We last left off our adventurous group heading off to the region of Marlborough, right into the town of Blenheim. After figuring out how to put our tent back onto our van (the lifting is much more difficult then the pulling), we ventured north along the coast to Blenheim, the beginning of the wine region. We had to leave early so we could make it for the 10 am wine tour we had booked a few weeks prior. So we’re driving down the road, right on schedule.
And then we got pulled over.
Now (mom and dad), it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ll begin by saying I was not driving and we were not given a ticket. And we weren’t even speeding. I won’t say who was driving, but as we were going the driver saw the cop on the side of the road, then watched as he pulled onto the road, and began signalling at us to pull over. We did, confused as ever because we weren’t speeding and thought our car was in pretty good shape. At that moment the driver took off her seatbelt to reach for her wallet in the seats behind her. One girl in the back said “wait! put your seatbelt back on!” so she proceeds to get her seatbelt again just as the officer reaches the window. She rolls down her window and immediately explains that she did have her seatbelt on but took it off to reach for her license. This is when the officer explains that she had been wearing her seatbelt incorrectly, and had the shoulder strap behind her body. He explains how it should be worn, asks her a few questions and for her license. Then asks her if she’s had anything to drink and proceeds to make her take a breathalyzer (which later brought up a whole long conversation about New Zealand law). He takes her license and walks back to his car. And that’s when our driver goes “I don’t think I was wearing my seatbelt wrong.” and all of us say “how would he have seen that?” and “he has no proof”. The problem with the whole thing was she had no recollection of how she was wearing her seatbelt, but was pretty sure she wasn’t wearing it wrong since she would have had to have made a conscious effort to move the seatbelt. And of course we had no way to refute him. To our luck though, he came back saying something about not being able to produce a ticket, so we were getting off with a warning. Very lucky.
Another theory about getting pulled over was our van. Wicked campervans, the company we rented from, have had lawsuits and issues with police because of some of their vans. Mostly because some of their vans have offensive writing and graffiti on them.Which makes us think we may not have been pulled over if we had been driving a different vehicle.
After that bump in our journey, we were worried about making it on time. Fortunately google maps over estimated the drive and made it to the pick up spot right on time!
The marlborough region is a huge wine region, and has only become so pretty recently, within the last 40 years. They region now produces over 70% of all the wine produced in New Zealand (and that number is rising). There are vineyards everywhere and many wineries scattered throughout. The whole area is in a valley, with two mountain ranges creating walls on both sides. Basically, it was beautiful!
Our tour ended up being private since it’s off season, and 10 in the morning. So us 5 girls got in a van with our tour guide and two other men who were with the tour. It was never clear though what their roles were. We stopped at three wineries in the area. The first was Withers Hills, a huge winery in the area, and a winner of many competitions. The facilities were beautiful, with a gorgeous building surrounded by grape vines.
We tasted 5 wines here, my favourite being the sparkling dessert wine. It was limited edition for this year, and only a few hundred bottles were made. It was also the only sparkling wine we had on the tour, it was delicious. Our tour guide told us about when Kate and Will came to visit New Zealand, they went to this wine tour. We didn’t get to try the wine they liked and bought (or more likely gifted) but we did get to sit in the same room where they sat.
We also got to eat grapes off the vines at this winery. They were DELISH. Sweeter and better than any grape I’d ever had before. They gave us no quota to how many we could have so we basically ate them all…
Then we head to our second winery, spy valley wines. The whole place was spy themed, mainly focused on the Bond series. It gets its name because nearby is an American spy base. We tried 4 wines there and were given a little snack, we also got some sweet pictures in the vines. At one point our tour guide pointed to the clouds in the distance and said “see those there? that’s the north island” which really put into perspective where we were.
Our last stop was Hunters, a winery with a famous owner who paved the beginnings of wineries in Marlborough. As we were leaving the last one, we noticed a tiny artist studio tucked into the gardens, we stopped in but the artist was gone to lunch, so we bought some of his postcards, left some money and a note telling him how much we loved his art. He had these beautiful and huge oil paintings all over his studio. Our last stop, which was custom to our little tour, was a local chocolate shop. We bought some delicious toffee crunch, like nothing I’d ever had before. We got dropped off at our van, said goodbye to our lovely tour guide, and made some sandwiches for lunch. We had a picnic in the bit of grass next to where our van was parked. However, we were right beside a major intersection as well. So as we had our picnic in our unusual spot, we got lots of odd looks and a few honks. This continued as we laid out in the sun.. and napped.
Afterwards we woke up, picked somethings we needed up at the warehouse (similar to a wal mart) and continued onto Picton.
Picton is at the end of the Marlborough wine country and the beginning of Marlborough sounds. It is also where you can catch the ferry to the North Island. But mostly, it’s a beautiful ocean side town with gorgeous views. The road that leads out of Picton is called the Queen Charlotte Highway. It’s this crazy winding road up the moutains along the sound. It has beautiful views of the bays, and the surrounding mountains, it also has lots of walking tracks, including the queen charlotte track, which is a multi day walking track along the north of the south island. From what we saw of the area, I would imagine it’s a beautiful trek.
After a few stops along the way, we found a campsite right on the water called aussie bay. We set up shelley for the second time, and cooked our first dinner. We had sausages. It took a while (and a hand from a neighbouring campsite) to get our gas cooker going, but we did it. Thus started our night routine.
Cook dinner. Eat dinner. Drink beers. Play cards. Eat chocolate. Get ready for bed. Read/talk in tent. Fall asleep.
^this is not an exaggeration, we did this every night. The card playing was the most consistent, we played so many rounds of president through the whole trip.
The next morning we packed up and went for a hike. Although the queen charlotte track is long, they have marked smaller sections of it, if you want a smaller hike. Which is nice if you’re like us and have limited time in all places. We hiked through the forest and ended at a beach, where we did a quick yoga sesh and attempted to take a group photo from a tree. We hiked back, and laid on the dock in the small town for a bit. There was a rowing lesson happening, and we met this one couple and their dog. He used to work for the department of conservation. Which might mean nothing to you, but meant a lot to us. See, there’s more undeveloped land than developed land in New Zealand. So most of the country is beautiful open nature, with camping sites, walking trails, picnic areas, forest parks, scenic reserves and national parks. All ran and maintained by the department of conservation. Since we’d been road tripping and camping all over New Zealand, and since most of the activities we did were the free ones run by the department, we are really keen on them (and really familiar, I love seeing their green and yellow signs everywhere). So to meet someone who worked for them was very cool for us.
After our chill time we drove toward Nelson. On the way we stopped at the Pelorous suspension bridge.
And finally we made our way to Nelson, the biggest city in the north. It was much bigger than I was anticipating, but was a very cute and artsy town. We spent the afternoon looking at the shops, getting a coffee and using the wifi. We decided we wanted some chill time to ourselves, so we found a campsite early, set up camp, had an early dinner, then took some time to journal and read and do our own things for a bit. It was a really nice evening, but a strange campground. We stayed in two types of places during our trip, either a department of conservation campground, which is basically a plot of land in a nice location with a bathroom structure and a box that you pay into. Or a holiday park, which ranged from almost hotel like, to sketchy as. This one was trying to be good, but wasn’t quite there yet. But we slept, and all was good, there were even some really nice moon moments.