Yellow Vines and Blue Skies, A Marlborough Autumn

So both of us will admit up front that before we even arrived here in Renwick, we’d already begun to sense our disappointment. I mean, how could we leave Kaikoura, where we could see and hear the ocean and walk to the beach in a few minutes and come to a place in town where it takes us twenty minutes to drive to the closest beach. Seems such a lame reason to complain because after all, we are still having the time of our lives and this is another experience in the whole collection that will make up this grand adventure. Life is still life regardless of where you find yourself on the planet and there are bound to be disappointments. Our interpretations and reactions to those disappointments play a key role in shaping our experience of life. Coming to this place in Renwick just happened to be one those times for us. It seems we’d developed an idea of what we like and what we wanted and then found it difficult to surrender that idea to experience what this place might have to offer despite not being what we’d hoped for. There must have been some reason we’d chosen to book it all those months ago, and so, we carried on, curious to see what the next three weeks would bring.

When we arrived, our hosts’ house sat on a back lot, meaning you have to pull in the driveway of someone else’s house and drive to the back where we parked. Our studio was behind their house completely fenced in. Our hosts had two daughters, the youngest of which was the first one we met. She peeked out from behind the pickup in the driveway and asked “How old are you?” I asked how old she thought I was before answering her question and then asked her the same. She was an adorable six year old. After we met her parents, we began unloading Zed and carrying things to our room. She was right there beside us helping out. On one of the trips across the backyard, she did a cartwheel and I could see the question coming before I heard her ask “Can you do a cartwheel?”

She reminded me so much of myself at that age and I knew that if I answered yes, I’d have to prove it. I said, “Yes.”

Her reply, of course, “Show me.”

So I did. After which she skipped over to me to ask “Can you do a handstand?”

I chuckled inside, wondering if this moment was perhaps part of the reason I’d been practicing my handstands even though she did not insist I show her.

I encouraged her to keep practicing hers against the wall as she said she’d been doing and we talked a little bit more about tumbling as she helped carry the last of our things into the room. The accommodation was well equipped and had a heat pump (something we’ve realized is quite helpful in making us comfortable) in addition to two rather unique features, an outdoor bathtub and a sauna. Our host showed us how to use everything including the sauna and said we were welcome to use it during our stay. I was excited to try it out as I only recall being in a sauna once when I was in high school. We enjoyed using it a few times and the experience was quite relaxing.

The first day we planned meals and stocked up on groceries before walking around to have a look at Renwick. There is a nice park not far from where we were staying that provided a great hacky sack spot.


Park in Renwick


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Park in Renwick (4)

First picture of oak tree in Renwick


second, taken a couple of weeks later


The next day we spent time reading and watching movies. Those of you who know us well know that I was reading and Paul was watching the movies.


Reading on Rarangi Beach


Then the draw of the ocean pulled us out to Rarangi beach for an hour or so to sit and watch the waves and give the sandflies something to feast on.

Rarangi beach (7)

Relaxing on Rarangi Beach


Rarangi Beach (18)

Our “log” bench on Rarangi Beach


Once we were back at the apartment, there was time to watch another movie together before our early bedtime. Renwick is just a few minutes outside of Blenheim and only about twenty minutes from Picton so if you’ve been following this blog you know that we are rather familiar with this area. Instead of spending afternoons checking out new places, we took some time to visit with the couples we’ve befriended here and returned to our favorite spots. With one couple, we spent some time catching up on the last several weeks since we’ve seen them and then they took us on a short driving tour through the vineyards and up to some places overlooking the valley.

Walk through Renwick (6)

Marlborough vineyard

Marlboroughj vineyards (1)

Another golden vineyard

Marlborough from Ben Morven road (13)

View of Marlborough valley


This was when I realized we were just a smidge too late to see grape harvest in full swing. We’d failed to take that into consideration when making our plans all those months ago. I was hoping to see a grape harvester in action, but it won’t be this season as harvest has drawn to a close.

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The vineyards are now showcasing their autumn colors.


Marlborough vineyards (5)

Autumn in Marlborough


The other couple whom we’ve come to know live on Rarangi beach and we stopped there to check out their new house and see the unit where we will be staying with them later this year. Oh, what an incredible place to live, we both wanted to change our accommodation right then and there and probably would have if they’d have had it available. After sharing a coffee with them, we drove into Picton to have lunch by the marina, a place where we’d enjoyed spending quite a bit of time last August.

More of our favorite spots, besides Rarangi beach, here in Blenheim are the Taylor River walkway and Wither Hills Farm Park. We made sure to visit both of those places again. The path along the Taylor river makes a perfect jogging path and Wither Hills offers many miles of terrain for walking, biking or jogging.

Taylor River walkway (3)

Taylor River Walkway

Wither HIlls, walk up Mt. Vernon (15)

Wither Hills Farm Park


View of Blenheim from Wither Hills

Wither HIlls, walk up Mt. Vernon (21)

View from Mt. Vernon in Wither Hills



We went out and walked up Mt. Vernon again on a large loop through the park. The day we did was crystal clear. The walk offered gorgeous views over the Marlborough wine country and all the autumn colors. Another afternoon drive took us up the Taylor River to the dam where we enjoyed some time watching all the birds on the reservoir and of course took time for hacky sack and handstands.


