It was only fair that the next three days would be brilliantly beautiful. We awoke to clear blue skies. We waited for the latest report on road conditions (which was suppose to be posted by 8am but wasn’t). Gay called the Transportation Department and they told her the road would be open by 9am but to expect delays. We had breakfast and decided to take a nice long walk along the beach. To finally see these beaches and mountains in full sun was such a treat.
Afterward, we packed up and headed back to Westport and grabbed another cup of coffee for the road. The Buller river was still running pretty high, but the road was open. Hwy 6 followed the Buller river and the way the road was carved into the canyon made us wonder how this road ever stayed open. There were multiple areas where it was obvious they had to clean up mudslides, tree slides or rock slides (called ‘slips’ here). The closer we got to Nelson, the less damage there was. However, there was one road still closed (the one from Nelson to Blenheim which we needed to take in 2 days), so hopefully that would not be an issue for us either.
We arrived in Nelson, parked, and checked out the city. It was larger than we expected (a whopping 45,000 residents). Built around hills, it reminded me of San Diego – but instead of Mexican influence it was very British. A huge Gothic looking Cathedral towered over the town. Lots of flower baskets and European style cafes lined the sidewalks. We had a wonderful lunch eating outside, people watching and just enjoying the weather. We then checked into our apartment for the next two nights. It wasn’t really an apartment, but rather 1/2 a house. It was half way up the hill with an incredible view of the Tasman Bay from our veranda. Originally built in 1908, it had all the charms of grandma’s house. Wooden floors, big rooms, stained-glassed windows, unusual light switches, lots of antique furniture, lovely artwork, a cast iron claw foot tub, fireplaces, and a wonderfully stocked kitchen. Oh yeah, we could live here. We wondered what kind of discount they’d give for a 3 month stay. 🙂 The only problem was…we didn’t want to leave this place.
After getting settled, we left to pick up some groceries and then came right back. We popped open a bottle of wine and hung out on the deck the rest of the day eating cheese, smoked salmon, and crackers. For dinner we sauteed some seafood and made herbed smashed potatoes with fresh green beans. It was totally awesome.
The next morning, after breakfast, we decided to head to the beach and maybe do a boat ride….everyone kept telling us to go to Kaiteriteri, so we did. OMG, the whole city of Nelson was there as well as 500 campers that looked like they had no intentions of ever leaving. There were people and boats everywhere. This was not the secluded, romantic beach we envisioned, so we headed back to what now seemed like the quiet calm city of Nelson. We went for a nice long walk around the port, downtown, parks and our neighborhood. We then picked up some more seafood for dinner and headed back to our little haven for another wonderful evening on our porch.
I was sad when we had to check out the next morning. I didn’t want it to end. We met the owners of the place, an older couple who have lived there for 41 years. He use to be a mountain climber, now he’s a cyclist and a Zen Buddhist. She was/is an artist….she actually painted all the pillow cases, sheets, curtains and tablecloths in the apartment. He had lots of stories to tell…I wish we could have stayed and listened to them all, but we had to get going. We were informed the road to Blenheim was now open (but with delays), so we wanted to give ourselves enough time to make our flight. While we saw some spots which experienced slips, we eventually drove through a valley in which the road was all but washed away and it looked like the whole village of Canvastown had been under several feet of water. This area of the island was undoubtedly hit the worst by the rains. We thought about driving to Picton (to see where the ferry arrives), but Robert was anxious to get rid of our rental car which he felt was about to fall apart. It had developed rattles almost everywhere and the hubcap was very loose. No worries. We made it to Blenheim with plenty of time to spare.
We decided to walk around the town, which now looked like a whole different city than it did 2 weeks ago…there were people everywhere. We settled on a Thai place for lunch and then returned to one of the wineries we visited two weeks ago to pick up a bottle of wine for the evening. There are NO security checks at the airport here, so we could actually still bring a bottle of wine on the plane. 🙂
The winery was also packed with people. There was music playing outside, people were hanging out and eating in the courtyard. After tasting all their wines again and making a purchase, we filled up the car and drove to the airport. We eventually boarded our small plane (which had no cockpit door) and enjoyed the beautiful views of Marlbourgh Sound, the mountain peaks, beaches, lakes, and volcanoes as we past over them on our flight to Auckland.
We arrived safely in Auckland around 6pm, checked into our hotel and had some dinner. Since New Year’s Eve is not a big deal to us, we didn’t stay up (we also had to be back at the airport by 7am and I wasn’t in the mood to party). Robert hates it when I get melancholy. While I really was looking forward to getting back to Japan (because I do love it there), I loved it here too. The people were so friendly, the food and wine delicious, and the island is so pristine, beautiful and wild. I really do hope we get the opportunity to return someday and spend a lot more time.