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Touring in New Zealand 2004 part 7

We had no fixed plans other than a general progression north to get to the Marlborough Sounds and then a ferry to North Island so we decided on the spur of the moment to go and see Mount Cook. The day was almost cloudless giving the possibility of views and photographs, which had to date, eluded us. We stopped long enough to arrange a cabin at Ruataniwha on a lakeside close to Twizel. We first stopped at the viewpoint towards the central mountains at the end of Lake Pukaki. The lake was an even more entrancing pale blue than usual - the colour comes from all the fine dust brought down in the melt water from the glaciers which have been grinding there way down the mountain sides. It is almost impossible to describe a pale, almost iridescent blue. Beyond the lake, and nearly 50 kms away the central mountains were sharply etched against the blue sky, all with snow-covered tops and with Mount Cook towering over them. For the first time we could see them with hardly a cloud in the way.

We drove down the side of the lake towards Mount Cook stopping occasionally to take pictures to the village of Mount Cook and looked in the Visitor Centre. We also explored along a gravel side road a couple of kms to where we found a nice looking DOC campsite we were not aware existed. If we had known we would not have booked a cabin but have stayed in sight of the mountains. Instead we had a 60 km drive back to Lake Ruataniwha and the cabin we had booked when we realised it would be a long day. It turned out to be a very spacious cabin in an excellent old style campsite, one we will have on our list for the future. We fired up the Red Devil for a barbeque outside. We had filled up the Gas Cylinder at a petrol station earlier in the day. Many, if not most, petrol stations have facilities for filling gas cylinders with LPG at prices only a little higher than for petrol.

We set off in the morning, after a long talk withe owner of the Lake Ruataniwha campsite about buying four wheal drive vehicles for camp. We planned to investigate a part of Lake Benmore that we had not been to. There are many private roads following the canals, which connect the various lakes and power stations providing hydroelectric power. These roads are open for use with some restrictions, such as speed, and most are tarmac and to a very high quality, in fact some of the Heritage trails such as the Bullock Trail, use these roads. There has been much argument over the flooding of the valleys but the results are a number of extremely beautiful areas. We accessed Lake Benmore from Twizel end down some of these hydroelectric scheme roads along wide canals with pale blue waters and past vast power stations with banks of pipes several metres in diameter bring the water down from the canals above.

When we reached Lake Benmore the roads changed to atrocious gravel but we proceeded to look at the boat harbour and campsite, basic with many caravans and then along the lakeside to another campsite at Fort Rose, which did not seem to have any facilities other than a boat ramp although many caravans were encamped. On the way we passed a small 'harbour' with several houseboats tied up in an idyllic site. All the way we had magnificent views back of Mt Cook, it was still crystal clear over the pale blue of the lake - it was difficult to believe it was 75 kms away although that was what the GPS showed.

There are salmon farms on some of the canals and we stopped at the High Country Salmon Farm, which has recently opened, like a number of other they keep the salmon in the fast flowing clean canals feeding the hydroelectric schemes. We were persuaded to feed some in the 'cage' adjacent to where they were selling and the results of throwing in food surprised us - the salmon hit at an impressive speed sometimes leaping several feet out of the water. The 'cage' seemed to be about 12 foot square but we were told it had over 800 salmon which looked as if they were about 50 cm long, say a couple of Kilos. There was a half price offer and we bought a reasonable size whole salmon for under $10.

We then moved on to Tekapo, which lies in MacKenzie country, a vast basin of golden tussock grass with the lake at 2,300 feet above sea level, an area known for sheep. Maori were the first to venture into this area. In 1855 James MacKenzie, of sheep stealing fame, found the pass used by the Maori opening up the area, which now bears his name. The Maori name for the lake comes from Taka, sleeping mat and Po, night. The lake gets the magnificent pale blue colour from the large amount of finely ground rock in the glacial melt water that feeds it.

