Denise had booked a hairdo for Monday morning so I spent the time writing up yesterday’s blog and re-packing the van ready for the second half of our New Zealand adventure. With her majesty’s barnet sorted we drove the 50 or so miles from Nelson to Blenheim to visit the aviation heritage centre at Omaka, which is definitely worth a couple of hours of anybody’s time. The museum houses a collection of twenty or so WW1 aircraft, some original and some faithful reproductions, and many of which are still airworthy. Most of the aircraft are owned by Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) and you can see his influence in the realism of the dioramas in which most of the aircraft are set – apparently his production company did much of the work. Loads of other exhibits and lots of interesting research which is very well presented – definitely worth a visit, especially in this centenary year.
We found a quiet corner to camp on the edge of the Taylor Dam Reserve. A pretty little place which for a change was teeming with birdlife – including a family of black swans.
The last (and only other) time I was in New Zealand was as part of a round the world sailing jolly; having had a hand in the organisation I was fortunate enough to be able to take my pick of the legs and chose a 7 day jaunt across the Tasman Sea from Hobart to Nelson and then on to Wellington. On that occasion I met up with Bernard Redshaw, a Kiwi who had worked with me in Blandford for several years, and so we couldn’t pass through Nelson this time without again touching base with Bernard who now lives in the town.
Nelson is a gem of a place tucked in at the end of Tasman Bay with a wonderful mountain backdrop and a lovely benign climate. Having arrived on Saturday morning we spent an hour or so before lunch wandering around the weekly market which had a nice feel about it with genuinely local produce and nice knick-knacks – none of the mass produced tat that many ‘local’ markets in the UK seem to be full of these days.
The afternoon was spent wandering around the Museum of Wearable Art. Now, those who know me could with some justification leap to the conclusion that a display of clothing made from materials such as wire mesh, pencils and cable ties might not necessarily be my thing – but on this occasion they’d be wrong. It was simply fantastic, really well presented and well worth a visit if you’re in Nelson or want to spend a few minutes looking at the website. As a bonus the Museum also houses a collection of about 120 classic cars, most of which are in concours condition and another hour or so was spent wandering happily down memory lane drooling over the exhibits.
Yesterday (Sunday) Bernard kindly drove us out to Lake Rotoiti which is about 50 miles to the south east of Nelson and a really beautiful spot. We called in briefly at the ‘bach’ (country retreat) of one of Bernard’s friends, Pete, who very kindly gave us coffee before we popped down to look at his collection of ‘classic’ boats – as lifestyles go I’d say that the New Zealanders have got it just about right!
It rained overnight and as we drove north from Greymouth we ran into successive rain showers, which once again deprived us of the views of the Southern Alps that we’d hoped for.
We also ran into the most enormous ‘convoi exceptionnel’ coming south towards us, which forced us and all other vehicles to pull over to the side of the road to avoid being flattened by whatever it was they were moving – which looked something like a cross between a medium sized house and a Space Shuttle. As half of the road bridges in this part of the country are single track and look rickety enough to be used in a Disney theme park we couldn’t work out where it had come from or where it was going – but, believe me, it was big!
Driving in New Zealand is a fairly painless experience. With a national speed limit of 100km, which most motorists seem content to obey, both driver and navigator have time to enjoy the scenery – especially if you’re at the wheel of a clapped-out VW campervan which struggles to manage some of the climbs up through the mountains in anything greater than third gear. The other pleasurable aspect of motoring over here is the price of diesel, which at $1.50/litre is about half the cost of fuel in UK – though watch out for the sneaky tax on diesel vehicles, which I gather they levy at the end of each hire.
As we crept over the last of the passes through the mountains we left the last (hopefully) of the miserable weather behind us and dropped down into the Nelson Region which is known for wine making and fruit growing and ……. yes, you’ve guessed, more beautiful scenery. Staying at a place called Woodstock in a campervan appealed to something in the hippy side of my nature – though these days I’m more interested in free Wi-Fi than free love.
We hadn’t really planned to get up as far as the Abel Tasman National Park, but the miserable weather we experienced as we came up the west coast allowed us to get a little ahead of our schedule and so we decided to pop up to the coast to the NW of Nelson – and are we glad we did!
As I’ve now discovered, one of the problems with writing a blog on this sort of holiday is that you tend to use up all of the superlatives and hyperbole quite early on leaving a bit of a problem when you need to describe something that knocks all those other experiences into a cocked hat. The coastline up around Kaiteriteri and Marahau is quite simply stunning – I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and an occasional account of goings-on in the Ewbank household