SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2008
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TIM!!
Bright and early I had to be at the ferry to cross to Picton. As usual I took a wrong turn and drove way out of the way trying to turn around. I was the last person on, after being scolded that I was supposed to be there an hour earlier. Ooops! I thought it was like Madeleine Island - drive up and drive on. Noooo - this ship is like the Queen Mary of ferries. It has 10 decks, a food court, a bar, a lounge room that looks like the interior of a 747, a sundeck, a cinema, play area for kids, game machines, a premium room (with food and liquor and good seats), a lounge and 2 outdoor observation decks. The life boats are about 30ft. The trip was 3 hours and fantastic scenery as we cruised between small spits of islands.
I made a beeline for the backpackers in Renwick, having decided on a plan on the ferry ride over. The owner looked at me askance - as if I was some sort of refugee from justice because I was alone and asked for a room without a reservation. After inquiring as to my length of stay in NZ and what I did for a living I guess I passed because he offered me a room. I think I got the presidential suite - it has a bath attached and cost $64. Wonder of wonders it also has a mirror, something I have found to be in short supply here. (Remember, I’m a GIRL)
Anyways, I dumped my bags asked for a bike, and off I went to explore the wineries in the area. I didn’t get too far when I thought that perhaps I had forgotten my camera. Back I went to retrieve it, though I couldn’t find it after searching through my bags and in the car and in my purse and in all the d___ pockets I have. Just as I was getting a tad frazzled, worried that somehow I had dropped it on the ferry, the owner came by and asked if I was missing my camera. Sure enough I had somehow dropped it as I pulled out of the driveway on my bike and some kind soul picked it up and turned it in. My guardian angel is about 6’5”, named Jeremy and hails from England where he majored in marine biology. He and his girlfriend are traveling for 9 months, but when they got here they ran out of funds and got jobs working in one of the local vineyards. They are staying in a tent at the backpackers and saving money to continue their travels. They are going next to Australia, then on to Hawaii and Vancouver. He doesn’t know what he is going to do once he returns home, but he doesn’t want to do research in marine biology. He would really like to make acoustic guitars. He was strumming one when I introduced myself to him and thanked him with a local bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from one of the boutique vineyards.
Bikes and Booze
Well it only took one stop at a vineyard and I was riding on the right side of the road - sure way to get knocked off. The views are spectacular - miles of vineyards with the mountains in the background. There are 80 vineyards in Marlborough, with the largest concentration in the Renwick area. I really should have started earlier cause I didn’t even hit a tenth of them. But it was really fun talking about the wines at each stop and tasting the grapes of each varietal. I rode about 13K, the last part with a head wind and a full head. Spectacular! One of the stops was Cloudy Bay where they offer tastings of about 8 wines for free. (Kathleen and Lee, hope you’re reading this - got pictures) I have to say that my favorite of the day was a Voignier from Herzog’s which smells like a bouquet of roses and tastes like a tropical garden. Very tasty! Great way to start off the Southern Island.
The “Old Folks”
I stopped by a grocer and picked up the makings of dinner to go with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from another boutique vintner, Bladen. When I walked into the common kitchen I was very surprised to see a group of older people sitting around while a few of the men made dinner for the group. While chatting with one of the men fixing dinner I discovered this was a tour group designed for those over 60 and that they were going to cross the mountains twice on the trip. Their days were about 60K each. The driver was close to 80! One of the women was a cancer survivor, had a knee replacement, bad hip, God knows what else, and was 77. The man telling me this was a cancer survivor himself who was doing his version of the “Bucket List”. They were all just chatting away, having a grand time surrounded by all the youngins’. Very inspirational I thought.
MONDAY, MARCH 31, 2008
On the road to Kaikoura I passed the largest vineyard in NZ, Montana, which goes by another name in the States. It was only about 10:30AM, but what the heck, I had heard that they have tours so I rolled on in. Indeed, I had a private tour and tasting from Amanda, who is 6 months pregnant. (She did not taste.) It was interesting to compare the process of a large production vineyard vs the small boutique yards nearby and those I toured in France. As the tour began I noticed the bus driver from the “Oldies” Group in the tasting area.
The flat valley soon gave way to the hills with switchbacks and sharp curves but the hills appeared parched and somewhat barren. This was a striking contrast to the vineyard area and most definitely from the tropical northland which was so lush by comparison. Although I keep hearing of sheep, I have seen more cattle so far. Have the tourists eaten all the lambies? I’m hoping they are further south in the plains area.
Just about the time all the barrenness starts to make you thirsty, you turn a corner and view the coastline with inlet beaches where the sea foams up and boulders where waves crash and seagulls perch. So gorgeous it’s tough to keep your eyes on the road. I keep trying to hold my camera out of the car, but I keep getting terrific pictures of the hood and the road. The wind threatens to carry the camera away and it’s tough to aim. Finally there is a pull off and I stop to take a picture only to find out that the reason so many have pulled over is because there is a seal colony on the rocks below. They are so cute just flapping around down there sunning themselves. What a life.
Shortly thereafter I pulled into Kaikoura and ended up stopping at the wale watching expedition center. Whales? Sign me up. All that lovely beach and crashing waves and afternoon sun made me hungry - especially for seafood as I kept seeing signs for crayfish as I entered town. Crayfish? Isn’t that the stuff from the bayou? No it’s NZ rock lobster and it’s expensive - about $60/k. But not today. They have quotas and it wasn’t to be found anywhere until tomorrow when a new month starts. Oh well. I settled for 3 just-cooked prawns - $1 each wrapped in news wrap which I took to the beach with an open bottle of Bladen S.B., some cibatta, blue cheese, an apple fresh picked from the hostel and a squeeze of lemon, also just picked from the hostel. The seagulls were intent upon sharing lunch but stones kept them at bay. It was wonderful. The beaches are not sand but small stones and river rock. Hard on the feet but no sand to dust off. Remnants of large weeds from the sea, which look a bit like giant rubber bands litter the beach. A short nap after all that fresh air was welcome.