9-27 Rubgy, Wine and Free Lifts from Strangers

We left Dunedin on Tuesday afternoon and made it to Christchuch late in the evening. After a very cold night (the tent door was frozen shut when I got up in the morning), we were back in a bus before 8 am and on our way to Blenheim.
Friendly canadians

Marlborough is the wine region of New Zealand and Blenheim is the heart of that. My kind of place. We arrived a little after lunch after a stunning bus ride along the Kaikoura coast. We found the campground pretty quickly but broke our tent pole in the process of getting the tent set up. We took a trip to the big box store to buy tape to fix the tent pole and stopped by a McD’s for internet. On our way back to the campsite, we passed a group of Canadians. How did I know they were Canadian? The huge Canadian flag was a good tip, as was the Canadian rugby jersey, rugby t-shirt and hat. The other three Canadian flag were a good tip, too. I asked them when the game started. They told us it was starting now and took off for the bar. We said we’d meet them there in a bit.

We fixed out tent pole and went to the bar. After a quick walk through, we realized the Canadians had saved us a seat at the bar. Front and center for the game. We joined them and spent the next hour cheering for the Canadian rugby team. Around halftime, a couple of Scots came in and joined our cheering squad. We had an hour break before Scotland played, which we took to go get a pizza. Then we sat and cheered on Scotland. It was a lovely international evening.
The wineries all had GORGEOUS grounds

The next morning we lazed around in the communal kitchen and chatted with people until the wineries opened. Then we rented bikes and set off on a 20 k roundtrip of 6 wineries. We had a nasty headwind going out but we figured that would be to our advantage for the return journey.
The wine tasting was delicious and alcoholic. I learned a lot about Sauvignon Blanc. It comes in lots of flavors! But, I also learned a little more about wine and what I like in a wine. I still like Riesling and I don’t much like Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir. On the other hand, there was several wineries with Gewurztraminer which was new to me. It was tasty. I also am getting more into roses as well.
There were so many wine fields

It was fun to employ our accidentally acquired storian skills and see how effective they are in the developed world. At several wineries, we were the only ones in for a tasting. We’d get to chatting with the person pouring the wine. The first pour was small, only two swallows or so. (We didn’t look likely to buy much.) By the third wine, we were usually up to three large swallows and at the end of the tasting we were often given a pour of an “extra” wine they saved for high rollers or requests. So much good wine!

We got back to campground with an hour or so before the USA vs Russia rugby game. We made a quick dinner and headed to the bar to watch the game. We sat at a table with two older couples from England and a couple our age from Wales that had been Australia for the last three months. There were other nationalities scattered throughout the bar, all of us cheering on the USA. It was a good game and a great atmosphere. Both the nights in the bar were everything good about how sports can bring people together.
There were more sheep and this adorable lamb

The next morning, we were trying to find a bus to Picton. It would take about 20 minutes in a vehicle or all day on foot. We had to get there by 1:30 to catch the ferry. While waiting for 9 am to roll around so we could go to the information center, we were chatting with a man from South Africa. He was going the same way but catching a later ferry than us. We chatted rugby until he went back to his campervan. Half an hour later, he came back into the kitchen and offered us a ride north.

The two days in Blenheim were full of good people and spontaneous community. It was wonderful reminder that people are inherently good, even in our busy and fast-paced developed world. In contrast to Jason’s earlier post about it feeling unfriendly, those three days were full of friendly, welcoming people.

9-16 Playing tourist in Dunedin

The white building with the silo is the Cadbury factory

On Monday, David and Zoanna had to do “work” and “school” things so we were on our own to find amusement. We had to choose between a brewery and a chocolate factory. After much debate, we went for the chocolate. We were going on a wine tour later in the week anyway.

