Well, we're back in Nelson, 16 days after departing on our Great Southern Circuit. Those two weeks absolutely flew by, and we had a really amazing time, and fantastic weather everywhere except the West Coast. I can't believe how much we saw and how many cool people we met in such a short time, and how lucky we were to have Magic tote us around for free while we wrote and photographed on their behalf. I can safely say that we're both incredibly grateful for the opportunity, and extremely happy with our Magic Experience. I'm pleased that we were able to do our southern explorations by mass transit as well, to lessen our carbon footprint; it was also very nice to have someone else do the driving! I think I'm also a big fan of touring around in the off-season, as the buses weren't full, and only having 15 passengers made for a much cozier experience than if every seat was full.
It was freezing cold when we pulled into Kaikoura on Wednesday evening, but we awoke on Thursday to a beautifully warm day, and after nearly two weeks of chilly temperatures, it felt totally exotic to put away the fleeces and scarves, and walk around in just one layer of long sleeves. Because we had spent a good long weekend in Kaikoura a month previously, and Magic's timetables required at least a two-night stay before heading north, we decided to abandon Magic for one short leg of our journey, and caught an Intercity coach (for $16 apiece) to Picton on Thursday morning. We hadn't spent more than an hour in Picton before, and decided our time would be better spent there than in Kaikoura, and we were pretty pleased with our decision. I missed Magic Scott's commentary as we drove up the coast, but as this was a section of our circuit we had already explored thoroughly, it made the most sense that this was where we took Intercity. It was a lovely day and we had great views of the coastline and the seal colonies, and after a brief stop in Blenheim we pulled into Picton at about 12:30. It was warm and sunny, barely a cloud in the sky, and the town was relatively quiet on this fall day.
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
Our backpackers in Picton, Sequoia Lodge, was far and away my favorite hostel of all the ones we've stayed in in New Zealand. And we have stayed in some awesome backpackers here, so that's saying something! Cozy but airy, painted with bright colors and decorated with houseplants and Far Side cartoons, and complete with a massive (though not quite life-sized) chess board and hammocks, this was the place to be. The log fire at night and the free homemade hot chocolate pudding and ice cream was just the icing on the cake.
After checking into Sequoia Lodge, we wandered around Picton for most of the afternoon, poking about in shops, admiring the beautiful waterfront and ogling sailboats, and feeling pretty blissed out, having seen so much in the previous weeks and looking forward to heading home in just a few days, and soaking up the unparalleled New Zealand sun. We also got our last New Zealand passionfruit ice creams, which hadn't been particularly appealing in our previous chilly destinations.
Passionfruit and vanilla (arguably the second best flavor in NZ- it tastes nothing like American vanilla ice cream!)
We got to have a nice leisurely morning yesterday, and then got a free lift from the hostel folks to the ferry terminal, where we reconnected with Magic Scott for the final leg back over the ranges to Nelson. It was really interesting riding a tour bus over a stretch of road we've gotten to know very well, and we got a definite feeling of being back on our turf again. We made one stop at Pelorus Bridge, and Matt and I took a quick walk down to a cool swing bridge over the Pelorus River.
Note the shadow of the bridge with us standing on it.
We pulled into Nelson around 3 PM, and immediately got stuck into all the errands that needed doing, to allow ourselves to focus on packing and blogging today. It felt pretty nice to be back in Nelson, and then Nickola picked us up from town and our old room was waiting for us, now complete with the driftwood headboard that Matt built for Nickola (see his blog for a photo). It's good to see Nickola and Jamie and Tom again one last time, and last night we had a "Leaving Do" at the Free House with several of our former workmates from Kathmandu, as well as some other friends we've gotten to know here. All and all, it's been an excellent feeling of coming full circle, and now, suddenly, we're down to our final few days in New Zealand. It's an odd, bittersweet mix of sadness at leaving and utter excitement to get home, but that will have to be another post entirely.
So we've seen the South Island, with many thanks to Magic for the opportunity and the awesome experience we had, and now we're headed north!