Friday, February 14, 2014

Sunny's NZ Road Trip: Nelson

Nelson, a small city of 60,000 at the northern tip of the South Island, is known simultaneously as the craft beer capital of New Zealand (and the southern hemisphere?) and the sunniest town on the south island. Needless to say, when we were looking for a home base near such attractions as the Abel Tasman, Marlborough Wine country and Queen Charlotte Sound, we didn't need to look much farther than Nelson given the uncanny comparisons to our own home town.
Nelson, at low tide
We spent five glorious nights in an rental apartment above town which allowed us the benefits of great views, a BBQ, and a place to call home for almost a week. (A real luxury when often a new bed is required every few days.) 

Each day we work up, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed out to explore the areas attractions with Sunny. 
The Queen Charlotte Sound
Each night we came home, opened up a new craft beer to try and planned the next days hike.
BBQ and Sunset from the Nelson apartment
Highlights included: 

The Abel Tasman: one of NZs Great Hikes, we were able to complete the first day as a day hike. Great vistas and a nice cruisy (and dry!) trek after our mountain adventures down south. 
The Abel Tasman; Another Great Hike
Golden Bay: How big was a view this day? After a brief hike up to a look out we could see over 250 KM (or over 155 miles) from the edge of the Queen Charlotte Sound all the way to Farewell Spit. Umm. Wow. 
Unreal vistas
Nelson Lakes Nation Park: How impressed are we with the national parks system in NZ? We had never really heard of this oft-forgotten national park but when we got there, we found unlimited hiking opportunities, hanging valleys and crystal blue lakes. We want to go back to NZ just to be able to hike this park again. 
Taking in the Nelson Lakes National Park

And again...just from a different vantage point.
Craft beer: Don't get us wrong. We've loved being able to sample beer around the world. That being said, besides some surprising pockets, we have been unable to find anything resembling our much beloved hoppy Colorado craft beer. Enter Nelson. Hop obsessed? Yup. Unique craft beers? For sure. People who talk about the "passion fruit undercurrents of this Red IPA which balances out the citrus hoppiness nicely" while giving us free tastes? Are we home right now? 
And the angels started to sing at this point. 
Old Friends- The Monty's 10 year reunion tour continued with a graciously hosted BBQ at my old friend Louise's home with her fiance, Andi. Amazing creamy blue cheese, craft beer, more BBQ than four people could ever hope to eat, a great sunset and yard games (which Kate dominated and won 3 for 3!) just goes to show that some pleasures are universal. 
Louise and Kate; dominating yard games
A most hilarious wine tasting experience: One of the most memorable experiences was when we chanced upon a winery at the end of a dirt road while exploring around Nelson. As we pulled up, all we could hear was Johny Cash blasting from inside. We were greeted by a bloodshot eyed, untucked and spotted shirt wearing proprietor who proceeded to pour us nearly a dozen wine tastings from unlabeled, dusty and indistinguishable wine bottle strewn across a folding table in his entry way room. 

What was more memorable? The fact that the family was three sheets to the wind at 2pm on a Monday dancing around their living room? (Pretty sure the wine cellar was more for personal consumption than revenue generating.) When we mentioned the music, the owner simply said, "ahh, my son brings home all this new, awful music that I get forced to listen to..." (New music?! The Man in Black has been dead for years at this point!). Needless to say, the 'experience' and not the wine was the only thing worth writing about. I ended up buying a bottle just to avoid having an awkward conversation about how much we owed for the tasting. But at the end of the day, it was totally worth it. 
Not recommended.
When traveling, it's times like this, when you remember that the vineyard at the end of the dusty dirt road can be so much more rewarding than the corporate one with their well polished wines.


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