We biked into downtown where the Cadbury Chocolate Factory was located. We took a tour, which was amusing. I feel like brewery/factory/distillery tours all follow a basic format. You go in, watch a video or hear a lecture about the product and why it is the best which usually includes historical claims to fame. For Cadbury, this included the first chocolate factory in New Zealand under other management, which was then taken over by Cadbury. Then you walk through and look at the initial processing of the product, in this case, how do cocoa beans go from bean form to cocoa solids and butter. Then you go through this factory’s specialty, for instance Jaffas (little orange coated chocolate balls) or Easter Eggs. Then you watch the production line and feel sorry for the people working on it as you are staring at them. Finally, there is a “twist” like a ton of chocolate that falls from the ceiling. And then you are out on your own.
On the Cadbury tour, there were a couple of gorgeous views from towers and they gave out chocolate. Really, they gave out enough chocolate to justify the price in my mind, so I’m happy. Anything that gives me chocolate gets points in my book.
Stained glass train in the railway station

After our factory tour, we did a little “self-guided” exploration. We ditched the bikes because it was pouring rain and wandered around. We found the train station, which was pretty, and an electronic store that was useful. We also stopped by a martial arts store and found out that ssang jyul bong are a controlled weapon and you have to have a black belt certificate to show to purchase them. I think we’ll just make some on the island.

It had stopped raining by the time we got done with all that so we picked up some groceries and biked back to the house.
I left Jason to go for a jog that continued to prove that New Zealand is beautiful. I can’t remember the name of the place we went, but we went uphill into the forest. The woods themselves were gorgeous and exotic to my northern hemisphere expectations. Giant ferns, like I see in Vanuatu, except growing side by side with hardwoods and scrubby bushes. The ground was littered with pine needles, or something like them, which reminded me strongly of home. I think I’m still more at home in the forest than on the beach, but don’t let my dad know. He’ll be disappointed that even a place this beautiful can’t instill his love of the ocean in me.
Playing cards in the evening with our hosts

We hung around the house and cooked and played cards for the evening and much of the next morning. At noon the next day, we left for the bus back to Christchurch and adventures in the Marlborough region, also known as wine country.

9-16 Following Locals in Dunedin

Living statues at the Market.  I miss art.

On Friday afternoon, we stopped in the town of Palmerston for lunch. We were ahead of our new-and-improved schedule and thought we’d pick up some internet at the library. One of our hosts in Dunedin, Zoanna, was on Facebook chat at the same time. She offered to come pick us up in Waiakouaiti. We considered our regularly frozen toes, another night in the tent and how much we wanted to watch the rugby opener and took her up on it.

We got to the Dunedin City limits on the bikes. It was another 50 k to Dunedin. Random fact: Dunedin’s city limits were set during a gold rush. The city planners were quite responsible and planned for the city to continue to expand, what they didn’t plan for was the gold to run out. So, they set the city limits based on the rate of expansion during the gold rush and now there are “urban farms” that include pasturage for herds of sheep and acres of fields. The Dunedin City limits are also outside of three very large hills. We got a ride over those. Which was good for our legs.
Our adorable guide through the city and her mama.

Friday evening, I got nominated to drive to the store to pick up more cider. New Zealand drives on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel is on the wrong side. I didn’t hit anything and I came home with cider.

Saturday, David and Zoanna had to go do things for school but had asked friends of theirs to take us to the Saturday morning market. The market was like a Farmer’s Market and lovely in the variety of foods and art on display. It was actually overwhelming to have four kinds of apples to choose from and so many varieties of bread and pastries. Jason tried a Bacon Butty and declared it tasty. It involved bacon, cheese, and egg in a sandwich.
They gave us a short walking tour of the city including First Church, which is a lovely cathedral. Curiously enough, there was a Victorian Hat display in the museum at the back. The hats were nice and all, but why were they in a church? Some of them could have been worn to church, but some were certainly not church material. It was very odd.
Sandfly Beach at moonrise

After that, we went for a drive in the Otago Peninsula. Most or all of the Otago Peninsula is also within the Dunedin City limits. Go figure. There is a lot of gorgeous scenery and I enjoyed the conversation along the way. We even stopped for ice cream, which remains one of my favorite foods.

