Leaving Lola to enjoy the view, I began my exploration of the region with a trip to the Omaka aviation centre in Blenheim. A self confessed ignoramus when it comes to flying machines, I was primarily attracted to Omaka because of it’s connection with Peter Jackson. Aside from making films, his passion is aircraft, and he boasts a huge personal collection. This centre houses countless planes, original and replica, from WW1 as well as an array of memorabilia. The whole think is funded by Peter Jackson himself, and WETA workshops has provided typically fantastic models to bring it to life. If aviation isn’t really my thing, history very much is, especially WWI and II. Highlights for me included a section of the wing from the Red Baron’s actual plane, and video footage taken of bomber in action. I can’t imagine flying in one of these relatively rickety craft holding a cumbersome, heavy camera over the side. Made ‘em tougher back then, they did.
At risk of going soft, I gladly accepted the offer of accommodation from ‘The Honest Lawyer’ on the Monaco peninsula. A few cold beers later in the bar, I headed upstairs to my plush room, and slept like a baby. The hard life on the road is good, but the sweet life in warm beds also has a lot to offer! The rest of my time in Nelson was spent in similarly high spirits. Riding around town I toured the museum of World of Wearable Art, a concept which began in the city and has exploded worldwide. An annual show now takes place in Wellington, but the history and origins are back down south. Fashion is not my area of expertise, but wearable art is an idea I love; like nothing I have seen before. The evening was spent in the company of Woodi – owner and operator of the Wakefield Quay B&B, situated meters away from the waterfront. Kindly offering me a place to stay for the night, it became clear I’d landed on my feet again. The house is a 1905 colonial villa, and the accommodation pure luxury. I felt grimy and undeserving tiptoeing in with my bike gear, but Woodi made me feel so welcome that I soon forgot my lack of clean clothes, not to mention the unkempt appearance. Woodi had tickets to a gig at the school of music, and was only too keen to bring me along. How glad I am that she did. I can’t say I’d heard of Whirimako Black beforehand, but my ignorance should not belie just how large a fanbase her incredible talent has brought. A Maori soul diva, Whirimako performs in both Maori and English with a voice of great power and caliber. My growing interest in all things Maori was only increased by her show, but from a purely musical standpoint it was a delight.
Coming up next - The West Side adventure - Westport to Haast, and across the pass to central Otago