Looking back over the last eight days we can’t believe we’ve seen so much natural beauty and we’re overwhelmed by the constantly changing landscape that prompts never ending “look at THAT” comments from both of us.
This was to continue today as we left Picton and made the short drive to Blenheim which is the small but lovely centre of the Marlborough wine growing region. The town is smart looking, very clean and bustling with activity. We decided we liked Blenheim as we drove out into the beautiful Wairau valley that supports many wineries that did not exist when I lived in New Zealand.
Without exception the wineries and small farms are exquisitely tidy giving a sort of formal, uniform appearance to the valley and with the ever present backdrop of the snow covered peaks of the Kaikoura Ranges and the green sweeping pastures the whole scene is so pretty it’s almost like it was staged specifically for a postcard photo.
We visited the Hunter Winery and wandered through their native gardens and enjoyed the shady yard with vines growing overhead on trellises, (something we long to do eventually in our own yard). We then tasted some of there wines before making our way to the Makana Chocolate Factory to sample some exquisite hand made chocolates.
We then found a small farm growing hydroponic strawberries and stopped to look over the Flood and Drain system they were using (very similar to our first attempt). They were selling to the public and had strawberry ice cream and sorbet as well and people were lining up to the point where the owner was struggling to serve everyone.
It was a great little business and again immaculately presented with wonderfully friendly people and the strawberries were absolutely delicious.
We drove about 15 minutes to the eastern side of the valley to the Honey Shop where they process and sell honey from a variety of hives placed around specific locations to get a wide variety of unique flavours.
The clover honey was exactly as I remember it as a kid and Kerrie tried honey off the comb for her first time and loved it.
All along the road to and from the farms of the valley wild flowers grew giving magnificent splashes of fiery orange, white and yellow colour amidst the lush greens of the pastures.
It was a truly lovely place containing similar colours as we have experienced throughout the South Island and yet uniquely different.
We reluctantly left the Wairau Valley and headed to Kaikoura.
Passing through the little town of Seddon we noticed a sign for Whitebait Sammies so we stopped to sample the delicious little fish for the second time.
The Fish shop was owned by Karrie, who had only recently bought the place. We ordered
2 Whitebait sandwiches and some fresh oysters. The sandwiches were half the price of the ones we bought in Hokitika but were just as big and we think better tasting. They were absolutely delicious and as I’m writing this I can still taste the mouth-watering freshness of the Oysters. We sincerely hope Karrie does well.
We moved on to Lake Grassmere were 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes of salt are harvested each year.
Sea water is pumped into the 688 hectare main lake continuously throughout summer.
When the brine reaches saturation point it is transferred into crystallisation ponds during the summer months. Marlborough is renowned for receiving more than its share of sunshine and coupled with strong, drying Nor’ Westerly winds and large areas of suitable flat land, the area was perfect for the salt works that were in established in 1943.
The salt crust is lifted from the bottom of the crystallisation ponds and transported to one of the two washing plants where it is washed in brine before being stacked in 20-metre high piles.
The snowy stacks of salt are a landmark of the area, readily visible from the highway.
We drove down a long dirt road to the open sea and were able to see the mountains of the North Island in the distance.
Along the coast road we were again accompanied by the Pacific Ocean for the next 100 kms to Kaikoura.
The landscape changed yet again this time to what must be one of the only places in the world where high snow caped mountains run directly down to a turquoise and blue ocean through temperate rain forest.
Again the scenery was stunning.
We stopped at one of the many small huts along the road and enjoyed a local crayfish and Paua Patties.
Kerrie was not keen to try the black rather unappetising looking patties, especially as Christine had found them unpalatable on her trip here. She did force herself to try them and actually quite liked them. She loves the Paua shell and the lady running the shop had some beautiful examples of Paua jewellery so Kerrie was interested in how the shell is processed and learned about the poisonous job of grinding the silica from the outside of the shell.
A little further up the road bought us to a most fascinating place – a large colony of seals lazing on a rocky point. Seals are prolific all along the coat but here they mingled unconcernedly with fascinated travellers stopping for photographs who were often within a couple of metres of the seals.
We could have stayed watching the antics of the seals for hours and many people did.
This is a coastline of magnificent contrast and breathtaking beauty.
We eventually pulled in to Kaikoura where we arranged a really nice reasonably priced motel overlooking both the mountain peaks and the sea and then went along to the prettiest of towns to enjoy fresh Blue Cod fillets while sitting on velvety grass by the sea. How amazing!
I think for us it was “Love at first sight” for Kaikoura.