I’d seen photos of The Nuggets on-line as I planned my visit to the Caitlins. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the region, but I knew that I wanted to walk out to this lighthouse and the rocks that go by the name of The Nuggets, or Nugget Point or Kaka Point.
The parking lot at 11:00 a.m. contained a handful of cars. Along the trail I encountered only about two dozen other people in small groups over the 3 miles roundtrip. There were times along the walk that I felt a beautiful solitude. Noise also played tricksy as I was sheltered from the sound of wind and surf by the ridge, until I stepped out (almost to the lighthouse) and it returned with a roar.
I truly enjoyed the experience and could have stayed longer at points along the way. It would be a great picnic spot with some advance planning.
My travel rule of thumb: visit a botanic garden, especially if it is free. When traveling on business a good garden makes an excellent place to get some steps in and breathe fresh air. Not all gardens are created equal. This summer I had the opportunity to go to the Missouri Botanic Garden and it is world class. And I started my NZ trip with a stay at the world class private garden, Paripuma. Alas, the Christchurch Botanic Gardens is looking frumpy. It was winter and they have had their hands full with rebuilding glasshouse structures after the earthquakes; nevertheless, even before “the big one” I felt the garden was more Ode to Mother England than a celebration of New Zealand. In the photos above you see lots of lawn, some legacy trees and a lot of (yawn) planted annual beds.
Even with that critique, there is hardly a prettier downtown than Christchurch ANYWHERE in the world. Well, maybe Adelaide, Australia. They have optimized the Avon River and the parks and gardens in a way that you must make time to walk through.
The garden that I’ll be sure to visit again is in Dunedin.
This garden is built on a steep hill (much like Wellington’s) and yet maximizes the attractions with different gardens and lots of plant variety and statuary. Plus I LOVE a knot garden! I just wish there was a viewing platform for the knot garden.
They welcome children in Dunedin and design for their enjoyment: a train, free food for ducks, playground equipment, and space to make your own fun. It was Father’s Day Sunday in New Zealand on the day of my visit and I saw loads of families taking advantage of the garden on an almost spring day.
It seems an almost silly thing, but I found this little stick structure and ended up sitting for a little while admiring it, wondering who built it and admiring their handywork.
The best gardens help you forget that you are in a city and take you into nature. Dunedin Botanic Garden does.
Both gardens are free to enter. Both have cafes where you can get a coffee or tea or something more substantial to eat. Both make their cities more livable and enjoyable.
Three years after the Kaikoura earthquake, the community has recovered and is fully open for tourists to enjoy the natural beauty of this unique area. Unlike Christchurch, the area has not experienced much shaking since the midnight wake up quake on November 14, 2016.
It does take longer to get there from either north or south on Highway 1 due to the extensive roadworks. This is targeted for a March 2020 finish, but this is hard to believe given the extensive damage and the remaining work. Allow an extra hour to drive from Blenheim or from Christchurch. It is worth the effort as it is a absolutely stunning area of New Zealand.
Some of the rocks along the coastline shifted more than a meter, but the New Zealand Fur Seals do not seem to have noticed. When I stopped in Flaxbourne for a coffee, I asked about the wonderful trail to a waterfall and seal nursery close to Kaikoura. The young woman teared up and said it wasn’t there since the earthquake. I felt terrible. Then I stopped at Ohau Point Look Out to admire the fur seals. I saw the road works and rocks at the spot I thought was the same as the place where the seal nursery had been. When I got to the information centre in Kaikoura they reassured me that while people no longer can hike up to the waterfall, the transportation works created a tunnel so the seals can still use it. It was such a magical place and I am glad I was able to experience it.
Almost everyone I talked to in Kaikoura had a story about where they were and what they did when the quake occurred. There were a lot of people running around town naked! Because when you are thrown out of bed just after midnight and then sirens go off to move you to higher ground in case of tsunami, you don’t necessarily take time to get dressed and find your shoes. I drove by the Kaikoura Boutique Hotel and was happy to see it is open and looking great. The proprietors were Christchurch refugees, so when I heard about the Kaikoura quake I sent up a special prayer for them.
I wouldn’t hesitate to stay overnight in Kaikoura, I just needed to push on to Christchurch so I could have coffee with friends in the morning. However, I would keep my shoes and a sweatshirt or jacket handy by the bed at night, just in case.
I have visited Kaikoura before, and enjoyed the very long but wonderful walk around the headlands. There are also whales, dolphins and little blue penguins to observe. Kaikoura has one of the world’s most productive marine areas and is a few hours from Christchurch and even closer to Blenheim. It scores 4.5 out of 5!
I have always loved walking around the UC Davis Arboretum. It was well established when I was a graduate student in the late 1980s, and even then it had a serious water quality problem in Putah Creek. The algae and other problems caused duck die offs and some stinky stretches. Now with a new design to help clean up Putah Creek, you can actually see the turtles swimming in the creek. The redwood grove has new plantings on the floor, and the new trailhead in downtown Davis is complete. If you haven’t been in a while, it is worthy of another look.
The new infrastructure in the creek helps to keep the water clean. Plus it introduces the sound of running water to your walk along the trail. You will get a healthy 3.5 miles of steps if you walk the entire loop. Along the way you’ll enjoy over 20 gardens, interesting bridges and paths and only occasional glimpses of campus life. I’m sure it’s kept many a student sane.
I belong to the Arboretum so I learn about their plant sales and enjoy a discount. The Arboretum is free of charge. Most days you’ll have to pay for campus parking if you are starting from the oak grove side near the medical campus, so instead park behind Mikuni’s restaurant (by the closed Whole Foods). When you finish up you can enjoy a meal at Pluto’s or Mikuni’s. I’m taking my grandson on Friday!
Taking a walk with my 2 year old grandson always results in looking at the familiar landscapes with fresh eyes or seeing things I never noticed before. My neighborhood library is in an elegant home donated by Ella McClatchy. It is on the ironically named “Poverty Hill” surrounded by mansions. (And in a flood prone community it is a more desirable place to build.)
One morning my grandson and I explored the library upstairs and down before venturing into the neighborhood. Cal loves to run and I can stay apace through quick strides and distraction. “Look at this, Cal.” is one of my favorite tricks to give me time to catch up. This is how we discovered there are six lions living near the library.
“Part of normal human development is learning to notice less than we are able to. The world is awash in details of color, form, sound–but to function, we have to ignore some of it. The world still holds these details. Children sense the world at different granularity, attending to parts of the visual world we gloss over, to sounds we have dismissed as irrelevant. What is indiscernible to us is plain to them.” Alexandra Horowitz, On Looking (p. 26)
Travel can also refresh our ability to see. First, we notice so much more of everything wherever we go because it is unfamiliar. And then we see our own familiar home with fresh eyes and appreciation when we return.
One of the other ways we can train ourselves to see more of the rich detail in our lives is through “Eye Spy” type games. Cal and I love Momo books. Momo the border collie hides and his person Andrew Knapp snaps a photo. There is a series of books for all ages and one children’s board book for hardier viewing. The latest book is Finding Momo Across Europe and it is delightful!