Exploring NZ (Days 53-58)
With the Abel Tasman now a memory rather than an upcoming event, I started looking to the next adventure. My morning began in Marahau; I caught the Better Bus (really great company that emerged after COVID in order to fill a need for transportation from Nelson to the Abel Tasman and beyond. I’d definitely recommend them if you’re looking to walk the Abel Tasman!) back into Nelson. Even though I was only backpacking for five days, it still felt nice to get back into civilization. I also really, really like Nelson. It’s a great town: not too big but has every convenience of bigger towns. It’s also right on the water, which is a plus in my book!
The next day, I rode the intercity bus to Picton. While I’m on the topic of busses, I’ll review intercity as well! They’re much more established throughout New Zealand than any other bus company that I’ve come across. They’re also more pricey. They’ve been reliable every time (three times!) I’ve used them, and they’re quite comfortable. If given another option, I wouldn’t choose them simply because of the price. However, they offered easy, reliable transportation to Picton, so I hopped on and enjoyed a 2 (or so) hour ride through the winding roads to Picton.
Picton is MUCH smaller than Nelson. There’s the main road… and that’s basically it. I wandered around for less than 2 hours and thoroughly covered the entire city center. I’m here, because I have a ferry booked for tomorrow to Wellington! Woohoo! North Island, here I come!
The ferry from Picton to Wellington departed right on time, and I was blown away by how massive it is! I’d compare it to a cruise ship sans a pool and dance hall. They had a store on board for souvenirs as well as two cafes and one restaurant. The ferry ride itself took almost three hours, and it was absolutely awesome! After we left Picton, we were greeted by cliffs and views for the first hour. If I would have walked the Queen Charlotte Track rather than Abel Tasman, I think I would have walked through some of the islands we cruised next to. I had fun wandering the ship as well as cozying into a big, lounge chair and reading a new book that I picked up from a hostel in Picton.
Once docked in Wellington, I met up with a Trail Angel (Nicci) who graciously drove me (and two other TA walkers) into the city center. She has also agreed to hold onto my big backpack while I explore Australia for the next couple of weeks. Sweet! I won’t need my tent, sleeping bag, cooking stuff, or trekking poles, and it’s SO much easier to travel without them. I’m super grateful for Trail Angels!
Nicci dropped the three of us off, and we walked straight into the center of Cuba Dupa – a massive festival that happens this weekend only! There will be street performers and bands playing throughout the day and night. It was so colorful, loud, and packed with food vendors and people. Welcome to Wellington!
After getting checked into my hostel, I explored the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum and walked through more of Cuba Dupa. What a great way to start the North Island!
Day 56 – 58
So today turned out nothing like what I expected. When I was at the Lake Ōhau Lodge (Days 19-20), I met four bicyclists. Three of them live here in New Zealand, and the other is from The Netherlands. One of the Kiwis, Marty, lives near Wellington and told me to reach out when I was in the area. I texted Marty a couple days ago, and he suggested a restaurant in town. He said that he and his partner, Natalie, both had to work during the day, but he would be in the Wellington City Center on Sunday afternoon if I wanted to meet up.
After a wonderful church service at The Street this morning, I met Marty at the New World Grocery Store across from the YHA. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I met him and his friends! As I walked up to the truck, he asked me where my big bag was. I let him know that I dropped it off with a Trail Angel and the rest of my stuff was at the YHA. He looked a little confused, but we started driving away from the city center. As we chatted in the truck, we realized there had been a miscommunication.
I thought we were just getting together for a meal in town, and he had told his partner, Natalie, that I was coming over to stay for a couple days. He also told her that I was a vegetarian. (We figured out later that he thought this because on the morning that we all had breakfast together at the lodge I had given my bacon to him. I don’t enjoy pork, but it came on my plate, so I figured these hardworking cyclists would enjoy a couple extra slices.) Because Marty thought I was vegetarian, Natalie had been preparing a vegan dinner for us to enjoy together tonight. (The dinner – by the way – was exquisite! I could be vegan if I had meals like that all the time! Super yum!)
Marty and I arrived to their house, and we saw a gorgeous lemon cake sitting on the island in the kitchen. Natalie came in from outside, showed me the guest rooms, and we all enjoyed a slice of lemon cake. It was so, so tasty! She had made it using the lemonade lemons from their backyard. (Side note: have you ever heard of lemonade lemons, because I hadn’t. They’re not sour like normal lemons. Natalie cut one up and gave me slices to eat. I thought she was trying to pull one over on me, but sure enough, they were delicious! They kind of have a taste like a lemon mixed with a grapefruit.)
I really, really enjoyed my time with Marty and Natalie. They live on a gorgeous piece of land right by a river. They have the cutest cows that I’ve ever seen (Shetland I think they said? So, think of Shetland ponies, but in cow form. *squeal!*) They also have free range chickens, adorable and loving cats, and friendly sheep. I was surprised to see sheep that weren’t afraid of me. Usually, when I get within 100 meters of a sheep, it darts in the other direction. These sheep grew up around people and were treated more like pets. So cute!
While staying with Marty and Natalie, I learned SO much. I can’t believe that I’ve been here in New Zealand for two months, and there are so many seemingly basic things that I haven’t realized in my time here. I’ve compiled a list of the knowledge I gleaned from my time with them. Enjoy 🙂
- Anzac Day is April 25. Up until my time with them, I thought Anzacs were cookies (biscuits). They are, but they’re named that way because they were baked and prepared during WWI for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). It has been claimed that these biscuits were sent by wives and women’s groups to soldiers abroad because the ingredients do not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during naval transportation.
- Vegemite. Okay. So, I’ve seen it in the store. I also tried a drop on the back of my camp spoon when I found some in a free box at Arthur’s Pass. I wasn’t a fan, because it was too salty. Marty said I need to try it on a sandwich with crisps. I shall, and we shall see…
- Lemonade lemons: as stated above. What a delicious discovery.
- Hoka One Ones. I’ve been running in Hokas since 2015(ish). I’ve never looked into the brand or the story; I just know they’re comfortable. Apparently, I’ve been pronouncing them wrong my entire life. The proper way to pronounce them is Hoka (ho-kah) One (oh-nay) Ones (oh-nays). Why? Well, because this is Māori! While Hokas originated in France, the name loosely means”fly over the earth” in Māori.
- Feijoas. These are super yummy! They taste like kiwifruit, but the outside isn’t furry. I tried one for the first time ever today, and I love them!
- After dinner, Marty drove out to the grocery store to pick up a few lollies that I hadn’t tried yet. With our evening tea, we enjoyed pineapple lumps (chocolate covered, pineapple flavored marshmallow), snifters (chocolate covered, mint flavored marshmallows), and jaffas (chocolate inside and orange candy coating).
It was such a lovely evening with Marty and Natalie! In the morning, I rode with Natalie back into the Wellington City Center and then made my way back to my hostel. It was fun to explore the city without Cuba Dupa happening; it was quieter and easier to navigate.
The next day was also spent exploring Wellington. I’m getting really excited about my trip to Australia! I did quite a bit of treasure hunting at op shops, and I’m feeling ready to fly to a new country tomorrow!
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