Sunday 7 October 2018

Stuff Readers Rail Tour, Day 2 - Admiring Nelson

With thanks to Stuff Readers Rail Tours
Ah, how prescient! At breakfast a boring and bossy OWM (double that, since he's from Yorkshire) showed his true colours by dissing the World of Wearable Arts museum which was one of today's optional activities for the tour. So it was a matter of honour for me, although I have been to it before and had other made other plans, to make a point of going there to enjoy (again) its fabulously arty offerings. 
First, though, I had another task: to walk to the Centre of New Zealand. Although it's actually a lot more accessible than that sounds, my time was now short so it was more of a route march that I took through about four blocks of suburbs, across a park and up Botanical Hill on a zigzag path through the bush. Arriving, panting and sweaty (it's not that I'm so very unfit - it was a warm morning) at the top, I found an oversized surveyor's instrument pointing down at a plaque claiming that this is the very centre of the country. It's all nonsense, of course - the reasoning was, back in 1877, that Nelson is the central province of the twelve in the country, and on this hill is where the surveyors decided, entirely arbitrarily it seems, to begin all their triangulations. But never mind - it has a lovely and extensive 360 view of sea, city and mountains, and no-one can be much bothered disputing the claim.
I hurtled back to the hotel and boarded the bus to WOW, which was as sophisticated, imaginative and arty as I remembered it, the costumes quite phenomenally detailed and impressively engineered. Pft, OWM! And then, of course, there were the classic cars right next door, a whole heap of them, shiny and elegant, and a surprising number of them with personal connections: a blue Vauxhall Velox, a Morris 8, a Wolseley, and even a 1908 Renault (I once went on a rally in a beautiful 1912 model). Plus there was a duck in the pond outside with a remarkable 13 fluffy ducklings.
The rest of the day was free so I spent it wandering around pretty Queen's Gardens, with its serpentine lake, water wheel, ducks and eels; and then mooching around the nearby Suter Art Gallery (which is free). Usual story - some lovely stuff, some dumb, just as it should be - plus a popular café beside the lake. The Nelson Museum, on the other hand, cost a whole $5 to enter, so it was just as well it was good, and full of interesting facts: Maori dogs didn't bark; the Farewell Spit gannets began with 9 individuals in 1981 and now number 3,000 pairs; the country's first rugby game was played in that park I walked through, in 1870 (teams of 18 each side, and no referee); and Nelson has its own flag.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon for wandering, Nelson's heritage buildings looking pretty, and we were all relaxed at our group dinner where Dale and Philip did the first of a humorous regular double act briefing us about tomorrow's route to the West Coast.

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