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.

Moeraki New Zealand Day 2

Today is my second day in Moeraki. On the agenda today is to go see the famous boulders on the beach then head back to Katiki Point to try to catch a sight of penguins again.

I enjoy the cooler weather with a yogurt, granola and banana with a coffee looking at the water below.

Yummy yogurt from the local store

I watch the boats heading out for a day’s fishing.

The best time to see the boulders is a low tide. Today that is scheduled at 11:30 am.

I walk along the road a little bit until I reach a now partially closed path. I take the Millennium track toward the beach. It seems like the track was longer in the past (closer to my holiday park) but erosion has made part of the trail unsafe. The brush is slightly overgrown. I am wishing I would have worn long pants today.

I finally make it to the beach where it is nice and calm. There are very few people on the beach but I do notice a dead seal. It is really sad to see. Luckily it has been removed before my walk back.

I make it down to Moeraki Boulders Beach to look at the unique boulders. The boulders were formed around 60 million years ago during the early Paleocene. They are now being uncovered due to coastal erosion.

I head up to the nearby café to order some fish chowder.

Moeraki Boulders Cafe

After lunch I walk back to the holiday park back along the beach.

I hop carefully from rock to rock to a secluded area. I savor the sounds of the ocean and birds. It is very calm here. I notice tide starting to rise. Not wanting to get “trapped” I head back the way I came. I think this probably used to be part of that now defunct track.

I notice different types of flowering plants on my walk back.

I relax for a little while before heading back to the Katiki Point to try to get some more penguin viewing. Today I end up seeing only one penguin.

He goes away from view for a while so I end up looking at some more seals.

The penguin moves uphill where I snap a couple more pictures.

I drive back to the campsite but first stop by the village to walk around. There isn’t much to the village but a pier and a nice restaurants. I have food to eat back at the campsite so I forgo the restaurant.

Cool campervan I see

Back at my campervan I set up a semi-healthy dinner. I make a large salad but can’t resist butter bread with this spectacular butter (I feel like an influencer now, they should be paying me).

I love my stop in Moeraki. If I had more time I would have checked out the nearby towns of Dunedin and Oamaru. Oamaru in particular has the Steampunk HQ: a funky museum of all things steampunk (a missed opportunity on the drive into Moeraki). I just kept missing the window of opening hours so I regret not stopping on the way. I think it would have been fun to visit.

Tomorrow I head further south to Te Anau to get closer to Milford Sound. Loving my visit to New Zealand so far.

Arthur’s Pass, New Zealand

Yesterday we took the train from Kaikoura back to Christchurch. According to the maps it seems like our bed and breakfast is in walking distance to the train station. We set off with our luggage but unfortunately it seems in the wrong direction. We hike over an overpass and seemingly going out of our way. We walk past some office buildings and then finally we see our lodging, Addington Bed and Breakfast.

We booked the cheapest room, the twin room. It is tight for the two of us with all our luggage but the home is nice. The breakfast is quite good and the house is clean. I am happy there is a washer and dryer available so I can do some laundry while I am here. Space is tight but we don’t plan on spending too much time in the room; besides I’ll have the whole room to myself for the third night anyway.

Today we visit Arthurs Pass National Park and seemingly the best way to visit is by train, a couple hours from Christchurch. Accommodation and amenities are limited at the national park so we visit as most do as a day trip by train. There is also an option to rent a car and drive to the pass; in the interest of time we didn’t take this option.

The weather is quite uncertain as it often is. We hope to get some time to look around before the rain sets in.

We start off with a walking tour provided by a park ranger. We meet at the temporary visitor center.

Learn about animals introduced that became pests. New Zealand is very strict about people bringing in foreign plants and animals, even checking our hiking boots on the way into the country. Unfortunately they weren’t always as strict and now they are paying the price with foreign introduced animals wreaking havoc on their ecosystem.

Our guide takes us past a waterfall, a church with a great view and some other notable landmarks.

Only about 30 people actually live at Arthur’s Pass. As far as visitors go I think many who stay the night do tramping (similar to backpacking, the recreational activity of going for long-distance walks in rough country).

After our tour ends we take the hike up to view some waterfalls.

Devil’s Punchbowl Falls (Māori name is Hinekakai) is up and down a good amount of stairs (2.2 mile hike). I may have cursed and whined a little on the stairs but it is worth it.

After the water fall hike I’m hungry so we head to lunch at one the two restaurants at Arthur’s Pass.

Even with no competition, The Wobbly Kea isn’t bad.

I love my halloumi and pear salad.

After lunch we go for a short nature hike. At this point I am focused on seeing a live kiwi but from what we’ve been told it is more likely to see them at dusk. My ears are actively listening but we are unsuccessful in the quest. However we do happen upon some beautiful lichen lined paths that are other worldly.

Wide open spaces

After our hike we head over to the general store and watch a very naughty Kea bird try to steal everything.

We walk back to the station to await the train. It starts raining but fortunately the rain was not able to ruin our day.

While we wait for the train we start chatting with the guys next to us. We find out they are in Christchurch for a quick stop back home (California I believe). They are scientists that work in Antarctica. They are responsible for fixing and setting up important scientific equipment. They are fascinating to speak with.

Our ride back to Christchurch begins and the rain stops to open up some beautiful views.

Once we are back in Christchurch we head to dinner before walking back to our bed and breakfast. My aunt leaves me tomorrow and I am once again alone for at least another month. It is nice to have a companion while it lasts.