04.11.2013 - 10.11.2013 65 °F
The first person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest was Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander (1953). Not that I was planning to do the same, but it made me think that must have had some good experience hiking in his home country. I had been advised that the South Island was especially good for exploring and even more beautiful than the North Island. In addition it accounts for only 25% of the country's population, so it wouldn't be too crowded. My buddies at iSite in Wellington told me to go by ferry and booked my tickets, accommodations in Picton and Nelson. and a wine tour. So I was off and running with a handfull of vouchers.
There are two ferrys that provide service from Wellington to Picton. I went over on the InterIslander, which was the nicer of the two. It is about a three hour trip and worth it even if you don't disembark. In fact Wine Spectator called it "one of the most spectacular ferry rides in the world." (Thank heavens they have never been know for using hyperbole). It provides great views of the Wellington Harbor, travels across Cook Strait, through the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound, and into the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Unfortunately, most of my pics, especially the most beautiful, didn't come out. (Note to myself...don't use iPad camera for high quality photography). Here are the only two...
Upon arrival i found Lynne, the owner of Tombstone Backpackers, waiting to drive me the ten blocks to the hostel. It is located on a hill...
and its' neighbors are close by...
Darn but it was time for lunch. From Tombstone it was a 10 minute walk to "downtown" and Le Cafe. Green lipped mussels, farmed in the nearby town of Havelock, are the specialty of the area. I felt it was unjust to eat a dish of them without the accompaniment of another local specialty, Sauvignon Blanc
And this is what I had to look at during the meal...
Should I have asked the owner of the white car to move?
Picton has a charming harbor. One one of my walks up into the hills, there was a good perspective of Picton's port.
The downtown is quite small with a population less than 3000. (Compare this to Manhattan Beach with a population of 35,000)! Even so, it has a number of very good restaurants and pubs. I know because I tried most of them with the best being Escape to Picton. The dining out convention is to order your food/drink at the cashier and when finished, pay at the cashier (with a credit card). Tipping is almost non-existent...now I know why. And all restarurants and bars are smoke-free. Smoking has been banned, including indoor workplaces, since 2004. They were the third country in the world to do so.
The people are friendly and approachable. Their accent sounds more british than the Australians. I had an easier time undersanding them but they had some difficulty understanding my accent! One of my favorite conversations was with Ivan Kerr. He likes to answer his telephone with "I care" because that is how his Scottish surname is pronounced. He was cleaning undergrowth in the woods when I walked by on the Tohanga trail. I thanked him for keeping the trails so well tended but in fact he was maintaining his own property. I'm guessing he was at the least a septuagenarian. He was one of the most charming people I met on the trip. He guessed where I came from based on my accent, "California by way of the East Coast?" We talked about traveling and he had been everywhere in the US. I mean EVERYWHERE.
Picton is located in the Marlborough region, which produces world renown Sauvignon Blanc. I took a one day wine tour with Highlight Wine Tours. The owner, David, adjusts each tour to address his clients interests. There were two of us and later four more. He did an outstanding job of incorporating wineries I had specified along with the other requests. There are more than 125 in total, more than even I could do in a day. We visited six...more than enough. They included Hunters Wines, Lawson's Dry Hills, Saint Clair Estate, No.1 Family Estate (for their sparkling), and two others whose sav was less impressive. Dave was full of interesting imformation and antecdotes. He even picked me up and returned me to Tombstone.
I only had several more days left to spend on the South Island and had reservations in Nelson which was about 2 hours from Picton by bus. I had read that Nelson was known for its excellent weather. It boasts of having one of the best climates in all of NZ. Its a city of about 47,000 making it the 12th most populous in NZ and the second oldest settled city in the country And is know for it's stunning scenery. in fact the bus ride alone was gorgeous. We went through lush valleys littered with white dots (sheep close up), verdant mountains, and beautiful clear blue sky.
I stayed at the Paradiso and, once again, was picked up at the bus station and taken here...
It is about a fifteen minute walk into town and time for a beer. Nelson refers to itself as the "Craft Brewing Capital" because it has over 11 craft breweries. In fact it is the only place in NZ where hops are grown commercially...in the same fields which at one time grew tobacco.they are grown in the same fields where they use it grow tobacco. I figured I better try one or Conly would never forgive me.
One of the main reasons to visit Nelson is because it is in close proximity to the most popular regional park in the country: Able Tasman. Even though it is the smallest, it is the most visited. It's ideal for hikers, kayakers, boaters, campers, walkers, bikers, etc. who want to spend a day or longer in the park. The trails provide panoramic coastal views over Tasman Bay and the Western Ranges and includes beaches all along. So, I booked a day trip that included a bus from Paradiso to a sea taxi that took me up the coast to Anchorage. From there I hiked south to Marahau, an 11.5 km trail. A the conclusion, there was a bus that took me back to Paradiso. Ironic, because that was what the whole day was about. There are lush native bush, golden sandy beaches, rocky outcrops of mostly granite, estuaries, and offshore islands in turquoise waters. Here are my best attempts to convey what I saw...
I found the survivors!
The walk was about 3.5 hours. I had read that there are NO snakes in NZ but did expect to see some wildlife. I saw very little...mostly birds and among them a kiwi which is New Zealand’s native flightless bird, not a fruit. Kiwi is also a slang term for New Zealander. Kiwis call the fruit "kiwifruit."
My last day in Nelson, i visited the World of Wearable Art (WOW) and Classic Cars museum. They come as a package but I don't know why. As I mentioned in my last blog, I had seen a special exhibit at Te Papa and loved it. Since the WOW awards show got it's start in Nelson, it seemed fitting to check out the museum. It is to museums like Cirque du Soleil is to circuses. A local sculptor, Suzie Moncrieff, came up with the idea of taking art from gallery walls to adorn the human body. The result is...well...WOW.
And on that note, I departed from New Zealand...someday to return.