Escape to Blenheim!
After spending a day in Franz Josef glacier, where we trekked up to the glacier itself and stayed at a really cool rain forest campsite, we started driving north along the west coast. The destination was Punakaki, the home of oceanside pancake rocks and blowholes. The drive up the coast was nice and smooth with some incredible views over the ocean while the road dove in and out of the rain forest. The pancake rocks and blowholes of Punakaki were a really cool and unique place, but fairly small and self contained.
At the visitor centre we were informed that the snow storm we had left behind in Wanaka had caught up with us, and that all mountain passes to the east cost were closed because of heavy snowfall. This included Lewis pass which was the pass we were intending to take to go back to Chirstchurch.
To avoid the storm, we decided to head up north and get to the east coast by circumnavigating the north tip of the island, around Blenheim.
This involves quite a lot more driving then simply crossing the pass, but it is a safer route, as all the roads are along the sea and low in altitude. This also meant that we could spend some time in Blenheim, in the heart of the Marlborough district, known for his vineyards and excellent wine makers.
The drive to Blenheim took over 4 hours and was very tiring due to the snow and ice on the road...luckly the fiat coped well!!
The next morning we rented two bicycles and went for a wine tasting tour around the vineyards! We stopped at 4 different wineries and tasted some Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Resling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, Merlot and some desert wines too. All the wines were excellent but we both felt that the whites were superior, especially the Sauvignon Blancs. The wineries that we liked the most were St Clair and Cloudy Bay, which we will look for when shopping for wine back at home.
The more we tasted the harder it was to bike to the next winery, especially for Benni...she went off-road a couple of times and had some serious trouble parking and locking her bike! Don't worry, it is all recorded on video and you will soon be able to watch it on YouTube!
Warm, happy and satisfied we rode our bikes back to the campervan and after a few hours drove down towards Kaikora. Our drive down was intense as the ocean was crashing down right next to the state highway we were on. Some half dozen unlucky seals got in front of a car not too far ahead from us and got run over rendering the car undrivable! The ocean was so fierce that all the seals were escaping on land and on to the road. We realised this the next morning on our drive to Christchurch where we saw tens of seals along the side of the road. We stopped and got really close to a big group of them, which was peaceful enough to remain still for a few pictures!
These were our last few days on the south island, and what a way to end our visit to this incredibly beautiful