unbeknown to me was in the cafe came in and started to tell me they sell lots of them and they come with an envelope so that they can be posted! That put me in my place. Later on Phil and I were pondering how you would attach them. Nuf said methinks.
Eventually we arrived at Granity, a tiny place, just one street really, but there were some shocks. The Drifters cafe had closed and a new sort of motel/ backpackers place opened where the old pub had been. Meaningless to most of you reading this, but I have heard about these places for years so discover they no longer exist as they did was a bit of a surprise. Apparently Drifters is up for sale and what has been described as a highly inflated price. Peter bought the old Masons Lodge across the road from the church many years ago and has been doing that up slowly but surely. So we knocked on his door, well I walked in as it was wide open, into a huge space which is used for music rehearsals and various other things, a working space not a living space. Pete appeared from around the back and gave me a huge hug and told me how well I looked. He then gave us the tour of his living quarters and had arranged access for us to go and look at the church. When they bought the church the idea was to set it up as an Arts Centre and it was used for all sorts of things from exhibitions to choir practice for a local choir which they were involved in setting up. Helga had painted the ceilings and like many works of her art around England it has been kept in tact.
Here are some photographs of the church and Pete’s Masonic Hall, which opens out at the back to the beach, quite blissful.
We then went to lunch at the new motel/ backpackers restaurant which was very expensive for what it was I thought, but the guy has to make a living and in such a tiny place with little passing traffic it must be really hard. Derek was going to have the pork, but there was none left so he plumped for a salad, I had been looking at it myself and thought it sounded really nice. But the owner who was serving us insisted he should put a bit of chicken on it for him! Bear in mind he was also the cook and it was his menu, we simply could not stop laughing about it, he said something like you can’t survive on a bit of rabbit food, I will put a piece of chicken on, which despite Derek’s protestations is exactly what he did. I did wonder if he would have said the same to me had I ordered it, probably not because I am a woman and women do eat rabbit food, don’t we. He was that sort of a man I think. Anyway jolly lunch over, catch up on Erik, Peter and life complete and time to move on the the Bach. It was during lunch that I found out that the Bach was over some rocks with the sea below us on high tide. A Bach by the way is short for a bachelor pad, a lot of these small buildings were built by men to use when they were working away from home, many are illegal and only being allowed to be used by their current owners for their lifetime after which they will have to be demolished. The one we were going to had been legalised when they purchased it. We still had quite a drive to get there, and it did become a bit ‘are we there yet? ‘. We had had to back track from Granity which didn’t help. But the scenery was fabulous and made up for all the time we spent in the car.
A lot of the names of places on the way were Irish and it transpired that there were many Irish immigrants in the area explaining why we saw Kilkenny on the way.
When we did finally arrive, the Bach was very well camouflaged from the road, and even on the beach below it was quite hard to see. There was some talk about sleeping arrangements and a sleep out, on arrival I discovered the sleep out was a separate building to the side, downside no handy toilet for night visits, upside the sound of the surf whilst in bed, so I volunteered to sleep there. Lynn who is one of the owners came for dinner too and things were soon organised for her arrival and a pre prepared dinner was in the stove, gin and tonics poured, and chatter and catch up going on. Then the sunset happened it was so amazing and I took a zillion photographs.
So before I go any further I must talk about the blessed sand flies. Phil had warned me that they are viscous and as I am constantly being bitten by anything and everything we agreed I would be a prime target. I had been pretty well covered all day including socks and trainers, but I really needed to free my feet when we arrived and stupidly put on some flip flops. I was wearing jeans so it was really only my feet what were uncovered. Within seconds I saw blood on my feet, yes blood, these blighters bite really hard. It really was a matter of minutes and my feet were completely decimated. I still have the scars and it is now three weeks later. The itching of course doesn’t start straight away it waits until the middle of the night. I had been covering myself in insect spray as well which made no difference whatsoever. I have almost gone through one full tube of cream for bites since I left home and I am using other things as well. What a mess is all I can say, I soon rushed to put some socks on but all too late. The only thing that made me feel better is that it wasn’t just me that got bitten.