Reservoir at Taylor River Dam

Taylor river dam (15)

Black swan at Taylor River Dam


Handstand practice at Taylor River Dam


This might be the most boring post so far because I don’t have a list of new and exciting places to write about, but it hasn’t been boring being here. An interesting bit of entertainment occurred one afternoon as we watched one of the cat’s stalk the pet rabbit which in turn chased the cat around the yard. That’s certainly not something you see every day and it was quite funny to watch the two of them play. Even though we’ve been doing a lot of reading and movie watching, we’ve been content to use the down time to reflect on all we’ve been allowed to see and do over the last eleven months, recognize what we’ve learned about living a simpler life, marvel at how well we’ve gotten along and how much we treasure our friendship and really just observe and interact over what each day has to offer.     We’ve visited the farmer’s market twice, excited to see that there were still fresh plums and tomatoes available. I tried some new recipes, too. The favorite for this stay is a toss-up between plum crisp, fresh tomato soup and pear quinoa salad. Looking ahead on the calendar, we’ve already been planning for Paul’s folks to visit and just as was the case when our other friends were here we’ll have to plan carefully to make sure all of us and our luggage will be able to travel comfortably. So, one task saved for the weekend was selling the cooler and delivering a suitcase to Nelson for storage until we arrive there with his parents. Hopefully, that will free up enough space.

The other weekend adventure was a walk we wanted to try that our friends had mentioned to us. Sawcut gorge, it’s called. Online information indicated to allow three hours for the walk, plus we had at least an hour’s drive to get to the trail. One other important piece of information about the trail: there are multiple river crossings. More about this later. In order to access the trail, you drive through private land and park in the driveway of the house that sits at the trail head. The trail follows the riverbed up to the gorge.   Parking at a stranger’s house made it feel a bit like we were intruding, but there were clear instructions for parking and accessing the trail.


Drive to Sawcut Gorge trailhead

They’d even provided printed maps and these also had several warnings that the trail crossed the river many times and that you would get your feet wet on this walk. Just why I didn’t pack an extra pair of socks as I’d done for every other day hike we’ve done and why I dismissed the thought to go back and change into my sneakers which would have been much more water friendly shoes that my heavy tramping boots, remains a mystery. Perhaps I really thought the water would be shallow enough that I would be able to cross in the waterproof boots, but immediately upon encountering the first river crossing I knew if I chose to continue they’d be wet inside and out because it was obvious the water was deeper than my boots were high. Our morning started with a discussion about how each of us have gotten stuck, so to speak in our own rut or gorge. Ideas and perceptions we’ve created out of fear or a need to control are now our reality and therefore we find ourselves locked inside these perceptions away from the natural flow of life. We both recalled the feelings upon moving to the place in Renwick. Everything seemed to be following a theme for this section of our adventure. As the events of the day unfolded, the parallels between our inner landscapes and the trail our feet were walking were unmistakable. So it was no surprise when we arrived at what we thought was the destination I was disappointed. Of course it did not hold the grandeur and spectacle I’d expected because it was providing a reflection of how I am living my life. My perception of myself, life, people and events occurring in my awareness will always fall short of the goal, if that goal was created by me to satisfy my preferences. Only after we started the journey back to the car did Paul realize he’d misinterpreted the map and we actually never made to Sawcut gorge. Once we’d realized a more important reason for this experience, we also realized that it was okay if we didn’t get to see Sawcut gorge today. We were each allowed to experience a profound internal insight instead. With a smile and cold feet squishing bubbles out through the top of my waterlogged boots, we walked back down the river bed counting the river crossings this time. Thirteen. What a day!


Sawcut Gorge trail


walk to Sawcut gorge (44)

Sawcut Gorge trail

walk to Sawcut gorge (5)

Sawcut Gorge trail



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During the remaining week, we found more time to visit Rarangi beach, took a walk to White’s Bay and checked out a glow worm cave at Monkey Bay. We also re-visited a favorite Blenheim restaurant, Gramado’s with our friends.

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One afternoon we retraced a route we’d driven on a previous visit the along coast on from Picton to Rarangi. Port Underwood road is by no means a heavily traveled road, but the narrow winding path offers spectacular views of the Marlborough Sounds and several secluded bays along the way.

Karaka Point walk (5)

Flower at Karaka Point

Port Underwood road (10)

View from Port Underwood road

Rarangi beach from top of hill

Rarangi from Port Underwood road

Port Underwood road (1)

View of hills surrounding Marlborough Valley

We have had pleasant and mild weather so far this autumn.   We have savored brilliant crisp blue skies nearly every day of our stay in Renwick. We’re grateful to have had a good internet connection here and have enjoyed Skyping with our family over the last three weeks. We’ve been in communication with our next host. The excitement has begun stirring along with a bit of apprehension in knowing there is no heat. Ahead, a long drive to the anxiously awaited “Shed and Breakfast.”


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