The best-known feature is the tiny and very beautiful Church of Good Shepherd. The church is small, only serving a population of 300 but is unique in foregoing the stained glass or other decoration behind the alter and has instead a window showing a stunning view over the lake to the central mountains - better than anything man could ever create. I used a picture taken through the window for Xmas cards in 1999. The Church was built in 1935 and is now interdenominational and as well as regular services it does a good trade in Weddings, 90 some years. The builders of the Church were instructed that the site was to be left undisturbed - even the Matagouri bushes surrounding the building were to remain as did any rocks that happened to be on the lines of the walls. The stones for the walls had to be procured within 8 kms of the site, were to un-chipped and left in their natural condition. The original wooden shingle roof has however had to be replaced with slate.

The volunteer, David, who often mans the Church, is a mine of information and on an early visit first persuaded us to do the full climb up Mount John - he does it several times a week and takes an hour and a half. It is a relatively easy walk with an initial 1000-foot height gain and then a walk round the top with magnificent views in all directions including into the central Alps and Mount Cook. You can either descend the same way or take a long loop and back close to the lakeside. Our logs from earlier trips show we took an hour and a quarter to the top and three hours for the long return loop. This year our hard work to get fit seems to be paying off - we were at the high point in three quarters of an hour and back on the extended loop in two hours ten minutes including time to admire the views, have a snack and take photographs

We had intended to stay at the Lake Tekapo Motels and Motor Camp which we have used several times before down by the lake but prices had gone up 30% over those in the Jason 2004 guidebook and what we were accustomed to paying. There are new owners who made many excuses and implied the prices had been fixed before they took over although it does seem to be a new name in Jason's. They also now seem to be charging for $2 for showers and were also very disparaging when describing their own cabins to the person booking before us whilst trying to persuade him into an expensive motel unit. They gave the impression they had made a mistake getting involved in a camp site and would be quite happy not to be full if they could increase prices sufficiently to stay half empty - we understand they have already done so twice. We decided to give them a miss and will probably remove/annotate any recommendations we have on the web site assuming they stay in business - it will probably be in the hands of an out of town property developer next time.

We decided to proceed on to Fairlie where we could get a much better cabin at a price of $31.50 versus $50. Fairlie is on the Tourist route and we watched campervan after campervan speed past looking alternately at their watches and schedules, the stream occasionally broken by coaches full of tired people whilst we sat on our sunny patio with a glass off wine then fired up the Red Devil to barbeque our salmon in Aluminium foil for about 25 minutes - result; the best salmon we have tasted.

In the morning we went to the museum, we had expected it to be a small local museum but it was far from small. It was spread over a number of large buildings including an original pioneer cottage, now in a time warp and the blacksmith's premises. The entire Fairlie railway station had been added - it had been moved complete from its original site in the main street and must have been quite a sight as the building and transporter was 114 feet long and about 24 wide. To these had been added a number of new 'hanger like' buildings which were full of basically agricultural and transport machinery from a stage coach similar to those of 120 years ago carrying 17 people inside and hanging onto open seats on top to veteran cars.

There was a big collection of tractors in working condition, fixed engines and lots of farm machinery as well as the railway exhibits and hospital equipment in the old station. There is even an autogyro hanging from the roof. There was also a lot of interesting information about sheep farming, especially shearing through the ages. We spent over an hour and it needed at least that to do it justice and felt it alone merited the stop in Fairlie - entry is via a $2 turnstile big enough to take a small family. We stopped at Geraldine to buy some bread from the Berry Barn which has excellent breadand usually has it half price the following day although it is still fresher than one normally gets in the UK. Geraldine also has a Vintage car and Machinery Museum that we have yet to visit but we could not face another one after having spent so long at Fairlie.

