Rain, rain go away. Come again another day

Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Where I stayed
Harbour View Motel Picton
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of New Zealand  , Marlborough,
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Rain, heavy in the north, clearing by midday with blustery northwesterlies, severe gale gusting 160 km/h in exposed places"
Met Office NZ

I know that the UK (and now the US) has had a few weather issues recently but so too have we in Picton, which is in the north of the Marlborough region (that's Marlborough as in NZ's finest Sauvignon Blanc growing region – more of which later) and is kinda exposed as it’s a coastal town.

We arrived before the storms had hit. Actually as we drove up from Kaikoura the weather had been lovely until we got to Bleheim when the skies darkened as we drove thru’ past the Mnt Richmond Forest. When we reached Picton it had started to rain, not heavily, but enough to make you pull your hood up. That changed, dramatically, overnight and the following morning, as the storms rolled in. Roads were closed, riverbanks breached, campsites washed away and sheep left stranded on the high ground.

Before I go any further I should say how helpful and generous the people are here, although in fairness this could apply to everywhere we’ve been in NZ. Two examples: We went down to the quay to see if we could book a boat trip around Queen Charlotte Sound. As we stood there chatting away to the guys behind the counter the owner asked us if we had any plans for the afternoon. We replied "no". "In that case do you fancy going out with Joe in the boat to pick-up a few walkers? No charge" So we got a free short trip around a misty Queen Charlotte Sound. Brilliant! The company: Beachcomber Cruises (www.mailboat.co.nz).

The next example: As I mentioned in a previous blog my dive mask had been damaged in Kaikoura. There’s a dive shop in Picton so I popped in to see if they had frame that I could put the undamaged lenses into. The guy in the shop had nothing brand new but asked me to bring the mask in to see if the lenses would fit into an old mask he had lying around. As he slotted the lenses in we got talking about diving in the Perhentians (in Malaysia). With my lenses now fitted into a replacement mask I went to pay but he wouldn’t hear of it. Having a chat about the Perhentians was enough.

Anyway the boat-trip we had planned for our first morning was cancelled because of the storms. But, as predicted by the NZ met office the storm had passed by lunchtime so we were able to go on a wine tour of the Marlborough area. I’m no wine expert but I can generally tell good vino from vinegar, I have a preference for New World vino mainly because the labels are easier to read (Champagne excepted) and I have my favourites which I’ll head for if I see them on a wine list.

We started off with Allan Scott vineyard. Nothing really caught my fancy although the Pinot Noir wasn’t bad. Next up was a long-time favourite of mine: Cloudy Bay. Brilliant stuff. Avoid the Chardonnay but buy all the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pelorus NV (sparkling) you can. Their dessert vino isn’t bad either. Third was Framingham. Again very nice Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. Apparently Gordon Ramsey has just chosen Framingham to supply his UK restaurants. Fourth, and it was getting a bit blurry by this point, was The Wine Room. Decent Pinot Noir if I recall correctly. Claire found her way into a Fudge factory and bought some. Last stop on the tour was not another vineyard (thankfully) but a chocolate factory. I was amazed that I resisted the temptation to buy any but I did.

The next day the storms had passed. As the drive to Nelson (our next destination) was expected to be quite quick we had time to go on the cruise we were due to go on the previous day. It was a stunning morning, warm and clear, and we were able to simply kick back and relax whilst we floated up the Marlborough Sound and back again over the course of the morning.

Picton is about 50km from Nelson. Along the scenic Queen Charlotte Drive it should take about an hour. But because of the previous day’s storms that road was closed. Option B was to drive back down to Blenheim and then back up the highway – a route which should take a couple of hours. Only that road was also closed. The final option was to drive back into the middle of the S.Island and then back out again. A route of about 200+ km and one which ended up taking about 3hrs as we drove down the valley between the Richmond Range and the Schooner Range and then back up other side of the Richmond Range.

When we made it to Nelson the first thing we did was find a book shop to buy a LP Peru (where we’re heading in 2 days time). NZ$60! NZ, just like Aus, is a rip-off place to buy books. NZ$60 is about £30 which is more the double the cost of the book in the UK. Ouch! In fairness the cost of books is probably our only negative against this wonderful country.

Just two more days of speaking English left then we'll see just how much español I can remember. 
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