We weren’t too late to bed and it was wonderful in the sleep out all I could hear was the waves crashing in the rocks and it sent me off to sleep like a lullaby. I got up about 6 am to go to the ladies room, restroom, loo, toilet whatever you want to call it. When I got back to the sleep out there were loads of sand flies hovering outside the door and unfortunately lots of them followed me in. I sprayed them, that did the trick, I think I must have killed about fifty and I hid under my sheet and went back to sleep.
When I got up about ten it was like a pajama party in the main house and I was all dressed. Lynn went home but we had agreed that Phil and Derek would drop me off at her house in Greymouth the following morning and she would take me to the station in the afternoon for my train. We then clambered down to the beach for a ramble across rocks and a bit of a walk. Many of the rocks were completely covered in mussels. Tiny baby ones and I was trying my hardest not to tread on any of them, so it took me four times as long as the other two to get anywhere, then Derek told me they were never going to grow because they were out of the sea too much. So they then got my size sixes all over them. Sorry mussels.
The beach was beautiful, but they wanted to take me to a couple of other places as well so we clambered back up and set off in the car for the Paparoa National Park to see the pancake rocks. But before we dash off there some photographs of the beach and the hidden Bach, my sleepout and my friend the seagull.
The park has a few shops and we did a bit of window shopping and browsing, I nearly bought a t- shirt. Oh and there were some earrings that I had seen in Nelson and had my eye on and they were three dollars more here. They were off the list. When I had originally seen them I showed them to Derek, we were in the Wow museum and gallery. He gave me a big lecture about not needing any more jewellery. There was a man and his wife standing next to us and I was joking to them about the fact he wasn’t even my husband and she was saying all she could see in the cabinet was pure joy and I agreed wholeheartedly with her.
Then we went for the walk to view the pancake rocks. It was a built walkway which led you around to see the various views. The rocks are layered like pancakes and in places some had broken off. It was a spectacular sight. There were many signs telling people not to be stupid and climb over the railing because they could lose their lives. There was also a new road sign which banned drones.
The next stop was the Truman track, which was a walk down to a beach through a beautiful bit of bush, some of the tree trunks were intertwined and very gnarled. The path used to lead down to a beach, but they are building a platform to view they beach so it looks like access is going to be denied. The beach hosts sea lions when they are giving birth and is classed as a marine reserve so this is probably why they have now made this viewing platform.
Back to the Bach stopping for a drink at a local pub on the way, I had a cider and it was very dry almost clear in colour and delicious. Dinner and another wonderful evening on the veranda. There were quite a few seagulls around as you might expect, but we had our suspicions that they were being fed by visitors because they were constantly on the roof and fence watching us.... I got quite a good bit of video of one, who let me get quite close.
We had a reasonably early night as we wanted to be away early for breakfast in Greymouth as Phil and Derek were off to the east coast to visit his sister. Greymouth seemed a bit of a sad old place but we found. Good place for breakfast Which was extremely yummy, and then our goodbyes at Lynn’s until next time. Thanks guys it’s been really great to spend time with you and your friends and to see the sights with you and do all the tramping. You made my visit to the beautiful South Island more than memorable.
Lynn and I spent a lovely morning chatting and had some lunch and before I knew it, it was time to get to the station to be checked in for my journey to Christchurch. My final stop in New Zealand where in earth did that month go?
See you on the train. But before that some final pictures from the balcony at the Bach.
Up early, final bit of packing, getting this all off to a fine art these days, living out of a suitcase that is. But the next stretch is actually quite a long one with my friends of old, Philomena known as Phil and Derek. We have known each other for a very long time, in fact I took Phil’s job at Personal Computers Ltd as a Consultant in 1986 I think when she went off to travel the world with Derek. She came back six months or so later and rejoined the company. They have been living in New Zealand which is Derek’s place of birth for many years now with there three boys who like mine are all grown up. We have kept in touch over the years, they lived in Spain for a while and go back there every year, so we have been making more effort to capture those opportunities to see each other along with some other close girlfriends from that time. Philomena also became friends with my sister Helga when she came to live in New Zealand and travelled to visit Helga in Auckland when I was there in 2008, for the last few days of Helga’s life.
