14 October 2019

A taste of Japan in Nelson

When Bernie and I entered Miyazu Garden we walked beneath cascades of purple flowering wisteria, draping from an archway of pergolas. Woody vines twisted and twined up and around the pergola's posts and a heavenly, musky fragrance wafted about. 
Spring was definitely in the air!

Nearby, grassy mounds which had been planted in Japanese cherry trees, were now smothered in blossom. With my camera in hand, I made a beeline to them.

There are about 50 cities and towns in New Zealand that have a sister city somewhere around the world. The idea came from the former US President, Dwight Eisenhower. He hoped by developing positive international relationships between people it would lessen the chance of future world conflicts.

Nelson's sister city is Miyazu, which is a city in the north of Kyoto Prefecture on the main island of Honshu (Japan). Miyazu and Nelson share some similar features, such as fishing, tourism, beautiful beaches and a natural beauty. Miyazu has a long sandbar across its bay called the Amanohashidate, which is comparable to Nelson's boulder bank.

43 years ago, Nelson begun its connection with Miyazu. One of many initiatives to celebrate the relationship with Nelson's sister city was creating a serene Japanese style garden. Throughout the garden are New Zealand and Japanese plants growing beside each other, symbolising the harmonising of both cultures. 

Pictured below is a magnificent 30 year old, weathered bonsai named 'Jim's Pine'.

You can't help but get a sense of peace and tranquillity as you follow the little paths branching off in different directions. 

Every year in September, Miyazu Garden hosts the 'Cherry Blossom Festival' where people come to enjoy the blossoming cherry trees and celebrate the relationship that Nelson has with its sister city.

Stepping stones and wooden bridges cross reflective ponds.

Dotted about the garden are places to sit, to soak up the tranquil surroundings.

There's also grassy areas to stretch out and relax, either in the shade or sun. Some folk were enjoying a family picnic, others were lying in the sun and another person I spotted swung from a hammock hanging beneath a tree.
And the best bit of all (for us) ... it's dog friendly.

6 October 2019


Many years ago there was a town in Marlborough known as Beavertown or The Beaver. Nowadays, its known as 'Blenheim'. Back when the settlement was establishing, there were frequent floods and the township was often surrounded by floodwater. The buildings resembled beaver lodges, which led to it being named Beavertown. And I guess that also explains why Blenheim's town mascot is the beaver.

As a result of repeat flooding the Taylor Dam was built. It's the largest flood protection dam in New Zealand. Stop banks near Blenheim township were also made, which has created a large area known as Taylor River Reserve. It's a popular spot for walking, exercising dogs, cycling and jogging - the reserve has a network of paths, which go as far as the Taylor Dam.

The other day, while Bernie was sleeping after a night shift, I got up early and took the dogs for a walk along the Taylor River. First, I stopped to get a sunrise photo of the Wairau River. I was standing on the little one way bridge (Ferry Bridge) in Spring Creek, close to where the bus is parked.

It was good to start the walk early. There were few people about and the temperature felt refreshing.

The Taylor River was named after a New Zealand surveyor, Joesph Taylor.
Beside the path, one of several information boards stated, Taylor Dam was a 10km walk. The dogs would be fine with that distance, providing we took our time and stopped often so they could cool off in the river and have a drink.

Blenheim Riverside heritage railway follows the river from Bradshaw Park into central Blenheim.

After about 3km we left the residential area and the first signs of rabbits appeared. As mentioned before, it was good to be out early as there weren't many people about, however  that meant we were first on the scene to surprise any rabbits. The dogs were delighted and thought they'd arrived in paradise. They darted about with their noses glued to the ground. The funny thing was, they were so busy sniffing and looking downward that they missed seeing four rabbits. I noticed them and was grateful that my buddies didn't.

We carried on, albeit the dogs needed a lot of coaxing as they were fixated on a particular pile of rocks ... certain a rabbit was hiding in there somewhere.
Further along, a sign warned of possible Chilean needle grass ahead. Knowing this invasive weed will begin seeding soon, we turned back. I didn't want to risk it. Boo had some trouble with grass seed a few summers ago (read here). Now, if we know it's in an area, we steer clear of it.

Local school children have written poems about the Taylor River, which have been made into plaques and embedded into boulders along the walkway. What a great idea.

Even though we didn't walk to Taylor Dam, I was still keen to see it (again). So we drove instead. Once you turn into Taylor Dam, on the left is a small area to freedom camp. There are only a couple of camping conditions; you must be self contained and the maximum stay is two nights. Dogs are allowed providing they're on leads.

I took this pic with my car parked in the freedom camping area to show perspective of space.
Behind the dam a small lake has formed. Although it's not suitable for people to swim in, it's the perfect place for bird life. It's become a sanctuary for teal, black swans, pukekos, mallard and paradise ducks and shags.

There were lots of swans with their young ones (cygnets) in tow. A couple of years ago when we visited Taylor Dam, I wrote a blog with information on the dam and a few things I found out about swans. If you'd like to read that, click 'here'.

The stop bank above the lake was draped in blue wildflowers and wild sweet peas that were about to flower. Just imagine the fragrance in a couple of weeks time when those sweet peas are in bloom!

By this stage the dogs looked as though they needed a cool drink and a rest (I know I did). It was time to head back to the bus.

2 October 2019

Much More Than A Gravel Bar.

One of my hobbies is writing my blog. I enjoy sitting down and researching an area I'm about to visit or have recently visited. Sometimes what I take to be an ordinary place can end up being extraordinary.
Take the "Wairau Bar' for example. I headed there to watch people whitebaiting, thinking it wouldn't be much more than a gravel bar running alongside the river.

