We have now been in Nelson Bays for just about a week and I am happy to report I seem to have fully recovered from my bout of COVID. Yeah! And double Yeah! that Susanne miraculously avoided the COVID fate. She definitely wins “immune system of the year” award.
Many people think that James Cook was the first European to discover New Zealand, but they would definitely be wrong. According to the official New Zealand History:
“Abel Tasman is officially recognised as the first European to ‘discover’ New Zealand in 1642. His men were the first Europeans to have a confirmed encounter with Māori.”— nzhistory.govt.nz
Although, reading the history, it doesn’t sound like he was all that great of a captain or explorer. Evidently, he really didn’t try very hard to figure out what he had discovered and he got fired after “attempting to hang two sailors who had disobeyed orders by leaving their quarters. He was drunk and one of the men almost died.”
So far on this trip we have come down from Auckland, thru Taupō, Te Awanga, Martinborough, Wellington, Blenheim, and now are in Upper Moutere, in the Nelson Bays Region. Susanne has officially been to both the farthest north and south points of the North Island. In general, the North Island is nice, but I think in the end our hearts will be more aligned with the South Island.
We took the back route to get to Upper Moutere from Blenheim because it wasn’t a whole lot longer, passed by Nelson Lakes National Park and the big mountains there, and was generally a lot easier driving. There was a huge storm coming so we wanted to get there before it really set in, which thankfully we did. There was snow on the mountains and in the trees only a few hundred meters above us. It was quite beautiful and I really want to come back up here when it is a clear day to get some pictures.
We found our Airbnb and were very happy with it when we got into the house. It is lovely and will be very comfortable for our month here. I pinged Sue (our host) and told her we were here, but still in Covid isolation and would let her know when we were off it so we could meet her. It started to rain on Monday night and Tuesday was just dreadful. It rained almost 100 mm. So we just hung out.
On Wednesday, we were officially out of isolation and the weather had cleared, so we headed out to run some errands and do a walk on the beach. We found a place called Kina Beach and headed out from the car park. There were some cool gravel cliffs that you walked along that made for a nice view, but the beach was a bit rocky in places. We ended up doing a nice 5km down the beach and back. Afterwards, we ran into town and stocked up on some food and supplies for the house. Susanne said “I already like this place a lot.” I had to agree it had a nice feel to it for being a small town.
Susanne had made contact with another couple from the UK that were also applying for Investor 2 visas and they happened to be staying in the area. We had arranged to meet Jon and Becky for lunch at the Apple Shed at the Mapua wharf. They were lovely people and we had a great time learning about their journey here and what challenges they had faced. At one point we were talking about what we told people about why we were coming to New Zealand and Jon described it as a “push and pull.” I thought that was very accurate. I always try to focus on the pull part of why we are here, but there is no doubt there is a big push too. The political and social situation in the States is just not healthy, to put it mildly. We all had “fush and chups” for lunch. Yummy.
We wanted to continue to explore the beaches in the area, especially because that had been such a downer in Hawkes Bay. We drove out to a place called “Rabbit Island.” It was low tide so the beach was huge. Sadly, no dogs were allowed though, so we didn’t get out usual pets and kisses from the kiwi dogs. Darn it all. The ocean here is extremely calm since it is sheltered from the Tasman Sea by a big gigantic peninsula. It is also very shallow as well which is why the water is so safe and the beaches so big. It was a lovely walk and the views of the mountains surrounding the area are really quite spectacular.
After our nice walk on the beach, I talked Susanne into to going into Nelson so we could pick up my new bike. We found the store and went in. While I worked with the guy buying a few more things and getting the low down on the bike, Susanne ogled some of the e-bikes. I hope to buy her one soon; it is a perfect country for e-bikes. I felt like a kid on boxing day! Yeah! I had been missing my bike so much and this one was a beauty.
Needless to say, the next morning I headed out for a ride. Of course, it started with an uphill and I could really feel the effects of not having ridden for 3 months and the impact of COVID on my lungs. No worries, though, I was just happy to be out riding. There is a trail system here in Nelson, called the “Great Taste Trail” which is mostly gravel pathways with a few sections on sleepy roads. It goes for over 140 km!
We are about 1 km from the trail, so I headed up Harvey road to the path and ended up doing a 25 km ride. I was super duper happy even if I felt totally out of shape. I’ll just have to get back at it and get in shape.
We finally met Sue, our host, and she was very nice, despite that fact that I managed to break the shower door on the first day. Doh. She told us about some good stores to get local products and that you could order really good produce from the Hare Krishna farm just up the road. Nelson is a bit of a hippy town with a reputation of being tolerant of just about anything. You can even go to the nudist colony and play golf. No dress code! Let’s just say, that idea didn’t get much traction with Susanne.
New Zealand was ranked as the 2nd worst country to immigrate to by some survey. This caused some great consternation in the press and on various blogs. Most people felt that the survey was bogus since Mexico ranked #1. However, they did admit it is expensive here and the wages are low.
We had a really nice day in the forecast, so we decided to drive out to Abel Tasman National Park and do a hike along the coastal track. We had been there in 2011 in our Bat Mobile camper van and were just blown away by how beautiful it was. It was about a 40 minute drive, over a very narrow and windy road. It turned out to be a bit frosty as well and I had to put Otis into AWD mode, which was good, because shortly after that we came around a sharp corner and did a big slippy-slidey. Luckily we were going very slow, but still, they aren’t kidding when they say that the roads are slippery when frosty.
There were a few cars in the car park, but it was clear that this was way off season. I am sure it is a madhouse in the summer. It was chilly, but the sun was out and there was no wind. We hiked along the path for a couple of hours until we got to a lovely little beach (Akersten Bay Campsite) where we had some lunch. It was cool little campsite with only room for 3 tents. In the summer it would be an amazing place to stay. We hung out and then headed back to Otis and home. We stopped at the Countdown to get some stuff for a salad and then headed toward a “gourmet food store” just up the road from us to see what they might have. We got there and they didn’t have much of anything, although we bought some salami to try out. I saw there was a winery that was supposed to be open on the way back, so we drove there and it looked very quiet. It was very quiet because it was closed. We waved at the sheep and headed back home were had some food and wine and celebrated what a wonderful day it had been.
We are both looking forward to more tramping and exploring while we are here. Susanne even got us hooked up with a tramping group that Jon and Becky suggested — we are going to tramp with the group on Thursday. That should be fun!