Day 16: Wellington: November 13th
We woke up to a lovely morning. We had brekky and strolled the harbour, oriental Bay then back downtown to the lovely, stylish, tiny coffee shop Southern Belle for coffee and brekky, then to catch the cable car up to the botanical gardens. Super steep up the hill from downtown. Twice as steep as Seattle. We had a map but got totally lost in the gardens and pretty much saw nine of them haha. But we did see where some wellington homeless live, under the overpass. We got back downtown and what else, stopped for a local brew in the summer sun. The place had lots on tap and bean bag chairs where ppl were reading, napping, drinking, lounging (with service). So different! We people watched a young couple getting it on on the grass. Old creepers we were haha. It was a bit much.Lots of bean bag chairs here, by the way! And ice here is either salt ice or party ice (regular). After St Johns we walked to Courtneay place, nice street with tons if establishments. We had a mighty list of places that had been recommended at home and in our travels. So it was about now that we decided we had better do a little pub cafe crawl. Duh duh duhhh. We hit Malthouse, home of a crazy number if NZ beers. Next was Cuba street, where we sat outside at Plum and watched the hipsters play great guitar and 15 pigeons and little birds eat a pie shell.(side note - bumblebee flying around right now and they are three times home size and sound like lawn mowers!) We hit up Moore Wilson's after, a gorgeous grocery store near our apt. Best fish market Saare had ever seen (crawfish = around $60/kilo so we definitely should have grabbed our buddy from the north). We bought an appy platter and went home for some wine (this is where I believe my demise began). Starting out again we went to Monsoon Poon, highly recommended, and had the best pepper squid ever and the NZ version of Moscow mules. Our next stop was a craft beer shop that was closing - we were trying to find our fave sawmill beer (so hard to find) so we went to a bar where a few dreadlocked hippies were playing weird jazz music. After Meow we went to Library! An upstairs bar with furniture and library books and a 2 for 1 cocktail special. We had to get old an fashioned in a place like that and read medical and diving books! I tripped and moved a couch out of olace and that corner had a good laugh. (ok maybe this was the start of my end). Left there and headed to motel, which actually looks like a motel with a vacancy sign up a dark flight of stairs. Our next and last stop was a no brainier as everyone had been telling us to go to Hawthorne lounge, and it was steps from our apartment. We had a rough address, but the place had no sign. We just walked up a flight of stairs to a gym and tried a different door and there it was! A tiny place with not a big crowd. We sat by a Hobbitt movie worker, a continuity person who ordered a bunch of toastees. I ordered a drink and then a water and it was goodnight Melly. Saare walked me home, what a gentleman, and now we get to his demise. I think there was a bit of a man crush with him and the Irish bartender :) Only they know what happened.
Day 17: Wellington: November 14th
I woke out the next morning to watch the soccer, not feeling hot, and Saare had been at the bar until 4 hahahahaha. He had 4 dingers and a couple cocktails after I left. What a machine. But he was not feeling good. Poor NZ lost 5-1 to Mexico - who finally found their game at the Azteca stadium. Next leg is in 3 days in Wellington and NZ will have to win 4-0 to advance. That is a tall order but there will be 37k fans and we will watch in Queenstown :) We got some fresh air (a rarely perfect sunny and non windy day in Wellington) and walked around and then sat on a bench in oriental bay watching the fit healthy people run by us. Got ice cream there. We had sourced out the best meat lie and went to Cafe Lafarre to get it and a salad. Great spot with amazing coffee. My friend Kaz got to Wellington from Vic that morning and we met her at her local coffee shop (right below her work, absolute therapy NZ, the inspiration for my amazing therapist and clinic Absolute Therapy in Vic!). Kaz had given us a map of the north with arrows and notes and it was so crazy helpful for our planning. She took me (Saare had to abort due to hangover) up to the biggest suburb in the Southern Hemisphere (where she grew up) to a high up local secret lookout of DT, the surroundings, harbours, bays, airport - beautiful. And an amazing way to see where we had been enjoying so much for the last few days. We absolutely loved Wellington. A foodie paradise on the water with so much character, so much to do!! We went next up Mount a Victoria, to look that way. Good perspective of the fault line that Wellington lies on. Apparently downtown shakes a lot in a quake - you could see our apt right in the line. No float planes - too windy. She dropped me off and went on her way. We decided to get the car out of that silly parkade so we wouldn't have to in the morning, good thing!! The parking operator had no idea what to do and it took us 20 minutes again to get out of there. Found a rock star city spot by the hotel which Saare guarded while I ran to get the car, which we had temporarily put in a too expensive lot. Then we went out for dinner to Fidells (on Cuba st hehe). Amazing burger and pizza. Time for some much needed zzzzs after we packed up. I enjoyed falling asleep in our penthouse with the curtains open and the moonlight streaming in above the city. Unforgettable :)
Day 18: TO THE SOUTH! November 15th
