Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wellington to Marlborough Wine Country

January 4th – January 10th
We finally retrieved the car from the VW dealer (see last post) and happily headed back towards the coast. I don’t mean to dismiss what the inland areas of the North Island of NZ can offer, especially the mountainous and geothermal areas, but there is an awful lot of pasture… I guess I can’t complain unless I become vegan, and quit wearing my beloved wool clothing, but there is a much larger amount of deforested land than I anticipated.

We found a lovely and free camping area near the beach at Te Horo, just a ways north of Wellington. Darrell loves to run on the beach, and I love to poke around and see what the ocean brings within reach. Each beach has its own personality and we have often had long, long stretches of beach to ourselves. Beautiful.

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and a nice size city of 164,000 (compared to Auckland’s 1.2 million). It is also home to the University of Victoria and is nicknamed “Windy Welly”.  We were lucky enough not to receive the lashings of horizontal rain Welly is known for! Rain boots here are known as Wellingtons or, more commonly, gum boots, from what the gum workers wore to extract the kauri gum (see last post).

Occupy Wellington with the Parliament "Beehive" building behind it
There is a motor home park right downtown next to the ferry terminals. It is super convenient for walking around Wellington, but it is a little strange to be densely parked with so many other campervans right next to one of the main roads into the city. For $50 per night, you get a piece of the asphalt and the codes to the bathroom. For downtown living, that isn’t too bad!

Happy pigeons in a Wellington fountain
We stayed two days and did the city thing including nice restaurants and the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Best of all was the wonderful and free Te Papa Museum. It is four stories tall and packed with information about New Zealand from before it was part of Gondwanaland to today. Awesome. They had a wonderful exhibit about the Waitangi Treaty where we learned more than we had when we went to Waitangi! They had a full-size marae inside, as well as exhibits from World War I and II and their impacts on New Zealand. Truly one of the best museums I’ve been too with lots of interactive goodies for kids.  And it was so nice that it was free because you could come and go, visiting the museum in small doses and not getting too overwhelmed.

Beanbag chairs outside restaurant near Te Papa Museum
We took a tram up to the botanic garden where we got a view of Wellington, and wandered on the trails. While not defending British colonialism, the Brits do tend to create large and lovely botanic gardens wherever they go!

View of Wellington with University of Victoria field in foreground
Within the botanic garden was a Japanese Peace garden where a continuous flame burned. The memorial said the flame came from the fires caused by the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima. New Zealand is famously anti-nuclear and barred any nuclear-armed or powered ships from their harbors. In response, the USA kicked NZ out of the ANZUS treaty. Two years later, as most of my readers will remember, Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, was bombed and sunk in Auckland Harbor by French agents before it could sail to protest French nuclear testing in Tahiti. This further resolved EnZed’s (as NZ is pronounced here) stance against nuclear power.

Peace garden with flame from Hiroshima in temple
We celebrated my dad’s birthday (Hi Dad!) by taking the morning ferry from Wellington, North Island across Cook Strait to Picton, South Island. We were excited to get to the South Island as it has only a fraction of the population and has a lot of land in National Parks. Time to move from cows to kiwis! But we weren’t exactly leaving civilization behind yet…

Our first stop was in the Marlborough region, where some of the loveliest Sauvignon Blanc’s are made. We toured two wineries and then set up camp in nearby White’s Bay.

White's Bay - note the sea arch in the background!
The next day we toured another two wineries, including Spy Valley Wines, where we were the only two tasters there. We visited with the woman informing us about the wines and discovered she had also lived in Boulder, Colorado while her husband went to school there. He switched from physics to producing wine.

Vineyards in Marlborough
We camped the second night right near Monkey Bay, a wine-label we buy frequently as it is marketed in the States and sells in our price range! The name came when two young winemakers hiked to the bay and realized it was a memorable name and had a good story of a lost monkey behind it. Voila, the label was born!

Darrell at Monkey Bay
I took a long walk the next morning, first along Rararinga Road where I met Dorothy collecting her mail. Even friendlier than most Kiwi’s, who are amazingly social, Dorothy invited me in, introduced me to her husband, gave me two jars of rhubarb preserves, and told me about a website that featured mailboxes from her neighborhood. New Zealanders do have some of the most interesting mailboxes we’ve ever seen. Darrell and Lindsey spotted a fish mailbox in the northland, and we’ve seen plenty of lively ones throughout the country. Here are just two of the many from Rararinga Road!

Aliens on a bicycle?
I walked along the beach on the way back to our campsite.  I had the beach to myself with just an artistic reminder that other people have been along this beach as well!

Driftwood sculptures along Rararinga Beach

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