South Island 2: Nelson and Abel Tasman

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In Nelson city centre

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The Saturday market, with the Cathedral tower in the background

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One of the stalls

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Lunch al fresco

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Typical Nelson building

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View over the harbour from the hilltop

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The city nestled in the hills

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Open countryside

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Above the city

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The centre of New Zealand

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The old train

We were surprised on our arrival at the motel in Nelson to find that we had booked a wheelchair access room, but the advantage was that it was on the ground floor and had a little garden area where we ate out one day. It was very pleasant and comfortable with plenty of down-filled bedding, which we needed with the big drop in temperature from NSW, and the sharp wind.

The first evening we wandered round Nelson to get our bearings, including walking up the hill to the dramatically  positioned cathedral with its striking tower, and then met friends of friends for a pleasant meal in an Indian/Thai restaurant.

On the Saturday we went to the Nelson Saturday market, a lively mix of local produce and craft stalls, but with far fewer hippies in evidence than we’d seen in Bellingen. By this time the weather had perked up so we had our lunch sitting outside our motel room. Then we visited the Provincial Museum, which we found very interesting, giving a good background to life in the area from early times. It also explained the Nelsonian/naval connection and names – our motel is in Trafalgar Street, for example. Then we set off on a long walk up to the centre of New Zealand – perhaps not the geographical centre, but the centre for surveying. From the hills above the city we had good views out over the harbour and into the surrounding countryside. We then walked out along a ridge and back down to the Heritage Park, which has old buildings in a little township, but which was officially closed, though Richard sneaked in. As on our last visit to NZ we were struck by the numbers of european birds around: house sparrows, blackbirds, songthrushes, starlings, chaffinches, goldfinches … But we did see a few local birds, including the colourful tui with its range of extraordinary sounds, from grunts to melodious trills.

dscf2533The old church in the Heritage Park

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The water taxi

On Sunday morning we were up in good time to drive northwards to Murahai, on the coast. It was a warm sunny day, but not too hot, just right for a good hike. We booked ourselves onto the water taxi and had a coffee. The taxi arrived on a trailer – it was a motor launch with seats for 12. We all climbed on and got seated, and then the tractor pulled the trailer to the beach and the water taxi slid into the water, was turned round, and off we roared, bouncing on the waves. We first passed a local sight, a split rock, known as Apple Rock, and then went in near the rocks to see fur seals.

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The split apple

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A fur seal on the rocks

Several passengers got out at Anchorage, but we went on to Torrents Bay where we enjoyed the sandy beach before setting off on our 20km hike back to our starting point. It was an excellent walk, mainly along a path above the beach – had the tide been out we could have walked across the sands back to Anchorage, but as it was we had to take the long way round. From time to time there were views of the beaches and the sea, turquoise in the sunshine. We took a little diversion to ‘Cleopatra’s Pool’, a favourite swimming hole. We had our picnic there on the rocks. Along the path we saw and heard different birds, but as usual they were never still long enough to be photographed, though on the beaches some of the gulls were less inhibited: on one beach a red-billed gull and a black-backed gull were both waiting hopefully for sandwich crumbs.

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Katharine at Torrents Bay

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The lagoon behind Torrents Bay

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Cleopatra’s Pool

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A view from the Abel Tasman coastal path

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A typical bay

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The path

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Looking out from the coastal path

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Typical vegetation

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From one of the bridges

We were happy to arrive back at Murahai shortly before 6pm as a band of showers was arriving and it was still happy hour in the cafe. Then it was back to Nelson to pay the motel bill, find somewhere open for a meal, and pack ready for our early-morning flight to Wellington the next day. We enjoyed our stay in Nelson: it is a very pleasant city in a lovely setting. There are good shops and places to eat out and there seems to be quite a bit going on – it’s a place we’d happily revisit.

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