NZ 5: Nelson / Studland

It’s been a while… but it is always good to finish something… and this NZ road trip blog has been hanging for a while.

Tonight… as the rain falls in Wiltshire, there is a need to imagine ourselves there again.

Four years since we flew back from New Zealand.

In the previous NZs 1 to 4… Janet and I have travelled from Bluff at the bottom of the South Island… meeting cousins in Dunedin and then Christchurch.. a tour of the heavily damaged by earthquake.

On this day we would leave Christchurch.. for Nelson on the north coast.

The coastal road was blocked at Kaikura so the route lay through the mountains.

We left the city and beyond the Airport turned west. Our Toyota Corolla climbing the foothills as far as Waikari. We decided on tea and cake before crossing the Weka Pass.

Note to a potential visitor: One of the great advantages of New Zealand is the availability of tea, cake and a bowl of chips in the remotest of settlements.

I had a lemon and poppy seed cake and Janet a savoury scone …fortified… we departed this island of civilisation… back into the wild.

The hills turned into mountains, deep valleys, large rivers and no buildings for miles and miles. The road was good and broad, negotiating the twists and turns, the ascents and plunging descents.

Regularly, a local Yute would come out of nowhere behind us at great speed. No point trying to match his mountain driving skills ..look for a place to pull over and let it pass.

It was enough to negotiate the twisting roads.

When we met a huge crane inching up a slope… it finally gave us space to pass…. but most of the time we were on our own.

The views were spectacular.. round a corner .. ‘take a picture of that’… but the road twisted again and the moment was gone. Just enjoy and absorb the panorama. The skies were clear, the weather chilly but good. We ate up the kilometres.

By mid-day we had reached the snowline on the Lewis Pass and then began to reduce our altitude. Nobody, anywhere, long empty roads until we reached Maruia Springs. A health spa beside a river where we parked and entered civilisation again for a pot of tea.

The comfort of people in bathrobes apparently oblivious to the huge people-less expanse surrounding them.

At last, we reached Murchison,a small town at a crossroads. Here, 10 years ago, we’d stopped on the way from Nelson to Greymouth (on ‘The Coast’ ).

The West Coast is a rainy and wild 300 mile stretch from Westport to Haast, the road weaves and squeezes between mountain slopes and beautiful quiet stony bays.

At Fox Glacier we’d joined arms and waded rivers to walk to the the retreating river of ice.

Our guides had checked the river depth. They’d pointed to a distant falling rock to tell us it was the size of a mini bus and then one had left us to watch at a distance. Something about health and safety….not altogether reassuring.

It never stopped raining.

In 2019, we took the road north-east from Murchison, now crossing undulating wooded land. Kawatiri, where we parked at a picnic view. Resting on a bench, we watched as a bird strutted out of the bush and pecked some crumbs from our sandwiches. A friendly weka.

On the way into the city… I saw we drove through north of England place names and imagined boatloads of 1850s settlers from Yorkshire and Lancashire arriving on the north coast of the South Island.

Nelson fitted that pattern for me but I’d misinterpreted the evidence. Surely, I should have learnt a key archaeological lesson by now. Never be too certain to fit the evidence to anything.

Nelson and Wellington face each other across the Cook Strait but they are named after early 18th-19th century politicians, explorers and military heroes rather than English places.

We were in time for William’s pizza celebration. David and Wendy took us there and Ellie reminded us to sing Happy Birthday in Maori.

In the evening we went to the beach, facing north into the sun, surrounded by the distant snow-capped mountains. We picked up an iridescent paua shell and watched the sea birds.

Janet was looking forward to her spring October birthday tomorrow.

The bright yellow sand like that of Studland but not the dense bodies of a Dorset summer…just a few scattered, distant walkers and joggers.

No foxholes or unexploded WWII shells in these dunes… but where people are…. nowhere sleeps peacefully…. Maori tell of tribal conflict long before the arrival of the pakeha.

5 thoughts on “NZ 5: Nelson / Studland

  1. Magical description Martin. Reminds me how much I miss the place and I was there in January this year! Can’t wait to return.

    • Dear Helen many thanks and good to know you were able to be in New Zealand in January. I’ll write about our over to the lost world of Golden Bay next. With very best wishes Martin

      • Golden Bay, Malta? I was in Malta last September with girlfriends and tho heard of the Bay, didn’t get very close. The bus from Valletta to Mdina took us on to the coast, as a circular route, but to the main tourist areas, unfortunately. I need to return there!
        All the best, Helen

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