A Ferry, Some Wine and a Plan for the South Island of New Zealand

by Brian Carroll on April 28, 2012

Post image for A Ferry, Some Wine and a Plan for the South Island of New Zealand New Zealand is broken up into two islands with varying characteristics.  While the North Island is known more for warm weather and some cool geothermal areas, the South Island seems to be more revered for striking scenery, quiet coastal drives and rain...  That said, among the fellow travelers I'd crossed paths with, there seemed to be a favoritism toward the South Island, which made me anxious to get this part of my journey underway.  But in order to get to the South Island I'd first have to take a 3 1/2 hour ferry ride from Wellington over to the port town of Picton (I later learned that while the ferry takes 3 1/2 hours, it actually only takes 20 minutes on a plane - random).

Port town of Picton

With the sun shining and the sea calm, the ferry ride to the South Island was very enjoyable and offered some beautiful scenery (that can't fully be justified through these pictures).  Essentially, you take the ferry through a number of Fiords (which are mountain-like areas that now have bodies of water between them from melted glaciers that used to lay on the existing topography...follow?), until you reach the tiny little port town of Picton. Now, after making the decision to part ways with Kiish and make my way toward Picton and the South Island, I had a very rough plan in place for the coming days.  Essentially:
  1. Head to the town of Blenheim to meet and stay with my friend's friend's parents (whom I'd been introduced to and only spoken to through email) and,
  2. Meet up with another random travelmate I'd been in touch with only one day prior about possibly renting a car together - this being a girl from Spain named Nuria.
In each of these situations, my knowledge coming in was pretty limited but I figured I'd just take it as it came and hopefully it would all work out well. Wine Tasting and Making New Friends Before I had set foot abroad, I had shared my potential itinerary with a number of friends.  Luckily for me, one of my friends from LA had studied in New Zealand and still had friends in the country that she was happy to put me in touch with - which was great because my contacts in the area were almost nil.  Through her introductions, I was put in touch (via Facebook and email) with two sisters, as well as their parents, as potential people to meet during my New Zealand travels. As I made my way down the North Island, I had hoped to meetup with one of these sisters (Sarah) in Wellington, but due to busy schedules and bad timing, we were unable to make it work.  Despite that, I had also been invited by Sarah's parents, Bev and Bryan (who were friends with my friend as well), to stay with them for a few days in a town called Blenheim.  I definitely appreciated their offer to essentially open their home to someone they had never met, and saw it as a great opportunity to meet local Kiwis (this is the nickname for New Zealanders), gain insight on the island and make new friends - so I gladly accepted. Coming in, my knowledge of Blenheim was very limited, though probably the most important thing to be aware of was that this town (and much of the area known as the Marlborough Region around it) is the premier place in the country where Sauvignon Blanc wines are produced - so needless to say a bit of wine tasting would be in order...for proper research that is:) Now while my conversations with Bev & Bryan to date had only been via email, I felt very confident about the situation, knowing that the friend who introduced me I held in high regard and Bev & Bryan's daughter, who I tried to meet up with in Wellington, was very welcoming despite our schedules not coinciding.

Me and Bev

By the time I had caught a bus to Blenheim from Picton, I had arranged to meetup with Bev at the local McDonalds later that day (free wifi in McDonalds, so always a place where you'll find travelers abroad).  After exchanging texts, I was quickly able to spot Bev, though neither of us had ever seen one another before.  Within a minute of meeting both her and her husband Bryan, I knew the next few days would be a great experience. From the outset, both Bev & Bryan were extremely welcoming and in many ways reminded me of my parents.  It was very refreshing to meet such a friendly and warm couple, and their willingness to open their home to me (when again, I was in all practicality a stranger to them at this point) is something I will always be grateful for. Bev & Bryan showed me into their house and to the guest room where I'd be staying (my own personal room for a few days was a luxury in itself!).  Their house stood perched above rows of wine vineyards and was an absolutely spectacular place to catch the sunset. Over the next few days and nights, Bev & Bryan treated me to some traditional New Zealand meals and we had some very pleasant conversations spanning a variety of topics.  Additionally, on one of my days out in Blenheim, I took the afternoon to go on a bike ride to the wineries in the area (you can go on bike ride tours or rent a bike on your own - I chose the latter).  I rode to a few wineries on my own, but was later joined by Bryan via car (much better choice as they were actually pretty far apart).

Bryan & I wine tasting

He took me to some of the best local wineries and we enjoyed a few hours of wine tasting together.  After just a few days staying with Bev and Bryan, I felt like I had really gotten to know them and could easily see why my friend had put us in touch with one another. In between this experience, I still had some things to figure out, primarily, how was I going to get around the South Island of New Zealand???  During my time in Blenheim I had texted with Nuria (the aforementioned Spanish girl) to see if we might make something work.  She was traveling about a day behind me, so ultimately we decided that after I finished up in Blenheim, we would meet back in Picton to see if we might get along and if so, go and rent a car for ~3 weeks possibly. Now I must admit, the thought crossed my mind that traveling 3 weeks with someone I didn't really know could feel like a REALLY LOOOOONG time if it didn't go well (heck, that's a long time together for friends let alone strangers), and so I was a little wary, but at the same time, I really saw that as part of the challenge and intrigue of the process...

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

davey April 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm

What could be better than wine, travel and good people?

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