It was then on to the DOC campsite at Waihi Gorge, an old favourite where we first set up our tent five years ago. Waihi means - water gushing forth and, not surprisingly, it is beside a stream with a swimming hole. The campsite was almost deserted; one tent in the far distance and a couple of tents and a campervan came in the evening. The gorge has several stands of rare Black Beech, most of it elsewhere has now hybridised with Mountain Beech. There was also lots of Matai (black pine) and Kahikatea, (white pine). Kahikatea is one of the tallest trees in New Zealand growing up to 60 metres and very old, over 100 million years. It is a typical Podocarp, evergreen with lots of red berries rather than cones. There were a couple of magnificent examples towering over the rest of the bush and forest the other side of the steam. New Zealand Pigeons were soaring up to immediately plummet down in vast swoops.

Pauline spent the afternoon painting the view and Pete had a swim in the swimming hole, a deep hole scoured out between tumbling rapids. The current was too almost too strong to swim against in the hole itself so one worked hard to stay still - like being back at work. It was however very invigorating and stimulating unlike work - Pete had two sessions to get some exercise and strengthen up his arm, the second being for 20 minutes or so.

In the morning 121_2156 we were awakened by the most tremendous dawn chorus and after brewing up some strong coffee whilst the tent dried we set out to Mount Somers. We stopped on the way at the small but excellent Mt Somers Holiday Park to check there would be no problem with accommodation. We found the office was surrounded by pots of the largest lilies we have ever seen. They have half a dozen of the basic cabins we were interested in on the site - good value at $36 as they are new construction and very well equipped with crockery cutlery, kettle and toaster to complement the full kitchen, laundry etc. in the facilities block. The site even has a games room with table tennis and the pub opposite does good meals - last time we had a fish and a huge mixed grill for $26 in front of a roaring log fire! The combination makes it a perfect stopping place

The walls of the pub are covered with information boards on the history of the area and walks through it. It used to be a small-scale coal mining area and there are pictures of the railway, initially narrow gauge and with several homemade engines. There was also an 'inclined plane' for a balanced up and down coming truck covering the final 164-metre height gain. . The owner once more extolled the virtues of a trip into the mountains down a gravel road that turned out to be very worthwhile. It initially passes the mines, an old limestone working and a limekiln that we stopped to look round on the return trip. The road had superb views and led eventually to Erewhon Station which was featured in the book Erewhon by Samuel Butler, one of the classic New Zealand books we bought and read several years ago. Now the book has been mentioned in the Lord of the Rings Location guidebook by Ian Brodie it will probably become extremely expensive and difficult to find, however it may lead people to also read the other classics in the series - fortunately we now have copies of most of them!

The area just short of Erewhon was used for part of the filming of Lord of the Rings, a camp was set up for 11 months and near Mt Potts Station. Mt Sunday is a rocky outcrop rising above the alluvial shingle plane left when ancient glaciers carved out the Rangitata River valley. This was used as the site of Edoras the capital of Rohan lying at the feet of the White Mountains near the river Snowborne.

As one approached the jagged snow covered peaks over a ridge one is suddenly presented with the view of Mt Sunday ahead surrounded by a flat covered in brown tussock and the braided tributaries of the river Rangitata. We stopped for a snack which turned into a couple of hours whilst Pauline sketched and did the initial stages of a water colour, photographs can only start to do it justice and it will be interesting to see how much of the essence can be instilled into a watercolour.

We continued past Mt Potts station to viewpoints where one could look up at Mt Sunday, itself a tiny feature in the vastness of the plain and surrounding mountains, and on to where we look into Erewhon Station nestling at the foot of the mountains. Samuel Butlers description is as true now as when he wrote Erewhon "Never shall I forget the utter loneliness of the prospect - only the little far away homestead giving sign of human handiwork, the vastness of mountain and plain, of river and sky; the marvellous atmospheric effects - sometimes black against a white sky, and then again, after cold weather, white mountains against a black sky." The book had led us to seek out Erewhon before we even knew the area had been kidnapped by for the Lord of the Rings although it is fair to say they have made good and you would hardly know there had been a small township for 11 months in this area.

