I’ve never driven onto a ship before until yesterday and it was fairly disconcerting not only to see huge 20-wheelers on board parked next to my tiny rental, but also to be treated like cargo freight for a moment.
The miserable weather remained miserable just like an irritable old man on the road from the moment I departed Wellington for the South Island at the unholy hour of 7am. The 3.5 hr long ferry ride across the Cook straits in the massive, lumbering hunk of an Interislander ship that was thought to be one of the most scenic rides in the world turned out wet and cold. The boat slowly wound its way through the Queen Charlotte sound – a drowned river valley and finally docked at Picton, a feeder town that seems to exist because of the sheer volume of tourists that pour out of the boats.
The constant drizzle was an annoying baggage in Blenheim as well, a small wine-producing area that’s got some of the biggest names in the world, 30 min drive from the ferry terminal in Picton. Most of the wineries are clustered around the small towns of Blenheim, Grovetown and Renwick; it’s easy to zip around in a car as they aren’t any more than 20km apart from each other. Seresin, Auntsfield and Forrest were the first few we tried, but their main draw really are their fantastic bistro lunches – Hans Herzog and Rock Ferry – which aren’t too expensive considering the nature of the region and its emphasis on organic, near-gourmet fare. Other places that were quite unimaginable and so beautifully furnished in the contemporary style that I love: Wairau River’s cafe and Spy Valley for its Mission Impossible/spy thriller decor.
An attempt to drive to the Marlborough Sounds – having been here for 3 days I can finally think of Marlborough without imagining a cigarette packet – was quite literally, a complete washout. The constant rain and the rockslides on the way made it difficult to go around the incredibly windy road; it got progressively worse down the Kenepura Sounds. I conceded defeat and went back not without a growing headache.