So I caught my usual Uber to the Ferry port and checked my luggage in, then got in the queue to board. I was aboard quite early and found myself a window seat in the restaurant. The weather was lovely so I was hoping for an easy crossing, I had been told it can be quite rough. I got myself some breakfast and settled down to write for a while whilst taking the odd snap. The windows became quite wet and so that became more difficult after a while. The crossing was calm and noisy, it’s funny how when you are just in your own company for a while you are struck by how noisy it gets when you are surrounded by people trapped in the same place as you. There was a big group of Americans doing New Zealand and Australia. I was having a little chat to them just before we disembarked. In the mean time I had solved the noise problem by plugging in my ear phones and listening to music whilst I wrote, I just couldn’t concentrate otherwise. I couldn’t hear myself think if you know what I mean. Leaving Wellington the views were of the harbour and some of Wellington, then when you get to Picton there are lots of little islands and it is really picturesque.
The crossing photographs are below.
The crossing took about three hours, and once we were docked there was the usual ‘will foot passengers please remain where they are and car passengers please rejoin their vehicles. Finally we were allowed to disembark and eager to get off and see my friends I stuck myself in the queue, they directed us through the car deck, so the cars had to wait patiently for us to pass before they could drive off, which I thought was a little strange. There was a vehicle which had an open back and it had four sheep in it, I wondered if they were off to a new home or something else. Needless to say everyone was oohing and ahing and giggling about them. Off the boat I found Phil and Derek patiently waiting for me, lots of hugs, so good to see them. We grabbed my luggage and of course I got told off by the expert travellers for having too much luggage. So I justified my self with the variety of temperatures, seasons and the occasions I was attending Blah blah, good to be with friends who know they can take the mickey.
We took the scenic route to Nelson which was breathtakingly beautiful, through the Marlborough district where much wine is grown. Apparently they had a wine glut a few years ago. So much wine they didn’t know what to do with it all. One of the things Phil and Derek noticed later in the week was that there are a lot of new crops of hops, it seems that craft beers are starting to become more popular and thats making a difference to the landscape. I had been told by people in the North Island that there were more sheep in the South Island these days, so I asked my hosts about this having seen quite a few cows and virtually no sheep. Apparently the sheep population has shrunk significantly, lack of demand for wool because of all the man made fibres and more money to be made out of powdered baby milk. The cows are also causing havoc in the country side and with the water, because there poo is as you know big and messy and that is getting washed away into the water systems. So not good.
We stopped on way back at the Slip Inn in Havelock. This was the end of the scenic route although the rest of the journey was still very scenic. We had been laughing about my experiences with restaurants and my free fifty dollar dinner the night before, and then what should happen, Phil’s lunch came without the salmon and I had a hair in my glass of wine, cheap lunch again.
Refreshed it was time to get back on the road to continue our journey to Nelson. Nelson is a lovely town and I have to say I really enjoyed my time there. It is one of those places which is very walkable, it’s extremely pretty and has wonderful views. As we approached I was presented with a view of the bay and the sea was looking very blue green that day. I was given the quick tour to get my bearings, this is where Phil works, this is the cathedral and if you look for the spire you can always find your way home. It was great to finally be able to know where they are on the globe after all these years. They are very central and live in a big house which they used to run as a motel. These days they rent out all the units, saves on cleaning all those toilets and Derek was able to retire. It has fabulous views over the town and in under five minutes you are in town and it takes ten minutes walk to the supermarket.
I settled into daily Nelson life quite quickly, Phil was working the next day and Derek and I did the shopping and he took me on another little tour of the town and up to a place which had a fabulous view and then down through Washington which is a much poorer district, but notable almost right next to the most expensive district. I had a load of errands to run, and managed to achieve them all, including buying a new belt because my cheap 10 dollar belt from St George was completely falling apart. The was the second major belt hunt I had been on, I have been looking in every town I have been in since arriving in New Zealand. But it was now becoming essential I find one before the belt breaks and I spend the whole time pulling my jeans up. Anyway I think I went in every shop possible including all the charity shops, something I rarely do. Finally I went into a shop which had a lot of hippy stuff in and lo and behold I found one which was leather made in New Zealand and actually fitted me. Job done. The other good thing about it is I only reach the first hole, so I can measure my weight loss progress by moving along the belt, I hope. Talking of weight loss I was hoping to weigh myself but alas Phil has no need for bathroom scales. So I will just have to hope I have lost some more weight since Utah!
