Hello again, if there happens to be anyone out there who is checking this regularly, I apologize for the delay since my last post. The title of this one sums it up pretty well. After moving at least every week for the first six weeks here, we were both utterly relieved to walk into the house we’d rented in Picton, knowing we could settle in and slow down for a while and maybe even unpack our suitcases. We eagerly embraced the change of pace. The house here we found through a fantastic accommodation website called Airbnb, definitely worth checking it out if you’re traveling anywhere in the world! To top it off, I have a full kitchen with an oven, gas range and an espresso maker. (Did you just hear the hallelujah chorus echo in your head with the soul of a southern choir? I did.). Now lest you get the wrong impression, a change of pace does not equal boring. Our stay here in Picton has been anything but boring. I stumbled upon a clean eating cookbook on my kindle app with a meal plan and shopping lists for 28 days. Uh, couldn’t get more perfect as we are here for a month, sold! I dove in head first and started getting acquainted with some of the recipes and compiling the shopping list, gulp!. I knew the first one would be a big trip to the store, but then theoretically I’d have the “staples” in my pantry for the rest of the month. However, the grocery bill did not drop much after the first week, it’s just quite a bit more expensive here than what we’re used to, though cooking is still a more economical choice than eating out regularly. Now that I’m three weeks in, I can say the recipes are good and for the most part easy to follow for someone with as little patience as me. We have enjoyed the taste of most of them and I am getting very familiar with the kitchen here in Picton. I am also shocked to say that I have, for the first time in my life, attempted to make mayonnaise. If any of you are familiar with this process, you would not be surprised to find out that my first batch turned out like one of those oil and water toys that you shake and watch separate instead of the creamy delicious concoction I’d imagined. Oh well, we ate it anyway and I moved on to the next recipe. In addition to mayonnaise, we have been introduced to some new foods through this endeavor including red lentils, smoked paprika, cannellini beans and tofu–yes, tofu. It turns out you don’t even taste it when it’s blended into a delicious ginger berry smoothie, it simply adds a nice creaminess to the drink, and who knew that a chocolate tart made with dates and tofu could be such an amazing dessert? Yesterday I baked my first batch of homemade granola and whipped up like the fifteenth batch of energy balls–YUM! A couple other favorites include the apple crisp with ginger and the chicken enchiladas with homemade salsa verde. Now there’s another good story. The salsa verde is so very easy to make. What’s not easy about it is finding the ingredients. Turns out I couldn’t find a single grocery store employee who had ever heard of tomatillos. When I did find them in the Mexican food section of the second grocer I looked in, the cans had dust on them and there was a note on the product tag that the item would be discontinued. I bought the last three cans. It seems as though the chicken enchiladas may be a limited edition menu item.
During our second week here I received news that my brother was in the hospital with an acute septic infection. This is not the type of situation one would choose, if given the opportunity to do so. Despite this, when faced with these types of circumstances, I tend to be awakened to a deeper essence of life than I typically acknowledge during times where life moves as I expect it to. Being half way around the world added to the stress of it all. I spent most of the week either crying or trying to stay in contact with my family/nurses/doctors or dealing with my feelings of worry and helplessness Through the process I realized that I was grateful for the experience to remind me of what is most important in life. My brother is back at home and we are left with the remnants of the experience until life unveils the next encounter with the unexpected.
The weather has been rather gray and wet for the majority of our time in Picton and we really haven’t minded a bit. We’ve embraced the chance to take it easy inside for a few days. I was treated to a lovely surprise shortly after we arrived, a package appeared in the mail box and to my delight it was a custom made “card kit” from a fellow creative friend in the US. I was giddy with excitement getting to piece together scraps of paper into greeting cards, not something I’d expect everyone or anyone for that matter to understand, but I thought it was a blast. I didn’t think I’d get the chance for paper crafting until I got back to my craft room, now I have inspiration to think outside that box.
