The ferry across the Cook Strait, from Wellington to Picton, is a slow and laid-back affair, but it fits in with the attitude and reflective pace of life in New Zealand. It’s also a journey not a rush, given the stunning secluded bays of the Marlborough Sound.
We headed straight to Blenheim, centre of the Marlborough wine region, to a little B&B, the Dry Olive, nestled among beautifully manicured vineyards and olive groves. Whether you want to hire bikes, hike, or nominate a driver, the vineyards are conveniently located quite close together. They do tend to close quite early though, around 4pm, to put off drunken pelotons of cyclists.
Our next stop, a little further down the coast, was Kaikoura, famous for its whales. We’d booked an afternoon trip, which was extremely well organised. I must admit to be a landlubber, and the waves were a little too choppy for me, but that said, it doesn’t take away from the experiences of spotting these majestic creatures up close. We had two sperm whale sightings, which is fairly lucky seeing as they can dive for up to two hours. Trying to comprehend their sheer mass is something I’ll never get my head around. We watched them blow water and catch their breath, and then submerge like a gracefully submarine, flicking their tail behind them.
Apparently there are beautiful snow covered mountains that descend directly into the sea. I saw “apparently” because the weather was too poor for us to see any mountains. In fact, it was only because our landlady mentioned them that we were any the wiser. And then at breakfast we had the briefest of “ah-ha” moments. The clouds parted just enough to offer a glimpse of hidden peaks, which harpooned the clouds, before zipping itself backup again, almost embarrassed to be caught with its trousers down. The cloud cover was so thick and even it was impossible to know anything was hidden behind the fleecy coat.