87 Days on the Road
Staying at Okiwi Bay Holiday Park last night was the right decision! We are so glad we didn’t attempt to drive Nelson in the zombie-like state we were in. This morning, we are feeling fresh! Plus, we get to spend our last breakfast time with our hosts, Ian and Pam.
Our friendships with people are always fleeting when we’re on the road, and again, we’re saying goodbye to Ian and Pam. Now, we’re heading to Nelson the right way!
Ice Road Truckers: New Zealand Edition
The sun is shining bright for our last glimpses of Okiwi Bay as we rise over the hills and back down inland. Now we are making our way on the winding State Highway 6 towards Nelson.
It’s now foggy as hell and all of a sudden, we feel like we are in an episode of Ice Road Truckers. We are following a whole line of long trucks – not to the mention the hundreds we’re passing. It’s impressive to see New Zealand truck drivers navigating these huge vehicles around sharp mountainside corners! We should really stop bitching about driving our campervan…
With the still water of Nelson Haven glistening in the sun on our right, we know we have reached Nelson, New Zealand’s sunniest city!
Gearing up in Nelson
We pull up at Tasman Bay Backpackers: Home of Nelson’s Famously Good Hot Chocolate Pudding and Ice Cream, check ourselves in, then borrow some bikes from the hostel to explore the city!
First stop, Torpedo7! We have a couple of outdoorsy supplies like jackets and pants to replace some of the monstrosities we have been wearing. (It’s time to say goodbye to Laura’s ancient ski jacket). Laura now has herself a light insulated jacket to keep her going for the rest of winter and into spring!
One Ring to rule them all
Although we plan to hike up to the Centre of New Zealand today, there are a few other places we can’t miss in the city. We cycle to the clock tower, then we go to Jens Hansen, the maker of the One Ring. That’s right, all the One Rings from The Lord of the Rings were made at this jewellers. The store clerk shows us a collection of the all the different sizes they made for the movies, including a 2kg ring! This massive One Ring was used for the close-up shots in the movies.
Beads! So many beads!
We never thought we would spend so much time looking at jewellery, but the next stop is The Bead Gallery. Ok, so that doesn’t sound all that special, but once you get in there…
Bead necklaces are hanging from the ceiling. Not a single section of the wall is empty of containers full of beads! Even the staircase is decorated with beads! Beads, beads, beads! It’s like we’ve jumped into a pool of beads by just entering this shop. Now, we’re not massive bead fanatics, but this shop was definitely worth having a look.
A pit stop at Queens Gardens
Back on the bikes, we are heading to the Centre of New Zealand, but something catches our eye along the way. A cute footbridge crossing a dainty stream leading to a water fountain has us peddling off course towards it. We are now in the Queens Gardens. The gardens are small, but nice to have a quick bike around, avoiding the ducks, before getting back on the road towards the Centre of New Zealand.
Ok, so why is the Centre of New Zealand significant? Hum, this is something we keep asking ourselves. Nevertheless, the centre actually promises a great view of Nelson city so that is as good a reason as any to go check it out.
The Kauri tree and the underwhelmed Robin
The walking tracks start from the Botanical Reserve, where we lock our bikes to a fence and start hiking our way up the hill. Then we are met with a tough decision: do we take a 5 minute detour to see a kauri tree (probably one of the very few in the South Island) or go straight up to the top? Because Laura is a freakin’ nerd, she drags Robin along to the kauri tree.
Why are we going?! We saw a whole forest of them in the Coromandel! Robin complains. But this tree was planted in the 1950s, so it just shows how slow the thing grows. We get there and, indeed, it is a thin tree… (But still much higher than its neighbours). Robin is completely underwhelmed…
The Centre of New Zealand!
A few more minutes of uphill struggles and we make it. The Centre of New Zealand! A map pointer sculpture towers above the central point with a concrete plaque marking the spot. Amazing! The centre!
In all seriousness, the views around us are worth the climb up here. On one side, we have the rolling mountains of pine forests. On another side we have Nelson city and the ocean. Somewhere in the background are the snow-covered peaks of the Nelson Lakes National Park.
We get our cheesy tourist photos of the Centre of New Zealand, then enjoy the easy breezy walk and bike back to the Tasman Bay Backpackers.
Famous chocolate pudding
Tonight, we enjoy some of that famous hot chocolate pudding, which is free for everyone at 8pm! Laura also bumps into a girl she went to college with back in the UK who is now working at the backpackers. Small world!
Tomorrow, we have the pleasure of exploring more of Nelson by bike. More specifically, we’re going to get drunk at the famous Founders Park and check out the Japanese Miyazu Gardens. See you then, backpacker bitches!
Oh my God, the Centre of New Zealand!
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See you tomorrow!