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Mar 052010

It was decided to spend our final day in Nelson.  First though we stopped in at Lake Rotoiti to visit the giant eels under the jetty.  It was looking quite eerie this morning.

Nelson is about 90 minutes drive north of Tophouse.  As the sunniest place in New Zealand, today it did not disappoint.  After walking through the parks, by the ocean and around the town, we both decided it would be a very liveable city.

On the northern outskirts of Nelson is the Founders organic brewery.  It is located in a historic park that employs an old lady determined to take your park entrance fee even if you just want to go and buy some beer.  Fortunately it was almost 3pm on Friday and time for the market and the gates to open wide to all.

And it wouldn’t be New Zealand without a flock of sheep and some fresh fush’n’chups to finish off the day.

New Zealand 2010 – trip map, photo gallery.

Mt Robert Circuit

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Mar 042010

We chose to stay near St Arnaud because it is situated next to the magnificant Nelson Lakes National Park.  We set off this morning on a walk up the northern face of Mt Robert with spectacular views of Lake Rotoiti.  The track was quite steep and narrow and the mountain face clear of trees (previous fires and grazing) which was great for the views, but not so great for erosion.

On the way up we walked through some beech forest which then gave way to alpine flowers and grasses living in the harsh exposed conditions atop the mountain.

It was a great walk on a perfect day which took just over four hours to complete.  After lunch, we had a closer look at the clear waters of Lake Rotoiti.

Marlborough wine

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Mar 032010

Once back in Picton we procured a hire car that would eventually take us back to Christchurch.  First though, we had three nights in (near) St Arnaud, only a 90-minute drive west through the grapes from Picton.

Just outside of Picton is Johanneshof Cellars.  They only have a small planting of Pinot Noir, but have developed a reputation for making excellent Gewurztraminers from local grapes.

We then made our way back through Blenheim and stopped at only a couple more of the many wineries there.

Tonight we stayed at the haunted Tophouse, where we were relieved to learn the murder-suicide that took place in 1894 and the story of the resident ghost were unrelated.

The morning after

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Mar 022010

The day after our engagement dawned windy and overcast, but I was determined to show my ring and share the news with someone, anyone.  Fortunately, our friends who got married in Blenheim were honeymooning for several days at Bay of Many Coves Resort.  According to our host at Craglee, it was just a 40 minute stroll along the beach and through the bush from Craglee to the resort.

1 hour later, we arrived, hot, sweaty and covered with grass.  Turns out the locals’ idea of an easy walk is something else entirely to city-slickers like us!

Fortunately, our friends were just out in the bay kayaking when we arrived, and soon came in to say hi and hear the engagement story.  After a well deserved drink and chat, one of the lovely staff members drove us back across the bay to Craglee, saving us the hike back.

Of course, everyone knows I’m obsessed with food (I even have a food blog) I feel I should mention the amazing meals we had at Craglee.  All meals are provided at the Lodge (for good reason, the nearest restaurant is about half an hour away by boat) and the calibre is excellent.  Over the course of our stay we enjoyed home-stewed plums with our breakfast, scallops harvested from the beds in the bay, home-smoked salmon, zucchini pie, carrot cake, triple-baked cheesecake, homemade tia maria & chocolate icecream and asian pork loin with parsnip chips (to name a few!).  If I came home carrying a few extra kilos, it was well worth it!

Mar 012010

One of the many reasons we came to the Sounds was to walk part of the Queen Charlotte Track.  We’ve both been to New Zealand a few times (skiing, bike riding) but never really to tramp.  You could probably argue easily that we still haven’t done any serious tramping but it was good to get in a couple of day walks and check out the tracks and scenery.

The Queen Charlotte Track is a reasonably easy walk and runs mostly along the ridge between Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte Sounds for 71km.  We chose to walk from Craglee to Camp Bay which took us about five hours.  After quite a steep ascent for an hour, we joined the official track and began to enjoy views of both the Sounds.

For lunch we deviated off the track a little to Eatwells Lookout where we enjoyed a great sandwich and almost 360-degree views of the Sounds.

We finally descended through the ferns to Camp Bay where we caught the boat at Punga Cove Resort back to Craglee.

Topped off a great day with a bath under the stars and a little proposal…

To the Sound of Picton

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Feb 282010

After another big breakfast at The Cornerstone, we walked to the Blenheim train station to catch the TranzCoastal once again but this time only for a short trip to Picton.  At the station we learnt of the earthquake in Chile; the subsequent tsunami warning had meant the coast-hugging train was delayed by two hours leaving Christchurch.  We couldn’t wait as we had a boat to catch so luckily there was also buses going to Picton and we jumped on.

After a quick look around Picton we boarded the Mail Run boat to take us to our accommodation in Bay of Many Coves.  Being a Sunday there was no mail to deliver to the local residents so the boat trip turned into a bit of a scenic tour of Queen Charlotte Sound.  First stop was Motuara Island, a bird sanctuary, where we were able to walk around and without much trouble at all see and hear lots and lots of birds.

Next stop was the pristine Ship Cove where Captain Cook landed a few times.

The boat is also used by walkers to get between various sections of the Queen Charlotte Track.  We made about three stops in Endeavour Inlet, dropping off and picking people up before making our way into Bay of Many Coves and our accommodation for three nights at Craglee.  We were greeted by Rosie, a cold drink and some delicious home-smoked salmon.

Wedding Day

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Feb 262010

The wedding was held at the Blenheim Courthouse at about 10am and some lovely photos were taken in the adjoining square.  NZ generally has plenty of water, unlike Brisbane, so the flowers in the parks were a novelty.

After the ceremony about 30 of us boarded the bus for a tour of the Marlborough wine region, most famous for it’s savignon blanc but increasingly growing more varieties.  We visited three wineries, all a short distance from Blenheim: St Clair, Hunters and Drylands.

Lunch at Drylands was definitely a highlight – far and away some of the best wedding reception food I’ve had!  Kudos to the bride and groom for their choice.

The tour ended with a trip to the local schnapps distillery and finally the Makana chocolate factory.  We didn’t buy any chocolate at this point (if you know me you know that’s hard to believe…) but we would go back later in the week.

The tour wrapped up about 5pm and the sensible people went back to their rooms for a quick nap.  Not us!  We visited some friends down the hall and watched the winter Olympics and drank even more wine.  It’s not really a surprise that the night ended up being so wild…  For the sake of everyone’s dignity I won’t go into details, but the Cornerstone Bar at Blenheim deserves a shout-out, as do the Blenheim locals.

All aboard

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Feb 252010

A very early start saw us on the 7am TranzCoastal train from Christchurch to Blenheim.  The train follows the east coast of the South Island most of the way and we were able to see the beaches and some seals near Kaikoura.  The journey took just under five hours to complete.  We checked in at Chateau Marlborough before having an afternoon to relax at Scotch wine bar with tapas and an excellent Starborough Pinot Gris.

We’ve decided it’s nice to travel in a country where you don’t have to double everything to convert it to Australian Dollars, in fact the exchange rate is very favourable now at almost $1.30.

On the road again

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Feb 242010

Here we are, almost 12 months after we left for Europe, having a short break in New Zealand.  You can read about Christchurch here.