Marlborough Wine Tour

Misty Cove vineyards in Marlborough

On my visit to the Marlborough region I wanted to safely visit multiple wineries. Fortunately I found Marlborough Wine Tours and it was perfect. I was worried because my lodging was a little out-of-the-way but it was no problem for them to come pick me up. Phil was our driver and very knowledgeable about wines in the region. We were lucky to have him as our host. The wineries chosen were well thought out and I am grateful that they didn’t pick the larger wineries in favor of visiting the small and some up-and-coming wineries. We visit 6 wineries in total and didn’t feel rushed in any of our visits. This is a great option if you are lacking a designated driver and really want to enjoy the region.

Winery 1 : Allan Scott Family Winemakers

Notable from this winery is their special ginger wine; it has a sweet and strong ginger flavor. Nice for a seasonal drink.

The Pinot Noir Rose is light and drinkable. Also liked the Pinot Noir.

The gardens are pretty with lots of plants to look at and a large chess game.

Winery 2: Rock Ferry

Rock Ferry is a boutique winery with some of my favorite choices of the day.

The Corner’s Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc of the day and contains flavors of gooseberry, peppers (capsicum) and asparagus.

They have a Pinot blanc that is from an “egg ferment” case, a special wine experiment of theirs.

Their Pinot Noir isn’t bad as well. I am loving the pinot noirs today.

Winery 3: Wairau River

We head to Wairau River Wines at lunchtime. I didn’t write down tasting notes about the wine or food so I am assuming it was very satisfactory.

I enjoyed sitting outdoors on this beautiful day.

Winery 4: Misty Cove

The next winery is pretty small. I left with some of their bottles because they sells styles not as common. I loved the Waihopai (Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Gris and Gewürztraminer) and the Gruner Vetliner. Gruner wines are especially a target of mine since they serve them frequently at the few restaurants to liked to visit when I lived in Brooklyn but they are hard to find anywhere else. Whenever I see Gruner on the menu it always catches my eye now.

Misty Cove also has a fun pool onsite for their lodging guests.

Winery 5: Spy Valley Wines

The second to the last winery of the day is Spy Valley. Just to note I am pretty intoxicated at this point so I can’t really rely on my taste buds to say what I think of these wines. Right now, everything is good.

Spy Valley is named so because it is located very close to a super secret US and UK satellite communications monitoring facility.

Wood walls are actually morse code.

Naturally the tasting room decorated in spy stuff.

Pinot noir was my favorite out of the ones we tasted today.

Bottle decorated in morse code.

Some of these are actually imported in the USA. I am able to purchase the Sauvignon Blanc at Total Wine.

All the Bonds

Winery 6: Jackson Estate

The last of the day is Jackson Estate. We almost don’t make it in time because the entire group is pretty intoxicated by the last winery. The driver had to get a little firm with us to keep time. I don’t blame him, he wants to get us to all our locations so we get our money’s worth.

From my tasting notes (whatever they are worth) I find the Pinot Rose and Vintage Window Pinot Noir are not bad and the Bortrytis Riesling is pretty good (and reflected so in the price!).

The winery seemed to be closing soon but they still took the time to show us the cellar. This is the only winery of our tour that let us see their cellar.

The driver took us back to our respective lodgings at the end. I am thoroughly grateful for the safe transportation today.

I am back at my wine cabin and being intoxicated I am unable to drive to dinner but I fortunately prepared enough cheese and snacks so driving would be unnecessary.

Cheese and Snacks are an acceptable dinner for an adult right?

Marlborough Wine Barrel

In planning my sabbatical I concentrated on traveling to places that are pretty far from my home while also trying unique experiences (within my budget). I love wine so it wasn’t hard to include the Marlborough region of New Zealand on the list. We import a number of New Zealand wines in the USA and the majority seem to be Sauvignon Blanc – one of my warm weather sipping wines. Unlike Australian wines we get in the USA, I have a much easier time consuming the wines from New Zealand. I am very excited to visit this region while I am traveling the south island of New Zealand.

While searching Airbnb I found Marlborough Wine Barrel Cabins; cabins shaped like a wine barrel.

The hosts have two of these cabins to rent and there is a good amount of spacing between them so you have privacy.