I went to meet Phil after work as she was going for a walk with a couple of women she always walks with, Gwen and Steph. When I say walk what I really mean is hike on the trails in New Zealand, and it’s called tramping, I did ask why but nobody could tell me the origins. I must look it up. They go at least twice a week and try to go away for a couple of days on a regular basis further afield to do longer trails. Anyway so we set off to do the Centre of New Zealand trail, which starts off in a park. It is a big hill and I have to say I found it quite hard to do, they kept having to stop for me, so I could get my breath again it was really steep in parts, oh well. But once we got to the top the views were amazing. Apparently it was set as the centre of New Zealand by early settlers and it is questionable as to whether it is in reality the centre of New Zealand, but there is a plaque in the ground, so it must be true.
Gwen took my by surprise when I first met her because the first thing she said to me was ‘you look like your sister’, and at first I thought she was saying you look like sisters and then I realised she was talking about my sister Helga. As I have mentioned before I have found being in New Zealand a very emotional experience, understanding why my sister loved it so much especially as an artist. So meeting people who knew her outside of Phil and Derek was unexpected but lovely.
The following day Phil, Derek and I went to the Abel Tasman reserve which is about two hours from Nelson, this is another amazing nature reserve on the coast line and there are trails to lots of different beaches along the way, you can choose how far you want to walk as it give you all the different tim8ngs for each beach, this is the same on all the trails in NZ. On the way there we stopped for coffee and Phil and I had a little cake as well. Just to keep with the theme of getting money back there was a hair on the cream on Phil’s cake, so they took both cakes off the bill. That’s the fourth time in New Zealand that there has been an issue. We had quite a long discussion about it. Phil thought that part of the problem was that there were a lot of foreigners serving and as a result they were misunderstandings because of language and the standard of serving wasn’t up to scratch. But does that explain hairs in the food, I had one in my soup at the Slip Inn but by this time I couldn’t be bothered to mention it.
We were going to Coquille Bay on our walk which is about 50 minutes tramping, get me with the lingo. Of course I had to keep stopping to take photographs so it probably took us a bit longer and do my photos do the area justice probably not, we then scrambled down the the beach which we shared with half a dozen people and Phil went for a swim! We had our healthy salad lunch, to make up for the cake, and then the return journey. Fabulous walk, burned lots of calories and thoroughly enjoyed myself. There was a big gang of schoolchildren on their annual outing, all very excited and looking for animals and birds in the bushes. We could hear them from quite a distance.
The outdoor life here is certainly something else, there are so many of these trails everywhere I have been. I haven’t tracked all my walking but I can tell you from the ones I did track I walked 99:25 kilometres in November. In old money that’s 62 miles and as I said I didn’t always remember to put my tracker on. I was wondering one day just how many miles I have travelled, and I really must work that out from place to place.
That evening I went with Phil to her book club, although I hadn’t read the book obviously, I had read the synopsis so I had some idea what they were talking about. It was a really fun evening, and I felt very welcomed by all the women in the club.
Photos of Abel Tasman
So now we are at Friday morning, and I went to a Yoga class. One of my targets had been to try and go to exercise classes everywhere I go. That was such a silly target almost impossible, there is always so much to do and see and I never seem to achieve everything I set out to do and I also need to have some down time and writing this takes up a huge amount of time too. So I have let it go but finally had an opportunity of being in one place again for a week so thought I must try. It was a great class all about relaxation and all floor based with lots of supports, I really enjoyed it. Phil had gone to Pilates and we met up afterwards and went to the Boat House for lunch. There was a huge ship in harbour and we thought it was leaving that day and were going to hang around and watch it, but then we looked again and the departure date had changed. Derek had his bike and Phil and I took the opportunity to walk up the hill and then down through Washington and then to the supermarket and the post office. Erik’s twenty first birthday was coming up so I wanted to send him some of his favourite chocolate, Whitaker’s and a card. So we got all the bits and pieces so it could be assembled and then posted in time to arrive for the big day.
