We had such a lovely time homesitting at Rarangi Beach near Blenheim in a glorious beach house with two friendly dogs and some chatty neighbours. The same place we homesat over two years ago. it was almost like coming home.
The dogs Nunny (Valhund) and Dudley (Standard Schnauzer) obviously remembered us and Penny too so the transition was very smooth. We all enjoyed the daily beach walks.
Blenheim is always interesting, the rows and rows and ROWS of grapevines occasionally become monotonous but the colours are always changing with the seasons. This time it was late summer, almost everything was still bright green, the variety of ‘haircuts’ was interesting, and the bridal veils for keeping birds off the ripening grapes were only just being brought out – we saw huge rolls sitting by the side of the road waiting to be placed.
We had lots of visitors including Dave’s sister, so we had an excuse for several vineyard lunches, the only problem being which one to choose. Brancott Estate was first, because of its location, with sweeping views of acres of vineyards. The grapes were just starting to ripen.
Brancott has a small falcon breeding facility, their two birds are unable to fly due to injuries but there’s nothing to stop them doing other things and eventually their progeny will help protect the vineyard from avian grape robbers.
Another day, the weather not being so good we decided to forego a long drive towards Kaikoura and the Peter Yealands vineyard, instead opting for one of our favourites, St. Clair, where the huge Tastes of Marlborough platter is always excellent. Huge green-lipped mussels, local olive oil, artisan bread …. and so many other delicacies.
The new people next door wanted a couple of ancient pine trees felled, they cast too much shadow over their new Natives garden. The first few came down Ok but the last one needed prolonged discussion. Our house owners were expecting their woodshed to be a fatality but the tree came down perfectly.
I have long wanted to experience the Marlborough Sounds mail run to various outlying settlements, and at long last we managed to fit one in, albeit only a half-day run in a fast hydrofoil rather than an all-day in a small launch. Penny was allowed along and thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly as we stayed on the top deck and she could lord it over the dogs which occasionally ‘met’ the mail boat, probably eager for the dog biscuits which the helmsman/postie kept handy.
Penny was not allowed ashore at Ship Cove which Captain Cook visited several times, the only place where we humans were allowed ashore.
We took Dave’s niece Viv for a long drive to Cape Campbell, north of Kaikoura. There is a caravan/motorhome camp nearby at Marfells Beach, which we inspected for signs of the recent earthquake damage (nothing much obvious) ……
…… and then continued to Ward Beach where the seabed has very obviously been raised several metres. The road to Kaikoura was blocked a little further along. No fishing is permitted along quite a long stretch of the coastline, until marine life recovers.
All too soon it was time to pack up yet again, the sunset that last evening was softly beautiful. The dog owners tell me that Nunny kept on checking our bedroom for me each morning; he was in the habit of jumping on the bed if I was not up by what he considered a suitable time!
We’d heard our geocache at Blackball was full of water again and needed a new container, so we headed that way, stopping for coffee at our favourite little roadside wheelie cafe in the Wairau Valley and then for diesel and some purchases at a small farmers’ market in Murchison. The road is beginning to show obvious signs of the great increase in traffic since the Kaikoura quake. We spent the next two nights in the Ahaura Domain near Blackball, a pleasant place with free showers at $5/night. A trip to Greymouth for a new container, then up to Blackball. It being around lunchtime when we arrived of course we had lunch at the Hilton! (For non-Kiwis, this old pub was grandly renamed the Blackball Hilton some years ago, then when the Hilton Hotel chain heard about it and threatened to sue, the name was changed to “Formerly the Blackball Hilton” which it retains to this day.)
And so back to Christchurch via a less frequented road which took us around Lake Brunner (not actually sighted), Arthur’s Pass (nobody told us a new straight road is being constructed there, Dave is not happy, he likes the curvy bits!), the beautiful road beside the Waimak, a stop for a cuppa, excellent pies from the Sheffield Pie Shop on the way, and so to our usual haunt in the chestnut orchard. We have just two days to go as I write this, before returning to Australia for three more months. We have found an excellent dogsitter for Penny, she should be happy there in the company of two other small dogs and two cats.