We woke up early to beautiful blue skies. Out of the place at 7 and to the ferry terminal to catch the interislander. We dropped off our rental car (we put between 2700 and 2800 km on it - forgot to do the final check!) and boarded at 7:30ish. Very similar to our ferries but subtle differences in look, service (bar, cafe), checked baggage. We had our suitcases, backpack, cooler full of goodies, fishing rod. Saare found a great spot in "the lookout" and we enjoyed smooth sea (rare apparently, one ferry lost a propeller a few days ago). We went through the cook straight. Gorgeous turquoise water and forested islands. We arrived in the Malborough region to Picton at noon! Picked up our new ride, a white hot Toyota hatchback again which is full of our junk already :) lovely seaside town (good dolphin swims apparently) but we blew through it to get to Blenheim (pr Blenem) - home of the vineyards that grow the famous Malborough sauv blanc among others! We had a quick lunch at a cafe in Blenheim and made our way to Renwick (where the wineries are!!) we drove to a home that rented bikes. Got a couple beaters with a basket for me and a pannier for SK. We planned our little 5km route!!! (Saare allowed one comment on our last ride per leg of the tour). We rode down some gorgeous little roads past massive vineyards flanked by mountain/hills. It looks, smells and feels very similar to the Okanagan! Our first stop was Forrest, a 25 year old winery. Only us there! A nice tasting but only 3 wines. Had a Kim Crawford quality Cab Sauv and some others and bought that. Yum!! Next we hit the highway (bit sketchy when the loggers rip by) and passed 4 or 5 to get to Giesen. Beautiful place - yum wines - popular lunch spot. Tasting host was a bit cold but we had a Pinot Gris that was amazing. Like moms canned pears. Off again to a beautiful spot - Hans Herzog. Amazing name. They were the organic winery with small production and very anti-commercial. When picking time comes everyone goes including office staff, chefs, hosts! They grow 28 diff grapes on the property. A tour group came in so we weaseld into that tasting :) Surprisingly we loved a Zweigelt (first seen in NZ) and bought that, along with a locally made Kiwi figure of wood and metal to add to our little animal collection at home. The wines were pricey but really special place. We hit the highway again and switched it up at the MOA brewery! It was surrounded by vineyards. We got to the tasting room and the host had a half pitcher ready and waiting... The brewmaster had taken it out of the vat 20 minutes ago so that he could take 2 growlers home. It was an IPA called Pacific Northwestern. YUMMY!!!! Doesn't get fresher. We knew that Kim Crawfords vineyards were near there but too far (over it now!) but Cloudy Bay was next on our list! We biked down the driveway but darn! They had closed at 4 (surprising - 8 others there too). Cool to see nonetheless. We dropped the bikes and off to our Bach! Quick stop at a small town convenience store for sandwich, chips and meat pie (greasy) and took the windy roads. We drove through beautiful Nelson. Nelson was the first place we pegged in NZ as a must go to!! Yay! We drove through it, and a little town called Richmond, up the hill and down more vineyards and farms!!! Sheep, donkeys, alpacas, deer. Our place is beautiful - high up on the hill over the city with a view of farms and the ocean. The Saare Adams Ltd booking service has done us amazing again! We got groceries and whipped up a salad for dinner at about 9:30 and shut it down.
Day 19: Nelson/Abel Tasman: November 16th
Saare woke me up apparently to show me the sunrise. Oh my goodness - it was one of the most beautiful skies I've ever seen (I say that at least once a week but I really mean it this time). It cam over the mountain right across from us and over all the farms with crazy pinks reds oranges all over the cloud formations. I got pictures :) We loved brekky on the farm - birds chirping (extra loud cause the men are showing off who has the best wing flap and loudest song) and lawns mowing! We headed out to Abel Tasman for kayaking! Our first stop at Kaiteriteri beach was beautiful - so busy! It's a gorgeous sunny sat so everyone was at the beach! We talked to a company that was a bit touristy and decided to head down the worlds windiest road further towards Abel Tasman. We found a place to rent and met Todd from Haida Gwaii (looked like Toddy too) who let us go out a bit late in a tandem kayak haha. Finally a tandem test! Tide was going out so we launched, beached ourselves on the first sandbar haha, then took off! It was beautiful to be in those turquoise green waters. We cruised by the mainland beaches where ppl doing the Tasman Coastal trail (similar to WCT) were camping. We cut across the passage over to Adele island to try to see the rock sausages - no luck! Saare saw a blue penguin but I missed it. We followed a tour through some rocks then passed the. (Happy we didn't do the tour - you are only as fast as the couple at the back with a paddle in one hand and a smoke in the other haha). We passed a bay with some boats and parked on a cool beach we had seen on the way out - which had turned into an awesome spit because the tide was racing out! We had sandwiches and walked around and set off again! We saw some cool penguin birds (I think they were penguins cause they walked on their back legs) and kept going. Passed a seal who flipped over and waved his fin! We made our way around to the open side of the island and saw more gorgeous coves and a massive amount of huge mussels. We then raced a few boats back because it was just funny and only we knew we were racing and landed on the beach that wasn't there when we set off 4 hrs before. It was exactly like Parksville!! They use John Deer tractors with trailers to get the boats launched! Never seen anything like it! Good business idea for Parksville?? We walked back and enjoyed a local pint at happy hour on the seaside. Drove back to shower up and head to Nelson. Which is amazing. And not too far off from our Nelson! We went to free house and had an ESB from a hand pump tap! So delicious. You can order fresh beer and takeout from a nearby restaurant. Cool. We decided to go to Harry's and had a Thai dinner - Saare ordered the last whole snapper with a head on and loved every last bite even the cheeks! Headed back to the farm.