The cabins are very cute inside. It gets warm inside during the day but a breeze comes through with the doors and windows open. There were some mosquitos/black flies but they weren’t as bad as I experienced prior.

I love the gardens and fruit trees on site. My cabin only had views of the gardens but the other cabin has a magnificent view of the hillsides

There is a shared bathroom with a toilet that is a little bit of a walk if you tend to get up in the middle of the night. I woke up once in the middle of night to go to the bathroom and noticed once again so many stars in the sky. It is amazing what you can see without light pollution.

As for the shower I used the outdoor shower. I am obsessed with outdoor showers. I hope to have one of my own someday if I ever own a home again. I love showering outdoors for some reason.

There is also a shared mini-fridge outside the main house that holds milk for guests and I also used it to store some of my perishables during my stay (also keeping my cheese and wine cold).

My first evening at the cabins I drove into town for dinner. It is about a 20 minute drive to the town of Blenheim from the cabins. There seem to be wineries nearby but I have booked a wine tour tomorrow. Even though I am located out of town the tour van will pick me up anyway. What good luck! I am excited to do a group tour tomorrow.

Abel Tasman and One of those days

Abel Tasman

This morning before starting another long drive I try to check the oil on my campervan after reading in the lease agreement that is something I should be periodically doing. The problem is I can’t find the engine. I’ve never owned or even driven a vehicle like this before. When I open the front hood it is all nonsense inside. Finally I ask a stranger at a gas station. He tells me he isn’t really familiar with the van but he thinks the engine is under the passenger seat. What?!?

Sure enough it is.

Looky there

After checking I am back on the road but I make a pit stop at a park where I read about my favorite bugs (sarcasm).

Apparently I am the filet mignon of humans

I am heading to the north coast and my destination is Abel Tasman. I have a reservation for two nights at a campervan site near the water.

Abel Tasman at low tide

The drive to Abel Tasman is twice as long as the estimate is. Once again I did not sleep well in my van last night so I am tired. Also it is really stressful driving on the steep winding roads heading into the Abel Tasman National Park; traffic is bad and cars ride my tail. I normally pull over to let faster cars pass but there is no shoulder for me to safely pull over. To top it all off I can’t find a place to buy gas that will accept my credit card and I am running really low on gasoline. I stop at a gas station one after another, each spaced far apart, and none of them are able to accept my credit card. I am almost at my campsite and when I discover the gas station nearby will not work as well so I have a mini panic attack.

I know a panic attack about finding gas sounds silly but I am pretty worn down and stressed out at this point. I turn around and end up driving to another town to find a gas station; thank goodness my van made it. This gas station has an attendant where I can make my purchase. I buy gas and three candy bars because I can’t decide if I want crisped rice chocolate, almond chocolate, or chocolate with peanuts so I just buy them all. Isn’t that what you do when you have a panic attack?

I decide that tonight would be a good time to spend some money on a hotel room. I just imagine getting to a crowded campsite with a bunch of screaming kids and end up getting into an argument with another traveler being very inconsiderate (something that tends to happen at these campsites time to time).

So that’s how I end up at a motel tonight. Hopefully I get a good nights rest and I am up for a hike because I’ve been looking forward to a day hike, I just wasn’t looking forward or expecting the crowds. But it is Monday so maybe it won’t be quite as bad tomorrow.

For tonight I have my candy bars ready and decide to go for some delicious veggie pizza at Sprig & Fern Motueka. It is really great veggie pizza. You can tell the vegetables are cooked fresh. Pizza and chocolate makes the world better, right?

Abel Tasman

Today I am doing a hike at Abel Tasman National Park. I wasted a day yesterday so I can’t do as long of a hike as I originally anticipated doing.

Abel Tasman National Park is named after a Dutch settler who had a battle with the local residents. Settlers eventually destroyed the area for logging, etc. They also tricked the native population into giving up their land.

In the mid 1900’s the land was preserved and turned into a park. Now it is a beautiful haven for day hikers, campers, and kayakers. One can spend days hiking from location to location while staying at different campsites.

I am only prepared for day hikes and fortunately there is a water shuttle to assist in that.

