Te Araroa NOBO (Days 43-45)

(Another blog entry with a disclaimer. I’m off trail, so this post takes place entirely away from the Te Araroa. I’ve kept the title as it is to ensure proper chronological entries.)

Day 43

I’ve been nervous for a few days about how today would go. I’m currently in Hanmer Springs. It’s Monday. I need to make it to the start of the Abel Tasman Great Walk by Friday. I don’t have a car, but hitching presents me with a few options. My hope is that when I get to the road today, I’m able to get a hitch to either Kaikoura on the east coast or up to Nelson. If I make it to Kaikoura, I’ll slowly make my way up the east coast before getting to my accommodation at the start of the Abel Tasman track. If I make it to Nelson, I’ll be able to get a really great resupply as well as check out some outdoor stores.

The forecast has been showing 80% chance of rain for today, but I saw on the rain radar that I had a window from about 9-10 with no rain. So, by 9:05, I was out the door and making my way to the main road with all the hope that I could muster. After walking for about 20 minutes, a car pulled over. Woohoo! He asked where I was headed, so I said, “I eventually need to make it to Abel Tasman, so anything in that direction works for me!” He grinned and said he was headed towards Nelson. Awesome! I ended up hitching with John all the way to Nelson, which took around three and a half hours. John is in his early 70’s and lives in Dunedin. (I’ve met so many Kiwis from Dunedin! When I make my way back to New Zealand in the future, I’ll have to check out that coastal city!) He had a bike strapped on to the back of his car, so we chatted about biking, hiking, triathlons, and duathlons. It was a really great car ride! We made a quick stop in Murchison for coffees, and then he dropped me off in Richmond. I only had about 9 km to walk to get to the beach!

What an amazing morning! John had recommended Tahuna Beach Holiday Park for accommodation for tonight, so I made my way there. Before this trip, I generally booked my accommodations in advance, but today is the third time while in New Zealand that I just showed up and hoped for vacancy. Since I’m only wanting to put my tent up, I figured I wouldn’t run into a problem. Sure enough, they had ample spots left! And wow!! I’m so glad that John recommended this Holiday Park.. the location is amazing! It’s right on the beach!

When I arrived, it was incredibly windy. I set up my tent as best as I could, but after only 30 minutes, one of my tent pegs was pulled out of the ground. I checked the weather and saw the wind was supposed to continue with strong gusts for two hours. Good thing Holiday Parks have kitchens and communal areas. I hunkered down inside until the wind died down. Then, I ensured my tent was upright before I walked down to the Tasman Sea to watch the sunset.

Day after day, I’m so grateful. I didn’t know where I’d end up today, but here I am. On the beach watching the sun slowly set behind a sky of puffy clouds. The rays shoot around the clouds and reflect onto the surface of the water. I can see the outlines of mountains in the distance, and as I turn away from the sun, I see houses piled on a cliff. It reminds me slightly of California. I breathe in the crisp, slightly salty air, and I smile. How is this my life?

Day 44   

After packing up my tent, I decided to spend the morning at the beach. “A leisurely stroll is a gift” (name that movie!), so I enjoyed a lovely gift this morning. The sea was so calm – such a difference from the rough waves of the west coast – and the same shade of blue as the sky. It looked like the sky just melded into the sea. It was so peaceful and so massive and so humbling. Looking at the expanse of the sea and the sky was like looking at the night sky full of stars. It all reminds me how small I am.

It’s such a great reminder for me, because I can get so caught up in myself and my plans. I can easily become the center of my own little universe, but the night sky and the beach walk today reminded me that there’s so much more. I am seen, and I am known, and I am significant. Also, I am a blip in time and space. I am a fleeting mist in the expanse of eternity. I am all of these things at the same time, and I don’t need to reconcile the seeming contradictions. The tension of the small and the significant, the tightrope in the in-between is acceptable. It’s where I’m meant to live.

Back to today. After my beach walk, I continued along Rocks Road. This road is also NZ HW 6 and follows the coast from Richmond to Nelson. It was a gorgeous walk. Seagulls flew overhead, and I watched the sailboats moored in the distance slowly come into view as I followed the meandering coast closer. Soon enough, I found my hostel for the night. I dropped off my bag, met my roommate (a SOBO hiker! Woohoo!), and made my way to the city center.

It was a fun day of exploring Trafalgar Street and the surrounding stores. I loved seeing the massive Christ Church Cathedral in the middle of the city, but I think my highlight from my exploration today was Jens Hansen’s. I’m not super into Lord of the Rings, but I’ve seen at least the first movie. (I rewatched it on my flight here from Chicago!) Jens Hansen created The One Ring for the movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings, and at the downtown shop, I was able to see the ring that was used in the film. Jens Hansen made 15 prototypes of the ring. One of the rings was set out on a massive felt holder, and the woman working at the shop gave me permission to pick it up. Wow – it was incredibly heavy! It was exceedingly large – too large to even be a bracelet for me.

Taken from the literature in the store: “One ot the curious qualities of the Ring (almost as particular as the invisibility it confers on a wearer) is its ability to change size: it is worn – at various times in its history – by its maker, Sauron the Great, as well as by men and hobbits. As a result, Jens was required to make a number of rings, each scaled for different scenes: whether carried on fine chain around Frodo’s neck or worn over the Dark Lord’s iron gauntlet – for which a huge, two-inch diameter version was required.” The ring I was able to pick up and hold was this massive version of the ring. So cool!

My focus for the rest of the day was to resupply and get prepared for the Abel Tasman Great Walk! This is a really fun city, and it’s a great place to resupply!

Day 45

Today’s my last day in Nelson, and I have a few tourist items on my list for the day: Queen’s Gardens, Centre of New Zealand, and find a new book! After dropping off my backpack at my hostel for the night, I made all of this happen! I found a new book at a secondhand store, and most of the day was spent moving from cafe to restaurant to hammock to bench as I read my book! What a lovely day! Only a few days until I begin the Abel Tasman Great Walk!

Quick side note for those staying in Nelson: I stayed at Prince Albert’s Backpackers today, and I would definitely recommend it! There are a few 6-bed dorms as well as 4-bed dorms, and they’re super affordable. It’s very clean and relaxing. The beds are super comfortable, and there’s a patio area for backpackers. The kitchen is small but well-stocked with cooking supplies. If I make my way back to Nelson at any point, I hope they have availability – I would definitely stay here again!

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