Driving from Woodpecker Bay to Nelson offered more beautiful scenery. Clouds flung like paint in artistic patterns against a blue backdrop gave the sky so much personality that it was as awesome to watch the skyscape as the landscape. We made our first stop in Murchison at the Refuse station to dispose of our trash from the last week and because we also had plenty of food leftover, we opted for a picnic instead of a café stop.
Once we began looking for a picnic spot, it seemed that each one we saw already had at least one car stopped and the table occupied, apparently it was lunch time for more than just us. We kept driving and searching for a quiet unoccupied spot. As we departed Murchison, I saw a little area near a river and we pulled in, the view seemed a bit boring in comparison to several of the ones we’d passed. Both of us figured we’d have the spot to ourselves, like we have at so many other places. Before we finished eating, six more cars had pulled in and joined us for lunch, which was sort of annoying, but really funny considering our thoughts as we parked.
The name of our accommodation in Nelson, “A room with a view” turned out to be rather understated, what met us far exceeded our anticipation. Following the instructions of the electronic voice of the navigation lady, we parked Zed and stepped out on the side of a hill, looking out over Tasman Bay to Abel Tasman National park and the surrounding mountains. The sun striking the bay turned it a vibrant turquoise blue beneath a brilliant blue sky with scattered white clouds.
We were already nearly speechless before even getting out of the car. Then we started the journey down the steep path, lined with gorgeous gardens full of lively, colorful pieces of ceramic garden art. To my delight, not only had we arrived at a beautiful place to stay, our generous host was also an artist. The view that awaited inside was similar to that from the driveway and the “room with a view” turned out to be more like a spacious, comfortable and modern studio apartment with plentiful well-placed large windows to usher the landscape inside. Immediately it was clear we should have booked more than a week in this place. We quickly settled in and headed down the hill to the beach while the sun remained. The forecast told us it was not meant to last, clouds and more rain were set to move in over the next two days. Putting on a tank top and flip-flops made us giddy. Feels like ages since we’ve been able to comfortably wear summer clothes outside, or inside for that matter.
The clouds moved in as forecast and the next day was overcast. The rain held off long enough for us to finish a walk along the coast, but continued the rest of the evening and through the next day.
We did not find it hard to occupy our time, though. Our plans for the rainy day included a trip to the World of Wearable Art (WOW) and classic cars museum, and later a visit to the world renown Hoglund glass art studio and gallery. These were two perfect activities for a day like this. The WOW museum showcased a fascinating display of costumes designed from an unimaginable variety of materials, from aluminum sheets, plastic cable ties, and piano parts, to recycled canvas and discarded plastic bottles and trash bags.
The creativity was astounding. From there we took a quick walk through the large collection of classic cars before heading to the Hoglund glass art gallery.
Hoglunds’ gallery was just as stunning as the WOW museum, only their display was limited to glass in a stunning display of a specially designed backlit cases to showcase the beautiful creativity, colors and intricate patterns on their amazing art. Unfortunately the kiln and other equipment was down for maintenance so we didn’t get to see any live glass blowing, but it was still a treat to walk through and marvel at the pieces on display. It quickly became evident why collectors from all around the world sought out the work of such an extraordinarily talented couple.
Once back in our room, we could watch boats of all sizes coming and going from the harbor and brave souls out on the water doing all sorts of activities. The most captivating to watch was the kite surfing. It sure looks like a lot of fun, but it seems there would be a rather long learning curve and quite a number of hours of practice to become adept enough to actually enjoy the sport. My assessment was supported by the story from our host of his experience “giving it a go.” He described spending much of the time being dragged through the water submerged face first by the unruly kite, which was not so enjoyable. Kite surfing is clearly a popular activity here, and like most sports, those who have mastered it make it look effortless and fun. Most days there were several colorful kites sailing over the water.
The sun emerged again the next day. After lunch we drove down to a bike rental shop and hopped on a couple Schwinns for an afternoon ride.
There are a couple reasons why this is worthy of mention here, besides just being part of our day’s activities. I haven’t ridden a bike in perhaps eight years. It’s not that I dislike the exercise or the actual pedaling and riding, it’s mostly that I’m terrified to share the road with cars, mostly because I don’t trust my own steering especially if I’m trying to glance back and look for cars.
Nelson is described by some as the cycling capital of New Zealand and there are clearly a number of well-marked bike paths throughout the city. One of the most promoted routes in this area though is the “Great Taste Trail.” This particular trail was more appealing to me than the others because it’s mostly off-road. Tours along the trail are focused around the local wineries, breweries and cafés which is where it got it’s name.
The bikes are geared for these types of tours too, as each one is equipped with a large basket to hold bottles of wine should you choose to make purchases during your stops. Our focus was more on the scenery than the food because our time was limited. Having picked the bikes up at two in the afternoon only gave us a few hours before we had to return them at five. The coastal route was the obvious choice for us and the lady at the shop recommended riding out to Rabbit Island. Off we went. I managed the one block of riding on the street, rather comfortably, which was encouraging.