But how wrong was I. Turns out to have some fascinating history.

The Wairau Bar or Te Pokohiwi is a 19 hectare gravel bar that was formed where the Wairau River meets the sea at Cloudy Bay. It has some of New Zealand's most important archaeological history. The area is the earliest known site for human occupation in New Zealand and was home to the first Polynesian migrants who became known as the Moa Hunters.

In 1939 a school boy, Jim Eyles discovered the site and over time, around 2000 artefacts have been unearthed. These have been radiocarbon dated to around 1300AD. At one time it was a burial site, which has been confirmed by the 44 skeletons that have been found throughout the area. It's believed they were either distributed by a large storm or a tsunami. Not only human remains have been found, but also moa bones and other bird and animal remains suggesting the diet of the people at that time.

Archaeological treasures aren't the only things buried in the area. Beside the gravel road, close to the river mouth, are the partly buried remains of a hull belonging to the ship wreck, SS Kennedy.

The SS Kennedy also has some interesting history.
This steamship was built in Australia for the Queensland River service. Early on in its career it ran into a reef and was sent to Sydney for repairs. It was decided it wasn't suited for the river and was sold to a company in Nelson. Apparently it was a real money maker during the 54 years it sailed the Nelson to Hokitika route, especially in the earlier days when it was packed with gold miners off to seek their fortune. 

The SS Kennedy would leave Nelson with crowded decks, and some prospectors who couldn't get on board would try and jump from the wharf onto the ship. Often falling into the water and then trying to clamber up the sides of the steamer.

Passengers included gold miners from Australia and Californian gold fields, entertainers, traders and ladies of the night, on their way to gold towns such as Charleston or Fox River.
Once a hangman was onboard, with his gallows and ropes stowed below in the hold. 

The hull makes a great place to rest for shags
The SS Kennedys last venture to the West Coast was in 1918, when she came into trouble crossing the Westport Bar. The boilers were short of fuel and she was swept out of the channel. 
The following year a company in Wellington bought the vessel and for 10 years, she sailed from Wellington to Foxton.

In 1929, SS Kennedy was dismantled and the hull was towed to the Wairau River mouth to form a breakwater.

Last week Bernie and I drove to the Wairau Bar and parked near the river mouthIt was windy and chilly but that didn't stop whitebaiters from trying their luck.

One keen fisherman was standing in the water without waders, I'm sure after a few hours he wouldn't be able to feel his legs. Brrrrrrrr.

I spoke to one guy, who said he'd only caught enough for a couple of patties, adding it was hard yakker scooping the net against such a strong current.

As always, the dogs didn't want to miss any action. 
Although the ground was harsh and infertile, that didn't stop these wild flowers from doing what they do best - enhancing the area with their colour and beauty.

30 September 2019

Red In The Morning ...

The other morning the bus had a warm, pinky glow inside, a sure sign there was a sunrise worth getting up for. I couldn't get out of bed quick enough but if I'm honest, knowing I can climb back into bed again makes it easier. When I'm up, watching the sky change colour, I wonder why I don't do this every morning.

Bernie has just bought me a new tripod, so this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

At first the foreground was dark but as the sun rose higher, rows and rows of grape-vines seemed to magically appear.

It wasn't long before the sky changed again and pinky mauve tones emerged.

As was I taking my gumboots off back at the bus, I noticed the nearby tree had a golden glow as the early morning light touched it. For a second, I toyed with the idea of walking further along the river to see what the willows would look like. It was a toss up between the colours of the willows or my warm, snuggly bed. Surprisingly, the willows won!

And, crikey it was worth it. Although it's spring, the trees had the look of autumn.

And, then it was back to the bus, where I received the warmest greeting from my furry-friends. What a great start to the day!

I thought, I'd show you where we're staying and what Damfam Vineyard is like.

How To Get There
From Blenheim drive north towards Picton, turn right at the Spring Creek roundabout. Cross the one way bridge (Ferry Bridge) over the Wairau River and turn right into Wairau Bar Road.
Drive about a kilometre along Wairau Bar Road and you'll see on the right, a hand-written sign, 'Damfam Vineyard'.

Drive over the small gravel rise and follow the road ...

To your left you'll see the vineyard that supplies grapes to Yealands.

Ahead is a gate, which is the entry to the camping paddock.

As you drive through the gate, on your right, is a recycled fridge. It's full of books campers have left for others to enjoy and beside the 'library' is the box to pay for your stay.

And, only metres away is where you can fill up with fresh water.

As you can see, I took these photos after a few days of rain. However, Winston has assured us that despite the rain the ground remains firm - he hasn't had to tow anyone out yet!

Puddle reflections ...

In the distance you can spot our bus....

And a close up photo shows us parked beside the river.

Near the bus is an intriguing tree. I'm guessing it's a fruit tree as it's smothered in blossom...but why does it have plastic bottles hanging from it? I need to find out...

And then there are the sheep. Several protective ewes were busy safeguarding their lambs, ensuring they didn't wander too far or get into any mischief. Some lambs appeared to be timid, staying close to mum, while others were more adventurous and attempted socialising. They didn't always get a friendly welcome, there were a few unfriendly sheep about! However it was great entertainment watching their shenanigans.

Damfam Vineyards is an ideal place to stay if you're about to catch the ferry to cross to the North Island or if you've just crossed over to the Mainland. Being dog friendly is a bonus and for those travelling in large vehicles, there's oodles of space.
The sunsets are pretty special too.

 Thank you 'Damfam Vineyard' (Winston & Robyn), for sharing your slice of paradise.