Saturday was another walk with the girls, this time up Glenduan which was a car ride away just outside town really and if I thought the previous hill was steep that was nothing on this little gem. Gwen and Steph had sticks and I hadn’t brought mine so Gwen lent hers to me and it really helped. When we got to the top I took a photo of the intrepid three. Going down was fun, because we went another way and no one was accepting responsibility for the route in case it was wrong. Hilarious. All I am thinking is I hope I don’t have to come back up this hill again to go down another way! Anyway we came down by a wooded area and there were quite a few trees which were uprooted. They call these sorts of woods and forests which have naturally evolved the Bush, the same as in Australia I have since discovered. They are different to the pine forests which you see all over the country growing in a uniform way and being cut down after eighteen years. Apparently it takes 25 years to grow a pine tree in Scandinavia and use to take twenty in New Zealand but they have managed to cut that back to 18 now. You see these forests of Pine trees with a big area of brown ground next to them where they have cut them all down mainly for export and there are always lorries full of logs on the roads. We got right to the bottom of Glenduan only to discover that we were on the wrong side of the fence to get through the gate. So we all had to climb over. When I was in Utah I found anything like that really difficult a combination I suppose of my weight and also issues with my knee. I am glad to report that this sort of clambering is now getting much easier, although I must admit I dread the thought every time I find myself in one of these situations. I always think what if I can’t do it? But I always do find a way. Going up this hill I found I wasn’t nearly as breathless as I had been on the last one, so all this tramping was obviously doing me some good.
On Sunday I had opted to cook dinner, so I went to the supermarket and got my bits and pieces. I was cooking Icelandic mushroom soup which I had made for the first time just before I left home, and Icelandic fish cakes. I managed to get all the ingredients, but of course no cod or haddock so I used red cod, not really knowing what that was going to do to the taste, but they were ok.
Phil was working in Monday and Tuesday because we planned to go to the West Coast on Thursday for a couple of nights and we wanted Wednesday free to get everything ready as it was going to be an 8am start on Thursday morning. Monday night we had been invited out to dinner at a friends house, so it had been decided that Monday was going to be my day of culture. On the list was the Wearable Arts Museum, the final show for the students doing their degree in the Arts, the Souter Art Gallery and the Nelson Provincial Museum. A pretty packed itinerary. Derek took me to the Wearable Arts which was housed in its own building a little outside of town, and also had a fabulous collection of vintage cars. The Museum is called WOW, and rightly so. I spent about an hour and a half, and there was a film of the latest Wearable Arts show, yes that’s how it started out as a show and competition. Some of the outfits are just amazing, and there was one category for bras, which was so funny.
Photos of Wearable Arts.
The cars were also amazing including one which had not been restored but gave you an idea of the state some of them had been in before they make it into the museum. My uncle in Iceland restores cars like these, he has a workshop full of beautifully restored cars, so seeing these was a real treat for me. There was a mini which had been rebuilt to try and break the world speed record and a film of it actually achieving it. I know a man who would have loved to have been involved in that. A mini specialist in Ireland for many years and he has rebuilt many of them in his time, my husband, so these photos are especially for you Shaun and also for my uncle Aðalstein.
After that treat Derek picked me up and we went to see the leavers exhibition of Bachelor of Arts Degree. There was a huge variety of work from paintings, and photography through to web site design and product design. It was really interesting. One piece was about all the men from one family lost in the war with photographs of them superimposed on hanging bandages, very thought provoking to see all those young men who had lost their lives. The building itself was also amazing having been built in a new way to withstand earthquakes.
After that Derek dropped me off the Queen’s Park so that I could walk through to the Suter Gallery. Such a beautiful little park, having the time to enjoy these spaces is very much becoming part of my life whilst I am travelling, looking at the birds and ducks and flowers and trees, smelling sitting, breathing, watching is just so wonderful. I loved this park. There was a great big fat brown coloured duck sitting by the water and I took a photograph of him, which does not really do justice to his size. Anyway another duck came out of the water to shoo me away and I took a series of photos of him getting out of the water following me and then getting back in the water when he was happy that his job was done, I was laughing and talking to him, yes talking to a duck what on earth is to become of me?
