We managed to find one of my favourite Kiwi backpacker accommodations purely by accident when the place in Nelson we'd originally wanted to stay at was full - so the owner kindly suggested we go to Almond House instead! It's got a lovely cosy fireplace, spotlessly clean bedrooms/bathrooms/kitchens, friendly staff/owner and, most importantly, it is quiet. If it weren't for my emerging cold, I would have slept very peacefully.
We stayed in Nelson for 3 nights as we wanted to be stationery for a few days and not be constantly driving. The weather forecast was looking good for the next week, so that meant that we could plan a few outdoor things! Friday would be a trip to Abel Tasman Park, Saturday would be a visit to the Saturday farmer's market and Sunday we'd head off to the Marlborough region via Havelock for some local green-lipped mussels.
We left for Abel Tasman National Park at 9am - having decided that we would take a water taxi from Manehau and then hike through the park. Luckily, we'd packed food for the trip as there weren't many facilities at our destination. We got the 12 o'clock boat which was towed out to sea by a tractor! Our skipper, Dave, dropped us off at Anchorage where we had lunch on a golden, sandy beach overlooking the calm sea.
When we started the hike we saw a sign which said that the distance back to base was 12,7km! This was more than the 10km we were told by the information desk and we started the hike much later than planned, so we were having to hotfoot it uphill! Now, dear readers, some of you may not know me very well but those of you that do, know all too well that I do not cope very well with uphill hikes. And unfortunately, this hike was one of the steepest I have ever undertaken. I huffed and puffed my way up that mountain!
Luckily, after the 1st kilometre, the walk mainly followed the same contour, but we were literally marching through the forest. The sun was setting over the other side of the mountain and the temperature was dropping too. Also, we didn't fancy stumbling around in the dark over tree roots and slippery, moss-covered stones.
After all that speed walking, we finally made it back to the entrance to the national park in time for sunset and a warming glass of red wine. The fire was burning and there were several locals sitting around chatting and waiting for the evening's entertainment - a folk jamming session. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay for that, but with the fading light I went walkabout through the sculpture garden across the road where I saw some beautiful works of art carved out of tree stumps!
Later that evening, after returning to Nelson, I went to Mac's Brewery for dinner and some live music. A nice Indie band called Sons of Summer was playing and, seeing as May is the National Month of Kiwi Music (I kid you not - feel free to google it) I thought I would support the local music scene (also suffering from cultural withdrawal symptoms as back in London I go to a live gig at least once a week). I ate blue cod and chips and drank some red wine (NZ Pinot Noir is now my new favourite - replacing Chilean Merlot), tapped my feet to the beat and walked home.
Saturday morning is one of the highlights of the week in Nelson for it is market day! So, with my canvas bag empty and waiting to be filled with all sorts of local goods we strolled up to town and sampled all sorts of interesting things. I tried sausages made from mussels, Manuka honey (which, sadly, I wasn't able to buy as next stop is Fiji and you're not allowed to bring honey to the islands), boysenberry jam (bought several jars as gifts for friends I'd be staying with in NZ), homemade breads, Feijoas (mmmm, love 'em), olive oils and cheeses.
In addition to the farmers and culinary artisans, there were also plenty of local artists selling exquisitely crafted pieces made from local wood, bone, stone and jade. Obviously, the more intricateIy carved the more expensive the item. I bought a lovely simple NZ jade pendant in the shape of a simple leaf motif.
In the afternoon, I lay for a while on a deck chair in the hostel garden and had an afternoon nap as I wasn't feeling well. Saturday evening was spent by the fire warming my feet.