Monday, April 29, 2013

Volcanos in the mist - via Taupo and Napier towards Ruakituri River

The double glazing at the Motel in Taihape did its job and we had a good night. Heading further up to the north, Dessert Road (we hoped for some nice vistas at the Volcanos -  we did see nothing, not even the road 200 meters ahead) in mist and rain towards Taupo. It was definitely not the National Trout Center that let us choose that way. I was not enough motivated to go there or to the Taupo region at all, but it was rather the bad weather that made us not to go east via the (upaved) Taihape-Napier road, but to go via a big arch first up north towards Taupo and then back south-east via Taupo. Driving towards the lake we run into the trout center more by surprise as I thought it was supposed to be somewhere else. It was interesting to see the (hatchery) rainbow trout in close to spawning mood, nevertheless this center is not worth a significant detour. Unless you want to fish the famous hammered Tongariro – in that case consider that you need a special DOC Taupo catchment fishing license! The normal NZ license is not valid!

In Taupo I tried to have a sleep in the rainy car, did some mailing and Ines and Tobias went for the local swimming pool. Late that afternoon we started towards Napier. Again one of these boring NI roads – it leads through the world’s largest man-planted forest. Man planted forests in NZ means tree by tree in the exact same distance and orientation – looks very artificial even from miles away. Finding accommodation in Napier was one of these locations where it took some more time and consideration. This was pretty much the tendency for a couple of NI locations which was partially related to the autumn holidays and the general higher price level than on the SI. Consequently the cheaper accommodations are really cheap / simple / old / ‘bachy’. But we found a cozy typical bach close to the sea some minutes north of Napier.
Napier has two major attractions: it is the capital / highest concentration of Art Deco buildings and has lots of wineries around. A good reason to visit Napier and spend a couple of days there. Fishing was not on the plan!

This night Tobias was not to be persuaded to got to bed. He was up pretty late. And around 9p, something he stood up by itself and made the first steps. Just one or two. Repeatedly he stood up all by himself and made his very first steps. This night up to around seven consecutive steps without any support! The 16th of April - just three days after his first birthday. He was even more proud what he achieved than his very proud parents! He was so excited!

Before that during the afternoon in Taupo with Ines he made some water supported steps in the pool - the very first indication of this occurrence.

We picked some of these winery-maps from the i-Site and figured out a route to visit distinct wineries and some we already knew from the bottle. We started off with the young stylish modern Elephant Hill, a winery founded just some years ago by a German investor with a focus on high quality wine. Their whites and their reds where very promising. We bought a bottle of 2009 Tempranillo – a rather uncommon crape for NZ – which was not available for a taste. Some surprise for home. 

Based on recommendation by a staff from Elephant Hill we continued via lovely back roads to Craggy Range. A snobby high price show-off winery. Postmodern architecture of cellar and restaurant. All looks very good, but none of the wines did even slightly persuade. They might have a hard time to enter the German market. Off main stream taste paired with high prices. 

Craggy Range

Te MataTe Mata was a winery we knew from the bottle (back then Cabernet Merlot Reserve 2009). Surprisingly their whole tasted range was good value for money (good bottles starting around 20NZ$, e.g. the Cabernet Merlot 2010 we bought). Te Mata has a not too much exaggerated newly build Art Deco style cellar.

We wanted to have some historic wineries as well so we went to The Mission. A very friendly man made a special late tasting for us. The Mission is the oldest winery in NZ constantly producing, founded back in 1851 from priests that needed wine for their sacraments. A beautiful Victorian building overlooking the surroundings. 

The Mission ff

Tobias practicing to walk

Fifth and the last winery for the day was Church Road. Curch Road is a very old winery from 1897 but it was not producing without interruption. Which was sold from Montana (one of the wine big player in NZ) to a French company (Pernod Ricard). We loved their Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 before we knew anything about its origin. Repeatedly we were stocking up on this as soon as it was on sale in one of the supermarkets. It comes normally for around 28, but you can get it for something between 15 and 18 if you are patient. This wine was mentioned before in this block, till the end of this trip we might have had well of a dozen of this type. Interesting was that even as we had tasted about 20-25 different wines during this day, Church Road did still appeal. Their Reserve Syrah 2010 or their Mc Donald Series Marzemino (!) 2010 are just pure pleasure! Full bodied, deep, interesting, pleasuring. And their Tom range is said to be outstanding. Unfortunately we were at our self-imposed limit of six bottles in the car and just around 10 more days to go. We were close to be drunk and thus ready to drive to the cottage.

Reserve Syrah 2010  Mc Donald Series Marzemino (!) 2010

In the morning we went back to Church Road first to do the cellar tour and get some insights in making / producing the wine and second to taste the poured wines again. Curch Road as well as The Mission hold regular outdoor concerts in their parks during summer that attract guests from the whole country. 

