This country is so pretty. Oh my God I need to lie down. Oh that’s bloody majestic. I feel dizzy. Everything is so green, isn’t this lovely. I need to lie down.
This was pretty much my internal monologue whilst driving to my friend’s family home just outside of Nelson. I promised I would visit her over the summer, booked a flight and then a flu arrived with superb timing.
The couple of days before my flight, I could barely make it out of bed. A journey to my next door neighbour dairy to buy some orange juice was hard enough. At one point I thought I would have to stay home, but I couldn’t stand the thought and also didn’t want to waste a plane ticket. So the day of my flight I managed to get myself to the airport and boarded the plane.
I just about managed to admire the view from the window for a few seconds before napping in my seat.
N greeted me at the airport and asked what I wanted to do. I had warned her earlier that I was feeling pretty ill.
“Sleep,” was all I could reply. I groggily took in the view of the surrounding mountains. Queue the inner monologue.
Her family’s home was absolutely lovely, it was up a hill and had an unbelievable view of the surrounding countryside. It made our old apartment, with its lack of opening windows and industrial pipes, seem dismal. As N got with some work, I blissfully collapsed in to a bed, somewhat rueful of not making more of the day but my body wouldn’t let me do anything else.
Later in the afternoon I read in the garden, I was surrounded by green and slowly breathing in the fresh summer air. This little trip was going to be good for me, I could tell.
The next day I went into Nelson, having spent so many hours in the past few days horizontal, it definitely was time to get vertical again.
Though I didn’t quite anticipate how vertical I would get. Whilst wombling through Nelson town centre, I decided to walk to the Centre of New Zealand. I know this sounds dramatic but it was only a short walk away from the town. I walked along the river, listening to Pocahontas ‘Just around the river bend’ and surprisingly feeling pretty dandy.
The walk to the Centre of New Zealand followed a winding uphill, nothing too strenuous, but for a person who had been bedridden for the best part of three days, it took a while. Once I reached the top, I didn’t know where to look first. The marbled green forests cascading down the hills, the mountains in the distance, the town of Nelson sprawled out down below, or the blue of the ocean with the tips of the waves frosted with clouds.
A tall needle was there, too, pointing to the central spot. It was declared in a concrete sign beneath my feet, and feeling slightly childish, I put on a foot on it – as if it made it extra official that I was at the centre of the country. Standing at that needle, I had a moment, similar to one I had on a hill in Coromandel, of sheer contentment and pride of making it out here. Proud and grateful that I get to call this country home. No matter how many times this feeling hits, it always knocks me out a little bit.
This moment lasted a blissful day exploring Abel Tasman National Park. Baffling hours, painted in rich green and blues, stretches of golden sands and dotted with dozens of orange and yellow kayaks, spent wondering how on earth is this place real?
This little country, hidden away from the rest of the world and I get to explore it. Not only that but live here, too. Well, sadly not live in Abel Tasman, but you know what I mean.
N and I walked along the Coast Track, catching up whilst sharing comfortable silence and the sunshine. We headed down to one of the bays and neither of us could resist getting into the water. Despite it looking incredibly tropical, the water itself was skin tingling cold. I swam, ignoring the thought of this was not a good thing to do whilst recovering from a flu. I lay on my back, looking up at the blue of the sky, the sound of the ocean in my ear and the warmth of the sun on my face. It was another moment, this time simple bliss, and I was just so happy to be here.
I could not have asked for a better day to explore Abel Tasman. The sky was a perfect, postcard blue. I was especially grateful as the summer in New Zealand that year had born more resemblance to a British one, with plenty of days shaded with grey. The next day when N and I went to Nelson Lake National Parks, the grey clouds rolled back in. Still recovering from flu, and having been so vertical the past couple of days, I had to nap when we arrived to her grandmother’s summer lake house. (Or batch as it’s called here.)
I blearily woke up and as N got on with some work, I strolled down to the lake and spent a peaceful hour by the side of it. I was pleased to see the sky had somewhat cleared up. At one point I saw the Kiwi Experience bus park up; I thought back on my time with it on the North Island and ahead to what my time would be like it on the South Island, when a friend from home would visit in a couple of month’s time. I wondered whether either of would jump in the lake with eels. Mostly, I just sat, watched the water and the mountains. Once again, happy to be here.
N drove us up Mt Robert, so I could see more of the lakes. The sky was now a dense led, with only a smudge of blue in the distance. As N drove, she told me stories from her childhood and how it fitted in with the landscape. It was strange to think these beautiful National Parks were her equivalent to my Yorkshire countryside.
Still, even though I didn’t grow up in this country, I still had a small claim in calling it home. My moments of gratitude from the weekend rippled with the lake and the wind. I was happy. Just happy to be here.