Photos of the Queens Gardens
Then into the Suter Gallery for my next dose of culture for the day. The thing I loved the most in this Gallery was the groups of people made out of pieces of driftwood with masks for their faces, clearly about the history of the people discovering NZ and the Maoris. One of the things I learned about New Zealand is that many of the names of places in the country are changing back to their original Maori names, and there is a big push to remove flowers like the foxglove which are not indigenous. Anyway some photos of this part of the exhibition which did really blow me away.
My next stop was the Nelson Provincial Museum, which after everything else I had seen that day was really a bit of a so what. But I was greeted by a man at the reception desk who asked me where I was from and told me he moved here from Rugby in England about ten years ago. Yet again my sister Helga pops up because that is where she lived for a long time, and indeed my Mum lived there too, and both of Helga’s children were born there. Such a small world and always reminders of those we have loved and lost.
I stopped at the Cod and Lobster on the way back home and texted Phil to see if she wanted to join me on her way back from work, which she did and we chatted about our days events over a convivial glass of local Sauvignon Blanc.
That evening we had been invited to some friends whose brother was in town, he had been hunting and fishing with his wife and brought some of the catches to share. We had cray fish, trout, blue cod, lamb which we think was shop bought, goat and deer, with a lovely salad and strawberries for dessert. Much too much wine was drunk and it was one of those evenings where the conversation got very lively and a wonderful evening was had by all. The next day of course was another matter, I was dead, and spent the whole day just lolling around. Oh well that’s the price you pay for unruly behaviour I suppose.
Wednesday was spent preparing for our trip, chores, washing, repacking as I wouldn’t be returning, shopping, cooking dinner posting my tiny Christmas presents to the boys, 28 dollars for two tiny parcels ! Then we went to the top of New Zealand for a walk sorry tramp. I took my sticks this tme, and really pushed myself, I felt over the week that my ability to climb these trails was significantly improved. We came back down a different way by the river, which was very pretty. There was a big tree which Phil’s boys used to go up to swing off into the river, it has some wooden steps nailed into it and it had fallen into the river, a very sad moment, Phil recalling how Hugo used to go up there as a little boy.
We decided to go the the Cod and Lobster for a seafood platter that evening and we invited Gwen along. Two bottles of wine later Gwen suggested that we should go to the Free House where her husband was. So more wine was taken and there was an Irish session happening in there, so Phil and Gwen did some dancing. I got it on film but won’t embarrass them by including here.
So that was Nelson, I really loved the place and felt so very welcomed by their friends, a truly treasured memory. Thanks guys if you are reading this. Love you lots.
The next day we were off to the West Coast, which deserves its own page.
I spent a good two to three hours here and eventually when my feet couldn’t take it anymore gave in and went back to town to listen to some Jazz in a pub whilst having some dinner. The pub was packed I have to say and it was a lovely day so people were sitting outside on the grassy square. The Jazz was the Traditional kind which is not my favourite by any means but very enjoyable all the same and as always the band was of the silver haired variety. After their three sets I decided it was time to make my way back to my digs and walked. I didn’t let the Sat Nav fool me this time, I had its number, and kept on the same road. It was a long walk after a busy day and I was ready to hit the hay when I got in. However my host kept me chatting for a while, we had an interesting conversation about writing travel blogs, he and his wife travel for about three months a year now the have reached a certain age, and he writes about his travels.
