We camped in Blenheim, the center of the Marlborough wine country. If you’ve ever enjoyed a white wine from New Zealand, it probably came from this area. The ferry taking us to the North Island didn’t leave until 1pm, so we thought we’d squeeze in a few of the more than fifty wineries in the area. The process is similar to those who have enjoyed the Napa or Sonoma valleys in California. We found a winery open at 9am and started right in on the tasting. It’s been a long, long time since I had wine for breakfast. Some wineries charged a modest $2 to taste five wines; others poured so many so fast we could hardly keep up. No cheese or crackers were provided to cleanse our palates. Instead it was sip, sip, sip. As is the custom we started with the dry wines and worked our way up to the sweet. It was surprising to us and to the serving folk, that we can purchase New Zealand wines at home more cheaply than we can here, even with the currently strong US dollar. When you consider how far those wines have to travel, it is mystifying how the producers can make any profit at all. Most of the wines produced on the South Island are white. The reds require a warmer climate and we may be tasting those on the North Island. Carefully balancing our desire to taste with our desire to drive safely to Picton and board the ferry, we made that final drive in the nick of time and drove on board.
The ferry was an efficient operation and took many campers like ours as well as commercial trucks and passenger cars. The 92 kilometer journey took about three hours and the first hour was beautiful as we made our way through the sounds and islands that comprise the northern end of the South Island. It was a cloudy day and half way across the clouds had sunk almost to the water’s surface and the fog horn sounded. After all our scurrying around trying to see and do as much as possible, it was nice to sit back for a few hours and watch the scenery go by.
The arrival in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, was a shock to the system. Although it is not a big city by our standards, all the traffic zipping by was something we really have not experienced since we left Christchurch two weeks ago. As soon as we could find a place to park, a challenge since the underground lots are too short for us, we hit the big city and got an urban fix. We stocked up on reading matter and electronic gizmos and enjoyed a great dinner in town.