On those days we do see blue skies, we take a walk down to the marina to watch the seals playing in the water, the birds fishing, the big ferry boats unloading or simply soak up the sunshine ourselves or all of the above. Here’s a video that Paul caught of one of the birds (we were told it was a gannon) fishing. (bird video)
We did have the chance to take the Queen Charlotte drive over to Havelock for lunch. The views were stunning, of course. On the way back we stopped by the Makana chocolate factory with which we became familiar during our last visit. The most elegant tree greeted us in the parking lot. Deep green leaves and branches hung evenly with plump round oranges all illuminated in the late afternoon glow of sunshine. After making the intended purchase of the most amazing toffee. I asked if we could reach a few oranges, could we have them. “Yeah, go ahead. Help yourself. The ugly ones are the sweetest.” came the reply from the friendly girl inside. Then, there we were without a ladder or even step stool, gazing longingly at the luscious fruit overhead. Soon I was perched on Paul’s shoulders snatching fruit right there in the parking lot. It did feel a wee bit audacious even though I’d gotten permission. Too bad we didn’t get a selfie. The taste was not necessarily worth the trouble or maybe I just didn’t find an “ugly” enough one to maximize the sweetness. Regardless, the experience was memorable.
Most recently, to celebrate our anniversary, we went on the “Magic Mail Run.” You can purchase tickets to board the mail boat that delivers mail and groceries to residents in the Marlborough sounds. This cruise had been recommended to us by more than one of our acquaintances here in NZ and it really was fantastic. You get an up close view of many of the gorgeous bays plus an educational commentary. We were also fortunate to see a few dusky dolphins on the way out.
As we approach the second to last weekend for this stay in Picton, we touched base with friends in Blenheim to see about having dinner at least one more time before we move along on our journey. Saturday when our weekend began at 1100am, we left to go hike the Snout track. We just walked from the house and caught the start of the trail at Shelley beach in the Picton Marina, even though you can drive part way, park and pick the trail up from the road. The track follows the peninsula opposite the bay from the Queen Charlotte track. The sun was out, the sky was brilliant blue and the track wasn’t too muddy, though there were places that if you wanted to keep from sinking your entire shoe into the muck, you needed to pay close attention the placement of your steps. We found the walk to be simply an awesome way to spend an afternoon.
On Sunday we decided to take a drive down Highway 1 and make a few stops that we did not do on our way into Picton. One being Yealands vineyard and winery. Oh my! Someone we chatted with in Picton recommended it saying there were some great views. That may have been an understatement. We found miles and miles of rolling hills covered in grape vines, almost as far as you could see. Our visit started at the cellar door where they played a short video about the winery and their sustainable energy practices.
Next we did a tasting and set out on the self-guided driving tour of the vineyard. The place was so utterly expansive against a backdrop of ocean and seaside cliffs in one direction and rolling hills and white peaks in another direction. This vineyard is well worth a visit.
Yearning to get back to a beach with crashing waves, we journeyed a bit further south toward Kaikoura, checked out the salt mine, which we will have to revisit when we’re back here in November as apparently the “fields” of salt are pink during that time of year.
Then we stopped into what has become a favorite lunch spot “The Store” and parked Zed right in line with the 20 or so Jaguars. We found this rather entertaining. Lucky for us, most of the people those cars belonged to had already eaten so there wasn’t much of a wait to get lunch which made us glad for our later arrival.
After eating, we just couldn’t resist a walk along the beach and some hacky sack. The weather was incredible. It was so clear and sunny, you could easily see the North island and the water was brilliant blue and turquoise.
The second day of our weekend held the promise for more walking and it was time to check out the Queen Charlotte track. The entire track is a 3-4 day journey. We are not prepared for that kind of tramping this trip.
We do walk fast, but not fast enough to complete it in 2 days and I’m quite sure the conditions would not be favorable for Paul to get his work done on the trail, thus, we decided to go for a day walk from the start of the track at Anakiwa. This first stretch took us to Davies Bay, it was supposed to be about a one hour walk each way, but since we had all afternoon and I had a camera it took us twice as long. That gave us twice as long to listen to the Tui’s too. (Tui song video) and long enough to give my camera a good workout. The clouds hung low and threatening all afternoon but never dropped any rain on us.
With one week left in Picton, we will likely have time for a few more outings. I’ll catch you up on those next time. Until then enjoy the view!