Waiting for my water shuttle:

My plan today is to take the shuttle from Kaiteriteri beach to get dropped off at Anchorage and hike back part of the Abel Tasman Coast Track to pick up the return shuttle at Apple Tree Bay. I have the option of walking all the way back to my car if I am feeling real adventurous. This shuttle ride only goes half-way into the park. I could could go further and see other interesting walks; some only available at low tide. I chose the one I did because it seems easily doable by me and I don’t quite trust the New Zealand track rating system; Kiwis tend to be in way better shape than I.

Taking off to Anchorage:

Split apple rock

I have arrived at Anchorage. Upon arrival I see the overnight camp site. Being intrigued I peak in the dorm. There is a nice dorm area to take coverage in overnight. No technology but at least not left out in the elements. I am happy to use the composting toilet before I begin my hike.

Dorm bed building

I start off the hike confused because the directional sign points in the opposite direction from where I believe the trail should start. I guess it is ok because the trail starts by going uphill and across the peninsula and heads back the correct way.

As I walk up the trail I hear lots of bugs. They are very loud but fortunately they all leave me alone.

The first part of the trail is mostly uphill but is well covered by the trees. Soon the trail opens up to a great view. It is warmer up here but at least I can see the water below.

Looking back down the way I came
Looking down at Torrent Bay

It is warm but not too warm, almost perfect for hiking.

I keep track of all the directional signs to ensure I am still going the correct way.

If I want to make it back to my car I am looking at least 11 km walk.
They have the pine issue here as well.
I am getting close to water again

I stop at a pretty beach on Akersten Bay to take a break and eat my sandwich. Hikers can camp on this beach for the night. The trail to get down to the beach is a little steep, unstable and at the end I need to hop over a cute little stream.

Again the sign is pointing in the opposite direction for which I think it should.
But the beach is still on my left so I am good.
At Apple Tree Bay. Do I want to hike another 2.5 hours to my car?

I finally reach the beach where the shuttle will pick me up, Apple Tree Bay. It is only 5.5km or so to walk back to my car. I consider it while I rest on the beach. There are very few people on this beach. I watch a family with their kayaks stop here to rest.

I decide to go ahead and take the shuttle back. It is a nice ride back.

Abel Tasman is beautiful and peaceful (except the main beach on the weekend). I could spend a week here camping, hiking and kayaking. One more thing to love about New Zealand.

Punakaiki

Today I am heading further north. I am getting closer to ending my time on the south island of New Zealand. As I reach closer to the end I realize, as I have read in my planning, that I could have spent a month or more on just the south island alone. If I ever get a chance to return to this beautiful country then I still have so much more to see on my list.

But today I am spending the night in Punakaiki, famous for its blow holes and pancake rocks.

It was nice to sleep in a regular bed last night but tonight I am back at a campsite.

The campsite I am staying at, Punakaiki Beach Camp, is right off the beach. I don’t have a view of the beach but it is a short walk to the water. There are also great views of an interesting rock formation above.

View of campsite from the beach
Beach outside campsite

After I arrive I am hungry so I walk a couple blocks away and treat myself to a nice steak at Punakaiki Tavern outside at a cute patio.

After lunch I head up the road to see the famous rocks.

On my way I come across a cavern. I come to a crevice that seems like I would need to do some crawling to get access to the cave. Being by myself and no one else seemingly around I am too scared to explore further. Instead I just view the cave from the entrance. I wish I would have done research ahead of time because it looks pretty safe from the pictures online.

I continue up the hill toward the pancake rocks.

I have arrived at the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes Track, a 1 km loop that lets you view some interesting vegetation, flat stacked limestone rocks and water blowholes. The blowholes occur at high tide when the water enters caverns and the compressed air causes a pop when the waves come in. I have arrived just in time for some of the blowing to occur.

Origins of the pancake rocks are uncertain but they are seemed to be formed by organizisms many millions of years ago.

One area to observe blowholes
Another blow hole
Another blowhole area
walking path
view in the distance
view of the park

Walk back down to camp.

As I walk back to camp I watch the sun start setting.

I climb over some rocks and watch the waves crash up against them for a while before I walk along the beach back to the campsite.

