Week 3 of travelling around New Zealand has brought highs and lows, we have loved the scenery, drinking wine with its growers and absorbing the wonder of nature all around us…but we have also been bored out of our minds, we have nothing to think about, nothing to worry about and no way of getting lost…its unusual for us and as intrepid travellers we just can’t get used to it! I mean, where are all the armed guards, the filthy restrooms, the low grade petrol, the animals roaming in the streets…you know, the things we usually have to deal with on a daily basis!??!?!?
For new explorers and people with limited time to spend, it is however THE perfect place to be. Beauty around every bend, accessible fuel for body, car and soul and a welcome like no other to the camping/ travelling scene. Campsites are fully equipped if you choose or you can find cheap conservation sites at a snip in some stunning locales…or if you are self contained you can just park up pretty much anywhere you choose! New Zealand is a virgin campers dream!
Our week started hanging out with a friend of Alex’s that he hasn’t seen for 15 years. Chatting with her and her family about their move from England to New Zealand was so incredibly interesting and we asked question upon question about their decision, over a few glasses of wine of course! It was so lovely to see Natalie and Pete and their lovely baby Aston, we are people people and had started to feel a little lonely after a few weeks of being on our own in our tiny campervan….roughly the size of a commercial freezer!
Our route took us from the very North of the North Island to the very South with a luxurious stop in the middle in Taupo at a fabulous Motel. We stayed at the Beechtree with the famous Beechtree bear and got chatting with the lovely owner Jackie. What we didn’t realise is the difference between a motel in NZ and a Motel in the US is a world apart. A motel in the USA brings thoughts of a million horror movies, of being holed up in a damp dirty room while some crazed axe murderer loiters in the rainy shadows by the ice machine. However, in NZ a motel means 4 star accommodation with plenty of space to park! A huge TV, a bath tub that opened up into the living area so one could watch TV from the Jacuzzi tub, a small kitchenette perfectly appointed with every thing you might ever need were the offerings at the BeechTree. Jackie explained to us that the actual difference between a hotel and motel is that a motel does not have a 24 hour service desk or a restaurant, but they clearly (in NZ) still offer the same quality but at a very lower price.
Anyway, entirely sold on motels throughout New Zealand we enjoyed our time in Taupo with a lovely meal, a bottle of wine and even a barbecue in the motel gardens. Our brief stop over it was time for the ‘big schlep’ to Wellington (and past Mount Doom for you LOTR fans) to catch the 4 hour ferry crossing to the south Island.
The four hour crossing flew by on relatively calm seas (thank goodness) and we had a welcome committee waiting for us in Blenheim at the wonderful Kerner Estate Vineyard. The bonus of having friends that have travelled to countries you are about to visit is that they line you up with all of the best people to meet and hang out with. Mike and Anne’s Honeytrek (great friends of ours after us all forcing our paths to cross in 2 countries and 3 states) had introduced us to the Kerners who share a common interest…they grow and produce wine!
Arriving at their home nestled among the grapes was like stepping into Willy Wonkers Chocolate factory for us. Joanne greeted us with a great glass of Pinot Gris and the rest, as they say is history. We talked the night away and listened to Joanne and Bruces’ tales of emigrating from the States to NZ with the romantic notion of growing wine (a dream that MAY have entered our minds more than once). Of course, we left with sore heads and no plans to open a vineyard any time in the near future but no less of a lust for the grape!
The South Island instantly felt more open. With a lot less people…over 75% of NZ’s population live on the North Island and the South Island is larger! Tearing ourselves away from the Kerner Estate we decided to explore the North of the south (I know, its getting difficult for me too) and head to Abel Tasman National Park…where we found ALL the people! We joined the line of traffic to the park and then waited in the line of people to ask about a walk that would not take us 5 days and then we gave up there and then. Too much, too many and too little patience on our part. We skulked away from the magnetic park and found a quiet lake to park up at for the night. St Arnaud has a lake that sits picture perfectly below two volcanic rifts that tower around each side and meet beautifully in the distance. The scene reminded us of Canada, as did the handful of kids jumping of the peer into the crystaline waters, as did the sandflies…or no-see-ums as they are known there.
Fed up and restless we checked into our emails and found several requests for radio shows, TV appearances and even an invite to Fiji. The New Zealand Herald article had hit the interwebs and given us the opportunity to reach out for more help with the wedding via the press. The wedding planning HAD been going ahead seemingly smoothly until we hit an enormous hurdle in Kaikoura.
The drive from Blenheim down to Kaikoura was truly the most spectacular so far. Turquoise waters roll along for as far as the eye can see. The road winds down the coastline and offers plenty of places to stop and watch the basking seals and the odd group of penguins stretching their long necks in the sun. The fur seals were particularly mesmerising as they tried to keep their pups inline. Like all mischievous children the pups splashed in rock pools, got tangled in seaweed and slid face first off cliff faces, much to their mothers distraction…but we had to push on to Kaikoura for a meeting about the wedding.
Alex had been chatting with the manager at a Marae, which is a communal or sacred place in New Zealand, and most Pacific islands (we were married in the Marai in Moorea, Tahiti). We had arranged to meet Hinauri at Mataatua to make further wedding plans but, somehow, Alex had the wrong place. We arrived at the address for the local Marae in Kaikoura…and it wasn’t a Marae. Confused and frustrated thinking we had been directed to the wrong adress Alex re-read his emails and Hinauri and the Marae were actually in the North island, 1500 miles away! How it had happened we have no idea but somewhere along the line wires had become crossed and we were in the wrong place, at the wrong time and we had shattered our dreams of a Maori influenced wedding at Mataatua.
So, it is back to the drawing board for our New Zealand wedding. Lets hope some of the press we are receiving helps us find a way to make it work!