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Public Holiday, You Say?


The guide books mention that New Zealand celebrates several national holidays. But what they fail to mention is exactly what that means. Dore and I found out first hand how Kiwis handle public holidays when we went in to the Nelson city center for breakfast.

As we drove in to the city center, I was a bit surprised at how few cars there were on the road. I didn’t really think much of it, though. Who knows how much traffic one might expect in a new town at ten in the morning on a Friday. But I did think it a bit odd that street parking was so easy to get. Surely someone must want to park in these prime locations?

As we got out of the van things got clearer. I don’t think a tumbleweed actually blew across the road, but if this were a cliched straight-to-DVD western it sure might have. There were no people about and all of the shops were closed. The city felt oddly quiet and… deserted.

After a few minutes of walking about, Dore and I finally came to the realization that it was Good Friday. And apparently Good Friday is a public holiday in New Zealand. And apparently that means that everything — and I mean everything — is closed. (We were later to learn that everything except for gas stations and a few restaurants are actually required by law to be closed, although it seems that a few shops stay open despite the law because it’s cheaper to risk the fines that to lose business.)

All of which I think is pretty cool. That is, unless you happen to be a tourist. Then it pretty much sucks. And that’s where Dore and I were.

So we drove around for a while, getting temporarily lost with some crappy directions from the GPS, and wound up back in the city center, wandering around looking for breakfast. We finally did find a bakery that was open, and got something to eat. Now no longer starving, we took stock of what we had available, and decided to head out to Abel Tasman National Park to go hiking. As Dore put it, “They can’t close nature… can they?”

Fortunately it seems that nature is allowed to continue doing business. And it’s a good thing, too. We had an absolute blast hiking around the park. We only got to do a little bit of the beginning of the Coastal Track, but even that was amazing. The native bush was really awesome, and there were tons of secluded breaches and inlets along the way. I’d really like to go back and do the full track at some point.

After a few hours of hiking, we headed back to town to check in to our B&B for the night. We stayed at the Sussex House B&B, which was a beautiful old Victorian house set right next to the little river that ran through the town. It was only a few blocks away from the city center, so it was easy walking distance to everything.

Once we had our things in the room, Dore and I got some tea and took a quick breather before setting off to dinner. After consulting with our hosts, we decided to head in to the city center to try to find something that was open. Fortunately, we had more luck than at breakfast, and found a nice pub where Dore got an enormous cheeseburger and I had a fantastic pork roast with all the trimmings. We shared a table with a couple from Wellington that were down for the weekend, and had a fun time talking about our trip, rugby, and New Zealand in general.

After dinner we walked back to the B&B, checked our email, and headed to bed.

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