Our first taste of the South Island


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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Marlborough » Blenheim
October 21st 2010
Published: October 26th 2010
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As soon as we arrived in Picton, we went to the information centre/i-site (every town has one of these and they give you all sorts of info about where you are going and suggestions of what to see) where a really nice woman helped us with our south island itinerary for the next 10 days, as we had been struggling to decide how to do this island, she then said that as we were near a lot of wineries and vineyards, why didn’t we do some wine tasting? Good idea! We got a map of the vineyards, which were based in the Marlborough region of Blenheim about 30 minutes from Picton, and set off to start our first ever wine tasting afternoon. We first stopped at a winery called Saint Claire (all the wineries have names, usually of the family that started making the wines years back) where it was $2NZ for 5 tastings, which we thought was pretty good until we later found out they are usually free! We tried several types of red and white wine, before deciding our favourite was clearly the NZ Sauvignon Blanc, and moving on to the next one, but not before a quick stop at a small chocolate making factory.
This one was free and again we tried several small measures of different wines which were very nice- white wine is definitely better than red wine out here, and we found out this is because of the climate, as it isn’t hot enough in NZ to grow the right type of grapes for bold red wine. Vic then said she would drive and not have any more wine, as Scott likes it more, so as you can imagine after visiting another 5 wineries Scott was a little worse for wear!

We left Blenheim around 3pm after a really fun afternoon and started the drive to the Abel Tasman area via a town called Nelson for a petrol stop. The drive was really lovely and the weather was so good, which was a surprise as we had thought the south island was supposed to be colder than the north but it was just as good. Nelson was only around an hour and a bit from Blenheim and Vic drove this, while Scott snoozed off his wine hangover, enjoying driving the van for the first time. However, upon driving out of Nelson and seeing flashing police lights in the rear mirror, she pulled over to let the police pass, only for them to pull up behind us! We both sat there wondering why they had pulled us over, thinking maybe a brake light was out or they just wanted to ask questions about the van (as its so colourful etc), but to our shock they said Vic had been speeding and they were giving us an on the spot fine! We were both so surprised, as Vic is very conscious of not speeding ever and it didn’t feel like we were going over the limit, and also annoyed, more so when they said that she had been doing 62kph and the speed limit was 50kph; we would have argued this and begged them to let us off but Scott was still half asleep and Vic was so shocked at being pulled over for the first time in 7 years of driving, especially in NZ after only driving for a couple of hours! What was most annoying was that we have been so good with free camping and trying not to spend too much money, and then we get hit with a speeding fine. Lesson learnt the hard way- definitely do not speed in NZ!

Anyway we moved on and arrived in a town about 10 minutes from Abel Tasman National Park (where we would spend the next day) called Motueka. We drove through the small town and noticed a backpackers lodge which said it accepted campervans, so we pulled in and sorted out parking there for the night and using all the facilities for a small fee. This was, by far, the nicest hostel we have seen and stayed at our whole trip (SA included); the owners were so friendly, it had a great kitchen, a big lounge with tv and dvd player, free internet, new big showers and a hot tub in the garden- bliss! It was called Happy Apple and we can’t recommend it enough. We cooked a dinner of pork chops, rice and salad, did some laundry and caught up on our blogs and with family before going to sleep (in the van outside) around midnight.

Aside from the speeding ticket, we had a great day and a good start to our time in the south island and were looking forward to spending some time in the Abel Tasman national park.

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