Saturday, January 15, 2011

Navigating Nelson (by Foot)

Let's start things off on a high note: I now once again have a working camera. I downloaded some photo recovery software and managed to salvage almost all of the photos off my corrupted SD card (yes! The Mines of Millerton live on!). After several unsuccessful attempts to reformat the card using both my camera and my laptop, I declared it legally dead, and resigned myself to buying a new one when I went into town today.

The Bug Backpackers is located on Vanguard St, and is about a 15-minute walk from downtown Nelson. I headed out around 10am, and by 10:20am I was smack in the middle of Nelson's Saturday Market, which is situated in the Montgomery Carpark. It was a lively place, with loads of local crafts (everything from gourmet soap, shaped to look like cupcakes, tarts, and blocks of fudge, to handmade wooden toys and aeroplanes made out of pop bottles) and produce; I saw blueberries, honey, bbq sauce, and vegetables galore. I bought a bar of soap from Global Soap and a bottle of Pete's Natural Lemonade (made in Wakefield, just outside of Nelson) to sip on while I walked around the stalls. I bought peppers, a cucumber, tomatoes, and two cobs of corn from several different farm stands; I love being able to purchase vegetables directly from the farmer, as the food has likely traveled the least distance from the farm field to my plate, and most of the profits stay with the farmer, instead of being divvied up between the farmer, the transporter, and the supermarket.

I wandered down the street (taking in a string quartet playing "It's a Raggy Waltz" - I gave them $2) and into the Dick Smith electronics store, where I purchased another SD card for my camera. I then walked up Trafalgar Street to the Nelson Cathedral, and tested my camera by taking a picture of the beautiful structure, whose foundation stone was laid in 1925, the nave built from marble in 1932, and completed in concrete and consecrated in 1972. However, the cathedral sits on the site of a former Maori pa known as Pikimai, and the first act of Christian worship was conducted in 1842, with the first Parish church opened in 1851. The most fascinating aspect of the cathedral (for me) was the organ, whose pipes are placed on a free-standing carved wooden stand that one walks under to access the west nave of the church.

Leaving the cathedral, I walked down Nile Street to the Nelson School of Music (sadly, closed for summer holidays, so I couldn't visit), and then over to Hardy Street and down to the Botanics Reserve, a park with a large green that hosted the first rugby game in New Zealand on May 4th, 1870, between the Nelson club team and Nelson College. Up atop Botanical Hill is The Centre of New Zealand, a geodetic triangulation point set in 1870 by John Spence Browning, the chief surveyor for Nelson, in order to connect the previous independent surveys of New Zealand performed by previous surveyors. The name is a bit of false advertising; while the Centre of New Zealand was indeed the centre for surveying purposes, the actual Centre of New Zealand, as determined by the Department of Science and Industrial Research in 1962, is 41.deg 30min S., 172.deg 50minE., a point in the Spooners Range in the Golden Downs Forest.

Another bit of false advertising: the sign marking the "Centre of New Zealand" path says it is a fifteen-minute walk to the summit of Botanical Hill; sure, if you run the whole way! I'm not exactly out of shape, but it took me twenty minutes of well-paced, determined walking up the steep gravel path to ascend the hill; for a slow-moving elderly person or a child with short legs, it would be closer to forty-five.

Heading off down the Hill I walked back across the green and followed the Maitai River path back into town, coming out near the iSite Centre. I wandered around looking for the library, but when I found it it was almost 2pm, and the library was open from 10:00am-1:00pm on Saturdays (which I found a little weird; what about kids who need to do homework on the weekend?). Across the street was the Kathmandu, so I went in there instead and bought a fleece shirt (clearance, marked down from $99 to $24), a plastic pack liner, and three freeze-dried meals for my days on the Milford Track. Then I began the long trek back to the hostel, broken only by a brief stop at the New World supermarket to buy bread and more nutella (my love affair with nutella continues...).

Once back at the hostel, I had a late lunch, then worked to sort through the salvaged photos from my damaged SD card (the program just grabbed everything it could off the card, including a bunch of thumbnail "preview" photos and files that were half-written over). I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on a couch in the lounge, working on my knitting, enjoying listening to the voices and conversations around me (many in German, a few in Spanish, and several others in English).

Dinner was rice and the fresh veggies from the market (mom, the corn on the cob was amazingly good), and now it is late and my stomach is happily digesting tasty food and making my eyelids droop. Time for bed... goodnight!


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