South Island

Our son flew into Auckland this past Saturday, so John and I hopped a flight from Keri Keri to meet up with Carrie and Mike and fly to Nelson on the South Island. Nelson is Carrie’s favorite city because it’s big enough to have a New World grocery store and yet small enough to still have a walkable downtown. The city has a nice laidback feel. If you drive in one direction from Nelson, you can walk the Abel Tasman Track and head to Golden Bay. In the opposite direction is the Marlborough Sounds, wine country, and the Queen Charlotte Track.

We reasoned Mike would be exhausted from his flight from DC, so we found an AirBnB outside of Nelson for our first night together. We loaded up on snacks at the grocery store, and ordered burgers from Burger Culture. Besides being quick, Burger Culture bakes all its own buns, has homemade condiments, and an extensive menu of out-of-the-ordinary burgers. The wings are pretty good too. A comfort meal after a long day of travel.

The past few days have not been writing days, but Rudzinski-family days. Each day we biked, hiked, kayaked and/or whale/seal-watched, cooked meals together, played cards, and collapsed in the evening listening to music. I sleep through the night from happy exhaustion.

View of the mountains near Kaikoura

Our first full day in Picton, we planned to take a half-day dolphin tour out into the Queen Charlotte Sound, but the weather was rainy and foggy. The tour company offered a shorter trip that basically included a two hour boat ride, drinking wine and eating mussels, all for the same price. We decided hiking in the heavy rain to the lookout point on the Snout would be more entertaining. Despite getting soaked and muddy, we spent the three hours laughing, joking and telling stories. And the views from the observation point were better than from a boat in one the coves. The hot shower back at the rental made the day.

We kayaked the following day out into the sound, and the weather started off sunny and breezy. After 3 1/2 hours of paddling we reached Mistletoe Bay, a campsite area in another cove. We devoured our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bought hot coffee and tea from the little camp store. Heading back, the wind had picked up, changing not in our favor. In the morning, the water had been glass, but now we were batting significant waves. The late afternoon temps were dropping. By the time we beached the kayaks, our arms and hands ached and were stiff from the cold and wind. We declared the day a success, in that no one capsized and we all came back alive, and ordered a pizza.

Each day has been better than the day before, which is such wondrous thing in life. The past two days we have been in Kaikoura (in Maori it means “eat crayfish”), which just may be my favorite place in New Zealand. Snow- capped mountains rise behind us with the ocean stretching in front of us. In 2016, Kaikoura was the epicenter of an 7.8 earthquake, strong enough to shift the continental shelf and deepen the ocean gorge off the coast. The beauty of this coastal town remains untouched. The true highlight of our day was spotting a male sperm whale and watching it breach, spray, and finally dive, fanning its enormous tail goodbye.

Today we are heading back towards Nelson, stopping in Havelock at The Mussel Pot restaurant. Mike and John demanded a second visit to this little cafe- amazing food, great beer selection, and a friendly staff. The kids have another hike planned for our break from the car ride, and rain is not predicted. No doubt, another good day.

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