With our return to the US only a month away, it is inevitable that our thoughts are more and more focused on wrapping up this adventure and returning to our house in Colorado. At the same time this reality emphasizes how we want to stay present and enjoy every moment we are here to fully appreciate the things we know we cannot experience in Colorado. Our favorite of these being walks on the beach.
It was a gorgeous clear day when we flew into Nelson. It was a treat to see it from the air. The Boulder Bank was especially impressive.
After getting to our place in Nelson, first it was time to stock the fridge. On our way to the store we got to go by Pic’s, our favorite peanut butter factory to pick up some more because conveniently we’d extinguished our supply. We are happy to know that they do export to the US so we will still be able to enjoy Pic’s, even after returning home. The rest of the week presented many opportunities for walks to the beach. Having already stayed in this place in Nelson before, we were familiar with the area. There were a number of different options for walking routes. A couple of days this week were cloudy and rainy during which we had the chance to skype family and contemplate which items we will need to get packed and which items will get left behind when we depart in September. Even on those days though, we did get to see patches of sun.
The week in Nelson quickly passed and soon we were eagerly on our way to Rarangi Beach. Since the day we first visited the house where we’d be staying, we’ve looked forward to staying there. We met the owners a year ago when we stayed at their rental in Picton. Rarangi Beach is only a few minutes from Blenheim making it convenient for grocery shopping, haircuts, car maintenance and all those things you rely on a town to provide. Staying at the place on the beach though makes us feel like we are sort of away from the hustle and bustle. We love it there.
The apartment was very comfortable and neither of us minded just staying put most days. Our hosts have two dogs, Cocoa and Oakley. We have become rather fond of them and have taken them walking along the beach a several times.
The beach here is unique with undulating rock dunes that have been piled up in quite a distinguished pattern by the waves. At low tide the water retreats to reveal dark gray sand below the piles of rounded rocks. Further inland the sandy and rocky soil is covered in low growing plants bearing a beautiful array of mostly yellow and orange flowers, yes even in winter.
To the east off this coast we can see the North Island. It seems inaccurate to describe looking east to see the North Island but if you look at a map you’ll see where the North Island does sit such that part of it overlaps the top of the South Island when you examine the area of the Cook Strait.
To the south and west we can see Mt Tapuaenuka now covered in a beautiful white winter coat behind the Vernon Hills that stretch into the sea ending abruptly at the white bluffs on the south side of Cloudy Bay. This landmark divides the Wairau River Valley and the Awatere River Valley.
When we arrived in Rarangi, we were welcomed with unsettled weather which meant the sea was rumbling and tumbling. This happened to coincide with a rough start to Paul’s work week. For the first couple of days we didn’t get outside much, the cold and rain kept us inside. In this apartment though, we didn’t get stir crazy quite as quickly, the place has a magnificent window seat where you can soak up the sun, scenery and sound of the ocean. With uncertainty about when we will be returning to New Zealand, one of our priorities here was to find a new owner for our Camry, Zed. I spent the first day doing a thorough cleaning so we could take pictures and get an ad posted online. Hopefully we can get it sold.
Before the rain came, we were able to share an evening with our hosts over steaks on the BBQ. We are so grateful to have met such welcoming and kind people here. No matter where we’ve traveled, there seems to be people oozing warm hospitality. The rain subsided for a few hours the following afternoon which allowed us to take a stroll along the beach to the south. We walked to the mouth of the Wairau river and back.
Then we spent the next day inside watching the wind and rain co-mingle on the other side of the window. It was intriguing to watch the ocean exhibit such a variety of personalities. It gives the beach so much character. On this day, white caps could be seen all the way to the horizon.
We stepped out to have a closer look at the beach just before sunset, the characteristic scalloped undulating pattern in the sand and rocks had been flattened and straightened by the intense waves. Bits of sea foam blew across our feet with each new wave that rolled in. After two more days of rain and wind, we gladly welcomed the sun on Sunday. Once the chill lifted a bit, we walked to Monkey Bay. It lies north at the opposite end of the beach from the river. The clear day and crisp air revealed more of what the stormy weather left behind. There was a light dusting of snow on the hills behind the beach to the west, something our hosts said they had rarely seen during the many years they’ve lived here. Mt. Tapuaenuka stood majestically thrusting its shoulders above Wither Hills. Monday was a day for relaxing, especially for Paul. He got to enjoy watching the morning sun glimmer on the ocean instead of watching a computer screen. We did take some time to entertain thoughts of home and discussed a few possible projects for when we get there.
