Nelson, New Zealand (15th Mar 2008)
Hamner Springs to Nelson
Driver: MarkDistance Travelled: 345.0 Km / 214.4 Miles
Accumulative Distance: 3096.7 Km / 1924 Miles
For the first time on our trip in the van we have the luxury of being able to take a shower in the morning and since we were up early enough we thought it would be best to make use of the facilities as we are never too sure when our next proper wash might be! After our morning indulgence it had somehow managed to end up being 11am and we were now an hour and a half late checking out, so to avoid being fined we sneaked the van out of a side gate (no exit gate) which went onto the main road only to realise that we had forgotten to pick up the camera battery that we had left charging in the TV / common room, so we whipped back around to get it and lucky for us it was still there, fully charged. On the way out this time we took a different route out via the other big TV room to try and grab a book or two from their exchange but most of them were in German?
The first bit of excitement, for Kara at least, was driving over "Dawsons Creek" which we had to stop and get a photo of. Shortly after this stop we spotted Herpies, the van that Wicked originally tried to give us back in Christchurch and by the look of things they had either broken down or had chose a very odd place to park and stand next to their van, this made us so happy to have ended up with Wrong Baby (our van) with touch wood hasn't caused us any problems at all so far and we both felt so happy as we cruised on by.
The day had started off miserable and overcast but by the time we got to Nelson the sun had well and truly come out, for an afternoon shine which made our drive along the coast road and to the harbour even nicer. When we got to town most of the shops were already closing up because they only stay open till 2.30 / 3pm on a Saturday, but we hadn't come to shop so that wasn't much of a problem for us and we got parked up in a free car park and set about conquering yet another place in NZ.
We didn't seem to be able to orientate ourselves too well on foot so after a few wrong turns we made our way back to the van to get the lonely planet out to see where everything was and to find out what was worth doing in Nelson. On a Saturday afternoon the answer to that question is not a lot! The lonely planet mentioned a street called South Street, which is said to be the oldest preserved street in New Zealand. When we got there we nearly missed it as it wasn't obvious at all. The street is home to a row of restored workers cottages, built between 1836 and 1867 but as we walked down the street the condition of the small cottages seemed to worsen, still it was good to be able to see another aspect of New Zealand's history.
The highlight of our time in Nelson came when we visited Christ Church Cathedral, which is thought to be the traditional symbol of Nelson, and is Art Deco in style. It stands at the top of Trafalgar Street, looking out imposingly over the rest of the small city. Work began in 1925 but completion was delayed and in this time arguments raged over whether the building should be built to its original design or not, a more gothic old-fashioned style. It was finally completed in 1965, taking forty years to complete, blending the two different styles of design. It sounds quite strange but weirdly it worked and the transition from one style to the other was hardly visible, on the exterior anyway. We had the opportunity to go inside so we did and found it to be a more traditional cathedral but beautiful still the same. There were two grand looking chairs and prayer tables on one side of the cathedral, roped off so to avoid being touched by the public and it was only on closer inspection that we read a sign that told us the Queen and Prince Phillip had visited in 1954 and sat in those very chairs.
To find somewhere to camp for the night we drove in the direction of Picton, where we would get the ferry from the next day but this proved difficult to begin with as the road took us up into the mountains, winding around as we hugged the mountains edge. Finally on the first section of straight flat road for miles we saw a picnic spot so we pulled up and to our amusement found ourselves by Graham Gorge. We thought it would be the ideal place to sleep but almost as soon as we were setting up for tea the flies began to attack. They didn't really stop for the whole night, biting us at every opportunity, Mark even caught one eating him, see photo evidence! As usual after tea we pretty much went straight to bed because the itching from our insect bites was getting too much to bear!