Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Renwick, Marlborough & Picton to Wellington - New Zealand

We had finally arrived in the Marlborough region where we intended to get involved in some serious wine tasting with the only question being where to do it as there are seemingly limitless vineyards to choose from.  We opted for the lonely planet recommendation of ‘Grove Mill’ with little else to go on and it turned out to be a good choice.  The wine tasting was free and our host took the two of us around the vineyards and explained the wine making process whilst letting us try various grapes.  To finish we went inside and sampled the wines on offer including a really nice Riesling, a Sauvignon Blanc and even a nice Pinot Noir which is the only decent red that they say can be produced in the region.  We bought a couple of bottles and got back on the road, admittedly a little tipsy.  Whilst I think I may have just been under the limit this was the first time I had ever got behind the wheel having touched a drop, it was also the first time there was a police check practically around the corner from our location.  Fortunately they were busy with another car as I drove past but it still shook me up a bit.  

We were then heading to a small chocolate making company which makes its own luxurious range of chocolates on site at a premium cost, they also happened to do free samples.  We ate our way through the samples and left the shop having watched the umpa lumpas knocking together biscuits and popcorn from behind the glass screens.  It really was tasty.  On the way to our campsite which had been personally recommended by our wine tasting host we stopped at a fishery to pick up some famous New Zealand mussels for dinner.  The fish stall let us try all the different varieties of flavoured mussels before buying including original smoked, BBQ smoked and chilli and they were all good.  The campsite we stayed in was a nice privately owned business but still expertly done with nice personal touches.  There we could eat the apples and feijoa fruit (green fruit which tastes like pears) from the tree.  The facilities were great and we even got a chocolate each and a nurturing wave from the doorstep when we left.

Vinyards upon vinyards in Marlborough

Wine tasting with the Grove Mill company

Our time on the south island was rapidly coming to an end and we needed to head to Picton where we were due to get the ferry on the 8th of May.  We had a bit of an issue when we saw a funny sheep on the porch of a house and decided to turn around to get a photo.  I motioned to Kate to turn into the car park of a motel but this was interpreted as turning onto the lawn which had been saturated with rain.  In view of the landlady who was washing up we slid our way onto their lawn and within a few feet were stuck deep.  She barely flinched and mentioned that we would need a toe and would get her husband.  I tried pushing the van out but was definitely going to need some help and was extremely apprehensive about the reception we would receive from the husband whose lawn we had ruined.  Understandably I could see him cursing blue murder under his breath in the distance but was extremely civil when he came over, “Ahhhh how were you to know how much rain we had, and you’re British? We get loads of British customers here” and called his mate to bring his truck from down the road to give us a tow.  Well his wife came over and edgily asked us how he took it and she said that he would have a rant at her later.  We gave him a bottle of wine for the inconvenience and he only just about took it after some persuasion, his mate wouldn’t accept anything for getting us out.  Red faced we continued on our journey to Picton, oh and the funny porch sheep wasn’t there anymore.

Having camped early at a great DOC site called Aussie Bay we arrived nice and early in Picton with some time to kill before the inter-island ferry was due to take us to the north island.  We treated ourselves to some fish and chips, a local favourite and a nice and familiar for us although there are lots of varieties of fish on the menu which we can’t identify along with other things which just sound like silly words.  To kill some more time we had a walk for a couple of hours to a viewpoint looking over Picton harbour which was really pretty.  Along the walk you could see rocks below with wild mussels growing on them.  Unusually for a Bailey we were one of the first in line for the ferry and we were on and off without too many problems.

Relaxing at Aussie Bay

Breakfast at Aussie Bay

Toadstool found on our Picton walk

Killing time in Picton

Wild mussels growing on rocks below

We had arranged to meet Abby, our friend from Jersey who has been in New Zealand for around eighteen months now.  She had initially worked in Christchurch but had to relocate following the February earthquake and decided on settling in Wellington for the more immediate future.  We were able to camp on the road near her flat (albeit not totally legitimately) and use the facilities in her block (again not too legitimately but nobody minded).  Abby waited for us by the ferry terminal and lead us back to hers and her boyfriend Dan’s residence which was a saving grace considering we hadn’t done any city driving and Wellington was pretty big as cities go in New Zealand. 

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