 A plater to relax after the wine cellar tour @ Church Road1974 - we bought 12 bottles ; )

Northbound again towards the Ruakituri valley for the last days fishing on NI. Taking care of the cottage there was pain in the ass as the owner could not get hold of the lady in charge of the keys and pretty much delegated this task to me. However he gave some basic advice how to fish the river and where to go. I tried to call the lady numerous times and was already about to change plans and to find an other acomodation. Than out of a sudden, again trying to call here with out hope, she was on the phone and all worked out to the good. 

The landscape driving there was pastoral land or tree plantations. Besides the core land of the National Parks the whole NI seems to be utilized to grow or feed something. I mention that river here as it is one of the around top five rivers on NI, very well-known and frequently mentioned in various reports you find on the internet. We reached the cottage well after dawn. A cottage more like a wooden semi-deteriorated castle. Lots of bedrooms, a large living area and kitchen. Some of the wood on the outside looked as it would fall apart by simple touch... I was very curious and with high expectation about the last days of fishing!

Picton to Wellington – or leaving the best part behind…

Leaving Picton was hard and easy at the same time. Picton by itself is pretty much only of relevance due to the ferry and the access to the Sounds. But unless you have a motorboat on hand or do the Queen Charlotte Track (preferred by mountain bike as I personally would consider it to boring to walk its whole distance. In the off-season it is possible to ride its whole distance -a tough one day trip. Unfortunately we did not yet make it due to bad weather in the past years) there is nothing of interest there. Though some love the remoteness of the secluded sounds. Thus leaving Picton was easy, but at the same time we were NI bound. A necessity in our travel plan that Ines insisted on. About nine out of ten people we talked to, did see no necessity to go to the NI. I am one of the nine and something very surprisingly has to happen to change my personal opinion (you can even call it prejudgment). E.g. a 13lbs rainbow or a bubble-bath in Hawke’s Bay red. Thus I will keep the report on NI brief till this happens.

The ferry (Interislander) was in a more than average corroded status usually encountered on such ferries. A sever emergency case would probably end with a couple of hundred causalities as the emergency equipment did look rather in the need of some service, I was surprised to see it like that.  The cruise was sunny but boring. Even the sounds passed during the first hour provide only little distraction. The only alternation on the ferry was a very funny couple of elderly retarded German tourists providing unasked advice what to do with tired Tobias. I just silently walked up to them, staying on their side and saying rather friendly “Entschuldigung. Klugscheisser!” which can be translated to “Excuse me. Smart ass!” He looked very silly with his Alaska Anchorage cap shield on the back and a mustache. He reminded me slightly on my former chemistry teacher.

Wellington. We found a cheap but ok hotel (Mercur / Ibis) downtown and had a stroll at night. Unfortunately after the clock change the sunset is now around six-something, leading to pitch dark and kind of winter-depression mood around 7pm. Wellington is a rather large city with lots of traffic, traffic lights, tall buildings – a huge contrast to lovely Nelson. The beauty some assign to Wellington – I could not discover it. There are some nice corners but that it is pretty much. Do not spend too much time in Wellington and avoid trouble with the rigorous enforced parking laws. The next morning we had a short walk to learn the difference between cheapish Kathmandu outdoor clothing and high end Patagonia: Kathmandu deteriorates after weeks and they have no customer oriented warranty to cover that. Once again: ‘You get what you pay for’ and ‘Quality remains long, after the price is forgotten.’ (I have to add and stress that Kathmandu Wellington did not behave customer oriented, later during the trip we went to the Kathmandu store in Auckland and the lady there was very friendly and exchanged the jacket even without any proof of purchase! Still it is strange for a Jacket of that kind to separate after around eight weeks) (Further annotation concerning Kathmandu: their regular prices are fake-prices, for this level buy patagonia or Arc'teryx. Reduced at 40-60% Kathmandu is an option for the one or other item.)

Tobias gets one of the daily workouts

Watch the numberplate - not the car

Later cable car to the botanic gardens (the outside areas look a little bit un-serviced and wild) and feeding the ducks at the pond before the green house. A small greenhouse with plants of which some had fascinating leave structures, patterns and colours. 

Wellington Cable Car

@ my Parents: Who is the artist of that sculpture?

Leaving Wellington the MOST boring drive of the whole trip followed: Going north on the HW 1 towards Taihape. We encountered around five police cars (might be they expect some attack), thus there was no way to go at the preferred travel speed. The landscape becomes acceptable not before close to Taihape. Acceptable – nothing more. There we ended in an ok-Motel between the road and the rail with a (again) not working ZenBu internet access.

This whole NI-travelogue will be very critical – I warn you!