After the golden sandy beaches of Marahau and the Abel Tasman Park, our next stop would be Golden Bay. We didn’t have any kind of reservation lined up for a campsite or lodging, and we were there during the busiest camping season of the year, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. To make matters less fun, my recurring stiff/painful neck issue reared it’s ugly head when we were packing up our campsite at Marahau, so over the course of the long, twisty drive to Golden Bay, it grew worse and worse. We had hoped to go horseback riding in the Golden Bay area, but somehow I didn’t think riding a horse would be good for my cranky neck. Not to mention the fact that we had nowhere to sleep that night, and life was a little stressful when we pulled into Takaka. Takaka, being a very laid-back hippie artist town, solved that problem fairly quickly, though — it’s hard to be stressed out in Takaka.
We inquired at the DOC site about possible camping sites, and were told that everything was full, there was nowhere to camp, other than a makeshift overflow area near the river/highway junction. As there was a music festival nearby, we assumed that would be full of yahoos (nothing against yahoos, we just weren’t in the mood) so we went to the i-site, where there was a huge line-up of people seeking accomodation. Miraculously, the woman who helped us “suddenly remembered” a little guesthouse up the road, with a swimming pool, horses, and really friendly owners, and luckily, they had room for us for two nights. We arrived at Larry and Jennie’s house, and they welcomed us warmly, their son Tomai quickly ushered our kids into the house to play LEGO, and not too long after, everyone was in the pool… actually, Dexter said it was too cold (the blubberless among us have a hard time with very cold water) and I opted for a refreshing and cleansing shower, but Lucy and Mark and Tomai the resident child and his two friends all enjoyed themselves in the pool.
We all enjoyed our cottage,
the whari (the home that Larry’s great-great grandfather built in 1857 as a new immigrant from Sweden for himself and the wife and two boys that followed),
the inside of the whari…
and the view from our bedroom windows.
We did not enjoy the omnipresent sandflies that were chewing away at our ankles and feet, but we did our best to ignore them. I’m still carrying their trademarks…
As luck would have it, Larry and Jennie were having a big bonfire that night, so Mark took the kids up the road to that while I stayed back and rested my weary neck and read a book. The bonfire turned out to be ENORMOUS, and lots of fun for all.
The next day was somewhat gray and dreary and misty and spitty, so we went for a drive to the opposite end of the Abel Tasman Park than we had seen before, to the massive but remote campsite at Totaranui. I had called months before about camping here, but it is so popular they open up for bookings in July, and you just hope you can get through to make a reservation. We could see why, even on a dreary day, it was a great place to spend the last day of the year!
That night was New Year’s Eve, and we celebrated in grand style, doing a puzzle of New Zealand, the kids cracked open the ‘Times Tables’ CD and workbook they got for Christmas (when you homeschool you can get away with these kinds of Christmas gifts — they had a grand old time singing and learning all about multiplication, and I had a little joy in my heart seeing that this crazy scheme seems to be working after all…), and Lucy and I finished off the night reading (different) books about Mary, Queen of Scots, coincidentally. I think we might have stayed awake until all of 10 pm, and drifted off to sleep content with how 2008 had wrapped up. It didn’t turn out anything like what I had envisioned at the beginning, but it was good for all of us nonetheless.
The next morning, after Larry and Jennie gave me a lovely birthday gift of chocolate covered almonds, we set off for Nelson. Since it was my birthday, we treated ourselves to pints and hot fudge sundaes at a Mac’s Brewery, and went to see Madagascar 2, since High School Musical 3 wasn’t playing…no, I’m not kidding, I can’t get enough of that Troy Bolton! ok, I’m kinda kidding now…
We were lucky enough to catch a ‘Flight of the Concords’ marathon to fall asleep to in our cozy hotel room. We were all over these guys back in Canada, but here in New Zealand I think you have to wait a while for new episodes to appear, even online. Blah. On a somewhat more amusing note, when I hear certain people speaking kiwi for a length of time, it sometimes reminds me of Murray, and I giggle a little, which is fun for me, but probably not for the person I’m talking to. anyway…
When we woke up, it was time to go see my old friend Jennie Rees from my Chico Sports Club days, who is now Mrs. Ricciardi, the performing arts teacher, wife to Andrew, mom to Ella and Maya, and just as much fun as ever.
We hiked up to the ‘Center of New Zealand’ monument,
saw a tui bird (usually you hear tui birds, but this one was even visible enough to photograph!),
found a lovely bug,
and capped it off with lunch at a beachside cafe. Nelson is a beautiful town, and I can see why Jennie and Andrew have given up their North American luxuries (like decent peanut butter, sorry kiwis) to stay there!
We had hoped to make it further south, to Queenstown and Lake Wanaka region, to see the Fox Glacier, Milford Sound… I could go on and on about what we haven’t seen yet… but did I mention how twisty every single road here is? I would be curious to know what the longest stretch of straight road in New Zealand is… not far, I’m guessing, and I bet there is only one of them. We opted for seeing less of the country and being in each place longer, and that pace was perfect for us. I would love to head back to the Abel Tasman park and “tramp” in and stay in the huts they have along the trail, but we shall see how this New Zealand adventure plays out. When we came home our trampoline, drums, guitar and piano arrived (thanks BC educational allotment!), so I’m not sure Mark and the kids will ever want to leave the house again…
All in all, it was a fabulous trip, and once we recover, we’ll start planning a journey on the North Island!
Happy New Year from the AmeriCanaKiwi Pullyblanks!
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