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Krista's Travels

North of the South Island

USA | Friday, 13 March 2009 | Views [611] | Comments [1]

Singing our love song to the tree newly planted to celebrate the recent marriage of the two tourists on the left

Singing our love song to the tree newly planted to celebrate the recent marriage of the two tourists on the left

Sorry it's been so long since I made an entry: computer access has been difficult as of late. After leaving Christchurch for the second time, I looped north along the east coast to the top of the South Island and then counter-clockwise along the north end to Nelson and surrounds.

My first stop was the touristy seaside town of Kaikoura, a beautiful setting with mountains (snowy at the tips due to recent precipitation) inland and a gorgeous windswept coast along the town's edge. Kaikoura's tourism claim to fame is the fabulously rich sea offshore that attracts record numbers of whales, dolphins, and other critters often sought by boat-going tourists. Kaikoura is a renowned place to swim with dolphins, and I had my sights set on that activity since before I even bought my plane ticket last summer. Alas, as with pretty much every plan I've had on this trip, it didn't transpire (too windy and rough water cancelled the boats the 2 days I was there). Instead, I enjoyed a great half day (land-based) Maori cultural tour (see photos) and did a lovely hike along the bluffs that follow the edge of the Kaikoura Peninsula - lovely views. The tour was great, we visited a sacred site, learned a song in Maori, learned a bit of weaving with the flax plant (different from our flax), visited the tour guide's home for tea and snacks and conversations, planted a tree with a couple who were on their honeymoon, walked in the forest learning traditional plant uses, and got a little woven basket at the end of the tour. After learning about and meeting the Totara tree during the culutral tour, a tree with many common qualities to my beloved redcedar, I went to the info center and spent $20 US to buy a tree to be planted as part of the Trees for Travellers program. A great idea, the tourists can buy a tree and they get a number for their tree. The money goes to buy the trees and to jobs for locals who are planting them, I think. When they plant your tree in the planting season, you get a postcard in the mail. You can then go online and keep track of how your tree is doing, really cool. Sort of like an adopt-a-starving-child-in-africa for the tree-huggers.

I then continued to Picton, a lovely small town with a different sort of waterfront. While Kaikoura was exposed to open ocean, Picton is sheltered by the many undulating points and bays created by Marlborough Sound. Snuggled amongst forested hills and sporting a nice little harbor, Picton is so far #1 on my list of places I might be happy living, if I were to have to pick a place. I'm not planning to move to NZ, by the way, I'm just saying it felt real cozy and nice. And since the interisland ferry comes in and out of Picton, it doesn't feel isolated, even though it's quite a small town. And it is supposedly one of the sunniest parts of NZ, although I only had one real sunny day out of 4. I took a water taxi one day with a dutch girl I met (Florentine) to do a 15km hike on the Queen Charlotte Track. Very nice! It follows the water a lot of the way, and ends at a lodge where we had coffee and played dice games while waiting for the boat home. On the day I was to leave Picton, the backpacker bus I was on was overfull, by 2 people. As the driver took an hour or two to sort it out, I ended up on the sunny grassy lawn watching the locals set up for a concert-in-the-park. Up walks my friend Lotty, who I spent my Stewart Island time with, with an offer to join me in her rental car for a few days (she was headed the same way). So relieved to be off the backpacker bus, which was truly wearing on my nerves by then, I happily gave my seat to another traveller. We stuck around an extra day and enjoyed the music with the locals among other lovely activities.

Next stop was Nelson, the place I had most looked forward to in New Zealand, because it is touted as the most livable city there, I had read a book about it, and also it has a progressive reputation (so I was anxious to check out their natural food store, haha!). Nelson turned out to be a nice town, but it appears to be rapidly expanding (I think there are about 40,000-50,000 residents) and traffic is horrid at peak times. The natural food store was still small and expensive by my standards. Still, a nice location, near to many explorations. And so we did. Lotty and I spent one day driving to Golden Bay, checking out gorgeous beaches, stopping at overlooks in the mountains, and checking out "Pupu" springs, the largest natural freshwater springs in australasia, the freshest in the world, and (get this) 14,000 liters per second (they say that's 40 bathtubs full) bubbling out of the ground! Ack!! Also, they were really beautiful with all sorts of colors of plant life growing beneath the very clear waters. On the way we did an awesome cave tour, and saw moa bones (now extinct) from moa who fell through sink holes and landed in the cave and were trapped. We also spent a day hiking in Nelson Lakes National Park with a third traveller, Judith from Germany. Again, very nice.

My onward travels from there have been of a less touristy nature (finally), so I'll address them in the next blog. Praise to the lord my arms have finally recovered enough to do light work and be of some use in work trade again so I am relieved of the duty to spend copious amounts of cash seeing every unmissable thing in the country. Cheers!

Comments

1

You're making me a bit envious now, Krista.

  Chris Apr 16, 2009 3:08 AM

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