After our short pit stop in Hokitika, we were back on the road to finish our South Island road trip to the city of Nelson. Nelson is the 4th largest city on South Island, and is a gateway to Marlborough Wine Country, Able Tasman National Park, and Marlborough Sounds. Along the way, we drove right up the rest of the west coast and made a stop at Paparoa National Park. Its home to the Pancake Rocks, a group of limestone and mudstone boulders at the edge of the coast and they resemble your breakfast of champions. They kind of reminded us of the Twelve Apostles in Australia, another natural spectacle created over a million years ago. We walked the coastal route and gathered more memorable photos here.
We rarely go out to eat, so this was a treat for us. Rick and I had a glass of wine, the kids were rather well behaved and we enjoyed a delicious meal. We got the kids ice cream for dessert and Mila started to throw her terrible 2s tantrum. We thought it’d be a good idea to grab to-go boxes and the bill but this very kind younger gentlemen came over and asked if he could buy Mila another sweet dish. We agreed and it seemed to calm her down a bit. It allowed Rick & I to finish our meal. We struck up a conversation with these 3 young fellows, he was getting married in 2 weeks back in native India to his childhood sweetheart. You could tell he was glowing when he talked about her. As we said our goodbyes and asked for the check, the manager came out and said the check was being paid for by these guys. What? Are you kidding me? We tried to politely decline but the gentlemen said it was his pleasure to talk with us and share stories. It was such a kind gesture and really put us in good spirits to know how much gratitude there is in this World.
The day next bought rain showers and catch up on laundry. We notified the owner of the issues and had to make a decision whether we were going to suck it up and stay in these conditions for 4 more nights or find another place. One thing about New Zealand, it is expensive. Outside of Switzerland, it is the most expensive place we’ve visited. Hotels easily run in excess of $200/night and most AIRBnbs hover around $100/night so our budget has been tested during our time here. Finding new accommodations at the last minute were going to be a challenge. Rick found a place available for 3 nights in the nearby town of Richmond. We decided it was best to move on. Since we had to suck it up and stay one additional night, and the weather was still rainy, Rick and I got the kids to bed early and completed our first 1000 piece puzzle. It was such a fun experience for us, putting our phones away and working on the puzzle together. It took us well into the night, we stopped at 2am then got up at 7 and finished it around 10.
Travel can test your will from time to time. Here we are, tired, exhausted, completely off balance with our food arrangements and we’re on the move again. We’ve relocated ourselves 4 times in the last 6 days. Fortunately, our kids are amazing, they just seem to go with the flow and get excited about the thought of a new house. We packed up and moved on to our new accommodations in the town of Richmond. The owner refunded us the unused nights as well as the cleaning fee. We arrived around noon and felt more at ease with the new place. We were all starving and luckily there was a farm to table restaurant right across the street from our house. We walked over and sat at an outdoor picnic table to eat. The kids fell in love with the cafe, it had rabbits and a playground. The waitress brought a bunch of food for them to feed the rabbits, they were loving every second of it. Rick and I ordered and had a perfect meal to take our minds off the last 2 days; roasted pork and veggies and feta beet salad. We even splurged with homemade chocolate kaluaha & carrot cake for dessert.
Our original plan for this region was to explore the coastal Able Tasman National Park. There are a ton of coastal hikes, an inland waterfall and some of New Zealand’s best beaches. With our eyes still red from the last few days, we decided it was best to just relax. With the weather perfect, 84 & sunny, we found a beach spot just 30 minutes from our place. There was a huge playground and perfect little spot of the golden sand for us to soak up some sun and let the kids play. We relaxed and reset our minds.
Our last day on the South Island was very pleasant, relaxing and fun. After good workout, we walked over to the Grape Escape Cafe where Leo and Mila were able to play and feed the rabbits again. From there, we walked over to a nearby organic winery - Richmond Pine Wines (located only 200 meters from our house). It was probably one of the best wine tasting we’ve ever had. Not only the wine was excellent but the lady serving us - Angela, was a joy to chat with. She was originally from Milan, Italy and a little over ten years ago, along with her husband, they took a gap year and moved to New Zealand (sounds very familiar - minus the kids). They absolutely fell in love with the land, culture, weather and landscape of this magical country. She said something very interesting - they made a goal to be self-sufficient and created a farm. They own cows, sheep, chickens, olive trees, fruits and veggies. They do not buy anything from the grocery store but rather make it themselves. If they are in need for a particular produce that they do not have, they simply trade with the local community. For example: she traded tomatoes for eggs, homemade cheese for fish, etc. You could sense the happiness beaming from her…although she misses her family and friends in Europe, she loves living in New Zealand. I just love encountering positive and happy people…she was just beaming with life in Kiwiland. It was so refreshing to talk to her and get a different perspective on life. It was a definitely memorable meeting…maybe our house in Nelson was a disappointment but the people we’ve met in this region have been amazing to us. Life is all about peaks and valleys - yes having a moldy house was not pleasant and brought us down a bit, however, receiving genuine gestures from complete strangers was a breath of fresh air and a nice reminder to always look at the bright side.
