It’s getting rather cold, now that it’s autumn (end of May); this picture was taken from the balcony of our house in Ruby Bay, looking in the direction opposite the bay. Snow on the mountains. And, alas, time to leave NZ. We’ve gotten 3 email reminders from Immigration that our time to leave is fast approaching (efficient, that office). So we’re off to Auckland to sell back our car. We get to do the Marlborough Sounds/Cook Strait ferry trip again – hopefully in sunshine this time – but our primary aim on the way back to Auckland is to see the Tongariro National Park – and maybe hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the most popular day hike in NZ. We’ll see; it’s pretty iffy this time of year, when snow can make it impassable. Oh yeah, and we’ll visit (or revisit) some wineries on the way back – why not??
We finish cleaning the house, pack everything into the car, and head off to Picton to connect with the ferry. We’ll be making the same trip between the North and South Islands that we did in December, but in reverse. That first trip was made through the middle of a fog bank (Dec. 12; “Marlborough – The Sound, The Wine“). Hopefully this time will be different! As we pull away from Picton, early early in the morning, we are greeted by bright sunshine fore and aft. All Right!!!
The water is calm, the temperature cool, the air crystal clear; it’s a perfect morning. We’re navigating the same Queen Charlotte part of the Marlborough Sounds as before, but the view is strikingly different from our earlier trip; the view of the mountains meeting the water is very pretty, but it’s missing the atmospherics of the fog that I had so decried on our first trip. Below are pictures from along the route. At one point Ginger finds me (it’s a big boat!) to that say there are dolphins playing in our wake; alas, when I get to the stern they are gone.
Suddenly, around a bend (there are many bends!), I can see a clear demarcation in the water; we are about to enter Cook Strait, and our calm water is going away! Pretty dramatically!
Oh yeah, there is a (pardon the pun) sea change in the water! The waves are crashing on the rocks, and this big lumbering boat is swaying pretty hard. Perhaps in the upper right picture below you can get a feeling for the large swells, although it feels much rougher than it looks in the picture.
There are some very pretty views to be had as we pull away from the South Island, and these help take our minds off the rolling ship.
The middle of the Strait is pretty uninteresting unless you like to count the swells rocking the boat. Some of the passengers soon take to fresh air, hanging over the railing, but we’re good. Ginger took a Bonine before boarding, and I buy a ginger beer as therapy. A couple of rocking hours later we approach Wellington and its bay on the North Island, and the water becomes both calmer and prettier.
We showed you Wellington before (Dec 5, 2013, “Wellington City and WOW!”), so I’ll just end this section with a shot of the beautiful mountains (and winding road!) on our way to a quick stop in the Martinborough wine region. We plan to have lunch there and revisit a couple of our favorite wineries. We can’t stay long because (1) I’m driving and can’t drink much, and (2) we’re due in Napier where we’ve scheduled a few days to further explore wineries in our favorite wine region, Hawke’s Bay. Work, work, work!
MARTINBOROUGH AND HAWKE’S BAY WINES
We covered these wine regions in a previous post (Dec 6, 2013; “Napier, Hawke’s Bay, and … Martinborough?“). Martinborough is not small, it’s tiny; but they do have some wonderful wines. They’re almost on the way to Napier and Hawke’s Bay, so the small detour won’t cost us too much. Besides, we really want to revisit some of our favorites. Alas, Coney Wines was closed, but we did find Murdoch James open. Yummmmmmm! Fortified Pinot Noir may sound weird, but it’s really good! Then off to Hawke’s Bay. The wineries here are spread over a large area, and we missed a lot of them the first time through; but we’ll make up for that now!
As you can see from the map, the wineries (the small numbered squares) are scattered over a large area. Intervening cities and the distance between wineries make it hard to visit very many in a day. The first time through we concentrated on the northern ones (as well as sight-seeing in Napier), so didn’t cover much territory – but we loved what we covered!! This time we’ll concentrate on the more southerly wineries. Alas, there’s no way we can do them all; next trip, right? Below are pictures of a couple that we really liked – Alpha Domus and Elephant Hill, and below that the elegant Craggy Range.
Some of our favorites are shown below, but we shouldn’t forget Black Barn, and certainly not Church Road.
Next post, Tongariro National Park – for me, the highlight of our NZ trip!