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Published: January 10th 2009
A little background. For me, this was a dream come true. Two years ago, a yearned to go to NZ. Everyone... EVERYONE I talked to that had visited or lived in NZ had nothing but great things to say. However, with costs, time, etc. I just kind of left it hang in the back of my mind as something to do down the road. Sometime. Someday.
Then I was assigned a project in Sydney and noticed two beautiful holiday weeks open for the taking with NZ just a short plane ride away. And from there the trip was born.
The next step was considering who I would invite on the trip. On all of my international trips, I try to bring someone along. After tons of contemplation and prayer, I called Robert and asked if he and Vanessa would be interested in making the trip over... they talked it over for about a week with each other and their families (who they would be missing Christmas & New Year's with) and decided to go 😊.
This trip was over two months in the planning in coordination with Robert & Vanessa. We each planned part of the trip: I
took on days 1-4, Robert had days 5-9, and Vanessa planned days 10-14. We had a shared spreadsheet on Google Docs with itinerary, budget, lodging, and transportation details.
Basically, we had 14 days to explore arguably the most beautiful country (overall per square mile) on Earth. The planning involved was quite a task, especially since there is such an abundance of fantastic things to do in NZ. We had to decide the route to take, how much to do, and, of course, what to do. We also had to decide modes of transportation and decided on a mix (car, ferry, plane, train) but mainly by car.
Resulting from all of that planning and coordination was an extraordinary road trip across the north and south islands of NZ.
We woke up way freakin' early in Wellington, got packed up, took the car to the ferry terminal, dropped off said car, got in line (for the 8:00 AM ferry, we got there around 7:30 AM; while we had to arrive 45 minutes early, it was okay since I thought the ferry left at 8:25 AM 😉, checked our bags, and boarded the massive ferry (which holds cars
aplenty, had a decent cafeteria, a movie theatre, and a bar).
It was very sunny and windy on the sail over. We started up on the top deck and watched Wellington as we sailed away. In the open ocean, I went to the bar to rest and watch an American football game.
Once we started seeing land again I went back up top. We were passing islands, bays, coves, and sounds aplenty as we sailed into the south island territory; we passed a lot of mountainous terrain on both sides. Often in little coves along the coast there would be one house and a boat; because of the terrain, I can't imagine there were any roads and I didn't see any.
Once we arrived in Picton
, we first picked up the car but stayed in town a bit (as well as have some ice cream). It is quite a small town and has a small beach, next to the ferry terminal, and some shopping.
We left Picton and drove to Blenheim... the heart of the Marlborough
wine region. We stopped at the information center and got some advice on which wineries to go to. We decided
on two: Lawson's Dry Hills Winery
and Yealands Estate
Lawson's was closer to Blenheim and we picked it because it is a smaller, boutique style winery (while Yealands is more the big corporate style... so we got a taste, literally and visually, of both). One of the owners was there she gave us a tour of the winery and we also sampled a few different wines. Well worth the visit.
After that, we drove further out into the countryside to Yealands Estate. The countryside was fairly large rolling hills / borderline mountainous and carpeted with vineyards and golden pastures. As we approached Yealands, we could see the ocean in the distance.
Yealands is fascinating for a number of reasons. Possibly the most fascinating is the owner -- Peter Yealand. While we did see him near the entrance, we didn't talk to him (he seemed friendly, though). However, we watched a video they have set up and, lo and behold, he is a hands on developer of vineyards (not just a wealthy person with a wine hobby as many vineyards seem to be) -- designing equipment and working with the machinery to set up the vineyard. He has also been involved in
I sometimes stack these up at significant/notable points on journeys. Cairns can represent a lot of things (burial site, summits, trails, etc.).
developing and designing equipment for marine and deer farms (yes, NZ farms deer... sounds silly; the reason is that deer, and any mammal except a kind of bat, is not indigenous to NZ... some had been released in the wild, but to protect the native habitats, NZ has worked to remove (i.e. among other methods, they have bounty hunters fly around in helicopters and shoot them) all of them from the wild; since there is still a good market for venison, you have deer farming).
Something else interesting is that Yealands incorporates sustainability measures wherever possible. They utilize windmills, solar energy, develop wetlands, use recycled materials, and collect storm water, among other things.
From there we drove back hinto the countryside before heading down the coast on Highway 1. The coastal drive, which I had mistakenly assumed would be relatively flat, was anything but. It was turn after turn of hilly coastline. And absolutely beautiful scenery with very little traffic.
Along the way, we stopped at a beach area next to a restaurant overlooking the ocean. We walked around the beach for awhile... soaking it all in, and then got a bite to eat to before continuing
Picton Ferry - 1
This is part of the south island.
on. We also stopped for a short bit at Ohau Point Seal Colony and watched the seals.
After much driving, I think a stop in another small town for dinner, we arrived in Christchurch, where we immediately got lost and borderline argued, while using competing maps, over how best to get to the hotel. However, we worked it out soon enough and got checked in.
We stayed next to Cathedral Square. That night we walked around a bit and went to Burger King for dinner (not much else open). Also, a drunk guy, among a throng of drunk guys, threw a trash bag at one of the other drunk guys near Vanessa and barely missed her.
It was yet another epic day. I say "epic" because not only were we doing so much on each day, but the days are so much longer there this time of the year that it feels like two days... the sun was rising just before 6 AM and not setting until just after 9 PM (over 15 hours of daylight!), while in the States we were only getting around 9.5 hours of daylight).
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