The Takaka YHA is is similar to the one in Raglan, on the west coast of the North Island, where I stayed a few days last year and had my second surf, in that it is so relaxed and welcoming that people don’t want to to leave, and there are always quite a few people wwoofing. Consequently they cook and eat together most nights, and on the last night of my stay in Takaka they made a special effort to cook vegetarian so I could be included. Having cut short my stay there by a night to make the journey to Picton more relaxed (I was booked on the 2pm ferry and needed to return the car in good order first), I had quite a lot of fresh vegetables left over that I didn’t want to to take to Wellington. So I put aside enough food for one last meal on the South Island and put the rest towards our group meal. Several people worked for a couple of hours peeling and slicing potatoes which they were cooking with milk and cheese, leaving the bacon in a separate bowl to be added later by those who wanted it.
My contribution was vegan; I had carrot, parsnip and yams and added some white miso and extra water to form a thin sauce (well, miso soup really), a small amount of cooked lentils remaining into which I put quite a few quartered mushrooms and a large bunch of kale. I had also made the chia and coconut vegan dessert again a couple of days before, and there was quite a lot left but maybe not quite enough for the hordes, But I had some more coconut milk so I used that to make it a bit runnier, and this also helped to eke it out. My walking companion had some maple syrup and it didn’t take much to sweeten it up, and I remembered that I had the opened can of peaches too. Everyone, even the new arrivals who hadn’t been part of the dinner because they had already made their own were provided for, and the washing up was done very quickly with so many volunteers, not including me.
On the previous three nights the hard core of us (mainly the German couple and I) had played music on the back verandah and danced, trying to be quiet, as mentioned in an earlier post. On this night we did our dancing inside because the YHA host had told us that the lounge-room was pretty soundproof; the Germans had some electronic dance party music which they had found on YouTube and eventually the room contained just the dancers. Surprisingly (in that he hadn’t appeared on the verandah before, let alone participated), there was a new dancer amongst us. He was a Swiss fitness trainer who was in Aotearoa NZ doing some cycling. He was a great mover! It was such fun to have someone else on the dance floor almost as enthusiastic as I was.
I was in no rush the next day and went down to the library to print off my NZIFF tickets. I had booked and paid for five movies, the first of which was the day after I arrived. At 11am I set out with only a very small amount of trepidation about Takaka Hill; the YHA host had informed me that it was the steepest incline (or decline, depending in the direction one was travelling) on any road in Aotearoa New Zealand. So that makes three superlatives this trip, not including the scenery – steepest street in the world, longest bridge in the country and the steepest incline over a “hill”.
It had been my plan to stop for fuel in Motueka, but there was no need really so I continued to Nelson where I filled up, found a car-wash and went through (the mud on the mudflaps stayed put however, so I clawed much of it off in the driveway away afterwards), then parked just outside the paid parking zone of the town and went and had a most delicious Eggs Florentine, although it was called something different. The English spinach was juicy, the sauce was just the right level of tanginess and the eggs were cooked to perfection. The only complaint, if I were to have one at all, was that the muffin was a bit white and a bit sweet.
When I was in Nelson last year, staying overnight, I saw Hunt for the Wilderpeople for the second time. It is one of my all-time favourite movies, and I have now seen it seven times. Anyway, back then I had gone to the same cafe which at the time adjoined the Suter Gallery. That was why I headed there this time, apart from the fact that I remembered enjoying the food then too. Much to my surprise, when I went through the door I found not a gallery but a range of accoutrements for sale, with no artwork to be seen. Back in the cafe my inquiries led me to discover that it was in a new location, so having found out the directions I started my walk there. It was about a ten minute stride, which I needed after all the driving.After Nelson it was next stop Picton, and I took the scenic route through Queen Charlotte Sound, which comprised the last leg of the trip.
The first part of the journey seemed to go on and on, and as usual I was being trailed by people who wanted to go much faster than the conditions suggested was safe, so I pulled over when I could. It’s when the vehicle behind is so close up your arse that it is dangerous though. You don’t get a friendly wave or beep then!
I stopped above Picton just as the sun was setting. It was very windy as I got out of the car for the umpteenth time to take a photo, and one of the ferries was in dock. It was so good to have arrived at last. I cooked my meal and settled in for the night, making a list of what I needed to remember the next day before I took back the car. From the time I picked it up in Christchurch to the time I dropped it off in Picton I had covered a distance of about 2,500km.