|Our last major stop to complete our big tour before heading back to Christchurch was in Nelson. We were looking forward to enjoying the sunny weather the region is known for, and taking in the warmth before going back south to the cooler stuff. In both respects Nelson did not disappoint. On our way from the West Coast, the scenery changed a bit, parts were along the pretty Buller Gorge (with the longest swingbridge in NZ - not sure on the length - it wasn't that super spectacular even though we had to stop and check it out), and we drove around two national parks so there wasn't too much habitation. Nelson is the 2nd largest city on the South Island, so once we arrived, it was back to civilization. Again, keeping in mind, "big" for NZ isn't always that populated.
After the obligatory stop at the visitor center to get our bearings and load up on local maps, we took a walk around town. The main street was full of hanging flower baskets which added a nice touch. We managed to find an outlet sheep wool shop and took a peek at some super soft and fluffy rugs. One of these is on our wish list to bring home!!! We also couldn't resist a stop at the Rosie Glow Chocolates, where we indulged in a rather large piece for only 3 bucks. Unfortunately for really probably the first time, our choice of lodging that night wasn't the best, but we survived. It was just kind of set back in the woods a little and a tad creepy, so we didn't spend much time there. While sleeping that night, the local cows were mooing up a storm nearby. We decided to not eat in, so we splurged and went out for some gourmet pizza- something we hadn't done in a while.
Thursday kicked off the beginning of one of the major highlights we were looking forward to- wine tasting. Since we've become such early risers, we actually had to dabble around town till 10:30-ish so we wouldn't be the first people at the vineyards. Our first stop was at the Grape Escape, a cute little boutique place with a craft shop, schnapps and olive oil tasting area, and then the wine area. The woman behind the counter was friendly and persuasive so we ended up trying our first wine of the day - a Riesling. We ended up getting it, and it was off to the next stop. Just down the road through some beautiful landscape was Seifrieds, a place we had targeted because we really wanted to try their Gewurztraminer. This time a lady led us through a tasting of 6 different wines, including a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, the gewurtz, a pinot noir, a cabernet merlot and a Riesling ice wine (which we loved). We were the only ones in the shop, so it was great to get the special attention. Just like we expected, we took home the Gewurtz. For those of you counting, that's two bottles so far!!
We figured at this point we needed some sustenance in the tummy so we stopped at the Naked Bun for a tasty pastry. Our intention for the day was to take our time, and really take it all in. Especially on this day, we tried to keep in mind that the journey is just as much fun as the destination. We zipped through a couple of other villages in route to our intended lunch spot, in Kaiteriteri, a lovely beach with golden sand near the beginning of the Abel Tasman area. Mystery machine got a good workout going up and over yet another hill until we came to Takaka and eventually our home for the night, Pohara, the Golden Bay. We really liked this place because it was right on the beach, literally ten feet away. We took in a local attraction, the Pupu springs, some of the clearest water in the world apparently. It was really cool! For dinner we took advantage of the grill at the campground and did it up New Zealand style - sausages and corn from a roadside stand! It always seems to taste so good from these random places. We even cooked it a new way for us - still in the husk, in the microwave for 3 minutes an ear. It turned out great!!
Of course we strolled around the beach around sunset and got lucky with a gorgeous purple and pink sky. The sandflies were getting annoying so we hung out inside, and met an older American from California, and a woman from England traveling around for the whole year. We talked with her a bunch, very entertaining. We settled into our tent without the fly because the weather was fine, only to wake up in the middle of the night several times to the pitter patter of rain on our tent. Uck!! Thankfully we didn't actually get too wet, but the tent was soaked, and by morning our sleeping pads and bags were a soggy mess. We aired them out for as long as we could, and while doing so struck up a conversation with our neighbors, two Germans traveling the world by bicycle. Really cool! The English woman from last night also joined us, and even took us on a tour of her red mini-bus van. Would you believe that on the front of her vehicle a previous owner had put a sheep skull? She decided to keep it, so now this petite woman was driving down the road with this ominous skull on the front - quite a sight!
Golden Bay is practically an 'end of the road' area, beautiful and somewhat remote, so we turned around and headed back on the same road toward Nelson. Today our quest was to find olive oil, and after a little more searching than we intended, we hit the jackpot. At the Stafford Lane Estates, we ordered the tasting platter of 2 olive oils, 3 wines and a nice tray of bread, chutney and dukkah. Now have you heard of dukkah, because we sure hadn't? It's a blend of crushed seeds, nuts and spices that you dip bread into after dipping it in olive oil. As Anja would say, scrumdidliumptious! The setting was just like you would expect, no one else there but us, sunny, comfortable temperature, looking out at a grove of olive oil trees. Of course we had to add to our collection of purchases, so we bought a Sauvignon Blanc, an olive oil, and the dukkah!
Our campground that night was like a little city, bringing back memories from our stay earlier on the north island at Hahei beach. We ended up being one of 3 people in the kitchen cooking potatoes (popular for some reason) and we had a good chat with this American couple on sabbatical from Colorado. They were home schooling their two boys, and the woman was over the top energetic and enthusiastic about our plan of working and living in Christchurch. Saturday morning we took in the local market with the usual vendors of crafts and some food. We stayed in Hanmer Springs on our way to Christchurch and took a soak in the hot springs, which felt really good because of the cold air. In Christchurch we'll be doing another WWOOFing thing, so surely more good stories will come from that.