Dealing with a nineteen hour time difference (and not having had much sleep on the airplane) we crashed early last night (kids by 5:30, Mike and I by 7:00) and were up before the sun this morning, ready for our first full day in New Zealand. This gave us plenty of time to eat breakfast, relax, plan our day, and even take a quick walk into town to get a view of Nelson at dawn.
Our first stop was the house across the street, the home of Jane Evans, the local artist who owns the cottage we are staying in. Jane invites her guests to come and see her studio and learn more about her artwork. We were excited to go and meet her, especially after we found her biography written (a whole book, not just a few paragraphs!) on our coffee table. In the biography there is one vignette about how, as a young girl, Jane stood up for friends when she felt were being unfairly treated by the teacher. I felt Shannon really needed to meet this woman! Jane's studio was filled with color - tubes of watercolor and oil paints, oil crayons that looked like pastels, even pallets of dried paints that some guests have asked to purchase from her. While the canvas in the studio this morning was blank, we did learn about several of her most famous paintings and what the inspiration had been.
After our bit of culture, we headed towards the Marlborough Sounds. We were getting a later than anticipated start due to our visit with Jane, and decided to go to the first town, Havelock, so as not to spend too much time in the car. The guide books described Havelock as a "small fishing village" famous for its green lip mussels. I had understood that we would be able to rent kayaks or take a water taxi from Havelock further into the Sounds, thus fulfilling our desire to see the sounds and appease the kids' request for a visit to the beach. Arriving in Havelock we soon decided that "small" here is even smaller than we thought. The village was a couple of block area with a few cafes serving mussels and other New Zealand fare. The man at the visitor's center suggested we drive a little further along to Anakiwa, where we would find a sandy beach as well as the entrance to the Queen Charlotte Track, one of the more famous hiking trails on the South Island.
Ignoring the guidebook's warning about the narrow winding road (remember, they drive on the left here and small windy roads can be a little hairy for us foreigners!), we were quickly rewarded by a spectacular view of the Marlborough Sounds. The guidebook was right on this one, beautiful waters surrounded by what look like miniature mountains. Evidently the Sounds were formed when valleys were drowned by the ocean, and the result is amazing.
Arriving in Anakiwa, we found the beach but again had to recalibrate our expectations - the "sandy beach" was less than twenty feet long and about two feet wide. A little bit of sand mixed in with a lot of shells and rock - not quite the sand and surf the kids had envisioned. In addition, we then learned that Cameron has quite a fear of bugs, flies and particularly bees. There were a few of these small flying creatures around and it took quite a bit of coaxing to get Cameron out of the car.
Luckily, the man at the information center had been right about the trail head for the Queen Charlotte Track. Most trampers (hikers) get dropped off by water taxi at the far end and then hike back to Anakiwa, a three day trek in which they camp along the way. Much to our kid's relief, we were not planning to walk the entire track, but only the final two miles.
Once we were able to get everyone out of the car and on the path, we enjoyed a beautiful shaded walk, complete with native fauna and regular views of the Sounds. We walked for about 45 minutes to Davies Bay, a camping spot along the Queen Charlotte Track. I had once again held out hope that the kids might swim at the Bay - and there was, after all, a beach. Shannon changed into her suit and charged in, but alas she had to wade a long way out to get the water up to her shins - not ideal for "swimming. When she noticed a dinner plate sized jellyfish in the water, we decided it was probably time to come in and look for shells. (We found out later that the jellyfish are actually harmless, but better safe than sorry!).
While we didn't quite find that elusive beach, the day was a success. We met an artist and learned about her work, visited the green lipped mussel capital of the world, saw spectacular views of the Marlborough Sounds, and took a nice walk along the Queen Charlotte Track. And despite Cameron's worst fears, other than a few mosquito bites on yours truly, we seem to have avoided any damage from bugs and bees.