Grape Expectations

Marlborough Vineyards

After Christchurch, I took a 4 1/2 hour bus ride up to the Marlborough region…famous for it’s wines. The ride was good and I got to see the countryside which was starkly different from Otago. There were actually trees and the weather turned noticeably warmer. This is gonna be a good place, I just know it.

We made a stop in Kaikoura, which in the Maori language means crayfish. It was a pretty little town with a lot of history behind it.  We saw some people walking in wet suits from doing a seal dive. The place is known for its whale watching and dolphin encounters. It also had two separate mountain ranges very close to one another.

Kaikoura

IMG_4630The rocky beach looked toward the snow capped mountains. I love how I never seem to see trash on these beaches, unlike in Central America. The water seems so clean and the air is unbelievably fresh. It really is living up to the hype as far as I can see. The people are happy and friendly. They’re straightforward and polite at the same time which I love.

After another couple of hours, vineyards started popping up and I knew we were getting close. Never having been to California before, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as vineyards went or what this place would look like. Blenheim was where I’d be staying for the next week on a house sit for a guy who owns a vineyard. Apparently, the ones I first saw on the way in. 35km later, I arrived at the bus depot and was promptly picked up by a former employee of his.

I felt like I was back in Costa Rica for a while there. In his yard there were orange, mandarin, grapefruit and lemon trees!  All with fruit on them! He had a veggie garden with a nice selection of lettuce, onions, celery, kale, cabbage and more. I even spotted a passion fruit vine growing up the side of a building.

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He had some vines on his property as well so I went out and took some pictures. The sunset that night was great too.

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He got a friend of his to take me around on client calls today which was great. I got to see a lot more of this region and you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a vineyard. It was carpeted with newly sprouting vines everywhere I looked. The region is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc wine.

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Yealands

We stopped by Yealands Winery which was unbelievable. This guy is doing it right and he has a ton of land to prove it. He is operating at zero carbon, reusing dead grapevines, playing music out in the vineyard and has chook houses scattered everywhere. In 2011, his sauvignon blanc won a top award in a highly prestigious competition. Not to mention, he has a killer view.

Part of Yealands vineyard
Part of Yealands vineyard

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View from Yealands
View from Yealands

No day would be complete without finding some puppies! We had a slight mishap on one of the vineyards but it led us to discover some brand new pups. I hadn’t held one that small in a long time…they were adorable.

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I found out that this pond I took a picture of the day before near the house also belonged to Yealand. The pink stuff is some kind of algae I believe.

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This was my lunch the other day at Rock Ferry winery. All I can say is, GO. Like, go tomorrow if you can swing it.

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Christchurch: Land Torn Down

Christchurch still in recovery
Christchurch still in recovery

Over three and a half years later, the earthquake which registered 6.3 and killed 185 people seemed like it happened just recently as I walked around there yesterday. Buildings are still being fixed, houses being braced by scaffolding and men walking around in construction gear. The locals admit that it’s going very slowly. Streets are closed off or one way, to avoid anything falling off of a building and hitting the cars below. Oddly enough, last night I felt tremors that woke me up, as did my hostess.

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The original cathedral
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In front of cathedral

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Across from museum/botanical garden
Across from museum/botanical garden

The free museum and botanical gardens took up most of my time. I really enjoyed the museum. It had a bit of everything, from dinosaurs to minerals, an entire exhibit on the Antarctic Expedition, one on a mummy, another on the old days in Christchurch (complete with shops and storefronts).

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Crazy tree – Christchurch botanical gardens

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It was like something out of a fairy tale
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A Very. Scary. Fairy tale.
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I shoved my face right into those flowers

There was also a great bird collection in the museum…the closest I’ve been to a kiwi yet!

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Kiwi’s are bigger than I thought!

 

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The Kakapo, one of the world’s rarest birds
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“Excuse me, madam…would you have any Grey Poupon?”
Albatross are HUGE. I saw them once in the air but had no idea...
Albatross are HUGE. I saw them once in the air but had no idea…
Replica cabin in the Antarctic. Note reads: 'Please leave the dishes clean, the hungry man coming in needs them. He is empty. You are leaving with a full belly.
Replica cabin in the Antarctic. Note reads: ‘Please leave the dishes clean, the hungry man coming in needs them. He is empty. You are leaving with a full belly.

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I swear I've seen this in a horror movie
I swear I’ve seen this in a horror movie
Paua house. This house really existed, the walls full of paua shells (abalone)
Paua house. This house really existed, the walls full of paua shells (abalone)

 

New Regent St. with a Latin feel to it
New Regent St. with a Latin feel to it. Reminded me of Panama.

I saw some people on the Avon river taking a gondola ride then headed up to check out Re: start. It’s a little shopping section made out of shipping containers which had a cool feel to it. They didn’t look like containers and there was a wide variety of shops and cafes.  There were street performers (one guy on a unicycle in a straight jacket) and people in costume for no apparent reason.

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I found another painting of that cool wall art I saw in Dunedin from the same guy (ROA). Apparently he did the mural in the museum as well. He’s traveling all over the world and doing these. The wall art deserves its own section here.

