First stop in the South Island - and time for work

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
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Trip End Apr 01, 2012


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Where I stayed

Flag of New Zealand  , Marlborough,
Monday, October 31, 2011

So unknown to us before arriving here, it takes 3 hours by ferry to cross between the North and South Island. Lucky for us, it was a calm day and we enjoyed the trip out of Wellington and into the Queen Charlotte Sounds towards Picton.  The narrow channel for the ferry gave us great views, and respect to the crew as it didn't look like the easiest channel to navigate given the rocks to dodge.

From arriving at the ferry terminal, we got on the local bus which makes some stops around the very small town.  Upon mentioning our hostel, the driver said he could probably drop us off and once everyone else was off the bus he drove off his route and dropped us off outside the door.  This was our first encounter with the South Islanders – very friendly and pretty laid back.

We arrived at Sequoia Lodge which is where we were to spend a couple weeks, working for accommodation with the aim of getting some paid work in the afternoons.  The hostel itself was homely, had a hot tub, free chocolate pudding every night and free cookies every morning so we were pretty sure we could spend some time there! Plus the other workers there were good fun so we were quite happy to spend some time in one place. We got to work with a range of nationalities – from France, Malaysia, and Germany. The managers, Rachael and Mike, were very easy to get on with and we didn’t find the work too taxing!

Picton itself was pretty small, as in it had a supermarket, some restaurants and cafes for the tourists in summer season – none of which stayed open longer than 4,30pm, an Irish pub, and Scottish pub.  It is a good walking area, so we amused ourselves in the afternoon with walks along the headland to Snout Head – one with an 18 year old german called Thilo.  That was when we discovered we were beginning to get old, when we struggled to follow behind his march.  We stopped for breath at the lookouts while he took photos and went down other paths to look for better views!  Other afternoons were spent asking about jobs, going for coffee or just chilling in the hostel. 

The weather here is very much still spring time and so very changeable – makes the UK weather looks settled.  This was one of the problems with the job that I did manage to get – at an ice cream parlour that only opened on sunny days.

Jonny also was meant to do a trial in the shop but when the owner heard he was happy to do gardening work she changed him to gardening work.  They do seem to have their set sexes for jobs here and it’s pretty difficult to cross the boundary – only woman work in the tourist information, library, supermarket checkouts and apparently ice cream shops and so Jonny would not be expected to do these jobs. 

Anyway the other problem with the ice cream shop work was that the owner was a bit mental.  One encounter with Jonny involving her trying to get him to do gardening work for 5 an hour and we never heard from her again.  For the best really as on my second day she almost made one of the girls in the shop cry and so due to her particular ways I’m sure my shifts there would have ended in violence.  Although I did enjoy my couple of days making waffle cones but we haven’t been a great fan of New Zealand ice cream as it has some funny taste to it and in fact so does Dairy Milk, we’re guessing the connection is the milk but then milk tastes normal so who knows – to sum up the free ice cream wasn’t worth working there.

The Irish bar (Seamus’s) provided our Saturday night entertainment with a man singing the cheesiest Saturday night classics but the locals were friendly (I think quite excited to see new faces in the town) and Jonny even managed to meet some fellow Northern Irish from Limavady who proudly told us that the bar here was modelled on a bar in Limavady.  Quite random to come all this way to find a great Irish bar, managed by a Northern Irish guy who went to school in Coleraine, and modelled on a town 20 mins from Portrush! Jonny was even impressed by the decor (takes a lot to impress Jonny on Irish bars given the usual cheesy tat we have encountered throughout the world) and the selection of Old Bushmills memorabilia and 'Norn Iron’ sticker on the door.

On our day off from the hostel we decided to do a tour of the nearby wine region, Marlborough.  Mike who worked as manager also had the day off and so he drove us around the area and some of his favourite vineyards which turned out to be very good indeed.

Some vineyards for you to look out for in the supermarket: Saint Claire – we like every wine we tasted even Chardonnay which is change for us.  They love Chardonnay here, but that could be that the locals are a bit bored of drinking the old favourite Sauvignon Blanc – or ‘Sav’ as it is universally known as here.  The other good ones were Hunters – set up originally by an Irish guy, so obviously Jonny was a big fan and Wairau Valley, another good winery.  We tried five vineyards in total which is a new record for us – afterwards it was straight back to the hostel for food and a nap! Highlight from this region is definitely the Sav, but we also enjoyed some of the more unusual whites for here such as Riesling, and some of the lighter reds such as the Pinot Noir. We are looking forward to our next wine region, Otago, further south that is specifically known for their Pinot Noirs.

After two weeks in Picton, we decide to move on in search of paid work.  It was fun to meet and work with a group of people who were all really fun and nice to settle in one place for longer than a week.  Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go back to visit.
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