Nelson and the Midas Touch

We take one of the windiest roads imaginable with our poor brakes into Havelock, where most of the Green Mussels come from. We check in to a nice motel room which is really an apartment and go eat some of the local delicacy at the Mussel Pot. This town really appeals to us. It doesn’t have the sheen of a tourist town, but does have access to some of the deeper sounds. There isn’t much economy and it seems like the whole town is for sale.

It just never ends with the truck. We’re always on edge, jumping up spooked and looking around at every little noise. We’re heading over a big pass and coming in to Nelson when one of these noises has us looking to each other with bewildered expressions. Zud-zud-zud-zud-zud-zud-zud-zud-zud …this is going to be bad; we can see it in each other’s faces… CA-LANG-A-DANG-DANG-A-LANG …and then it’s all quiet as my skin goes prickly and I pull over. Erica goes looking for whatever that might’ve been coming off and I peer under the hood. The fan belt is completely loose like when the alternator was loose before… no it’s still tight but wait, the bottom most pulley is… gone. So that‘s it. I take off the belt and go down the street helping Erica look for it.

We retrieve it out of the middle of the road and climb back in to the van. I squint, take a deep breath, look up and turn the key. As if these body movements will help. It’s like when we’re going down a narrow road and I hold my breath when we pass an oncoming vehicle, like it’ll make us skinnier. The van does turn over. We make it in to Nelson and are directed to the Midas shop. He tells us it’s the harmonic dampener, which takes vibrations out of the engine. It still started because the battery is charged but that will lessen since the alternator isn’t recharging it. I tell him that a new alternator was put in and he tells me that it’s a shame because this broken pulley is probably the reason why we were having the problems starting the van.

I call the guy in Picton with the news and he tells me I must have ‘ghosts in the engine’. He then puts me on the line with his man Patrick who did the repairs, who insists he checked all the pulleys and they were fine. I am also reassured that they sent the alternator to an auto electrician who stated that it was beyond repair and in need of repairing. He has thrown the old one away so I cannot have anyone else inspect it. Relating this back to David, the Midas man, gets a knowing nod. He tells me that mechanics rip off tourists because they think they’re loaded with money. This is not the first time I’ve heard that mechanics are dishonest, from whichever mechanic is currently lying to my face.

The place we find is a stand-alone apartment for 50 bucks a night. It’s so cheap because they are repairing some things that didn’t get done before high season, and are now too busy to finish them. It’s a little dusty, drafty and one of the bathrooms doesn’t work but it’s big, has its own kitchen and another bathroom that does work.

Another bike ride takes us to a little beach and among some nice shops. Nelson has an alternative feel to it, with organic shops, yoga studios, art galleries and microbreweries. We stop in one of the latter and pay enough money to buy a keg for a couple of OK tasting beers. Nelson is considered the sunniest on the south and would be a great place to live.

In the morning we decide to head out to Abel Tasman and go pick up the van. It’s making a funny noise and so I go back to Midas and David tells me not to worry about it. I tell him that I’ll head off and if anything falls off I’ll come right back. He gives me a little exasperated look and I tell him that’s sarcasm, I don’t expect anything to fall off. Nothing better fall of, but it’s happened before so there is precedent, and recent.

Moving down the road the brakes start to smell funny. Pulling over to check the transmission fluid and then let everything cool, we eat a little lunch. All the fluid levels are fine, and a visual inspection doesn’t really show anything wrong so we start off. We head a little further and not only does it sound bad, it’s really pulling to the left. We think it best to turn back. About 2 blocks from Midas there’s a large KA-WHAM; but I am determined to get it back in. David sees us come in and asks what the matter is. I ask him to take a guess and point to the left front wheel, which is at an odd angle.

He takes a quick look and states that the wheel bearing went bad, that must’ve been the noise I was telling him about earlier. Something has fallen off, and it’s the wheel. The only thing holding it on is the disc brake on that side. We leave it with him and hop a bus up to Abel Tasman, enough time has been spent waiting for this thing to be repaired and a little distance from it would be nice and so when we get to Marahau and the beginning of the track, we decide to rent a kayak for 5 days. I’ve also called Collin, who forgot all about our reconditioned part, but he will track it down and sent it on to Nelson. I’ve told David about what’s happened and he’s agreed to put that on, too.

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