On the way back we looked at Lake Clearwater, people were sailing on it and opposite the little township, mainly comprising cribs, there was another lake with what might be freedom camping and certainly tables for picnics and a long drop or two. We walked round some old limekilns, last time we looked round the quarry and restored cottage. Overall a very enjoyable day but be warned, much of it gravel roads with rough large stones so you need a 4x4 or other vehicle with good tyres and ground clearance like our Toyota Townace from Rental Car Village.

In the evening we looked in at the pub to reacquaint ourselves with the boards covering the area but ate the food we already had, if we had wanted to eat there would have been a long wait as the pub seems to get very full and lively on a Friday evening, the car park was full off Utes and everyone seemed to be drinking jugs. In the morning we followed signs for petrol and came upon the local store - it looked in a time warp but had a steady stream of customers. Nobody maned the pump so we enquired and were told to help ourselves and come back into the store to pay.

Our journey North continued on main roads as far as the Rakaia Gorge. There is a viewpoint close to the crossing over the Rakaia Gorge which offers excellent views of the Rakaia River which is a classic braided river at that point with lots of streams, merging and splitting as they wend there way through the broad stony flats at the valley bottom. We then took a back road to join the 73 (Arthur's Pass to Christchurch Road), mostly gravel, past Lake Coleridge which we had explored a couple of years ago, it is much more interesting and shorter in distance (not in time on gravel).

Lake Coleridge was the first lake to be exploited for hydroelectric power and the facilities there were used as a model for the succeeding hydroelectric power stations and trained a generation of engineers. It was progressively extended from 1.5 MWatts in 1914 to over 36 MWatts now. You can see the outside of the 1900s design building and look in at the turbines and see the huge penstocks running down the hillside giving a 164 metre head of water.

The Lake seems to be large undeveloped by tourism although there does seem to a nice set-up advertised at Ryton Station with everything from camping through lodge accommodation at $25 a head up to luxury chalets with dinner, bed and Breakfast for $100+ a head. We had a quick look at the Station, in particular the lodge, and have marked it down for the future as a possible stopping place. The lodge has 5 rooms and a huge common area with lounge, dinning area and more showers and toilets than 15 people could conceivably use. The camping area looked bleak and more suitable for a campervan or caravan. We carried on to take a look at the holiday houses at Harper Village at the head of the Lake but there seemed little to do up there.

The unsealed parts of the road was not the best, very large sharp looking gravel up to a couple of inches across so it was a slow trip to Ryton Station and then back and also on the Lyndon 'Dry Weather Road' across to join the main Arthur's Pass Road taking one past Lake Lyndon. As an aside there is also an excellent train trip from Christchurch to Greymouth through Arthur's Pass, which we have enjoyed in the past. We tried several places for a cabin as the winds had been high and there was rain up by Coleridge but everywhere seemed booked up - unusual even for a Saturday night.

The sun then came out and it was completely calm so decided to get the tent out and stop at Ashley Gorge, a few miles off the main road north of Oxford at the foot of the ranges. The site was nestling in a valley with lots of trees and seemed very sheltered and as we set up and, noting it was Valentine's Day we started a trial of part bottles of the Chard Farm Sauvignon and then the Finla Mor Pinot Noir along with our Venison for supper. As we sat down to eat large clouds started to build and we hastily shut up the tent and van and moved into the camp kitchens which we had set up next to, in fact the tent was only 7 or 8 metres from the back door to the kitchen and other facilities in what looked like a perfect spot from the point of view of both convenience and shelter.

