Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Taking a Breather in Nelson

When you're a long-distance marathon traveler putting weekly/monthly notches on your belt and watching a succession of stranger's bedrooms slip by, any modicum of familiarity is welcome. Especially welcome are the comforts of family friends, an almost-home away from home.

Nearly 2 months after I'd left the US, I arrived in Nelson and heaved a sigh of relief. I'd been there once before with my family to see the G's, long-time friends. We'd done lots of sightseeing and marveled over the town's laid back nature. And now that I was back, the pressure was off. I didn't have any plans or feel I had to see anything and everything. I could borrow a bike to tool around town and peek into bookstores and bakeries, sleep late, read on the shady back deck facing the Mai Tai river, and plan my text move.

And so, for the next week, that's exactly what I did. I visited with the various members of the G family, in town from the US and other parts of New Zealand; went to the remnants of the Busker's Festival (which I'd first seen in Christchurch) when they came through one evening; explored the city. One day I walked down the river to swim at the swimming hole with 15 adolescent boys who dared each other to jump off higher and higher trees into the cool water. Another day I biked all over the flower-lined town, to art galleries, a little museum, and a highly recommended coffee shop painted bright colors. I discovered a calligraphy school run by a British man and his Japanese wife, who was from the same town in Japan that I would later visit with JJ. I marveled at the WOW fashion/classic car museum, which featured fantastical outfits and gorgeous cars. And, as a special treat to myself, I splurged on a day trip to Abel Tasman park, where I tried sea kayaking for the first time and loved it.

Nelson, lined with flowers

The Mai Tai swimming hole

The Nelson Japanese calligraphy school

From the WOW Classic Car and Wearable Fashion Museum-- some of my favorites:

I want this car one day

Did somebody say "Bingo"?

This is a flapper dress made entirely of cotton swabs! (Look closely!)
Abel Tasman

The morning rain made it seem like it would be a disappointing day, but in the end the weather cleared.

And we saw seals...

Peeked into hidden, eroded coves in the coast...

And kayak sailed back into port.

On the day before my departure I got up early and visited the Nelson Sunday market, a fantastic specimin featuring everything from homespun wool sweaters to artisan cheese to woven baskets to pet rocks. An hour browsing the merchandise, chatting with the salespeople, and having fresh coffee and crepes for breakfast, got me prepared to leave the comfortably relaxing weigh station that Nelson had been for me and ready to make the leap to the next stop-- all the way to the north island and my last weeks in New Zealand.

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