Back again (again). This will have to be the last post for today, as I've got to go and get my bus in just over an hour. Fingers crossed I don't get a queue of people forming behind me this time (the two computers have been really busy this morning).
Tuesday 13th February 2007
Got a lift over to The Bug in the morning with Eric, a (very) typical Frenchman. We're talking polo-necks and Gauloises here (okay he smoked ordinary cigarettes, but I'm sure that's only because he couldn't get hold of proper Gauloises here). And he was having problems "wiz zee wimin" in his life. I didn't see a beret, but I bet he had one tucked in his rucksack. And there were lots of onions in the hostel (it was said that someone worked on an onion farm, but I bet it was just that Eric's onion necklace had broken).
Anyway, we arrived at The Bug and it was a great little place. Really clean, single beds, free (fast) internet, extremely helpful owner (from Oadby, Leics - thinks he might have gone to school with you, Lydia*) and generally lovely, friendly atmosphere. I decided to make full use of the internet and ended up spending most of the day uploading my photos. It wasn't quite as fast as I had initially thought. Still, I got it done and it was a very liberating feeling to have a clear memory card once again. It was just as shame that I had missed a sunny afternoon in the process, but, oh well, it was nice to look at the blue sky out of the window.
I dashed into town afterwards for a quick shop-up and then proceeded to make a nice hearty soup, thus reminding me of Saturdays at home (I'm trying to whittle down my food bags and have discovered a surplus of pulses, which obviously need to be used up - I can't just give them away!!!).
*ASWM, courtesy of Small World Moments Inc.
Wednesday 14th February 2007 (Valentine's Day)
Happy St. Valentine's Day, lovers. I decided that in the absence of a paramour, I would continue a love affair of a different kind and visit some more wineries...
But before that (and before lunch) I had a mooch around Nelson city centre. I really quite like it here. It doesn't have much in the way of sights, but the tree-lined streets are nice and it has a friendly buzz about it.
After lunch I borrowed one of the hostel's free bikes and headed south to the Nelson wineries, most of which are located to the south and west of the suburb of Richmond. I followed the old railway cycle track for much of the way, which was pleasant in a suburban-sprawl kind of way. Once I got beyond Richmond (20km), it was rather more interesting, as I had got out into the countryside, with kiwi and appley orchards, fields of pumpkins and the occasional vineyard.
Wine-growing is done on a much smaller scale here than in Marlborough, but there was still a good range of wines (the best ones are usually white - it just doesn't seem to be warm enough for reds other than Pinot Noir, and this summer is heading towards being a complete disaster). The usual free-tastings were on offer and most places seemed really happy to have a potential punter and someone who is genuinely interested in wine (the school holidays are over and there wasn't a soul about).
The bull**** must have been working nicely because one chap asked me if I worked in the wine trade! He was really generous with his measures (they all were), so once again I was drunk-(well, almost)-in-charge-of-a-bicycle. I didn't cycle under the influence for long though, because I got about 5km and promptly discovered a rusty nail had gone right through my rear tyre. Bummer. I had a long 15km push ahead of me...
I had been pushing for over an hour (still nearly 10km to go), when a friendly Kiwi family stopped to ask if I needed any help (they wondered why I was pushing my bike along the flat). Luckily they had a puncture repair kit and proceeded to help me fix the tyre (well, truth be told, the chap did everything for me while I chatted to his wife). I was very grateful, as otherwise it would have been a rather late return and a very late dinner (I had bought everything I needed for a curry and wasn't relishing the prospect of cooking/eating at midnight). It also allowed me to get back in time for the hostel's Sangria and Snacks evening (in celebration of Valentine's Day), which was most welcome after the exertions of the day. And then it was time for bed, as I had a 6am get-up the next day for a trip out into the Abel Tasman National Park.
Thursday 15th February 2007
It wasn't even light when I got up (the mornings are getting dark as autumn approaches), but it was warm enough in spite of the clouds. The owner of the hostel had kindly offered to drop me off at the bus stop and I was able to get the bus over to Abel Tasman without a hitch. Well, the bus broke down half-way, but the driver managed to get it going again and we arrived in Marahau to a scene of organised chaos. Well, I'm assuming it was organised. After several minutes of standing around like a lemon, I found out where I needed to go and got the water taxi I was supposed to be on (no-one was quite sure if it would get them to their anticipated destination, but it was worth a try).
The clouds had melted away by this point (9am) and it was shaping up to be a scorcher. Yippee.
It was a great little boat ride up along the coast (a small boat with a massive outboard - Dad, you'd have loved it). We even saw a little blue penguin swimming on the surface, only a few feet from the boat, which was great as I'd only seen yellow-eyed ones up until that point.
I got off at Bark's Bay and was all set to walk the 20km back to Marahau. There was a sweet old English couple on the boat, who were worried about making it back to the bus in time. I tried to reassure them that it would be absolutely fine (the estimated times they give are usually wildly over-estimated), but they were right Mary-Annes and decided that they'd like to spend the whole day worrying about it anyway (and I thought I was a worrier!!!)*.
The walk was absolutely beautiful. The sea was looking a gorgeous shade of greeny-blue under the bluest of blue skies and there were loads of golden beaches, inlets, tidal channels, etc. to add to the scenic splendour of the place. I was able to stop a couple of times to swim and it didn't feel all that cold (it might even have been approaching 20 degrees). The water was quite clean (not quite Mediterranean clear, but pretty good) and it was great to be able to dry off in an instant after getting out. Proper summer-holiday-type-stuff at last.
I was exhausted when I got back. The 20km, plus side-tracks and swims, all under the heat of the sun, had really taken it out of me. My 2L of water had been woefully inadequate, so I was dehydrated too. Still, it had been well worth it, as finally I have found somewhere in New Zealand that I would like to come back to!
*they actually made it back in time for the second-to-last bus (the one I was booked on to), as they had been so busy worrying I don't think they stopped once during the entire walk.
Friday 16th February 2007
Had a lovely long chat to Mum and Dad (the BBH phone card works out so cheap), and then spent the rest of the morning benefiting from the free internet here at The Bug. It will be a shame to leave this place as it has been easily the best hostel of my trip so far.
I'm just about to get a lift (again from the kindest hostel-owner in the business) to the bus stop, from where I'll be getting the intercity to Picton. From there I'll get the ferry to Wellington on Sunday and after a bit of time there and in Hawke's Bay, my New Zealand Odyssey will have come to an end. Hopefully I'll get the chance to update this thing again before then, but in the meantime, best wishes from Kiwiland and goodbye for now.