At that point the thunder started to roll and the rain sluiced down and within minutes the tent looked like a wet elephant, all wrinkles. The rain then built up to a level where the area round the tent was under water and soon after the water started to poor in through the back door of the kitchen area and out the front until most of the floor was under up to 3 inches of water despite Pauline's efforts with a broom. The tent now looked as if it was floating and the realisation came to us that it As we debated what to do the hail started and another couple struggled into the kitchen. They had decided to get away from it all for Valentine's day and were just finished a fancy meal and were about to adjourn to the tent but there ardour had been dampened by a build up of 4 inches of hail against the side of the tent and they said they were packing up and going home. This was about the point that some of the lights started to dim and the power went off to the fridges although the hot plate we were huddled by was still working.

That left us in a campsite kitchen with the floodwater rising across the floor, thunder rolling round us and the hail and rain increasing with the tent is floating seven or eight metres away as a small stream flowed under it and through the kitchen. The tent still contained Pauline's handbag with passports etc., the new camera as well as all our bedding. All that was keeping the surrounding lake from the contents was the built in groundsheet in a tent seven years old which had seen a lot of service. We thought it would inevitably be letting in water whilst floating. All we had was what we were standing in, light clothes with all the waterproofs, umbrellas etc., even further away in the van.

Eventually we could not put it off any longer and Pete drew the short straw and stripped off everything, well almost and plunged through the water, put everything up on the foam mattresses and collected the camera, handbag and torches in a poly bag found in the tent then wadded back. The single remaining piece of clothing was wet enough to wring out after only 15 metres exposed to the rain and there was hail on the top of his feet. Fortunately the cooker was still operating and was used to warm up slightly avoiding frostbite.

We were facing up to sleeping on the tables when the rain started to cut back a little and the campsite owner turned up to see how people were getting on. He said that the office, store etc., were completely flooded and the fire brigade had been pumping them out for half an hour. He said they had only had conditions approaching the current ones once in the time they had been running the camp but did note that the stream had never flooded to reach our level to his knowledge.

We were loaned a spade and took advantage of a slight break to get some waterproofs and Pete dug a channel to drain the lake round the tent. Pauline went into the tent with some trepidation and pronounced it to still dry enough to be usable - we took the spare groundsheet and put it on the mattresses and laid out the sleeping bags and got installed just as the heavens opened again. To our amazement we were still dry in the morning although when we took up the inner we found that the top of the extra groundsheet we always use was covered with gravel and other debris that had been swept through during the flood.

So how did the weather stack up to normal - the following are a few excerpts from TV and papers. In Christchurch the storm made the front page of the papers. Wellington received 170mm of rain in 24 hours causing extensive flooding and cutting off the Hutt valley. Parts of route 1 and Route 2 were cut and the Civil Defence was called out in much of the South of North Island. Fielding had riverbanks eroded giving spectacular pictures of houses falling into the river and being swept away as 100 year plus floods occurred. In the Straights 10-12 metre swells gave a nightmare crossing with a lorry breaking loose and falling on a van and damaging three cars - all crossings, even freight were discontinued. It certainly gave us a different perspective and amazed us that we basically came through so well in the most extreme conditions we have experienced, camping or otherwise.

There was little opportunity to dry anything out so we packed into bags after whipping down and headed off passing the office and shop that had obviously suffered but was at least been pumped out. As we drove down the river valley there was still hail heaped by the roadside. We tried to find somewhere warm and dry like a museum to burn time before going to the Pegasus Winery for lunch without success - we eventually found the Heron Steam Museum at Rangiora but it was deserted. We then overshoot Pegasus to Glenmark to the Weka Pass railway to see if the fire restrictions had been lifted to allow them to run under steam. They said they had given up as the weather had been so dry and were doing the boiler service!

We have written a lot about Pegasus in the past and it features heavily on the New Zealand Wineries page so we will not give a lot of background here other than to say the red wines are probably those we have bought most consistently and rated highest and the white wines, particularly for Rieslings have also found favour. The food has been some of the best we have had in New Zealand.

