Posted in Travel

Road Trip Part 1: Marlborough, Nelson, & Abel Tasman

People keep asking me why I chose to study in New Zealand.  “Couldn’t you study that in America?  Aren’t there good schools there?  Wow, wasn’t there anything closer?”  The answer to each of these questions is obviously YES.  But, why should I be limited by that? I will not get into the multifaceted response that I’ve given at least a dozen ways to a dozen different people.  The short and sweet version is simply the name of my blog: pursuit of wonder.

Regardless of my constant pursuit, and the endless wonder to be found here, I’ve been struggling with homesickness a lot lately.  At the two month mark, the novelty and glitter are starting to wear away, leaving me with way too much time to ponder why this homebody wandered so far.  For such an extended period of time.  But a weekend like the one I just had, while doing little to make me miss home any less, is a great reminder that I’m here for a reason.  And quite possibly many reasons (this will be more of a theme in Part 2).

A fellow grad student invited me on a pretty amazing road trip this past weekend – and what started out as “just something to do” turned into an epic and moving experience. Because this could turn into an inordinately lengthy read, I will first post about Friday and Saturday (Nov. 21-22), and tomorrow (or soon) I will post about Sunday and Monday (23-24).

Below is the route we took.  As you can see, we covered a decent chunk of Northern half of the South Island.  What I wouldn’t give to outgrow my motion sickness (If you didn’t know, New Zealand is quite mountainous.  Womp.)

RT Route

Friday: We rolled out of Christchurch mid-morning and rocked up to Kaikoura, where we took our first rest stop to eat lunch by the beach (lots of PB&Js, granola (or muesli) bars, and lollies this weekend!).

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We wandered the beach looking for penguins, but didn’t see any.  Five minutes out of town though, we came across hordes of seals!  This was absolutely unbelievable.  More than 50 on the particular part of the beach where we pulled off, but hundreds along the relative area of coastline.  There’s something absolutely breathtaking about seeing animals that you’ve only ever seen in the zoo in person, and at extremely close range.  Fat and lazy ones sunning themselves on rocks, young ones playing around and being told off by bossy superiors, and even some sleepy heads popping out of rocky hiding places every now and then just to see what was going on.  I could have watched them for hours.

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I totally could have gone as close as I wanted.  But they’re actually a bit faster than they look, and I didn’t think I should test how territorial they were.

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Our next leg of the trip took us up to Blenheim (in Marlborough wine region), where my friend was to run a marathon (the original purpose of the trip) the next morning.  We didn’t book accommodation in advance, as it’s a pretty small town with plenty of backpacking hostels (and if you book in advance you could be unpleasantly surprised…).  Apparently though, it’s a busy season in the vineyards, where lots of backpackers find work (and stay indefinitely).  So after checking about 10 hostels, all of which were either too full, too far, or too sketch, we ended up staying in a motel.  It was outside our intended budget for the weekend, but certainly did the trick.  Until someone started shooting fireworks off right outside our window…

Saturday: While my friend was running that morning, I biked to Wither Hills, one of the major vineyards nearby (and a brand that I’d actually heard of!).  I figured I’d just wander around a bit and take pictures, but I was enthusiastically ushered in from the rain, and encouraged to explore the building before coming down for a free tasting!  Not much more to say other than the building and grounds were gorgeous, and the wine delicious.  Unfortunately, we found cheaper prices in the grocery than the cellar door…though friendly and accommodating, I guess they prey a bit on tourists.  If you do a wine tour or hit a cellar door, I’d suggest doing some pricing research before you walk in.

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That afternoon, we drove from Blenheim to Nelson, a sunny city up north.  We stayed with my friend’s friend that night.  Almost all the Kiwis I’ve met have been so nice and hospitable!  It was a lovely house tucked into the hillside. IMG_2063 IMG_2092

I also got to hang out with this friendly beast all night 🙂

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More to come soon!

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