What amazes us the most is the vegetation along these tracks. One moment we seem to be walking through a rain forest where cicadas buzz loudly, and then around the corner we will be wandering in a grove of Monterey Pine. During our hikes we go through several stiles and gates, through sheep pastures, and then find ourselves among a variety of deciduous trees. Silver ferns, a New Zealand symbol, grow as tall as trees and provide needed shade along the way with their broad fronds. It always surprises us when we come across historic redwood trees towering as tall as any you might see in the redwood forests of California.
Original settlers to Nelson found this area a difficult place to settle because it had very little arable land. Many of the original settlers that came from England with the New Zealand Company in the 1840s ended up leaving the Tasman Bay area because they were unable to establish a farm. Eventually, as Nelson grew, so did the public spaces. Beautiful parks dot the town like the Queen’s Garden, the Botanical Hill, and the Miyazu Japanese Garden. Each of these is a short walk from our cottage and also provides serenity as well as spectacular floral displays. We picked up a little book from the city council titled, Walk Nelson. It describes 56 walking trails around the area. Our favorite after dinner stroll is the walk along the Maitai River path. Longer walks take us around the marina and Tahunanui Beach. We have learned to value outdoor spaces as the do Nelsonians.
Just up the hill from us is the beginning of the Grampian Reserve. Nelson nestles at sea level and when tramping up to the summit of the Grampian Track, we climb a steep 1,240 feet and rest while taking in the spectacular views from the lookout. Tomorrow we will zigzag to the top for the third time, and once there, we will have several tracks to choose from for our decline. We must always consult the map wisely or we could end up in the next town of Stoke looking for a bus stop.
An iconic walk for locals and visitors, the Centre of New Zealand, is on Botanical Hill. It’s name comes from being a geological reference point when first sectioning off land. The track starts at a landmark park which is the site of the first ever rugby game played in New Zealand. Although tramping up this hill is not as long or steep as the Grampain, it does provide us with a stunning view of Nelson and the Tasman Bay. Once again we can choose from a variety of descents taking us either across the ridge through gum trees and sheep pastures, or through variegated vegetation and down to the floor of the Maitai Valley.
So what’s up with the sheep? Livestock graze in the reserves as an environmentally friendly way of maintaining them. Sheep love to graze on a weed that can smother native plants. Managed grazing reduces fire risk as well as hugely reducing the costs to taxpayers. A few sheep have balked at us tramping through their pasture, but most of the livestock just keep on munching as we pass. We just have to watch where we step.
We walk just about every day with a purpose. In two weeks, we set off on a five-day backpacking trip on the Coastal Track of the Abel Tasman National Forest. It’s a 60 km track along the coast of one of the most beautiful places in the world. We look forward to sharing our experience with you on our return.