Sun Setting on the South Island

 

Strange to think that heading north will mean warmer temperatures and less snow – especially in winter months! I’m always saying that I’m a ‘Northern girl’. However, in New Zealand, I think the South suits me quite well!  It’s been a fantastic few weeks. And, Nelson, as a final stop on the South Island, seemed to encapsulate a little bit of everything that I’ve experienced so far: awe-inspiring nature, charming architecture and great people.

My first day in Nelson, I just wandered around the main area of the city. Starting with a walk along the river, it was a really peaceful and very quiet morning. At one point, shortly into my walk, a woman stood looking at me expectantly.

‘Oh, I thought he was calling my name…’ she said, as she pointed to someone behind me.

I turned to look and there was nobody there. So, I just turned back, smiled politely and gave a little laugh. As I got closer to her, she mumbled something about her hip and started to walk along side me. Next thing I knew, she was mid-sentence about how she’d gone walking the other day and now her hip was sore. Could I hear it clicking, she asked.

Oh, I guess I’m in this conversation now.

‘Um, no.’ I responded. She was actually a very sweet old lady. In the 10 minutes she strolled with me, those were really the last words I was able to contribute to the conversation.She loves to walk. She had just walked to her sister’s the other day. Her sister lives near the airport. She used to live in that house just on the other side of the river. But now she lives on this side. Her husband had passed a few years ago and it was just too much house. She traded in 4 bedrooms for 2. And also to be nearer to her daughter.

‘Oh, there he is..’

Uh oh. Does she hear a phantom man calling her name again?

No, there was the white duck that she always feeds. He used to always follow her home. To the house they lived in. Just over there on that side of the river. Over there. She’s lived in that area for 54 years. She came over from Scotland. And still has that absurd accent. (Her words, not mine!) As she said, she misses him (her husband) and finds it tough. (Although, she never did say that a first time. But I nodded anyway.) It was such a shame she hurt her hip while walking. She loves walking. Oh, what a cruel joke. She’s 72 but still walks everywhere. She had walked to her sister’s place, by the airport, just the other day.

She usually feeds the white duck. But she was nervous to walk down the grass by the river with this clicking in her hip. Oh, how terrible that it clicks when she walks. She loves to walk.

‘See you!’

And off she went with a smile and a wave. I did the same.

That little exchange made me smile for the rest of my stroll along the river. After a bit of time, it hit me: I hope she wasn’t wandering away from a retirement home or something. Oh well. She seemed to know where she was going.

Continuing to wander, I just picked whatever street that took me in the direction of the nearest visible church. There were so many and each one was quite unique in style and colour. One of my favourites was quite a contrast standing next to a very modern building. The juxtaposition made both buildings that much more striking.

I hadn’t done that kind of wandering since chasing the domes of cathedrals around Rome. But, it was a great way to see Nelson since it took me down all the main streets and all kinds of side streets. Details on the buildings often caught my eye and the older architecture was contrasted with some surprisingly interesting street art around the city.

Having explored most of the city, I was told Abel Tasman National Park was worth a side trip. I had considered doing an uphill hike, but I found myself just wanting to have another (relatively) leisurely day. So, I chose to walk the beginning section of the coast track, which starts near the small town of Marahau. I thought the town might be just slightly larger and I could explore a bit there, maybe have some lunch, before heading off for the walk. However, it was pretty dead.

So, I went straight for the track. Tree-covered most of the way, it was a really pleasant walk. Just over an hour in, I branched off onto one of the little beaches and had a snack in what turned into a sunny little alcove.

Had I more time there, I could easily have seen myself exploring more of the park. But, it was time to move on. So long, South Island… I had a ferry to catch!

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