Friday, 24 January 2014

Nelson - the "Top of the South"

Hey everyone,

here's the next blog post from New Zealand - and I can promise you it will not be the last!

When Jackie and I got back to Christchurch from our road trip (cf. previous blog post), we only had one night until the next adventure began - for Jackie, that meant flying up to Auckland for a stopover to visit Hobbiton before heading back home to the States; for me, it meant an onward journey - though it took me seven years back in time. At Christchurch Airport, I took the following photo, which - I think - perfectly describes my situation: the plane I'm on is painted in the most recent colours of Air New Zealand while the one next to us features the old livery and a Jetstar plane can be detected in the background. In other words: I'm on a trip full of new experiences while looking back at and comparing it with the old memories, while Australia and my experience of living and studying there has taken the backseat - nothing, simply nothing can beat New Zealand! Sorry Australia :-/
Planes at Christchurch Airport
And as I'm now basically on my way of gaining a "new" experience of New Zealand, why don't I take you with me to where I was headed next - Nelson. My flight took me via Wellington, the "windy" city and capital of New Zealand... or was it Middle Earth?
Welcome to Middle Earth! =)
The agreeable thing with domestic connecting flights in New Zealand is that you never have to wait for long to board your next flight - this time, the layover in Wellington was about 10 minutes. 

The Marlborough Sounds from above seem to say: Welcome home!
And my 25-minute-flight from Wellington to Nelson was to become the fastest journey back in time that I've ever had. Those of you who went to school with me in New Zealand will remember this - coming in to Nelson Airport is an experience of its own: descending over the water, passing over land ("Yes we'll be there soon!"), going back over the sea ("Does the pilot know what he's doing?"), reaching the Monaco peninsula ("Oh good, I can see land underneath! But where's the runway?") and flying over the last inlet ("OMG, we're going to end up in the water, we're way too low!") before finally touching down. Back on the ground, I disembarked over the tarmac, walked into the tiny terminal building with one café and two check-in counters and back out the other end which is where you pick up your suitcase. Straight from the luggage trolley.
For the duration of my stay, Helen and Rex had kindly offered me to reside at their place - and by "reside", I mean reside! A beachfront home on the Monaco peninsula with views over the estuarine Tasman Bay towards Richmond that I had visited a number of times while I was in Nelson in 2007. Helen and Rex were hosting Ji (whom I visited in Christchurch) and Manatsu (another friend of mine from Japan) while I was there and took me to the Abel Tasman Nationalpark, Kaiteriteri Beach and Ngaio Bay for their family holidays (I still can't get over how staying in a luxury villa can be referred to as "camping"!). Anyway, this is the view from the "balcony" (indoor verandah with sliding doors) that we had every morning for breakfast, every day at lunchtime and every night for dinner - with different water levels of course as the tide goes in and out down here as it does in the North Sea in Germany.
Planes coming in, boats left stranded and the idyllic scenery of the hills!
And because Helen and Rex wouldn't be Helen and Rex if there weren't any trips to go on, we were off to Lake Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park the next day - because they were building and extending a holiday cabin there. Now, while that entailed a three hour wait at Placemakers (the New Zealand hardware store) and entertaining two 7 and 11 year-old children (on a side note: waiting & children - both not my favourite things in the world), it meant a great day trip to the hinterland. All the more so because travelling with either of them generally means you're not going to starve. That's why a bike ride came in opportunely the next day to visit my school from seven years ago: Nayland College. There were memories hidden behind every corner, situations and conversations that had taken place here and there and everywhere and I could virtually see all the people I'd met at Nayland College in front of me. Now, of course, Nayland College was closed for summer break, which meant that I couldn't go inside any of the buildings, but the whole atmosphere was overwhelming.
Back at Nayland... was about time aye!
The palm tree in front of the library
The Quad, the place to be at lunchtime for "Big Fat German Sausage"-sizzles! =)
Around the corner from the school was 31 Ferguson Street, my home away from home during my time at Nayland College. I knew that my hostfamily had sold the house and that it had been repainted but standing in front of it was a bit different. Still, walking my old "way home" from school was priceless.

