I thought about heading back to Oz the minute I stepped off the plane in the capital of Wellington, New Zealand (Aotearoa, Maori translation for NZ).The cold and damp literally cut through my bones straight away. The short stint in Wellington was enough to draw comparisons between New Zealand and Ireland. A temperate climate, a chilled out vibe, more regional road networks, a general friendliness and an outdoor based farming-activity-type lifestyle. I like it. I met two good friends of mine from back home, Mark & Annaleigh who would kindly be chauffeuring me around the South Island, also managed to sneak me into their hotel room the first night to get a cheap nights kip!!! Besides the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum the next day (which is highly recommended by the way) we got the Inter-Islander ferry to the town of Picton, north-east corner of the south island. The ferry ride was pretty laid back no drastic speeds undertaken and took about 3 hours in total.
One of the many reasons for my visit to New Zealand was to hit the town of Blenheim in the South Island (Marlborough region). Here is where my cousin lives and after having a few children since I seen her last in Ireland, I was looking forward to catching up with her and the new additions to the family. Blenheim, a town tucked inside what I could only describe as a ring of mountains is about a half and hour drive from the coastal, Picton. Blenheim is renowned for its wine production and on the second day here we took a bike tour around to three of the most popular estates, Cloudy Bay, Allan Scott and the impressive Brancott estate. A few free glasses of wine at each estate and a blistering hot day made for a good bit of banter between us. We cycled quite a bit and although the roads were quiet in comparison to other countries, we could of done with a little more cycling verge to be safe on! No matter which way you looked there are always mountains, absolute smashing scenery, rolling hills, some of them snow-capped tucked under a vivid blue sky. I took a walk up to the wither hills one morning to get a view over the town and surrounding wine estates, a recommended little trek.
Yup, My first official earthquake in New Zealand was also felt here (See above). As I was getting breakfast at my cousin's house (Sultana bran, if you must know!), I heard my mate and her casually exchange words of "Was that an earthquake?". Having a groggy morning head I turned around only to suddenly feel a surreal shake of the ground. We all think we know what an earthquake should feel like but there is something helpless and very unnerving about that shake, like someone has just grabbed the floor and yanked it 4 of 5 times each way. You are basically at the mercy of mother nature here. It took a while for it to sink in to be honest and as expected, with three younger kids, my cousin wasn't cracking jokes about it, something she has felt far too often in this area. The details of the quake can be seen in the pic above, the source of the quake located near the nearby coastal town of Seddon.
Before leaving Blenheim, we made sure we had a look at one of the famous tourist spots here, Marlborough Sounds. This ferry, which left from Picton, brought us through the narrow inlets of the sounds, the scenery was fantastic. The ferry dropped us off at a particular spot which required a half-a day hike to the next ferry pick up. A good work out, we clambered up the hills through the forests occasionally stopping to catch some spectacular views (see above). We got to see some dolphins on this trip aswell, in fact a lot of damn dolphins. At one point a dozen or so slowly and gently swam in front of the boat. The driver also managed to make them follow the boat at high speed, jumping and wiggling acrobatically over and through the waves created by the motor to the rear of the boat. Highly impressive. You can check out a wee video of them below. On this trip I also got a taste of the infamous sand-flies of New Zealand. Although a summer time insect, they are notorious to hang around the coastal sounds of New Zealand. Whilst waiting for the boat that day, II felt these little bites on my leg and I could see the culprit, a tiny aggressive black fly. The bites on my legs actually swelled up pretty bad over the next few days accompanied by a very annoying itch, I can safely say through my substantial tour of Asia, that these bites were worse than mosquitos!
Above is a video of the dolphins that we seen in front of our boat at the Marlborough Sounds. Cool.
Ok, time to head south down the east coast.....
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