I am back at the campsite and go to the very busy camp kitchen to prepare my dinner. Most of the tables near the kitchen are occupied by families so I find an empty spot on the nearby lawn. It isn’t long before the blackflies start ruthlessly attacking me. It is a beautiful evening and I would love to sit outside with a glass of wine but the bites are too much. I try a little bug spray but it doesn’t do much to help. I head back to my van to hang out “indoors”. There are flies that have made their way in the van and they buzz around me, threatening to bite me throughout the night. I am hoping I can hide under a blanket and they die of starvation.

Before I head to sleep it does get pitch dark. Without the light pollution I can actually see many stars outside. It is almost as good as my time in Wadi Rum when I got to lay on my back and admire the skies. I would spend more time outside except I want a piece of my body left that hasn’t been attacked by bugs.

Good night.

Heading to Lake Matheson

My time in Queenstown New Zealand is over. I am heading towards Fox Glacier for the night.

Of course I wake up super early. I prepare my coffee and yogurt but today I am watching a very noisy helicopter off in the distance drop wood or pick up wood along the hillside; the task isn’t clear, the only thing that is clear is that it is waking other campers. I get my groceries from the camp fridge, straighten and clean my van and get on the road by 9 am.

Leaving Queenstown

It is a very scenic drive out of town so I have to stop. I read about how invasive pines have taken over the area so they are in the process of killing them off. The pines are beautiful but suck the life out of the native vegetation.

Wanaka Tree

My next stop is at the famous Wanaka tree. This lone willow tree is a very popular photography stop for travelers in the area. I am shocked to have learned just two months after my visit someone cut off the bottom limbs.

Wanaka Tree

I continue on my drive and keep finding spots to stop for scenic views. I see beautiful lakes along the way.

My next scheduled stop is at the Blue Pools to see the beautiful cold pools of water filled from clear melted glacier water.

Blue pools

A visit to the blue pools can be as short or long as you like. It is a about a 30 minute roundtrip hike from the car park down a nice trail.

I reach a suspension bridge that starts to give views of the river or stream below.

I notice people swimming in the water. It looks refreshing. This is one of the times I hate being a solo traveler. I have no one to trust to leave my belongings with to explore the water.

I walk down to a beach area and take my boots off and soak my feet in the cold water for a bit. It is very cold but I love it. I sit and listen to the water flow as I soak. It is so peaceful and relaxing. I eat a snack but I could stay here all day or even just long enough for a picnic lunch.

I walk back to my car and head toward my final destination for the day.

Everything on my drive is beautiful: Water, rocks and mountain views. Water is blue and clear from melting glacial snow.

Will I ever find a gas station?

I start to discover that my USA credit cards are not compatible with all gas stations in New Zealand. For 75% of the time I am unable to pay at the pump while in this country; only a time or two is there an actual attendant to process a credit card manually inside. I start to find myself with worry that I won’t be able to find an accessible gas station when I really need too. The towns get smaller and smaller along my route. I start to stop at gas stations even when I am not in need of gas to fill up just in case the next one cannot take my purchase.

Will I ever arrive at my destination?

I am so tired of driving. This drive is supposed to be a 4 hour drive but it is now 6 hours. My anxiousness in getting to my next location doesn’t stop me from checking out this salmon farm I see on the way. They are getting ready to close but I pick up some smoked salmon to snack on.

I finally make it to my lodging. I am actually staying in a motel for the night. Living in luxury with my own little kitchen at the Rainforest Motel.

View from my room.

I have cable tv and working wifi. This is great. But I don’t stay in my room too long because I want to go checkout the sunset views of Lake Matheson and Mount Cook.

Lake Matheson / Te Ara Kairaumati Walk

car park view

Once arriving at the car park there is a nice trail that takes you 2.6 km in a loop around Lake Matheson.

Crossing a little bridge to get to the trail.

The trail is nice and peaceful. Still looking for kiwis but having no luck again.

Look at this beautiful green pathway! (Sorry about vertical mode).

After doing a bit of walking around I find the spots where the sun hits the mountain tops just right to reflect in the lake below.

I sit around a bit and watch the sky change then I walk back to the car park. Still great views on the way out. But no kiwis!

Watching the sun set on the walk back
Nice view but this is the closest I will get to the mountain tops this trip.

Not doing an all out glacier walk this trip even though I am really close. It seemed very complicated for a short stop. For now I am just viewing the glaciers from a distance. Another one added to my list for when I return someday.