Nelson Potpourri - Gardens, Wines, Coast, Wildlife
Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
23Trip End Jan 23, 2010
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On a relaxing day of chores, we took a stroll a few blocks from our hostel to the Queen's Garden. Networking paths wind here and there, lined by old trees of all sorts of varieties (each labeled). A creek meanders through with quaint gazebos and bridges along the way. Here--there's a rose garden, there--colorful wildflowers, some endemic, many domesticated, all cheerful and tended with pride. Parks always seem to make the air seem more fresh and fragrant.
The next day we drove beyond the Marlborough Sound to the region of NZ most known for wine production. The climate is most suited to Sauvignon Blanc, so this grape appears at every winery.
If you haven't ridden a tandem bike before, it's not so hard, as long as you can get on and off! I'm sure there's a smooth way to do it, but we finally figured out that one of us needed to keep the bike balanced while the other climbed on. Apparently, the bike works best with the largest person in front. If there's a big size difference between the riders, this means the person in the back can't see in front, doesn't have control of the brakes, and doesn't have the ability to steer. There's a bit of trust involved! Anyway, we figured it all out enough to have a laughing good time, and managed not to crash and burn.
Time for a wine review: if you're not interest in wine or olive oil, skip this paragraph.... Seresin was our first winery, a place following organic/biodynamic agricultural principles. They make both wine and olive oil. We tasted all their wines. Mark especially liked Marama sauv blanc for its complex flavors and creamier, oak-butter finish, while I agreed with the wine maker's notes on their chardonnay: tastes of almond and gunsmoke (a typical flavor of the region related to the soil characters), and the long, buttery finish of characteristic of a malolactic fermentation process
To our surprise, Jason & Ruby began their 3-week summer holiday in Blenheim, where were were headed for dinner after our bicycling, wine tasting trip. We met up with them, where Jason was negotiating to buy a play boat (that's a small maneuverable kayak, for those not familiar). The four of us found a great Indian restaurant for a feast and chance to catch up, talk hospital shop and plan getting together further down the line in the mountains
We heard from other travelers that in our 3-day walk in Abel Tasman, we had missed the best part. Really? I guess that meant we had to find out. The morning was grey and looking bleak, and we nearly canceled our plans, but pushed on and drove through the clouds over the steep & curvy pass toward Golden Bay, occasionally through rain showers, until we got to the north end of the national park. We could see patches of blue appearing in the clouds as we began the walk, marveling at the curves of sand and water during low tide at Wainui Beach.
By the time we walked over our first 200m tall ridge and down the next valley, then emerged from the dripping forest, sunshine glimmered on the sea at Wharwharangi Beach. Like all the beaches of the Abel Tasman, this one was gorgeous. We were SO tempted to swim, but had 20 or so km ahead of us on the trail, so instead we walked along the giant cedars at the beach's edge, and up the next slope toward Separation Point.
This next bit of side trail was perhaps the first place where 2 people could not walk side by side on a smooth path. This was single-track trail, crossing over boulders at the end of the point to get down to a rocky overlook just above the water's edge. The white cliffs and blue waters were spectacular below us. Hiking to the bottom of the trail, we watched fur seals sun on the rocks and frolic in the water.
Beyond Separation Point we continued on to Mutton Cove & Anapai Beach, split by a boulder outcrop
This was a loop hike, so just before reaching Totaranui Bay, our rail took us up to the highest point of our trip, a 600m peak called Gibbs Hill. The trail was steep and steady much of the way, a good chance to work our calves and hamstrings...practice for our biggest tramp to come, the Kepler Track down near the Sounds of the Southland. From the top we could see back to bays we had visited a few days before. The clouds weren't far above us, and the wind was cool at this height, so we descended quickly down the steep inland side, and found our way back to our vehicle with plenty of daylight left...not bad considering we started at noon and covered 23km (14+ miles), stopping for a bit of fun along the way.
The next day we began our drive southward, but we made one last stop for wine at Yealands Estate, another carbon-neutral venture, with impressive architecture, man-made wetlands to reintroduce birds to the area, and a worthy mission of sustainability. They had a tasty estate sauv blanc, a very drinkable viognier, and our first choice, a smokey, complex and smooth tempranillo. This is one I'd buy a case of at home.
One more quick note...if you ever make your way from the Marlborough Sounds to Nelson, and stop in Havelock, the Inlet Cafe serves great muffins & other pastries, egg dishes (I loved the light and fluffy "creamy eggs over toast"), "flat whites" & tea. We stopped there 3 times over the course of our visit!
Next blog...driving down the east coast to Christchurch for the New Year.