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New Zealand Trip Report

Day 7 of 24

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Thursday, March 7th
Blenheim wineries, Queen Charlotte Track

Our plan today was to visit some wineries and then hike part of the Queen Charlotte Track. This is not as easy as it sounds, since we wanted to take a water taxi to Torea Bay, hike to Mistletoe Bay, and get picked up there. Therefore, we hoped to get the wineries out of the way as quickly as possible.

But first, breakfast. Kathryne made us a wonderful breakfast of plums (from the property), granola, yogurt, homemade toast, and choice of pancakes or omelette (I chose the pancakes). Everything was delicious. Meanwhile, Phil whisked Andy away to school, but not before we asked him about his Lord of the Rings action figure set. He had almost the complete set sitting on the table; they looked great and we were thinking of getting some of the figures.

Our first stop was Seresin Estates. We would have missed it had Phil not mentioned the distinctive hand icon which is visible from the road. We were the first ones there this morning, and were treated to a personal and free wine tasting. Our favorite was the 1998 Reserve Chardonnay. We picked up a bottle to take home, and we couldn't find it anywhere else in New Zealand (it was a limited run). Jean also found she liked the Seresin olive oil, so she picked up that, as well. Apparently you can get some Seresin wine in California from Pacific Vine International (look it up on the web if you're interested); however, they probably don't have the 1998 Reserve Chardonnay -- you'll have to go to New Zealand for that.

View from Seresin Winery

On the drive to Seresin, I noticed that the mountains were green on one side of the wineries, and brown on the other -- much like the Bay Area in summer. Apparently there's a great discrepancy in rainfall. Nelson in general is regarded as one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, and you'll get no argument from me. It was the only area we stayed where it didn't rain at least one day.

Next up was the Ponder Estate, a place noted for its olive oil -- they have 4000 olive trees on the property. However, Jean liked the Seresin olive oil better, so we didn't get any. We did, however, pick up some tasty mango chutney. The merchandise area is also filled with works of art by Mike Ponder himself. The pictures we saw were going for $15,000 NZD., we didn't get any. Not my kind of art, anyway.

It was already getting a bit late in the morning, and Jean had enough to drink already, so we skipped going to some of the wineries we had originally planned to visit. Instead, we continued straight on to Picton, the edge of the South Island, so to speak. Ferries from the North Island arrive at Picton. We drove to the visitor's center near the ferry terminal to try to book a water taxi. Unfortunately, it turns out that the water taxis are more geared for morning trips than afternoon trips, so we were kind of stuck. There was no way we could do the hike we'd originally hoped to do. We made the best of it, though. We reserved a cruise on the Marlborough Sound for the next morning, and planned to drive to Anakiwa to do a out-and-back hike this afternoon.

That settled, we visited a cafe for lunch. We'd heard good things about a cafe by the wharf; unfortunately, we went to the wrong one. We went to the Seaspray Cafe which was filled with elderly tourists and food that wasn't very good (although you can't go wrong with kumera soup).

After lunch we took the very winding road to Anakiwa. The gentleman at the information center had said it would take about 20 minutes, but it was more like 30 minutes. It was also probably the most winding road I've ever driven on (I've never driven on Lombard Street). The road has so many tight corners, along with narrow roads and a complete lack of shoulder. It made for a harrowing ride in which we had to stop halfway because Jean was getting motion sickness (and she almost never gets motion sickness). Eventually, however, we made it to the end of the road and the start of the Queen Charlotte Track.

After our hike, we drove back to Picton. Now, I should have taken the road to Havelock, instead. That way we could have eaten at Mussel Boys again and saved ourselves from taking the very winding road. But I wasn't thinking fast enough. Instead, we stopped by a place in Picton where we ordered fish and chips. Jean had some kumera chips which were very good. I've mentioned kumera several times, so you're probably wondering what it is. Kumera is a kind of sweet potato.


We had originally planned to eat a fancy dinner at one of the best restaurants in the area, but we weren't really up to it after the long day. So when we got back to Antria, we told them to cancel the reservation. Instead, we later got some Japanese take-out food from Blenheim. We had California rolls and salmon rolls which were very good.

We talked to Phil a bit. He told us that the clear-cut we saw was pine trees used for lumber. They plant them and it takes about 25 years for it to grow back. They don't cut down the Kauri or Totura trees, which take 2000-4000 and 1000 years to grow back, respectively. I guess this all makes sense, but it's still an ugly sight to see. The emotional response is to look at the clear cutting and think it's awful, but in reality they're probably doing the right thing, protecting the trees which take a long time to grow, and harvesting the run-of-the-mill pine trees.

It was only that night that I noticed that I'd been bitten by sand flies during the day, probably on our hike. It wasn't too bad, though.

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