When David and Zoanna got back, they offered to take us back out that direction to Sandfly Beach to see sealions and penguins. Of course I jumped on that chance.
Very large mammals that smell like fish

The sealions were pretty amazing. The beach is the home to a large number of wild sealions. On our walk down the beach to the penguin hide, we were a matter of feet from some of them. It turns out sealions are enormous creatures and they smell like fish. Who’d have thunk that a sea mammal would smell like fish? There was one cute white pup with its mama, but we didn’t want to get too close expecially after Zoanna’s stories of being chased by one.

We waited at the penguin blind and got to watch a handful of penguins come waddling out of the water. Unfortunately, none of them came our way so we only saw them from pretty far off. The penguins are very shy and don’t like humans at all, so you have to stay well hidden to keep from scaring them off. We were hoping a few would decide to come roost close to us for the night, but we didn’t see the ones that did. We heard some that were very close, but we never caught sight of them.
We went back to a delicious dinner prepared by our guides from the morning. We ate while watching the England vs Argentina rugby match. It was a long day for people used to the isolation of an island or a bike and we crashed pretty hard that night.

Dunedin City from the Otago Peninsula

9-6 We made it to NZ and found it to be COLD!

We made it to New Zealand without any hassles on Sunday. Vanuatu wanted to give us something to think about and had a nice earthquake as we were waiting for the plane. Everyone in Christchurch has told us to expect some more while we’re here. The buildings here are a lot bigger than the ones in Vanuatu…
Jason in front of the Aukland skyline.

We flew in Sunday afternoon. We got to the campsite without a hassle and got the tent set up. New Zealand, like Ireland, shuts its doors early on Sunday. We had trouble finding a place to get bread and cheese for breakfast and tape for some emergency tent pole repairs. We eventually found a 24 hour grocery store and got all the necessary things.

I think we will be eating our way through New Zealand. Sunday night we had Indian. I have been dreaming of Saag Paneer since I left the States. Lucky for me, the portions were huge and I had it again for breakfast.
Here is a word to anyone traveling to New Zealand and planning on camping. There are reasons there is an “off-season.” It has to do with weather patterns. It turns out that by “early spring” they really mean “early spring” in the same way people in MN mean it. They mean they are delighted because the snow is gone and you can play outside. For someone coming from over a year of summer, “early spring” can be translated as “I haven’t been able to feel my toes in six hours, my nose is cold, I need to buy a hat and gloves and what they hell was I thinking that this was a good idea?”
The sunset was pretty and Remuera has a nice view.
Our nights have been a little chilly. Like in the 40s. The first night we had one polar fleece blanket to share between the two of us. It was a rough night.
Yesterday, we flew from Aukland to Christchurch. Christchurch is further south and therefore, colder. Not a step up in my books. We got to the campsite at 4:30, got our tent set up by 5 and were on the way to a department store to buy sleeping bags by 5:10. The store closed at 6, so we went huriap smol. We made it and got ourselves two “indoor” sleeping bags as well as All Blacks brand winter hats and a few other camping conveniences.
The sleeping bags were a drastic improvement on sleeping last night, but we’re still in the market for more warm things. I’m looking for flannel pajamas or a fabric store to buy a few yards of polar fleece.
Our home for the next few weeks.  It requires better insulation.
Part of me thinks being cold in 50F weather is ridiculous. Unfortunately, that part of me is not in charge of temperature regulation.
Today, we pick up the bikes and start down the coast. There are a few things we want to see along the way but mostly we’ll stop where something catches our eye. The scenery is supposed to be beautiful and I know I’m looking forward to riding a bike again.
We’ll pick up internet where we can, when we can. Free wifi doesn’t seem to be big in this country but hopefully we’ll keep catching it in bits and pieces from MacDonald’s and Starbucks.