Kaikoura and Blenheim
(the road to Nelson)
We headed up the coast and planned to spend the
afternoon in Kaikoura.
This area is known for its great scenery as well as whale and
dolphin watching. We visited the local tourist bureau and decided
to go for a bit of a hike. There were several possibilities and
we opted for one that went along the coast to a seal colony and
then up onto a headland and back. It was to be several hours.
The weather was grand and the views were well worth the pain my
feet felt at the end. We are planning to go backpacking, or tramping
as they call it hear, in January. Our friend, Susan Lowery, will
be travelling over from the States to doing some climbing, and
has enticed us to join her for some tramping before her big mountain
climbing expedition. We got new boots before leaving the States,
and have been slowly working on breaking them in. This was the
first long walk - and they are breaking my feet in quite well!
our hike, we got back in the car and continued north to Blenheim.
We planned an epic ride for the next day. We had picked up some
nice wide 1.9 inch tires in Queenstown. We found a nice looking
loop that would entail some dirt roads, so we decided it was time
to try the tires. Our plan was to head up the main road to Picton,
then take a small coastal road around to the east by Port Underwood,
before heading back to Blenheim. The main road up to Picton was
quite busy. Picton the the Ferry Terminus for the south island,
so everyone heading up to the North Island was going our way!
We met up with a triathlete along the way, and peppered him with
questions about riding in the area. He loved the area and thought
it was great for cycling, and recommended heading out toward Waikawa,
which was already in our plans.
stopped for a quick lunch in Picton, and then began the more epic
part of the ride. Our new fatter tires would soon get a workout.
The pavement actually went on a good bit longer than we expected,
but the seal did run out, and the hills made it even more challenging.
All those twists and turns shown on the map are NOT the road following
the coastline, but rather going up and dipping down into coves.
We had some absolutely spectacular views along the way, but they
were indeed well earned! That said, I must say this was one of
our favourite rides. Between the lack of traffic and the trees
and views, it was just grand. We were also quite happy to have
the wider tires for the loose gravel.
We are slowly learning to carry more water than
we have in the past. Points of civilisation are often few and
far between, and we've run low on water on more than one occasion.
We found a camp and ignored the untreated water signs as we guzzled
we returned to sealed road, we also left the protection of the
trees and started picking up a headwind. It was pretty darn brutal,
but we eventually made it back to the start.
The next day, we decided to check out some of the
local wineries. We learned that the Marlborough region is known
for its wines, most notably its Sauvignon Blanc. Our first stop
was at St.
Clair. We learned lots about the local wines, and really came
to love Sauvignon Blanc. If you haven't tried a New Zealand Sauvignon
Blanc, you must. We decided we wanted to do a tour, and opted
for the oldest and biggest estate - Montana Vineyards, since they
offered regular (no appointment necessary) tours. Despite being
the off season, the tour was very informative. I definitely want
to return during harvest and do a few more tours and lots more
tastings. We also got lots of recommendations for the region as
a place to live. Everyone talked about the great weather and low
humidity. I suppose a job picking grapes might not be bad!
we still needed to see Nelson, so we headed west over the mountains.
The final descent into Nelson, down from Whangamoa saddle was
incredibly twisty. I knew John would love riding on this road.
And there were trees everywhere. Then suddenly the view opened
up and we could see the western ranges all the way up to Farewell
Split. We headed into the centre and tried to find accommodation
for the night. It took a few tries, but we found a backpackers
up on a hill with a fabulous view from our room. Unfortunately
the hot water in the showers were on timers, and I got a cold
shock 2 minutes into my shower, so we opted for a different backpackers
the next night, with less of a view, but a better shower...