Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mussel Inn

The Nelson area is known as the craft brewing capital of New Zealand, dating back to the first settlement of the area in the 1840s when it was colonised by German settlers. They found it an ideal location to grow hops, and Nelson remains the principal hop-growing region of New Zealand. There are a dozen local breweries, some producing beer which is available throughout New Zealand and beyond, like Stokes, whilst others are micro-breweries selling beer only available at their pub. Many of these brewers brought their product to Beervana, which I went to in August.

After picking up a hire car at the airport, we first headed back into Nelson to the Founder’s Park, which contains many old buildings and is also the site of the Founder’s Brewery. It shows a somewhat idealised picture of the life in old New Zealand – although the equipment in the dentist’s surgery gave a grisly reminder that all was not sweetness and light in the good ol’ days.

After that we decided to head up to The Mussel Inn at Onekaka in Golden Bay, on the advice of a former colleague and (current) beer fan. This was a bit of a drive away, via the scenic State Highway 60. We stopped along the way at various lookouts to admire the scenery.

Snow-covered mountains

We stopped to admire some geology

Classic tui-in-a-tree pose

We reached The Mussel Inn in time to have some lunch there, and to down a pint or two of Captain Cooker, one of their own beers brewed on the premises.

At the Mussel Inn

We made a plan to drive back via a couple of breweries, but were somewhat thwarted in our quest as it was getting late on a Sunday afternoon, and they were either closed on Sundays, or closed by the time we got to them. We took the car back to the rental place and checked in for our flight back to Wellington.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Abel Tasman National Park

The following morning we were up with the lark, to catch a bus at 7:30 from a stop about 10 minutes away from our hotel. We were heading out for a day in the Abel Tasman National Park, which is found around the top of the South Island, across the Tasman Bay from Nelson. We were driven for around an hour to get to Kaiteriteri, where we boarded a boat. The boat took us to Bark Bay, making a few stops on the way as our captain took us to Split Apple Rock and some other bays on the way.

We waded ashore at Bark Bay, then, after a quick rest to dry and reshoe ourselves, we set off onto the Abel Tasman walkway, which runs along the coast of the park. We thought that we’d have a nice, tranquil stroll through the park, away from the hustle and bustle of the city…wrong! It was the day of the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic, a 36k run which started at 9:30 that morning from Totaranui. Every minute or so we were passed by a runners either singly or in groups.

The local wildlife wasn't what we expected

At one point we were able to fork off from the main track and go out to a spur, where it was a bit quieter. A fantail decided to join us and hung around long enough to be photographed.

Eventually the last of the runners passed us, and we had a more peaceful time of it from then on. We crossed the swing bridge, followed by quite a steep ascent; and passed a sign to Sandfly Bay, which we decided not to visit…because it’s probably full of sandflies, and they give you a bite that itches like hell. We finally made it back to Torrent Bay. Whilst this is where we were eventually supposed to be picked up, we were in fact only halfway there, as there was still the small matter of following the track around to The Anchorage, which took us quite a way inland before we were able to cross the river which runs into the bay. We decided to stop for lunch at this point, and found a picnic table in amongst the campsite. Then we cracked on, taking a short detour to Cleopatra’s Pool, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as it was inaccessible due to the heavy rains of the previous weeks, which made the crossing to the pool impassable.

We got round to our final pick-up point with time to spare, and idled about in the sun, watched by a pair of red-billed gulls and a pair of oystercatchers.

We then did our journey in reverse, getting back to our hotel in plenty of time to get ready to go out to The Boatshed; having acquired a righteous hunger from the day’s walking, we dined on whitebait and crayfish, and mushroom bruschetta and roast duck, all washed down with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Monday, September 24, 2012


We took Friday off and flew to Nelson in the afternoon. This was my first visit to the South Island, after living in New Zealand for over 2 years. This is not so bad as it seems – I managed to live my entire life in the UK without ever visiting Wales, for example. Nelson is in fact almost due west from Wellington, and the flight is only half an hour (depending on wind conditions). Nelson is known as the geographical centre of New Zealand, and also the sunniest place in the country.

We landed around 3:30 and hopped into a cab to our accommodation – a motor lodge on Rutherford Street (Ernest Rutherford is arguably Nelson’s most famous son, and there are many places named after him in the town). We took a short walk into town to get our bearings, and found the i-site to gather leaflets for the weekend’s entertainments (largely unnecessary, as we’d pre-booked most of it already).

In the evening we headed out to Hopgood’s Restaurant & Bar in the centre of Nelson, where I had scallops followed by pork belly, and salmon followed by gnocchi; all very well cooked and presented, and very, very tasty. The puddings were good as well – chocolate mousse and rhubarb cheesecake. Then we headed back to our room as we had an early start in the morning.

Monday, September 17, 2012

All Blacks

What was once called the Tri-Nations tournament has now evolved into a competition currently called The Championship, with Argentina being admitted to the Southern hemisphere’s rugby competition for the first time this year. Argentina have distinguished themselves as contenders in the last two Rugby World Cups, coming 3rd in 2007 by beating France, and going out in the quarterfinals against New Zealand last year.

We scored tickets for the game early on, and headed down to watch them at the Westpac on what promised to be an evening of challenging weather conditions. The wind was blowing and more rain was promised. Fortunately we’d got tickets well up in the back of the stand, so should be away from the worst effects of the weather – although when the wind is driving the rain in horizontally, nowhere is safe. We were fortunate to be on the lee side of the stadium.

The first half was a bit of a mess. The All Blacks hadn’t scored any tries, and were lucky to be ahead by 6-5. The game wasn’t flowing and the ref was stopping the game constantly, in conditions which caused a lot of ball handling errors. Not a classic match by any stretch of the imagination.

Line-out action

When weather goes bad

As the teams came out for the second half…the lights went out. A momentary powercut in Wellington, but the floodlights have to be allowed to cool down completely before they can be restarted, which led to a 20 minute delay before the second half could begin.

The lights went out (the last fuse blew)

The second half didn’t really come alive until substitutions were made, and Piri Weepu and Liam Messam were able to inject a change of pace. Then the Pumas went down to 14 men after a sin-binning for a deliberate knock-down, preventing what looked like a certain try for Cory Jane. In the final 15 minutes there were two tries scored by Jane and Savea, and the scoreline finished a more respectable 21-5. 

McCaw rallies the troops