I caught the train from Kaikoura up to Blenheim. It takes a spectacular route up the east coast between snow capped mountains and the sea, passing the local salt mines with their red evapouration beds. It was something to realise that right at the end of spring I was stood at sea level looking at snow.
I was met at Blenheim station by Barry from Barry’s Wine tours and set off on tour of 7 wineries with another British couple. My summary of the wines :
- Lawson’s Dry Hills : Nice small place with a nice Pinot Gris (1st purchase)
- Villa Maria : Drink the stuff at home. Having done the tasting not sure if more expensive ranges worth the extra over their basic Private Bin range.
- Fairhall Downs : I remember these as being a good range of wines that are worth looking out for. (in 2023 their website disappeared)
- Seresin Estate : Organic, hand picked grapes make for a price that is too high for the quality of the wine.
- Bladen : Great little 20 acre winery. Lovely wines but most not exported to the UK. (2nd purchase)
- Nautilus Estate : A good high quality range I have seen in the UK.
- Mudhouse : Place is done up too much for tourists and almost feels like a theme park. Strange but good Merlots with lots of tannin. (3rd purchase)
Ended up with 3 bottles of wine and nicely drunk by the time I was back at the hostel. A great way to spend the afternoon drinking and increasing your knowledge of wine. Next day caught the stray bus up to Picton and stayed in a great little hostel called the Villa. Unfortunately in 1 hour got around 30 bites on my feet from sandflies before realising and they still look a mess several days later. Cooked a joint meal with Pia and Ola, a Swedish couple from the bus and shared the Bladen wine. We then joined up with the Stray bus group that had come down through North Island and headed to the Abel Tasmin national park, stopping for a quick wine tasting. From here you can do a 4 day walking tour but I don’t have the time so headed on a shorter hike on my free day.
We spent two nights here before we headed south where we did white water rafting on in the Buller Gorge. Fun, but tame compared with the Rangitata I did before. Sandflies proved to be a pain again whenever we stopped but a couple of big whitewater slashes would get rid of them. We had good weather for our rafting but the rest of the bus had gone hiking in the rain. As we regrouped the rafters were nice and dry, whilst the hikers were cold & wet.
Stayed the night in a small place called Barrytown which has one hostel including pub and 6 houses. Our team won the pub quiz so that covered the night drinks tab. Up next day to see the Pancake rocks, do some gold panning in Ross before arriving in Franz Josef and having a quick look at the glacier.