I probably shouldn’t have eaten as much chocolate mud cake as I did (see Day 9) and felt a little sick all day.
Even though we aren’t beach people, we opted to make a short trek to the nearest one just to see what it was like. This is one of the things Nelson is known for. It was a nice wide sandy area and I can see the attraction if you are used to the rocky and super hot black volcanic sands of other New Zealand beaches. If you are the kind of person who likes to lay out in the sun, this is the place for you. It seemed extremely tranquil. In fact, there was a yoga group doing their thing while we strolled around.
PELORUS RIVER BRIDGE
We backtracked on the twisty roads out of Nelson and along the way stopped at the Pelorus River Bridge. This small bridge has been a vacation area in NZ for years with a general store and short hiking trails around it. In fact a little Peter Jackson once visited it with his parents and even at a young age realized that it would be a great movie location. Years later he still remembered the place and it became the Forrest River in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The scenes where the dwarves make an escape in floating barrels was partially filmed here (the rest was done on a sound stage). It is obvious from the beauty of the landscape and the water itself why this location was selected and its distinctive looks are immediately recognizable to anyone having seen the movie. The bright blue or green water (depending on location) filled with dwarves in barrels. The lumpy rocky shoreline covered in orcs. The dense forests of Mirkwood and perhaps the Misty Mountains (usually snow-capped this time of year but not for us).
We had brought swim suits and a fast-drying camp towel (that works fantastically by the way) because this is the warmest water on the South island and in fact there were a couple of teens jumping off rocks into the water as we hiked around on some of the short trails in the area. We ended up not swimming because the water was still pretty cold, the air wasn’t that warm, and we had a lot more driving to do that day.
The café located at the park exceeded my expectations. I was thinking it would be like a camp general store or convenience store but it had some tasty looking savory and sweet dishes. We were too early for lunch but I would have gladly eaten here if we’d been more hungry. That is something I’ve noticed throughout NZ. There seems to be a higher minimum standard for food. Even gas station food is better looking than typical American fast food.
If you like to camp, there is a campground here. I didn’t see it but would consider staying there as everything I did see at the “park” was well maintained. If we’d had more time, there is a kayak tour that takes you down the river to the various filming locations. I would definitely do this on a return trip. This place is so pretty!
Next we headed for the east coast and started working our way south. Had we gotten to NZ a few weeks earlier we could have ridden a train along this path that is known for its relaxing scenic view. Sadly, they had closed for the season before we arrived. We got the exact same view of beautiful cliffs descending into the ocean though as the road runs right beside the tracks.
We had the option to stop for lunch at the famous The Store along the coast. It was a really cool looking building and the food looked and smelled great. Unfortunately it is a pretty small place and a huge tour group had arrived not long before us dumping about 150 people on them. They said the wait would be a good while so we pressed on.
Not too far down the coast is the gravel parking lot for Ohau Falls. The hike and the falls are short. Any waterfall is worth a look in my book but the thing that makes this one special is that somehow the local seal population has found it and uses it as a nursery. It is supposed to be very hit or miss whether you’ll actually see baby seals and the Frenzy author never has. Luck was on our side and we got to see two baby seals playing with each other as they made their way up the river to the falls. It was so much fun. It was even fun to watch other tourists round the bend and delight at the sight of them. Kids were the best. Their exuberance didn’t seem to faze the seal pups at all.
Just a couple hundred meters down the road we stopped at the viewing platform for the larger seal colony sunbathing spot. We watched the beasts roar, play, fight, lounge, and do other sealy things but then it was back to the car because it had been drizzling and the rain began to pick up.
We made our way to Christchurch and found our way to the heart of the city and our hotel for the night, CentrePoint on Colombo Motel. While not our favorite place we stayed, it was very good and Melanie commented that the room was perfectly spotless. It was quite amazing. I didn’t even see a luggage mark on the wall. I wonder if they repaint on a regular basis.
I thought I knew something about organization but the owner of this little establishment is hyper detailed. He handed us a numbered map of the area with a legend on the back for all the restaurants in the area. They were first organized by price and then by proximity to the hotel. Each listing included the type of food and the hours of operation. We had laminated cards in the room on how to work the TV, the AC, and even the bed. Yes, you read correctly, instructions on how to use the bed. I meant to ask what had prompted the bed instructions but simply forgot. This was another great place to stay and I easily recommend it.
Once we checked in, we had several hours of daylight left to explore Christchurch but weren’t expecting much. The city center is still recovering from a devastating series of earthquakes starting in 2010 and continuing all the way until 2012. The motel owner let us know that 80% of the area had been completely destroyed – a staggering number. It is still obvious with many empty lots and those still will half-collapsed or half-removed buildings. It makes me very sad for the loss of life and the blow to such a cool city. I think Christchurch could have been my favorite of the bigger cities otherwise.
It is such a beautiful place with new contemporary buildings beside much older structures amidst well developed landscapes. I’ve never been to England, but as the name implies, there was a strong attempt to transplant a bit of England to NZ and this place looks like pictures I’ve seen from nicer urban England. It has a manicured and established feel to it. This makes sense because it is the oldest city in New Zealand and the largest on the south island.
We walked down to the view the cathedral right in middle of town and from there we saw a few memorials to those that died in the 2012 quake. Continuing down the street we came to the famous botanic gardens. This would be such a great place to ride a bike or do some trail running. It is stunningly well done and HUGE. There are so many interesting and varied trees from around the world I’m surprised it isn’t known as an arboretum. We had a lovely stroll but daylight soon faded and we headed for a restaurant.
Sadly, the first two places we tried were closed and another two were jammed with people. Instead we shot over to the grocery store and then had another quick dinner in the room. Shortly thereafter we were off to bed for an early start in the morning. We would be driving a couple hours and we wanted to get to Mt Sunday when the morning light was still good.
You heard me right, riders of Rohan. In the next post we are going to Edoras!