New Zealand 2014/15
Thursday January 1, 2015
New Year's Day. The bathroom heater has dried us out overnight.
So now there is no plan and no planning resources. The South Island section of our Lonely Planet guidebook is back at SpringCurl. We don't know which towns have accommodation. If only we had our camping gear (which is also back at SpringCurl). We decide to head to Christchurch.
The morning road to Blenheim is calm and serene. There are no major climbs – farms are nestled in the river valley with a panorama of hills around them. Around 10:00 in the morning the onshore breeze picks up, like it does every morning. The trucks have taken the day off.
On the outskirts of Renwick vineyards start. Vines are planted as far as the eye can see. All the quaint branding of "carefully selected" and "single vineyard" and "family tradition" flies out the window as one rides past hectares of vines. The world has a big thirst for New Zealand wines, and New Zealand does its best to accommodate.
As far as the eye can see
We don't have enough time to cycle to Christchurch, so at Blenheim we hop the train and try our best to catch the views as we ride the rails. Lady Como is snug in the baggage car. At the rear of the train is a lookout car that is open to the world. It is great for photos and fresh air.
The land is parched and so are we. Surely on New Year's Day one should be able to get a glass of wine on the train? Not so. Rule are rules, and holidays are holidays. The train is not licensed to sell wine on holidays. ("That means you can give it to us", I say.)
Off road trail?
The South Island waters are just a blue as the North.
South Island waters
Friday January 2, 2015
Today is a cycling day full of promise. The AA map in the motel room shows that Riccarton Road will lead us to Wine Trails. The map shows lots of small communities. There will be vineyards to see and quaint little towns to find.
In fact the riding is flat, on roads going nowhere. Riccarton Road turns into the Old West Coast Road and passes through horse country. The first vineyard we find is closed. Permanently by all appearances. The second vineyard is closed. It is January 2. January 2 is a statutory holiday in New Zealand. Who ever heard of January 2 being a statutory holiday?
We ride to the nearest small, quaint town on the map. It does not exist. It is getting close to lunch time. The sky is cloudless. We ride on to Rolleston.
Rolleston is the straw that breaks the camel's back. Our choices for eateries are McDonald's or a bar called The Rock. Did I come all this way to sit in a bar called The Rock, eating shrimp that tastes like cardboard with garlic bread for lunch? No quaint villages. No vineyards. This is supposed to be a wine region, darn it.
All the small irritations spill out like ink over a blank sheet of paper. It is time for a rant, which I will not repeat here. We talk through all our petty peeves and get them off our chests. And then they suddenly don't seem as important anymore. There is still a trip to enjoy, even if it isn't the one we had hoped for.
Maybe tomorrow we will find elegance in Christchurch.
So we ride back to Riccarton Road, find a New World grocery store, and pick up supplies for supper. We have done more grocery shopping together on this trip than in the past 30 years.