Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Zealand - Nelson

Nelson, NZ reminds me very much of Morro Bay, California.

It sits on a jewel of a little bay, protected by a long spit, with hills surrounding and long, agriculturally fertile valleys inland. As it faces north, it has more sunlight (being southern hemisphere) than any other city in NZ (or so the Chamber of Commerce says). That makes the weather more like Avila than Morro, if you  all remember what summers were like: we'd want to go to the beach, but only Avila is south-facing and without fog in summer.

One major difference, though, is that from the bay, you can see snow covered mountains:
The town is about 50K, including several suburban areas, but very quiet and almost sleepy while we were there. Downtown is discreet, with wide streets and buildings mostly limited to 2 stories.
Many of my photos are dark, I think because the sunlight is SO intense; confuses my little digital camera into focusing on the sky instead of anything in the foreground. Sorry.
The residential areas have narrower streets than downtown, but one thing I wanted to show all the California family: see these closely pruned trees?
That is, believe it or not, a sycamore tree! Can you believe that these huge trees could be kept to a mere 20 feet tall? And why ever would you want to do that to them? Of course, Nelson isn't semi desert, so maybe sycamores can get way out of hand there -- like just about everything else in the garden.

While we were planning our trip, initially with no idea what we wanted to see except for Christchurch, I happened to mention in email to a friend (Hi, Naomi!) that we were finally going on a vacation after all these years, and she wrote back immediately to say that she had a friend in Nelson! Well, thanks to Skype and the Internet, we met Baki and Dayanira, and through them several of the other Bahá'ís in that area.

One of our new friends was planning to be out of town for several days and offered her home (renting to visitors is a common practice in NZ) and she is a darling! We managed to meet her in Christchurch as she was returning and we were leaving.

This is Margaret's house, our home in Nelson for about nine days.
It sits on a smallish (by USA standards) lot in a beautiful neighborhood full of trees and flowers. Her garden is especially lavish, with way more plants than anyone would think could be crowded in together successfully. (I found this true of every garden I saw in NZ!) Love that garden!! So many flowers I haven't seen since I left California...camelias, for instance.

Margaret has an old-fashioned garden, and one that matches the unwritten rule that every Kiwi must have a cabbage tree in front and a lemon tree in back. Cordyline australis looks a bit like a Joshua Tree, only it gets to be 60 feet tall in NZ! Plus, she has a lemonade tree in the side yard. I SO want one of those! Looks just like a lemon, very thin skinned; peel and eat like an orange; tastes like the very best lemonade you ever had. Sigh. Not available in the US, and not likely ever to be, given the   restrictions on citrus even crossing state boarders, let alone national ones...

Sunshine comes into her kitchen every morning!

And see what a lovely wide view she has of her side yard? Yum! We enjoyed our sojourn, and fed the cat, who is very old and regarded us as pretty hopeless idiots, but maybe not too dangerous if we held the can opener. She even led me over to where the catfood was, and assured me that she should also have canned food morning and evening (which we found later was not the case). Margaret might not be too old to travel, but the cat was too old to tolerate her absence well.  (Or yours truly has sucker clearly stamped upon her brow)

We walked every day, venturing down town and out to the beach:
The bicycle belongs to the postman sitting in front of a tiny grocery for his morning break. Mail is delivered by bicycle all over city areas on the South Island. Carriers sort the mail by routes and the bundles are dropped at suitable points along the way, like this grocer, so that the whole load doesn't have to weigh down the cycle from the beginning.  Pretty nifty, and boy were those carriers, male and female, in good shape!
There was quite a lot of provision for tourists in Nelson -- it is sort of an artist's colony -- including a couple mile walk down the riverside to the sea. We passed gardens and parks and lots of not very wild life:
This fellow probably has a mate sitting on a nest nearby, but we couldn't see her. There was a duck with a passel of ducklings in the same area, and even some seagulls horsing around having mid morning bath in the shallows of one gravelly stretch of the river. I couldn't get them in the camera without blur, they were having such a good time.

And only a couple blocks down the street from Margaret's house is the trailhead to the Center of New Zealand:
This is a 20 minute hike, according to Andrea, who does it every morning, but took my husband a couple hours. It winds uphill rather steeply through a series of hairpin turns, every one of which offers stunning views of the city, bay and valley beyond. He took lots of pix, but strongly advised against my trying it. I think he worried that I might indeed make it to the top, but then I wouldn't be able to get back down again, and there is no other way out except walking back down.

As it was explained to us, the monument was set some years ago in a fit of National Pride, before GPS, when map makers believed the top of this little hill was indeed the geographic center of New Zealand. Turns out the actual center is a kilometer or two away, but the monument remains. That other spot just isn't as picturesque...

One thing Nelson has throughout the town is extensive bike accomodation. Bike paths run from beach to bay to downtown to historic sites and more.  And some of them are quite wide enough for two lanes of travel!
And, frankly, I find separate walkways and bikeways comforting, given that I still haven't mastered the drive on the left thing....



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