Days 229-230 Wednesday-Thursday December 5-6, 2007 – Picton, Nelson & Takaka, New Zealand
My stomach sunk to my shoes on Tuesday night as I realized that I had left my Ipod in our room at the holiday park the night before. Luckily the holiday park was only twenty minutes outside of the city, so I called them with my fingers crossed. As Ezra, the man on the other side of the phone searched through the lost & found drawer, my stomach continued to churn. I use my Ipod all of the time and losing it would not be good. Suddenly he came on the phone and said, “Yah mate. We have it. Come and get it whenever you like.” Those words were magic to my ears.
The interisland ferry connecting Wellington on the north island to Picton on the South Island takes around three hours to cover the Cook Straight. We booked tickets on the 1:00pm ferry in order to give ourselves time to get ready. When we booked passage they told us to be at the dock an hour before departure to check in, so we had just enough time to drive out to get my Ipod and pick up some lunch before heading over to the ferry.
The scene at the dock was what one would expect for such a trip. On one side was a line of fifty or so cars waiting to get on the ship, while on the other were rows of commercial trucks and other cargo. Checking into the ferry was a rather simple process and by 1PM we were up on the observation deck watching the ship leave port. The trip went by really quickly. Along the way, we were often treated to spectacular views of the Marlborough Sounds as we approached Picton. We spent most of the three hours heading out to the deck for a few minutes before jetting back inside to keep warm.
Before getting on the boat, we had called ahead to a holiday park in Picton and secured ourselves a cabin for the night. After waiting our turn and driving off of the ferry, we headed out to the park, got our cabin and headed back into town to get some dinner. The town of Picton is really based around one simple street with a few shops and restaurants. For dinner, we settled for a takeaway of fish and chips, a meal we have been having with increasing frequency here.
Given that there is nothing much to see in Picton, on Wednesday morning we set out to start our South Island adventure. Before setting off, I tried to call my brother to wish him a happy birthday, but wasn’t able to reach him. The drive from Picton to the next major town takes around an hour and covers around 40km of twisting road. Other than stopping at a couple of lookouts, we didn’t take in much until reaching Nelson.
As we pulled into Nelson, hunger started to set in so we decided to take a walk along their main street to see what was available. The main drag in Nelson is nicer than most as it is lined with trees and has a boutique shopping mall type feel to it. After walking around for five minutes, we found a small Mediterranean place. Jasmine and I ordered up some lamb and pitas which were very good, while Shawn Reece opted for a ham sandwich from the bakery next door. The pitas were a nice change from the fried foods we have been forced to eat recently.
With our stomachs full we headed uphill to a church that supposedly had a nice interior. This church was completed in 1967 and is the third incarnation of a church on that plot of land The outside of the building leaves a bit to be desired, but the massive panes of stained glass make the interior worth a visit. After taking off from the church we headed to the edge of town to check out a trio of gardens.
The first garden in Nelson that we came across was the Victorian Garden. While the Victorian Gardens were nice in their hay day, a recent pollution of the water by ducks has left it less than pristine. After a few minutes we headed over to the Chinese Garden next door, which just opened about two weeks before. The Chinese Garden was typical of what you would expect and was in excellent shape given that it was brand new. We spent around ten minutes walking around and enjoying the atmosphere before heading back to the car for the five minute drive over to the Miyazu Japanese Garden.
The Miyazu Japanese Garden sits on the edge of Nelson and is rather spread out. In fact, it is the largest free Japanese Garden I have been to and overall was very impressive. The garden’s designer clearly likes bridges as several different types and methods of getting people across water were used throughout the area. Having a bit of fun walking over all of the bridges, we killed thirty minutes or so walking around the garden.
Coming into the day we had originally planned to stop in Nelson, but given that it was still early enough in the afternoon and that we had exhausted all of the activities in the city, we decided to head north to Takaka in the Golden Bay region, about two hours from Nelson. To make sure that we could get accommodation, we headed over to the I-site and booked a cabin for Pahara Beach, just five minutes outside of Takaka. This would make a great setting off point for the next day!
The drive from Nelson to Takaka features a 750m ascent over the Takaka Hill which entails almost an hour of driving on short winding roads as you climb the hill and descend into a valley on the other side. The one benefit of this are spectacular views from the top of the hill. At one point, we exited the car and took a ten minute hike to a lookout of the ocean and valley below us. All along the path were exquisite marble formations and the payoff at the end was the incredible view mentioned above.
We arrived in Takaka at 7pm and settled in for the night. Around sunset, we took a walk along the beach which sat adjacent to the holiday park. It was a beautiful setting for sure. Takaka is home to several walks and places of interest so the plan on Friday called for us to visit those before heading back south to Nelson so we could continue down the South Island’s west coast. So far, the south island is proving to be quite a beautiful place!
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The Coomer Family