So....onwards to the South Island. We had to catch a ferry to get from Wellington to Picton... we were so excited about going that we were the first in the queue for the ferry! We even beat all the lorry drivers!
The crossing was beautiful. It took us 3 hours and the scenery was absolutely stunning....all mountains and small bays with the most amazing turquoise water. I don't think I have ever enjoyed a ferry crossing so much before.
Once docked we pulled into Picton and had a little wander about. There was a small bay and marina so it was a perfect stop to stretch our legs and grab a bite to eat. I seem to recall that we visited a rather lovely gallery there too with a stunning picture made from walnut shells and bits & pieces that the artist had gathered... it reminded me very much of mum's nature shelf at home.
Next stop Blenheim which is where we decided to set up camp for a few nights. We headed straight to a bike shop to book our bike for the following day as we decided to do a tour of the wineries... by bike! Not only will we be drunk in charge of a bicycle but we had booked ourselves a tandem so we were asking for double trouble! With transport sorted for the wine tour we got ourselves into a rather lovely campsite right on the river...we even had ducks for neighbours! At one point they were trying to get into our tent, I'm sure they fancied curling up in our sleeping bags for the night!
The following day we walked into town to pick up our tandem armed with the Marlborough Wine Tour map and some lunch. At first we were a bit dubious about riding the bike in the middle of town so we wheeled it onto the main road.... much to the amusement of some locals who were saying things like, "aren't you supposed to be riding that thing?!" Once on the open road we got on and after a bit of wobbling we set off to find our first winery. It took us all the way to get used to riding the bike and for me to stop laughing...I don't think I have laughed so much in years! We must have been such a sight!
We visited 6 wineries in all and were very good and weren't charged with being drunk in charge of a bicycle! We were drinking mostly white wines which isn't what we'd normally drink but by the end of the day we got quite a taste for it.... can't say the same about riding a tandem though! Much as I laughed I don't think either of us would be up for doing it again!
That night we had the most stunning sunset which we watched from the kitchen of the campsite with... you've guessed it... a glass of wine!
You'd think with all that wine I would have slept well but we had a pretty windy night which kept me awake.... luckily for us Stinky stood up to the wind even though he got quite a battering! Apparently we were due to get the tail end of the storms that hit Australia.
We packed up fairly quickly and set off into Nelson to check out their famous Saturday market before the heavens opened. The market was a lovely mixture of food, arts & crafts and various other bits & pieces such as plants. It was really nice to have a look at all the stalls and to feel inspired by the talent around me. Nelson is known for its artistic community and its laid back attitude to life.... you certainly felt it in the market.
From Nelson we headed to a small place called Kaiteriteri in Abel Tasmen Park to book sea kayaking for the next day and to have a wander along the beach. It didn't take long for the weather to start closing in on us so we found a place to stay for the night.... poor Stinky was relegated to the carboot as we booked ourselves into a little cabin for the night so that we could get some sleep and not get bashed about by the wind! It was pure luxury as we had a fridge and an ensuite bathroom and a kettle too! It was a bit more money than the campsites but it was so worth it as we both slept far better.
Feeling refreshed we got up ready to go sea kayaking the next day. Just as I had made the decision that I wasn't getting into the water due to the sea looking so rough, our guides for the day cancelled the kayaking. I think Andy was pretty disappointed but I was relieved as the water was not looking the most inviting and I wasn't up for a soaking! We did still go out that afternoon in a big boat from Kaiteriteri to Onetahuti Beach so that we could go for a walk through the bush to Bark Bay. We went via Split Apple Rock .... a rock that looks like a split apple.... and Tonga Island, which is home to many seals. We were dropped off at the beach and had to wade through the sea to get ashore... it was like something out of an adventure book! The bay was so peaceful and we felt like we were on a desert island for the 2 hours of our walk. It was so peaceful other than the birds and because it had been raining the leaves of the ferns were an amazing green.... just beautiful.
We had set the following day aside to do some carving in Nelson ....we couldn't have picked a better day as it was POURING down with rain so anything else would have been miserable. Many New Zealanders have a bone carving talisman around their necks which are Maori designs and we both rather liked them so decided to have a go at carving one for ourselves. We didn't really fancy one in bone so had contacted Stefan, the bone carver, and asked whether or not we could give it a go in wood. Stefan was very accommodating and organised a small piece of Rimu wood for us both to carve (Rimu wood is native to NZ and the piece he gave us is hundreds of years old... a real piece of NZ for us to take home). We had to design our pendant first and then with Stefan's guidance we got to cut it out, drill and sand it etc until it resembled what we had designed. Funnily enough Andy and I had both done a fish hook design although they are in completely different styles... the fish hook design brings you good luck as you travel, especially overseas... we didn't know that until we had made them!
Feeling rather pleased with ourselves and our new carving skills we continued on our way towards the glaciers. The weather still wasn't any better so we decided to only drive for a few hours before making a stop in a funny wee town in the middle of nowhere called Murchison. We decided that we'd stay in a hostel again as we didn't fancy getting Stinky out so we stayed in a hostel called "The Lazy Cow". When I say hostel, what I mean is someone's house with a few extra rooms! It was like staying with your aunty and we were made to feel very at home by Phil and Ali (the owners). As soon as we had got through the front door the kettle was put on and we sat and chatted to them as if they were old friends..... if anyone reading this goes through Murchison be sure to stop there for a night as you'd be made to feel really welcome.
The weather the next day had slightly improved so we continued on our way towards the glaciers. Leaving Murchison at 10ish (we felt so at home we had a lie in!), we went to Fox via Punakaiki (the Pancake Rocks). We did a little loop walk that showed you the best of the rocks. They were really interesting and really did look like pancakes all stacked up on each other. There are many theories as to why the rocks are shaped this way although no one has come up with a definitive answer so we were left wondering what caused them to look like they do. The rest of the day was spent getting to Fox glacier and sorting out a heli-hike tour for the next day ... yes, I did say helicopter...how excited were we?!
And on that cliff hanger, I shall leave you! We are in Bangkok bus station at the moment killing a bit of time before getting our overnight bus to Phuket ....beaches here we come! Only two weeks left although we'll continue to add to the blog until the whole trip has been posted... so many more adventures to tell you about!
With Love, V & A Xx
PS. The photo accompanying this blog is a picture of the countryside viewed on treks around Chiang Mai and is similar to the hills we saw whilst trekking around this area.