Our first stop on the south island was Blenheim, which is a rather businesslike town in the heart of the Marlborough wine region. We stayed in a lovely site next to the river and stupidly allowed the owners to convince us that the best way to visit vineyards the following day was on a bike.
We started the day with a run; we have formed a routine that involves me getting up early, taking myself out on a long run, then coming back to pick up Jodie once a good route has been identified. Blenheim did not look promising until I found a lovely path along a river that took me out of town. Typically, after running past many bridges and deciding to cross and run back at the next one, I found myself on a long bridgeless stretch. I eventually found someone to ask if I could cross the river soon. In a wonderfully Kiwi outdoorsy way the lady told me that she thought the river was rather too high at this time of year, but if I went for another Km or so I would find a bridge!
By the time I got back I was really not looking forward to another trip out with Jodie, but we managed it, and so it was with already wobbly legs we got on our bikes for a day of tasting. We visited 5 vineyards, one liquor maker and a chocolate factory over they day, and this included Cloudy Bay, which to Jodie is the equivalent of a Pilgrim reaching Jerusalem. Once again, the highlight of the day was the people we met. We spent much of the day with Steve, an ex city trader who put his dosh into restaurants, has left his brother running them and has decided to travel for a year. We also met Nikki, who was a solicitor working for the AA, came on holiday to NZ, loved the place, enrolled on a vintners course and only returned to UK to flog her house in the most remarkable style. Pretty much the first person to see her house brought it, and as he had just left his wife in their home with all the furniture, asked Nikki if she would be interested in selling any of her furniture with the house. The result was that she left the lot, less clothes and personal effects - he got milk in the fridge, a boiled kettle, bread in the cupboard and just had to unpack his bag, flick the telly on and grab a beer. There is the smell of fate about that!
On return to the campsite (by which time it was raining and moods were turning dark) we met a Danish couple and their three kids who had saved for two years to buy a car, then thought 'sod it, lets go on a big holiday instead' and were coming to the end of four months away. Having such an adventure had really affected them and I could see that returning to normality was going to be very hard; they were convinced that they were going to live life differently on their return. Finally we met two ex teachers from Canada who had sold up and brought a brand new catamaran and were going to sail from here on in. They were a lovely couple and full of life. Rather flatteringly, after saying goodnight ?? returned with his details, declared that their first impression of us had been good and asked if we would like to keep in-touch with a view to joining them when they sail from NZ to Tonga in 14 months time. What a great offer!
When offers like that arise I have to keep telling myself 'this is not real life; you will have to return to real life'. I know that 'real life' dose not involve getting up and jumping into a crystal clear sea, spending far too much time wine tasting or swimming with seals. It involves getting out of bed, trying to be awake enough not to cut ones face whilst shaving, slipping on cloths designed to blend in, impress, or at least not offend those whom you work with (depending on ambition), grunting at the wife over bran flakes, then filling your day with work that is 40% rewarding, 40% dull and 20% degrading. However, I love the house we rebuilt and are yet to live in, know that Jodie and I have had such a hoot over the past years on the back of such behavior and understand that bills need to be paid - so real life it is! The thing that nags at me is that we meet so many people who have ditched x or y and are now 'seeing the world'; the 50ish Swedes that are biking from the southern tip of Argentina to Alaska, the 30ish Estonian physicists that are motor biking around the world, the teachers that are spending the rest of their lives at sea or the thousands of Kiwis who have compromised pay for quality of life and I wonder if there is another way!
Anyway…..the plan from Blenheim had been to head off the next day to go whale watching on the east coast, but we discovered that the sea was too big and most trips were being cancelled, so plan B was to head off to Nelson.