Picton, Day 7

Sunday – Day 7 – Wellington to Picton

The next day we were up at 6:30.We had arranged for a taxi to take us to the ferry dock at 7:30; our sailing time for Picton was 8:20. At 7:25, we left our hotel and the taxi was already there. We just beat a busload of people checking in so we didn’t have to wait in line for long. We went upstairs to the open deck seating but most of the seats were taken, so instead we went to the “reclining lounge” section.

We checked a map and figured the scenic stuff would be during the first and third hours of the cruise, and this was pretty accurate. We had a clear day for our crossing, and although it was cold and I should have worn every article of warm clothing I had brought, I stayed outside most of the time, taking tons of photos.

On our way to the South Island. All aboard the NZ Interislander Ferry.
Views on the NI toSI sailing, Interisland Ferry.
Dawn on the Interislander Ferry.
Views on the NI toSI sailing, Interisland Ferry.
Views on the NI to SI sailing, Interisland Ferry.
A great place for a catnap!

While on the ferry, the Apex terminal called twice. I had put a pick up time of 10:00, since I had booked it before I knew what the ferry times were, and this apparently created some havoc at the agency since he expected us at 10:00 and had to deliver a car somewhere at the same time… I called him back using a phone on the ferry since we had no bars on the iPhone and told him we were on the Interislander, and apologized profusely for the confusion when we finally did make it to the terminal in the ferry. Soon after landing, we were off in another Nissan Sunny.

It was noon-ish when we arrived at our hostel, Tombstone Backpackers. We had booked the only apartment for $110 per night. It had a full kitchen, separate bedroom, another tiny bathroom and had a lovely view over Picton. Everything looked new, as if it had been remodeled recently. I was a bit worried about street noise, and also the fact that the apartment was by the hot tub and some outdoor lounge seating, but we had no noise from other hostel dwellers and the street noise was minimal. The kitchen was fully equipped and as an extra bonus, the hostel has two resident cats. The owner, Lynn, was also friendly and informative; she recommended wineries with scenic views and excellent lunches, and also recommended a company that has kayak/hike full-day trips along the Queen Charlotte track. We took the brochure and map of Marlbrough, and by 12:30 we were headed off to wine country.

Very functional kitchen, Tombstone Backpackers apartment.
Living room at Tombstone Backpackers apartment.
Tidy bedroom at Tombstone backackers apartment.

Lynn had recommended a winery called Wither Hills for lunch; we arrived at 1:00 and were impressed with the extensive views and the lovely outdoor seating. Unfortunately, they were fully booked for lunch (it was a Sunday), but an employee recommended the closest winery with lunch service and even called for us so we could book a table.

Marc at the Wither Hills lookout.
View from Wither Hills winery.

We got to Highfield Winery at 1:20, extremely hungry, so hungry in fact that I didn’t even grimace at the high-priced menu. Appetizers were $16-20, and mains were $28-35ish. I ordered the fish and cous-cous, Marc ordered the pork belly for $28 each. Both came with a salad. I had a glass of Riesling ($6.5) with mine, Marc had the Chardonnay ($10) and we had tiramisu for dessert ($8). Marc’s pork was really good, my fish was also good, but the portions were small. Also, except for my Riesling, I didn’t really care for the wine; the waitress brought a few tastings for us, and all of them had a medicinal/licorice undertone that I found unappealing. The grounds were exceptionally nice, and they had a “tower” in the “villa” that afforded excellent views. We bought a bottle of the Riesling for $20 before we left.

Lovely views of the vineyards.
Wine tasting at Highfield winery.
Marc's lunch, pork belly, mash and salad.
My lunch at Highfield winery. Fish, cous cous and salad.

After lunch, we sat in the car for a good 20 min, until I felt ready to drive. My next priority was to get some good pictures of the area rather than tasting wine; the waitress had recommended Cloudy Bay winery for having nice views, but we didn’t find that to be true. However, we did happen across a field of picturesque sheep standing close to the fence, so I pulled over and approached with my camera. Those sheep… They were obviously not used to tourists, no matter how stealthy… They legged it from the shady bits of their pasture and wouldn’t pose for me no matter how nicely I pleaded, but I got some pictures of their fuzzy derrieres.

Getting ready to leg it away from my camera...

We got to Villa Maria at 4:40. We were the only ones there. The “hostess” had an American-tinged-with-Kiwi accent, and it turns out she was from Portland! We chit-chatted about things like the “Portlandia” show (put a bird on it) and other odd things we had in common like a mutual love of the name Seamus. She also let us know why Auntsfield had closed early; their grapes had ripened and they were busy harvesting. At 5:00, we said good-bye to Kate, armed with a bottle of the cab sauv ($20–I pretty much always buy the cheapest bottle) and were on our way back to Picton.

The "Yakima" side of Marlborough wine country.
Villa Maria exterior.

Along the way, I realized we hadn’t booked our day on the Q.C. track. The brochure Lynn had given us was from Sea Kayak Adventure Tours. They had an independent kayak/hike, full-day option priced at $85 per person. The same thing, guided, was in the $130-$140 range in some of the other brochures I had looked at on the ferry, so we decided to call them and see if we could go the next day. We called from a field in Blenheim and the guy we talked to felt pretty certain they could fit us in, although he said he had to check with another guy to see how many bookings he had taken. Later he called us back and said we were good to go, and to show up at 8:30 am. I realized after we hung up that I hadn’t asked him how far the hike was.

Because lunch was such a bank-buster, we decided to have dinner in. We also needed to buy stuff for lunch tomorrow since we would be on the Q.C. trail at lunchtime. We stopped by the “Fresh Choice” market in Picton and I bought the following:

Frozen hoki: $8.47

2 Royal Gala apples from NZ: 0.87

Smoked Havarti from Kapiti creamery: $10.21

Triple cream cheese with chili pepers, also from Kapiti: $8.88

Ham and pastrami: $8.42

Coleslaw with dressing: $4.79

NZ pumpkin: $1.82

1 loaf multi-grain bread: $3.49

1 bag of 10 tomatoes for $1.99, such a bargain!

We also bought a “chiller bag” and frozen pack for it for $8.

For dinner we had mashed pumpkin, cole-slaw with tomatoes, fish and 1/2 the Riesling. We ate at the little kitchen island in our apartment; although we had a small table on our small deck, it was very windy outside. After dinner, we sat in the hot tub for awhile, and then went to bed early, knowing we had to get up early, yet again.

Go on the next part of the journey!

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