Oct 9 – 10
In the guidebooks, Picton is described as the marine gateway to the South Island. Anyone who travels from the North Island to the South Island (unless they travel by plane) invariably passes through Picton. Because I had the impression that Picton is merely a passageway to bigger and better things, I had planned to get off the ferry and then immediately board a bus to Nelson. But when I got off the ferry, it turned out that I had already missed the last bus heading to Nelson that day. This actually turned out to be a really good thing because I got a chance to truly appreciate Picton and how pretty it is.
Once you get past the ferry boarding dock, the bus terminals, the tourist info booth, and the signs lining the waterfront advertising all sorts of tourist activities (sea kayaking trips, fishing guides, dolphin watching, boat cruises to the Queen Charlotte Track), Picton stops seeming like a traveler’s hub and more like a quiet, peaceful little town. It’s a great place to spend a day sitting in the grass and having a picnic.
I walked up and down the main street, wandered down some little side streets, and hiked a trail that goes up into the forest with beautiful views of the city and then loops back on a lower trail that runs along a beach (that I had entirely to myself).
Picton looks just as pretty during the night.
I stayed at the Picton Lodge, a great hostel with nice, friendly owners. I was talking to the guy working at the Picton Lodge and described my experience at the hostel in Wellington (how it felt like I was at a frat party). He gave me some recommendations for hostels in Nelson and other cities I’ll be visiting.
Yesterday morning I took a bus to Nelson. It was a 3 hr bus ride through Blenheim, Rai Valley, and on narrow, one lane roads winding over and around mountains. By the time I got off the bus, booked a hostel, set all my stuff down, took a shower, and headed out the door, everything was pretty much closed. But I walked along the Maitai River and around the city center to get ideas for things to do the next day.
Tasman Bay Backpacker Hostel is where I’ll be staying tonight, tomorrow night, and maybe even the next day. It’s great! They have pretty painted walls, an herb garden, a spice rack, a nice kitchen and lounge area, lots of outdoor seating, a compost, a big bowl of free lemons, a library, and free bikes to borrow for the day. The only room they had available for my first night was a single room with a double bed. It’s much more expensive than the 6-bed dorm room I wanted, but I figured I’d take it for the night and switch to the cheaper room tomorrow. Although…my bed is cozy and there’s a heater in my room, and I have a pretty view out my window. So…I may splurge and stay in this room another night. It is kinda weird being all alone in a room suited for 2 people!
The verdict: Nelson is a cute town. I can see why people want to live here. It also gets more sunshine than any other city in New Zealand. That’s certainly a plus in my book!
This morning I went to the Sunday Flea Market. The last thing I need right now is to accumulate more stuff…but I bought a hooded sweatshirt for $1NZ and I figure I can ditch it without worries whenever the time comes. After that, I went to the Department of Conservation to inquire about Abel Tasman National Park. It’s a 3-5 day coastal walk and you can either take a water taxi to a certain point and just hike around for the day, or you can walk the entire length of it and stop to camp at various spots along the way. You can even kayak part of it, but that sounded a little complicated to organize without a tour group. I was thinking I may just do a one day hike and save more time for other things in New Zealand, but now I’ve decided I’m going to do the entire 3-4 day hike. I’m excited to finally get a chance to use my tent!
Update: I ended up meeting a Czech guy who’ll be doing the same hike on Tuesday with a Kiwi friend of his and he invited me to come along. So I’ll most likely be staying in Nelson one more night so I can do the trek with them.
- Everything in New Zealand seems to close promptly at 5:00 (sometimes even 4:00). I wouldn’t be surprised if things typically stay open later once summer comes and the tourist season is in full force. But right now at least, everything closes so early!!
- Cars here actually really do stop at crosswalks. This is something I’m not at all used to. The first time this happened, I had no idea why the car came to such an abrupt halt. Then I realized they were waiting for me to cross the street.