I then started suffering from indigestion and was awake until about 4am, the next morning I still couldn’t shake it so decided to take it easy for the day, did some writing and slept a bit. But that evening I decided I had to go out, so took myself out to dinner in the local area to an Italian restaurant recommended by my hosts. The waitress put me in the back room with a view of the washer upper in the kitchen! Old woman on her own syndrome, she said it will be quiet for you here. I wasn’t in any mood to make a fuss but there were plenty of other tables in there as it was empty! I ordered my food and a carafe of wine, well why not! The main course was ok, and so was the wine, by now there were more people in there but the service was slow. I finally got served again and asked for cheese and biscuits, the cheese had clearly just come out of the fridge. Oh well. But the final straw was the waitress who just kept ignoring me when clearly I had finished. Eventually I lost it and asked her if she could serve me rather than cleaning the table next to me, she said I don’t understand, so I said in rather a loud voice well can I just have my bill please. The owner who was also the chef and was watching this unfold came over and asked me what was the matter. So I told him about the terrible service I had had all evening and he took my bill and tore it up. He listened and was extremely apologetic, I felt quite sorry for him in the end because he had lost three staff and this girl was new and he recognised she wasn’t up to scratch. Off home to recount the tale to my hosts, the wife had come home that day so we had a bit of a chat but I had to be up early for my taxi as I was catching the early ferry to Picton on the South Island. So my stay in Wellington had been very short and I hadn’t really done much, and I have to say I wasn’t really taken with it. But I hadn’t also had the time to explore properly so I shouldn’t be too harsh on it. Oh well that’s the first two weeks of New Zealand done, I wonder what South Island will bring?
The journey to Wellington was a relatively short one by comparison to the others on the Great Northern Rail journey, just an hour, sea scape to start with and then mainly the start of the entry to the city. After alighting and collecting my luggage I went through the station and discovered a New World supermarket so thought I would get something for dinner. I found a ready made dinner made by Wishbone, the make they use on the trains, so got that together with a couple of other bits and pieces and a bottle of red. I jumped into an ordinary taxi for once, and found my way to my next abode which was only a few minutes from the station in a place called Thorndon. I was greeted by my host Terry and installed in my room. After that I came down to get something to eat and we had a very convivial evening sharing life stories and talking about travel and our children, whilst drinking red wine. Finally I trotted off to bed. I wasn’t up too early the next morning and had to get into town to the i Site also known as the information centre for the bus to Zealandia, where I was going to spend the majority of my day.
It was quite a walk and I was using my phone and google maps, but it kept going wrong, telling me to turn left or right onto the road I was already on. That was confusing enough but I also had the problem that the I site had moved so when I finally got there I found I still had further to go. I thought I had plenty of time to catch the bus, but by now I was starting to get worried. I finally found the place and went in to ask as I couldn’t see a bus anywhere outside, and there were queues at every counter. Then this bear of a man walked in and it turned out he was the bus driver, I could tell by his badge, so he pointed me in the direction of the bus and I went ahead of him to get on it and wait for the off. Phew is all I can say! I am supposed to be retired not getting stressed out about catching a bus!
Off we go to Zealandia which is a nature reserve that has been protected from all the species which are not native to New Zealand by special fencing. The fencing goes deep enough so no animals can burrow through and has a top which stops animals gripping to climb over. It is set around lake and surrounded by a forest of the natural trees and shrubs of the country. There are some rare birds and animals there as well as some of the not so rare natives like the Tui which is a bird. There are a numbers of different walks and you can also ride on the lake in an electric boat. It is a pretty wonderful experience and well signed with areas where you can spot different animals and birds and even a little area where you can listen to each of the bird songs. I saw a Tui and lots of ducks and ducklings. There were spaces just to sit and if you sat there for a while the chances where a bird would fly past you. The fun was trying to work out what it was. I must say I really enjoyed my time in this place and one person I had a little chat with about the height of a walkway we just crossed, yes that old chestnut again, came over to me to take me to see some animals which had been spotted in one area. As always people seem to be very kind and thoughtful in this country.
Leaving Ohakune on the 1:45 train for Paraparaumu and the next short stay in the North Island I met a young German woman in the platform who was catching the train for the first time, and she was asking my advice about where did we sit on the train. I explained we needed to go to the baggage car where our baggage would be on boarded and the train manager would give us our boarding pass with out seat number. She was very surprised and said that’s a very personal service! I did say it’s because it’s a small station and there are only the two of us getting on by the looks of things. Once safely aboard I found myself seated next to another young German woman who had been really unhappy in her job as a teacher and she was travelling to help her decide what next. That sounds familiar. We had a lovely animated conversation whilst also paying attention to the usual beautiful scenery. There were quite a few viaducts over very deep valleys. I only managed to get photographs of one of them, too busy chatting for once.