We tried several of the wines before and after lunch and the tasting information was as good as ever - the person providing it was currently doing a master in Viniculture at Lincoln University. It is very much a family affair with the father a professor who lectures and writes about wine, his wife has trained as a chef under Pru Leith in London and one son, Edward, has been sent to Adelaide and has a degree in wine making and is now their winemaker. Last year we were very impressed by their Rieslings which was in the German style, the basic 2003 seemed to have had the fermentation stopped slightly too early and to be slightly sweeter and to lack some of the bite. The Aria, a late picked Riesling was every bit as good as we remembered and will give most German Auslese a run for their money and we bought one. We were also impressed by the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2002 blend.

At lunch they were offering half glasses of the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2002 and the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 1995 to try, the mix, time in oak and almost everything else was identical but they were completely different in character with the 1995 having a slightly honeyed taste, almost like a botrytis grape although they said none had been affected by the noble rot. It was a very interesting comparison but at the end it was the younger, rather brash 2002 we bought. The Pinot Noir 2002 also came across very well and, although full bodied is already drinkable so that made the three we were permitting ourselves to take away. We had already bought and drunk one of their Cabernet Sauvignons and we can obtain that in England.

Coming to the food we had high expectations from previous visits and this time we felt they had slipped slightly, perhaps the regular chef was away. The service was as good as ever and the scene was set with crisp linen serviettes and bowls of flaked sea salt and obviously a pepper grinder. We were provided, French Style, with a small appetiser; this time a small cup of cream of mushroom soup which was full of flavour. We both had a starter of game terrine made with big lumps of meat and served with an apricot chutney, both of which were excellent but it was marred by being served with stale tough slices of French style bread which they admitted was bought in - in contrast our notes from last year said the Ciabbatti was some of best we had ever had.

The main course was beautifully cooked fish, salmon, scallops and tuna, on a bed of risotto - the fish was pink in middle but flaking when served; just as one hope for but rarely gets. We could not manage a full sweet but shared a very adequate creme brulee - our favourite lemon/lime tart was not on this year. The presentation however let them down on all the courses with no garnish or decoration. We are sure these problems will be sorted by the family, especially as Chris trained under Pru Leith in London.

Feeling much better we started to look for a cabin for the night and found one at a Kiwi Holiday Park at Kaikoura. The cabin was as basic as they come with chipboard floor and no tables or chairs but we needed to dry and clean our own table and chairs which had been under the front flap of the tent so that was fine. We cover the bed with the clean dry groundsheet and spread out the tent outer to dry whilst the inner lay under another bed. We settled down to let the 750-watt bar heater do its job whilst we watched the weather stressing the tents in front of us. The rain was less than the previous night but the winds were now high enough to be bowling plastic chairs past our door. It looked the following morning as if the group in tents, mostly young walkers had consoled themselves in the kitchen which was full of empty bottles and one could see a progression through wine to litre bottles of rum. In the morning one tent appeared to have completely collapsed with just a hump in the middle that we assume was its occupant whilst there was no evidence of most of the others when we left - perhaps we should have joined in.

It was now time for one of periods of luxury - we had booked into the Te Mahia Bay Resort for a couple of days before catching the ferry. We have used it as a base in the Marlborough Sounds several times. They have a small number of motel rooms (11) and a similar number of caravan and tent sites in a spectacular setting on Kenepuru Sound. We always remember the first time we came - after a while we went back to reception and said "you forgot to give us the key" - the answer was the key had gone missing 3 years before and nobody ever locked anything up anyway! The 'units' in the old building, which we prefer, are actually rambling suites with several bedrooms kitchens, lounges bathroom etc - the first time we thought the interconnecting doors were open but were told it was all ours. Everything is provided, from fridge freezers and Bodems in the kitchen to big baskets of towels covered in fresh rosemary in the bedrooms. It is very much like being in somebody's home with old pictures on the walls and flowers in the vases.