Just as during our stay in Nelson, we’ve already spent considerable time here so there are not a lot of un-explored places nearby. We did find one beach though that we had yet to visit. Marfells beach, just east of Seddon in the Awatere Valley, was recommended to us by our hosts as was a walk from this beach to the Cape Campbell lighthouse. We weren’t feeling quite ambitious enough to embark on the coastal walk since information about the walk indicated it took a full day and must be accessed at low tide. That meant it would be difficult to plan around Paul’s work hours. The weather recently has been the talk of the nation as much of the country is experiencing very cold temperatures. Remember though that it is a matter of perspective, very cold means temperatures near freezing for most of the country so it’s not nearly the cold that we are used to during Colorado winters. It’s definitely not T-shirt weather though. In our winter coats, we took an afternoon to go visit Marfells beach. Despite the chilly breeze, the sun helped make it tolerable. When we arrived I didn’t have a clue as to what an awesome day of beachcombing I was in for. There was such a variety of shells, stones and driftwood I was overwhelmed. We arrived close to low tide so we were able to walk around the beach and out to a point where we could look back on Cape Campbell and see the lighthouse from a distance.
I could not keep up with Paul while distracted by all of the shells but eventually I caught up and we snapped a selfie. The walk back to the car went much the same way. I just simply could not believe the variety and sheer size of some of the shells. Many were as big as my feet. What a wonderful afternoon in seashell paradise.
August is a month with several birthdays, so we did some more skyping and celebrating over the internet. I had to begin sorting and evaluating the packing process as much of what we’ve accumulated here we will be leaving behind when we begin going north toward Auckland. We now have two suitcases. Having brought four over the first time we quickly realized that was way more than we needed or wanted to travel with. We left two of them in the US last January and we’re determined to fit what we have left in two. We also found it refreshing to get outside this week on one of the mild days and help our hosts with a bit of landscaping they’re doing. Friday was another drizzly day, perfect for running errands in town and getting one more haircut from my favorite kiwi stylist. Gloomy weather continued hanging around through Saturday but it did not interfere at all with our plans to see a movie. Our friends in Blenheim had heard good comments about “Hunt For The Wilderpeople,” and it happened to still be playing. We met them at the only cinema in Blenheim and purchased tickets to see it in a cozy little twenty-one seat theatre. There were no lines whatsoever for tickets or popcorn on a rainy Saturday afternoon which we noticed because under similar circumstances in northern Colorado we would definitely have had to stand in line. The movie was entertaining and very much a New Zealand film. I’m not sure we could have appreciated it quite as much earlier in our stay before we had a chance to experience more nuances of New Zealand culture.
It is somewhat ironic that we find ourselves experiencing many of the same feelings we experienced when we were preparing to come to New Zealand. We are asking ourselves the questions that we anticipate hearing from family and friends when we return to the US and the questions that we get from people we’ve met here in New Zealand. “So, what are you going to do now?” “Are you coming or going back?” We too are wondering how life will be different for us when we get back to Colorado. So much will be different, yet life will still be the same. We could name differences and similarities for hours, but the reality is that the essence of life does not change and going back to what used to be familiar will be an adventure just as coming to New Zealand fourteen months ago was an adventure. Every day we find ourselves utterly grateful to have been able to experience all that we have, not just in our extensive travels around New Zealand but throughout our lives. We do not take it lightly that we have been granted the opportunity to experience all we have in New Zealand. Just as shifting into a nomadic lifestyle showed us how liberating it can be to travel through life with a light load. Being restricted on space and constantly on the move has allowed us to realize that much of the stuff once viewed as necessary really isn’t. However, in maintaining a lifestyle on the move for over a year, not staying in most places longer than two weeks, we are also finding a new appreciation for having a place to settle down. It seems this is simply another paradox in the endless examples life offers all of us.
We made another visit to Marfells beach on the weekend for more beachcombing, photography and a picnic lunch. On our way back to the apartment we picked up a pizza for dinner with chicken, cashew, and apricot toppings . Yep, two of those things we won’t be able to do in Colorado. Though I will likely be making my own pizza with those same wonderful flavors.
In our remaining week on Rarangi Beach, we strapped on our running shoes again. It’s been quite some time since we’ve participated in that activity and it’s better described as jogging rather than running. Nonetheless, we both found it refreshing. When the work week started again, I got to work on packing, just to be sure we’ll be able to fit everything in. Mission successful! Now back to making the most of every moment on the beach.
The remaining days found us taking Oakley and Cocoa out for more walks, embarking on a few more jogs, soaking up more sun from the sun room. On our last weekend we were treated to a picnic on the beach. Delicious crayfish with special sauce and bread. It was an exquisite day for a picnic. After lunch we socialized a while with our hosts and some of their friends. They were all off to a party down the road later in the afternoon, we were off to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. The restaurant, MIA, recommended to us by our friends in Blenheim and highly rated on TripAdvisor, was well worth the visit. Our special day topped off with some amazing food. We’re optimistic that we’ll get the car sold as well, we got a call the day before the ad expired. Tomorrow we’ll make our way north to Picton and begin the final leg of this adventure. We’ve already begun preparing for our adjustment to life in Colorado again.