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.