It was quite a long journey taking until 5:30, I alighted at Paraparaumu having wished my traveling companion good luck on her travels. It was a nice little suburban station and I asked one of the station workers where I could get a cab. He was quick off the mark to call one for me and furnish me with the number for future reference. We were having a bit of a chat as I waited and he said the train only stops here by request, which probably explained why the English Travel agents couldn’t book the stop. The other brilliant news for me was that the trains to Wellington were on strike and so I was really lucky I had managed to change my ticket or else I would be paying a fortune for a taxi back to Paraparaumu. Phew is all I can say.
Taxi arrived and a good chat, talking about property prices and who is buying up property all over the world and why. The taxi driver told me that his conspiracy theory was that the Chinese government was giving people money to come and buy up property all over the world. Interesting theory, scary can it be true are they trying to take over the world. Oh well probably not in my lifetime.
Then I had arrived at my next destination and was met by Nicki my next landlady who took me into the back garden to my self contained abode. It was far better then I thought it would be, the photographs on AirBNB really didn’t do it justice. I asked if there was a local shop within walking distance, she insisted on providing me with some bacon and eggs for my supper and there was bread, milk, butter, spreads and tea and coffee all provided. So a quiet evening and an early night in my super comfortable bed and cosy space.
The next day I went out for a long walk on the beach, there is a small island which runs along side the beach called Kapiti Island and the beach itself goes on for miles. It was a lovely warm day but a lot of people were still wrapped up as though it was winter. I am still yearning to see the sun again. The beach is full of drift wood and I saw two whole dead fish and one skeleton of a fish. But the sand is soft and easy to walk with the sound of the sea. I am starting to realise how much I feel at peace when walking by the sea. I think I walked for about three miles when I turned back and eventually went up on to the coast road in search of a shop and some food. There was a busy little shopping area with quite a few restaurants and I was having great difficulty deciding what to eat when I saw a fish and chip shop and just couldn’t resist. I sat inside and ate my fish which was a dory I think, and the chips were tiny little things, “half a scoop”, I was asked and thank goodness that was more than enough. Then I found a little shop and bought some beans. The Heinz brand here is called Watties, I have heard it called Watties Heinz by my friends and meant to ask them, but you recognise the packaging just not the name. I thought I would have beans on toast for supper and breakfast. That was an easy shop. Back on to the beach again for the remainder of the walk back. I had taken a photograph when I went onto the beach to make sure I knew where to come off the beach and thank goodness for that.
The following day I was out about ten am back down to the beach. It was very windy and I decided to walk in the opposite direction I got to an area which said it was a marine reserve, and ventured on a bit further to come into a big bay. There were some lovely houses all along the beach I have to say and I could certainly cope with that sort of lifestyle. Back to my abode to finish packing and get ready for my trip to Wellington. My landlady had said she would drop me off somewhere where I could sit and eat and drink and write, but when I was ready to leave her husband invited me to stay for lunch. We had a lovely lunch, made by Nicki’s husband whilst Nicki got the studio ready for the next visitor. We chatted about our AirBNB experiences and our jobs and it turned out that Peter helped people with their businesses and was helping an Icelandic man set up a business for Australia and New Zealand manufacturing and selling Skyr. For those of you who don’t know this is a high protein type of yoghurt. When I was a little girl in Iceland it used to come in a block and you chopped some off and mixed it with milk I think to make it into more of a yoghurt, my Amma which is grandmother in Icelandic used to serve it with brown sugar on the top. My sister Helga hated it, we used to say she had brown sugar with Skyr because she put so much sugar on it. Anyway small world. It was a really enjoyable afternoon. Nicki’s sister turned up and they were planning a party for their Mother’s 80th birthday and they had all these amazing photographs of her as a young woman.
Nicki then kindly dropped me off at the station for my train. The platform was full of New Zealand supporters off to watch New Zealand play Fiji in the Rugby World Cup. I can report that Fiji beat New Zealand. The stadium was just behind the railway station in Wellington so I had to fight my way past all the supporters when I arrived in Wellington too.
See you in Wellington