Kiwi near museum by ROA
Kiwi near museum by ROA
Painting by ROA in museum bird exhibit
Painting by ROA in museum bird exhibit

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ROA’s bird bottom left

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Not real windows!
Not real windows!

Of course, I had to visit the cardboard cathedral, which is now where the people go since the original one was damaged. Yep, you guessed it, made out of cardboard. It’s also made of steel, timber and the roof is polycarbon. Shipping containers form the walls. They really like those things there.

Cardboard Cathedral
Cardboard Cathedral

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The boys were singing so it was a nice time to catch it.

 

Outside of cardboard cathedral
Outside of cardboard cathedral

I dropped in at a pizza place on the way home, sat outside while Jimi Hendrix played in the background and took in the sun. I thought about this garden city and how it probably changed the people here…for the better. I got a sense of camaraderie along with a collective fear and uncertainty. Every local I talked to at any length mentioned the quake and the effect it had on them personally. Nobody suspected Christchurch could have been hit so hard so it came as a surprise for everyone. It seemed to me that the delay in fixing the city kept the reminder on the table. Hopefully they will rebuild soon and the friendly people can move on with their lives.

100th Blog Post and CNN Photo Essay

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I’m happy to report on two fronts that I’ve reached my 100th blog post and what better way to celebrate than by having my photo essay approved by CNN.com!

Sheep Herding: A dying lifestyle in New Zealand

Shortly after I arrived here, I knew I wanted to submit some kind of story about this farm to CNN and I couldn’t be happier that it was actually published.

With that, I will be moving on this weekend after an amazing two months. I’ll head up north to check out the rebuilding of Christchurch and then go to the famous Marlborough wine region to hang out on a vineyard for about a week. Tough life…I hear ya. After that, on up to the top of the north island to check out some beaches and sail on a tall ship.

Life is good.

 

 

A Tour Around Middlemarch

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An ominous cloud hangs with snow topped mountains in the background.

Well, things are quiet on the farm since the family left last week to go up north for Jim’s hockey tournament. A week before that, a new girl arrived from Norway to spend six months here learning about farming. It’s been good for us to be together so I can show her some things around here as well as indulging both of us with my culinary skills.

Bruchetta on homemade rosemary bread, three types of cheese, fruit, raw honey and wine for dinner!
Bruchetta on homemade rosemary bread, three types of cheese, fruit, raw honey and wine for dinner!

By the way, has anyone ever seen broccoli in bloom!?! I hadn’t until the other day and it was quite pretty!

Broccoli flowering
Broccoli flowering

The first day we were on our own, the weather was really bad. She milked the cows and I went IMG_4282with her on the ATV to check on the calves. Opening gates is time consuming for one person so I figured we’d both suffer instead of just her. It was freezing cold and then it started hailing on us. That’s never fun on an ATV. I failed to bring gloves with me too, so my fingers were tingling in a really bad way. However, we survived and the days after that were better.

We ventured out of the house today into Middlemarch. I would have been upset with myself if I hadn’t gone there after all this time. I realize there’s really nothing there, but there was a pub and we felt that it needed to be checked out.

The only pub in Middlemarch
The only pub in Middlemarch

For at least the third time since I’ve been in NZ, I’ve seen my old car around and today was no

My old car! Sniff sniff.
My old car! Sniff sniff.

exception. I sort of hate being reminded about it because I loved my car, but it’s also nice to see it and brings back good memories.

We first stopped in at a little cafe since I saw bakery goods through the doorway. She hadn’t eaten yet so she got a burger and I settled for a chocolate raspberry muffin. It was kind of like being in someone’s home which was a nice change.

IMG_4317We wandered out to the train station, which isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. It’s really just a tour train that comes through once a week from Dunedin and the station was closed so we couldn’t even go inside. Another old truck was sitting outside along with one of those funky sign posts that appears to make Middlemarch seem like it has a TON of stuff to do.

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The town is seriously desolate. I had been told that there wasn’t any type of grocery store but

You know you're down under when there are signs for the South Pole
You know you’re down under when there are signs for the South Pole

apparently there is. It had the basics and then some…even ice cream! Thea can get her potato chip and Coca Cola fix now, which made her really happy. There was also a bike shop which was surprising. Although I think it’s meant for tourists when they come in on the train. We also stopped by the local graveyard and I noticed some names on there who were the parents and grandparents of folks that live around here. It started raining so we left and that was our big day out! We came home and made a huge pot of potato soup for dinner and polished off the completely home made chocolate cake from earlier this week.

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Next to the pub where you can sit outside on a nice day
Next to the pub where you can sit outside on a nice day
Cutest little bank I've ever seen! Don't know that it's still in business though.
Cutest little bank I’ve ever seen! Don’t know that it’s still in business though.
Not even a clue as to what this meant. “Strath Taieri Rabbit Board.” I picture a bunch of rabbits in suits sitting around a table having a meeting.
Lazy lambs!
Lazy lambs!
At the cattle yard on the farm.
At the cattle yard on the farm.