Friday, August 22, 2008

Nelson, NZ: a Bogus hostel but good organic beer

[since I don't know how to make a caption, I'll start this post with a much-needed description of the picture. No, this is not me pictured with the fruits of a New Zealand state police drug bust. Those are locally grown and organically produced hops, used in making Founder's beer. See more below]

After a great couple of days in Wellington, Sally and I flew across the Cook Strait and landed on the South Island in Nelson (oh, this was after passing through ZERO security at the Wellington Airport!). The views were stunning for the entire 40-minute flight with ocean, islands, and mountains. We walked off the plane and were greeted with views of snow-capped peaks in three directions and a temperature of about 60 degrees. Beautiful.

After picking up our rental car--and of course again purchasing the full coverage insurance--Sally and I headed to our hostel, the Palace Backpackers. Wow. First of all, it was perched on a hill about 50 feet up from the main drag, and because it was poorly marked, we drove by it about 3 or 4 times before realizing where it was. We then tramped up stairs, past the cracked concrete walls and a mangy-looking cat, and encountered a few seedy-looking types playing guitar and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. Things seemed a bit better when our Dutch/German host kindly welcomed us and showed us around. Because we were in a bit of a hurry to get to our only reason for being in Nelson (the Founder's Organic Brewery (see infra)), we didn't mind when we were shown our less-than ideal room with a view. Fortunately for us it was all our own and was more than adequate in size. But because of our haste, we failed to realize that the most basic requirement of lodging wasn't exacly being provided: cleanliness. No joke, when we crawled into bed later that night, I thought I wasn't the only thing crawling in that bed. And I knew that if I thought it was gross, Sally must have thought it was DISGUSTING. But, because of a big day and her insane ability to fall asleep immediately, Sally was quickly dozing while visions of bedbugs danced in my head. Verdict: the hostile was bogus (or in our vacation parlance: it was "boges.")

Fortunately, though for us, that was not all we had in store for Thursday. The Founder's Organic Brewery was all that it was cracked up to be and more. About 10 years old, it is a small outfit, and family-run, with all their hops grown locally in Nelson and certified organic. Sally and I were treated to a tasting and the bartender/owner/6th-generation brewer showed us around back to the kettles (pronounced in Kiwi like a plural version of the capital of Ecuador), the cold-storage rooms, the bottling machine (still done by hand), and everything else. It was very cool. Attached are some pictures from the event that made Nelson a success, despite the naesty bogus hostel (which we departed from the next morning at 7:00 am without breakfast and sans shower).

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