Distressingly, we wake to find that we are still in a car, in a field, in the cold, surrounded by mist, using towels as blankets, and with only some 3-day-old bread and a slightly sad looking carrot for breakfast. On the plus side, we’re already in the car. And there’s a text from my Aunt Josie so say the Lindauer is already chilling in the fridge. To Nelson!
Oh, wait, Mum can’t find her keys. She rummages around on the floor under her seat looking for them. “Oh, I’ve found your passport,” she says. “OHMYGODREALLY?” I squeal. “No, not really.” Mum finds her little joke inordinately funny.
En route, we stop to take a look at a gorge that featured in Lord of the Rings, or The Hobbit, or something. I step out of the car and am immediately stung by a bee. TENNYSON WAS RIGHT NATURE IS OVERRATED WE SHOULD TEAR IT ALL DOWN AND BUILD A FECKING STRIP MALL OR SOMETHING AND oh wow that is actually a pretty impressive gorge. Never mind.
By the time we arrive in Nelson, the weather is glorious and Mum is muttering feverishly about locating a “proper” milkshake. I don’t know what that means, but we duly buy an overpriced shake from a grumpy man in a milkshake bar recommended by the Lonely Planet. Mum is irate because it does not contain creaming soda (?) and thus is not a “proper” milkshake at all. Also, it is not very nice. “Throw it away then!” snaps Mum. “There’s no point in making yourself fat for nothing!”
I bank that gem to discuss with my future psychiatrist.
Milkshake disposed of, we do some exploring. I like Nelson. Everything smells faintly of incense, there’s a pretty cathedral in the middle, and while we’re ambling along we see a waitress bring free coffee to an old man playing a piano in the street. Nawww. So buoyant is my mood, in fact, that I buy a much-needed pair of trainers without any of the usual resentment I reserve for shoes that provide zero elevation above sea level.
We press on to Saltwater Baths, where Josie and Adam are parked up in their trusty bus. Cue much catching up in the sunshine (and late into the night), much, much Lindauer, and much joy over the prospect of sleeping on a sofa in the bus, as opposed to a seat in the car.
We all move on to a very beautiful spot in Riwaka, on a hill, by a stream, surrounded by forests. The nearby Riwaka Resurgence is even lovelier: perfectly clear blue-green pools of icy mountain water surrounded by caves and rainforest, in little arrangements that seem too perfect to be real. Everywhere you go in NZ, you expect someone to shout “CUT!!!” at any moment. It’s uncanny.
In one of the pools, two extremely intense hipsters are practising some form of slow-motion, underwater yoga. It’s fascinating to watch, but they are clearly fecking mental. It takes every fibre of my self-control not to creep over to the edge and wreck the moment with a Gollum impression. Or shout “CUT!!!”
Mum and I head to the beach in Kaiteriteri. It is perfect. After plenty of swimming and accidental sunburning, we pop into a café so that I can reluctantly do some work and less reluctantly have a glass of wine. We’re sitting on a sofa, which means that the waiter, who is very tall, has to go down on bended knee to pass Mum her coffee. I respond by clapping my hands and saying, “Say yes! Say yes!” which we find hilarious, but causes the boy to turn bright red and flee. Oops.
Back to Riwaka, where thanks to our far better-equipped family members we now have a TENT. And SLEEPING BAGS. Hurrah!
I decide I quite like this whole camping malarkey. I also quite like cleaning my teeth and washing my hair in the river. Who needs passports anyway? What an artificial and arrogantly human concept. I shall live right here, by this stream. Adam has taught me to crack open walnuts using only my palms, so I’m basically Bear Grylls. There is definitely no flaw in this plan.
We go for a hike along the very, very beautiful coastal track in Abel Tasman National Park. By “hike”, of course, I mean a leisurely stroll with regular stops to either swim in the sea or get over-excited about baby wekas. SO FLUFFY. Ahem.
Next stop: Motueka. This involves driving over what Josie calls a “big hill”. Or, what I would probably describe as a “mountain”. It’s a cute town, but it takes rather longer than anticipated to get there, on account of, you know, the mountain. By the time we do, it’s overcast and most things are shut. We park the golden chariot, wander around in circles for a bit and end up in a café. “Is that our car over there?” I ask, while we sit. “Yeah, I think so,” says Mum. “Okay, it’s just that –“ “OH SHIT I’VE LEFT THE LIGHTS ON AGAIN!” she screams, and runs off to check we aren’t stranded. Oh dear.
The battery is not flat. To celebrate, we buy more Lindauer from the supermarket. Or rather Mum buys it, while I lurk outside like a naughty teenager, because I no longer own any ID.