Birgit and I were heading West. We were traveling in Frogger, our little green hatchback rental, along the Northern shore of New Zealand’s South Island. Four days into our journey, we were about to pass through the town of Nelson before heading out to a beachside camp to rest up for our Abel Tasman hike.
It was a bright and sunny summer day. Our schedule was wide open—we were free to do whatever we so desired. Before long, we were gazing at sea creatures floating high above in the sky, hiking to the geographical center of New Zealand, and listening to the sound of waves dragging across a stone beach.
Sea creatures in the sky
As we grew nearer to Nelson driving down Route 6, our attention was drawn to brightly colored figures floating above the road in the distance. As Frogger leapt closer, the figures became clearer: Blue globs of color turned into enormous whales, multicolored splotches became sting rays, and a whole assortment of non-land animals visualized swaying in the thermals.
At first they looked like balloons, but later we learned they were kites! Today was a demonstration put on by the Nelson Kite Club. Nelson citizens and visitors like me and Birgit gathered under this flying ocean for a picnic and playtime in the open field.
A few other kite types were mixed in the oceanic line-up. There was a big brown dog and a bright green car. It’s Frogger!
This was an awesome introduction to the city of Nelson. A beautiful display and a fun event for everyone—young kids and adults alike. What could be better?
The center of New Zealand
Other travelers informed us Nelson is home of the geographical center of New Zealand. The gravitational center of New Zealand is actually in Tapawera, a bit further south of Nelson. The top of the hill in Nelson’s Botanical Reserve became known as the center because the first surveyor of the region used triangulation to survey the land from this point in the 1870s.
The walk up was mostly shaded by trees and other over growth. At one point, a sign directed us 5 minutes off path on the “Kauri track” to see a Kauri tree planted many years before. We expected a huge tree but it was a tree about 8 inches in diameter planted in 1951. We chuckled at how young New Zealand “history” is.
Once we reached the precipice, the 360-degree views were worth the steep 30-minute walk up.
The city of Nelson installed a sculpture to mark the center of New Zealand. Hilariously, someone had mounted a bicycle to the top of it. The bike is not normally supposed to be there!
Standing there at the center of New Zealand suddenly motivated me; I want to make it to the southern and northern points of New Zealand. I would have to visit the southern shores of the south island and the northern shores of the north island in order to accomplish this task. I wondered if I’d ever make it to these places.
Stones rolling in the waves
Nelson was a great town. But we were on a mission to hike the Abel Tasman. The weather for the next few days looked good in the Tasman region so we booked to stay over at a beach campsite along the trail. In the meantime, we needed to set up camp somewhere on the way to the start of the walk so we could start hiking early the next morning.
I found a low-cost ($6 per adult) campsite at the Kina Recreation Reserve. We set up our tent and began preparing sandwiches and snacks to take on the hike with us. We would only be going for one night, but we would need enough food to face the challenging inclines.
After dinner, Birgit and I walked down to the beach to watch the sunset before turning in early. The beach was full of rounded stones and little broken shells. The waves were crashing onto them with a loud thrust, but then we both heard a new sound. Birgit and I looked at each other perplexed and then I realized, “Ahh it’s the stones!”
The beach was on the perfect slant to allow the waves to drag stones back into the ocean with every stroke. I couldn’t get over how soothing the sound was—like marbles trickling down the side of a wooden house. I tried to capture it on video but somehow its still not as I remember it…
I find this is the way much of my photos and videos go from my travels. The vividness of a sunset, the vastness of a landscape, or the sound of waves crashing on a stone beach seem not to be captured by a camera as accurately as they have been captured by my mind. As much as I write in this blog, trying to convey my experiences as best as I can, sometimes words fall short. This is why you must come see it all for yourself if you have the chance. There’s nothing like deviating from what you do routinely to experience the world first hand.
The sunset on this night was full of pinks and reds. “Good omen,” I said. “Pink sky at night is sailor’s delight.” Birgit did not quite understand with her limited English. I translated, “We’re going to have a nice hike tomorrow.” The sunshine greeted us for the Abel Tasman Great Walk the next morning.