Shortly we were on the well maintained trail, flat (which means constant pedaling) and open to the “sea breeze.” Breeze is not the term I used to describe it as I fought to see clearly through my watering eyes and felt the added difficulty in pedaling against the resistance. The temperature was perfect for a ride and we did enjoy lovely scenery as we fought to keep moving at a decent pace. We dismounted with tired legs a bit after 3pm on the beach of Rabbit Island where we paused briefly to take photos and watch the kite surfers.
I was looking forward to having the help of the lovely “sea breeze” on our return ride. I was trying not to think of how much my legs were burning, but I couldn’t ignore their message. I feared my quads may cramp before we made it back, but I thought I’d be okay with the sea breeze at our backs. Yeah, funny thing though, the “breeze” somehow became a headwind on our return trip too. I may have been more irritated at this had I not been so dumbfounded how it was even possible. With my legs in so much pain, I felt a little like Dory in “Finding Nemo” telling myself to “just keep pedaling” Over 20 miles later, we steered into the parking lot at 4:56 pm, four minutes before closing time and ahead of the rain showers. I hoisted my leg over the bike, my quads were in an uproar. I awkwardly walked around, in between stretches, wondering if it would be a relief to sit down in the car or just an invitation for muscle cramping. I spent the rest of the evening wondering how I would possibly be able to walk the next day. Morning came and to my surprise, I hardly noticed any discomfort in my legs. Weird. I can’t remember the last time my muscles were that fatigued and I was completely shocked that they weren’t even sore. Maybe I won’t wait another eight years before I get on a bike again.
We discovered the Boat Shed Café on our first walk along the coast. Our hosts from Motueka gave us a gift certificate for that café so we were thrilled to find it right down the road from where we’re staying. We opted for lunch the next day in part so we could be there at high tide. The café is actually built so it sits over the water looking into the harbor, but that was only part of what made it a memorable experience. The “trust the chef” option we chose from the menu really made the experience stand out. We each got a three course lunch in addition to dessert, all of which were surprises; all of which were fabulous. Afterward, we walked back to Tahunanui beach for another stroll in the sand.
Saturday came, and that meant it was time for the Saturday market one of the most well-known and publicized activities and attractions in Nelson. Paul was able to quit work a bit early so we could have a couple hours to browse the market. The weather was gorgeous and the market fantastic. The beautiful smoothies we had for lunch were a highlight, as well as the handmade wool jacket and skirt I found.
We’d planned for a long walk/hike up and around one of the hills just outside the city, but once we finished up at the market the beach had more appeal than the hills so once again we found ourselves walking on the shore. Kite surfers were out in the largest numbers we’d seen so far. All the colorful kites made a lovely mesmerizing display. Of course, we enjoyed kicking the hacky sack around too. Even with the sun shining bright, the wind eventually penetrated our layers so we took shelter in the pizza place where Paul discovered a new favorite gewürztraminer. Side note: Paul also discovered an affinity for avocado chocolate cookies while in Nelson. I tried a new recipe to use an over-ripe avocado and it was a hit. I’m still enjoying the occasional success story while experimenting in the kitchen. After we were sufficiently warmed and fed we followed the pull back to the sunshine and water to walk off some of our dinner. The walks around here, no matter the route, mean climbing the hill back to where we’re staying. Somehow that climb always seemed to give us some sense of accomplishment.
The time has come to wrap up yet another week, seems as though that’s how we’re counting time, by the week rather than by the day. The days go by too fast to keep track. The one “all day” activity I wanted to try while we were in this area was kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park. Having already had the opportunity to see a couple of the stunning, sparkly white sand beaches there, I knew it’d be amazing to see more of the park from the water. I’d spent some time researching the options online, but just couldn’t seem to land on a package that fit just right. After much deliberating we decided to skip it altogether when we looked at the forecast. Cloudy and cool did not factor in to the perfect day of kayaking for us. Instead, we stayed in, enjoying the view and the comfort of this most amazing apartment until we spotted a huge freighter coming in to port. Down the hill, along the narrow coastal sidewalk, we made it to the water’s edge to watch the tug boats guide the monster ship to dock. We sat watching it all, marveling at the whole process of water transport.
From there, we again made our way back to the beach one last time before joining our hosts for dinner. Paul and Colleen are the most generous hosts we’ve had so far. They provided so much for us in the apartment and then invited us to their home for dinner. Paul prepared a beautiful meal for us and we visited with them for a few hours. We agreed that Nelson is at the top of the list for places we would chose for a more lengthy stay. We’re busy planning itineraries for more visitors in February and March of 2016 and looking forward to greeting our first US guests in a few short weeks. Our plan is to take it easy in Spring Creek and Picton with less sightseeing and activities until they arrive and we start our whirlwind tour. We’re getting excited to see old friends and show them some of what we love about New Zealand.