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Home » Adventures » New Zealand » Christmas Eve in Nelson

Dec. 24 — Leaving the Bush

Route I Hiked this Day

Route I Hiked this Day

My carefully planned itinerary said the time had arrived to temporarily leave the bush and rejoin civilization. A stroll under the morning sun brought me to Robert’s car park. This spot should have been the end of packing, but on the morning I hiked Robert’s Ridge in bad weather, I accidentally left my trail journal and Bible at Bushline Hut. Although the Bible could have been used by others for good purposes, recreating several days of travel notes from memory was less desirable. So from the car park I made a detour back to Bushline Hut, hoping my belongings would still be there.

From a combination of an overnight rest, dry socks, and band-aids, my feet felt much better than the prior day. Not perfect, but I was at least not wincing in pain with every other step. This ascent to Bushline Hut felt very different than when climbing it my first day at Nelson Lakes. My initial hike occurred in the late evening through clouds, and was very hurried to beat darkness, but now a warm sun and bright sky escorted me on a slightly more leisurely journey. I could see the entire mountain and across the lake.

I moved swiftly along the track, knowing I still needed to get back to St. Arnold, resupply, and find a ride to Kawatiri. In the hut I found my Bible, but not the travel journals. Those were just pieces of papers with some scribbled writing, so someone may have inadvertently used them as kindling. Oh well, time to jog the old memory.

In the City

With half my goal accomplished, I hopped down the mountain and into St. Arnold. Unfortunately all the restaurants were closed on Christmas Eve, so my lunch consisted of prepackaged gas station food, instead of a large, hot meal. Still, the well preserved grub tasted great and was much more filling than instant noodles in the bush. The convenience store also served as a resupply station, providing me with enough food for the remainder of the trip.

Kawatiri Historic Railway Walk Tunnel Entrance

I found a ride to the Intercity bus stop in Kawatiri, and being early used the extra time to complete an historical walk detailing a railroad which once passed through this valley. Along with interpretive signs, the route actually went through the old railway tunnel. How many hundreds of people toiled endlessly to build this shaft through the mountain, which saw limited train service and was now left nearly abandoned?

I rode the Intercity bus into Nelson, booked a dorm bed at the YHA Backpacker Hostel, and took a long, hot shower after several days in the bush. I grabbed dinner and headed into town for Christmas Eve. Being outside without copious layers of clothing on the eve of the nativity of our Lord was still a novelty for a guy from the northern hemisphere.

Celebrating Christmas Eve

Christmas Caroling on the steps of Nelson Cathedral

Christmas Caroling on the steps of Nelson Cathedral

A band played Christmas carols and hymns near the steps to Nelson Cathedral, as community members sang along, which is not oft encountered in the States. Juxtaposed fifty meters from the carolers though were crowded bars where people celebrated Christmas Eve with alcohol, which can also produce a public sing along.

Nelson Cathedral

Nelson Cathedral

When that concert concluded I climbed the steps for Nelson Cathedral’s Christmas Eve service. Instrumentals and anthems by the choir, as well as congregational hymns, comprised the worship. The church building itself was large and ornate — a huge brick structure built in traditional Gothic form. Its pipe organ ran floor to ceiling and was larger than a city bus. A church building may be architecturally pleasing, but it is the preaching, not the bricks, that matter. Although not Lutheran (it was Anglican), the traditional service did clearly preach the Gospel of Christ, and the atoning work in the cross of Christ as the reason for the incarnation. Halfway around the world, hearing the world wide Christmas story once again was comforting and refreshing. With the service over just before midnight and Christmas morning (surprised I stayed up so late), I wandered back to my hostel. Walking past drunks from just closed bars after church was a new experience.