It was time to say an official goodbye to the South Island…after amazing 4 weeks spent on exploring this part of New Zealand, we were ready to see what the North has to offer. We left Nelson around 9:30 am and drove about two hours to the port city - Picton. We hopped on the ferry along with our car and took the three hour ride to the capitol of New Zealand, Wellington. Overall, it was a fairly smooth trip. The ferry had 8 floors and one of them was designated for kids - playground, movie theater, etc. They also had a magician on board who put on a one hour show for the kids. When we arrived in Wellington the temperature dropped drastically and it drizzled a bit. Our AirBnb rental was located 90 minutes from Wellington, in a little town called Levin. We arrived there pretty late, around 8:30pm. We were greeted by lovely hosts, Mike and Colleen, who showed us our new house and the surroundings. The property is pretty big, little over one acer so plenty of room for Leo and Mila to run around.
The next day we decided to take the kids to probably the biggest playground we have ever seen. It was located right in town and of course both Leo and Mila loved it there. It was more challenging for us because we had to constantly keep an eye on them, trying to track them down. On the way home we stopped by a local blueberry farm called NoHo. We saw a sign that said PYO (pick your own) and wanted to give a try. Here is what I love about it the most…prior to that Leo never liked blueberries, however, since he got to pick them on his own, he is now loving blueberries! Allowing your kids to be part of the experience opens them up to a new world, and in this case, blueberries! We finished this mini adventure with some delicious homemade blueberry and wild berry ice cream; simply amazing! So far on this trip we were able to pick our own strawberries (Germany), lemons (Australia), cherries (New Zealand) and blueberries (New Zealand). We have stayed on many farms and totally love the idea behind it. I don’t think that we will ever have a big farm but we both admit, that once we settle down somewhere, we want to have a property big enough to have chicken, rabbits, fruit and veggie garden. Both Leo and Mila enjoy helping out and I love the idea of having your own grown produce. My father-in-law is a master gardener and his homemade salsas, relishes, and canned tomatoes are the best! Maybe he’ll help us get it started one day (hint - hint).
Without a doubt this week has been tiring, we drove a crazy amount of kilometers, moved what seemed like every other day, and took a 3 hour ferry ride to the North Island. Packing, unpacking, taking care of the kids, preparing meals and managing our life on the road is slowly effecting our energy levels. Also, New Zealand is experiencing a bit of a heat wave, its been crazy hot and staying in homes without AC adds to your fatigue. The kids have had a really difficult time sleeping, it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 and they just seem to kick up an extra level of energy in the evenings. Looking back at the last month, all the hikes, car rides and physical activities, we kind of need to hit the reset button and finish our World journey strong. The thing is, the less you do the more lazy you become. During the days when we have everything planned from morning to the evening, we are super prepared and organized. When we come home and lay down in bed, we are tired but feel a sense of accomplishment. And of course the lazy days make you feel blah. Tomorrow we have another road trip ahead of us to New Plymouth. We are so ready to shake off the tiredness and continue to explore this amazing country. Our future has also moved to the front of our minds. What’s next for us? When you’re on the road for long stretches, it is front and center of our conversations. For the first time in our life, we are ready to “settle down”.
This trip has always been about living our dream, experiencing our World, raising our kids, and building a new network of relationships. This past week, we’ve had some more amazing encounters with people - complete strangers, who reached out their hand to help us or encourage us when we felt exhausted. Sometimes slowing down your World and taking time to appreciate the people in your life is the greatest cure of all. I remember watching a YouTube video, a complete stranger playing his violin in the Washington DC metro during rush hour. Here he was making beautiful music, yet nobody stopped to appreciate. In fact, the only ones who stopped were little kids, until their parents rushed on to get to work. The musician happened to be Joshua Bell, one of the best on the planet who charges $200 ticket to go to his show. In a World that demands you to move faster and work harder, sometimes taking a step back to appreciate it all is the best cure of all.