The Te Mahia Bay Resort goes back to 1900 and they have a large number of pictures showing the history but they had nothing in writing. We quizzed the owners and it was extended to have a double level set of rooms in a large wing in 1930 and the main residence gained an extra floor in 1948. There are some good pictures of it in that configuration and in excellent condition taken in 1955. It then got very run down and the end block was deliberately burnt down. More recently a new luxury block has been built slightly further back on the site of the old tennis court. Te Mahia translates as "indistinct sounds" which is very appropriate.

They have lots of Kayaks and a couple of 'Tinnies' with outboards if you want to go exploring or fishing and a comprehensive library if you want to do nothing. The shop has a sensible collection of food, although, to our regret they had run out of big tubs of ice cream, normally there is no real need to leave for provisions during a stay. You can also take a water taxi if you fancy eating out. Many groups return every year at the same time and they never need to advertise (70% repeat business) so they can be difficult to find unless you pass by. Rain continued much of the time so we occupied our time painting and reading from the excellent library at Te Mahia. There was 35mm rain overnight judging by way pots filled up but Picton, just a few tens of kms away got 193mm and much of the town was evacuated for fear the reservoir would burst. Sun did come out briefly and Pete had a long swim across to the rocks at the edge of the bay and collected enough blue mussels for tea as well as giving his arm some exercise. The sun also gave the chance to dry out the groundsheet so we are now back to normal.

In the morning we collected all our email as Te Mahia now have an Internet Terminal in reception and also changed to a pay phone with a connection jack for ones own laptop - unfortunately it uses a non standard socket so we need to get one from Dick Smith. As they did not have a cable either they let me use the Internet Terminal phone line as usual. We went a little further up the Sounds to Portage before starting back towards the ferry. We took the main road route via Blenheim so it seemed sensible to have a winery lunch and the obvious place was Allan Scott, which not only has excellent and award winning wines (which you can sometimes get in the UK) but also has a very good vineyard restaurant called the Twelve Trees after the trees that shade it - we have been many times and never been disappointed. The main courses tend to fairly light with hot or cold "meat" on a salad base with, of course, a wide selection of their wines by the glass or bottle.

This time we had garlic bread, simple but excellent, followed by a peppered lamb with caramelised apple and field mushrooms on Turkish bread, probably what they also used for the garlic bread which was very good, if a little fiery, but perfectly cooked to be red but not bleeding. We shared a chocolate and orange curd tart with raspberry sorbet, a good combination in taste and colours. All the food was impeccably presented and they have definitely moved up in the restaurant stakes. We took the opportunity to stock up with another of the Prestige Pinot Noir to replace the one previous one we had enjoyed so much, we briefly met Joshua and were served by his sister - obviously the family are all keeping closely involved.

We thought we also ought to go to Cairnbrae, a winery close by also with a restaurant - they, like Allan Scott started many years ago as contract growers for Cloudy Bay then set up themselves. The vineyard has recently been acquired by Sacred Hill and for a short period they shared a winemaker but a new winemaker, Christie Mathew, who has just completed her Bachelor of Wine Science has now taken over. Her first Sauvignon Blanc 2002 has won several awards and unfortunately had already sold out. We did buy a few bottles of the Pinot Noir 2002, a light style we thought would be ideal for the time boating at a reasonable price for NZ Pinot.

It was then on to Picton where, for the first time we looked at the Edwin Fox, a Tallship originally built of teak in India in 1853. She served in the Crimean war as a troopship and is the sole surviving ship to have carried convicts to Australia. She has had a chequered career ending as a hulk used a freezer works for sheep being shipped out of New Zealand; up to 20,000 were frozen and stored. After that she was used as a coal store for the freezer works. She stayed watertight and afloat for nearly 100 years after her sailing career. She was saved by a restoration society and after a period on mud flats where water got eventually got in allowing worm damage she was re-floated and brought back to Picton where she is now in a dry dock. It is fascinating to walk over her as she was a typical trading Tallship, initially with a full square rig, latter as a brigantine rig. Most of the hull is sound and the size of the timbers surprised us.

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