Pimp my house... but yellow? Really?
I have to say that apart from this rather obvious change, Stoke hadn't changed much since I'd last seen it which made it easy for me to settle back in and enjoy my time in the sunny top of the South Island. And of course, the Nayland corner store wasn't far away either - my first genuine Hokey Pokey ice-cream in ages

And of course I caught up with my hostmum from back then, who now runs a Café / Deli on Main Road Stoke called "Infused":
Sharon preparing her legendary wraps!
Trafalgar Street in Nelson
Time to catch up with another key figure from back then? Definitely! At the "International BBQ" that apparently has become a tradition, I met Marilyn Gibbs again who was - and still is - the counsellor for Nayland's International Students. Nayland College gets about 120 International Students each semester - that makes about 1,600 International students since I've been there. But believe it or not - she recognised me and after half an hour even remembered my last name! Now that's what I call a good career choice. Mrs. Gibbs lives on a farm with Mr. Gibbs who gladly showed us around and let us feed the animals before we could dig in to a yummy BBQ buffet.
With Mrs Gibbs at the International BBQ -
"Koop, isn't it? Your last name is Koop!"
I also caught up for a coffee with my French teacher, Ms. Barker after having seen her in Paris during my week of high school finals in May 2009, which is when she took the Nayland French class on a trip all around France. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo with her but it was nonetheless nice to catch up! =)

Before heading on to my next adventure, Helen took me to the Marlborough region (Picton and Blenheim) as well as to Kaiteriteri in the Abel Tasman National Park to make my stay complete. 

Kaiteriteri Beach - one of the 5 most beautiful beaches in the world!
Cup of coffee with a view in Marahau
While the Kaiteriteri trip was pretty straight-forward, the trip to the Marlborough Sounds was rather interesting. Leaving Nelson, we came across a hitch-hiker... Helen later said "We should have driven past first to see what he looks like and then come around to pick him up.". But being the nice person that she is, Helen stopped on the side of the road and we took him to Picton. When the guy took his hat off, he looked like Captain Jack Sparrow who had lost his boat. This particular one had only lost his girlfriend though which needed to be discussed extensively. In view of his BO (the abbreviation for "body odour"), it wasn't hard to imagine why it hadn't worked out between them. Another thing that was not surprising was the fact that he wanted to get to Wellington to make his way up to Palmerston North to attend a peaceful gathering of like-minded individuals - in other words: a hippie festival with tons of weed. He had a small bottle of vodka with him that a Nelson local had given him (local produce - home made and apparently very strong; the debate on whether he was still under the influence of aforementioned liquor has not come to a final conclusion). Other than with the story of his girlfriend, however, he seemed rather content with his life and with what came his way, so he didn't mind our "ticky tour", meaning taking all kinds of roads but not the direct one to Picton. So he got his ferry to Wellington and a free scenic tour of the area on top of that.

The Pelorus River - filming location for the 2nd Hobbit movie
(where the dwarves escape in barrels)
Reaching the Sounds
One of the many lookouts (click to enlarge)
What a beautiful spot!
When we had dropped this guy off in Picton, we headed to Blenheim which is where Alistair and his wife live (Alistair is one of the sons) to have lunch before checking out an aviation museum on the way back.

On my last day in Nelson, we had a big dinner with the family and some more friends - and as strawberries are in season in New Zealand at the moment, there was not much of a choice as to what kind of dessert would be served - home-made Tiramisu!

Strawberry Tiramisù
Now, the actual purpose of my stay in Nelson was to relax and do nothing at all after my studies in Australia and my trips all over the place. Looking at this blog post, I just realised that I did do quite a lot but there was plenty of time to unwind as well. Thank you everyone in Nelson who made this stay possible, particularly Helen & Rex - thank you so much for your hospitality and for taking me back in time to 2007! You're welcome in Germany any time and I'll gladly show you around =)

Sooo... time to end this blog post with yet another sunset picture - read more about my subsequent trip to the Bay of Islands region in the far North of New Zealand in my next journal entry about the Hobbit's adventures away from the Shire!

Take care and stay tuned,
The Hobbit
(currently in Middle Earth)

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