Bitter Sweet Goodbyes: Blenheim, Picton, Wellington and Auckland

I can’t believe I leave for Australia in less than 48 hours, its bizarre. I don’t know if I’m ready to leave this wonderful country behind.

Not since Ghana have I been to a country where people not only really want you to have a good time, but will go out of their way to make sure this happens.

I’m sitting in my hostel room as I write this (and its completely empty – bliss – it *almost* feels like having my own room so it’s the perfect opportunity to get some writing done) and thinking about all the amazing people I’ve met – both travellers and locals – and all the great things I’ve done so far on this trip: hiked glaciers, swam in lakes, bathed in hot pools, took a boat trip through a cave lit by glow worms, watched the sunrise in the first place in the world, toured vineyards.  It’s so easy to take it all for granted; when you’re in the moment and tired and hungry and poor, but when you stop and take stock, it’s amazing to think about all the sights and places I have been to during my time in New Zealand. I have pretty much been everywhere. Sure, there are places I would like to go to – Milford Sound especially – and I unfortunately didn’t get to see – but it’s impossible to travel everywhere in two months. I guess I will just have to come back, right?

So as excited as I am to be jetting off to another country (and a teeny bit scared to start all over again when I’ve just got the hang of living somewhere) it’s so very bittersweet. Leaving New Zealand behind is going to be very difficult – it’s just such a beautiful place and I have loved my time here.

Tomorrow is my last full day and I intend to spend it buying souvenirs, washing clothes ready for the next leg of my trip and writing. I know that sounds like a boring way to spend my last bit of time here but I can’t wait to sit in Auckland Domain Park – maybe take a walk up to One Tree Hill – and work on writing my first draft. I’ve barely touched it since I’ve been travelling and the plan was always to spend quality time writing. I’m also at the very end of my New Zealand budget which helps the decision!

So what have I been up to since my last blog post?

The rain stopped in Kaikoura. Sort of. But unfortunately the seal swimming was cancelled. I walked along to the seal colony – about an hour out of the town centre – and found the lazy creatures sunning themselves on the rocks and, weirdly, sprawled out in the car park. The swim was cancelled because the sea was too choppy so obviously they’d taken the sensible option of basking in the sunshine! It was really strange as I was expecting the colony to be something to look at from a distance, but we could go up really close to them and take pictures. There were warning signs stating not to disturb the seals by getting to close which is understandable – would you want to be woken up when you were just trying to take a nice nap!?

I was leaving the next day for Blenheim, a small town on the east coast of the south island, so couldn’t book the seal swim again. I’m hoping I can do this in Australia as there seem to be a few places that offer this activity. Hopefully the sea is calmer and I don’t get my hopes up!

When I arrived in Blenheim, I wasn’t sure what to think. A small town full of brand names: New World, Burger King, McDonalds. I went straight to the I-site to book my wine tour and, as I walked through the industrial estate towards my accommodation, I was wondering if I’d made a huge mistake opting to stay two nights rather than one for the wine tour. My hostel, although strangely situated, was nice if a little bit quiet. I dumped my stuff (no locks on the door which I wasn’t impressed with especially for the price of the room) and wandered off to explore, returning a few hours later feeling like I had seen the town in its entirety. Although Blenheim is small there are a lot of travellers who go there to work for the grape picking season and I got talking to a few of them that evening. Over beers and wine we stayed up and chatted about all manner of things until the sun set over the river. It sounds cheesy but I had one of those moments that night where you think, “this is why I am travelling, to meet people like you and see views like this.” To top it all off, I ended up having the room to myself!

 

The wine tour was excellent. Picking me up from the hostel the next afternoon, my guide was a wine maker and happily chatted about the process as we drove to our first stop. The group wasn’t big and I was the only one travelling solo but that didn’t bother me – I actually felt pretty great with being on my own but that might have just been the wine giving me extra confidence – and everyone was very chatty. One couple from Australia even offered me a room in their house in Airlie Beach if I stop there on my travels. The day ended in a brewery tour for an extra $5 and we were all suitably squiffy when we dropped off at our hostels. My favourite vineyard we visited was run by a French family and the tasting house was in a church!

After Blenheim, I stayed a night in Picton (it rained) and took the ferry over to Wellington the next day where I met up with the Dutch girl I’d been travelling with on and off and, weirdly, a girl I had shared a room with in Kaikoura after telling her about nakedsleep.com (FYI if you’re thinking of travelling in NZ this is a great website offering dorm beds for between $15-20 a night – often in the bigger, more commercial hostels, but worth it for the price).

This time round Wellington certainly lived up to its windy reputation. Having already spent five nights in Wellington, I’d done quite a lot already so I mainly went to the beach, the galleries I missed the first time round, the Weta Caves where The Lord of the Rings was produced, and a night out for the dutch girl’s birthday ( I have zero pictures of nights out because I never take pictures when I’m drinking – I need to work on this in Australia!)

Now Wellington is a very fun night out but be warned: it’s a capital city so money will be spent. However, I did make some money back in the form of a free burger courtesy of two Kiwi lads who I’d been chatting to. They asked me to guard their beers while they grabbed food – they bought be back a burger as payment. See – nice country, awesome people.

And so here I am in Auckland, after an 11 hour bus journey from Wellington; it’s been pretty chilled and relaxing this time round. A visit to the Billy Apple exhibition at the art gallery, free music in the park, a walk up to Mount Eden, and a hilarious night out for St Patrick’s Day in a local Irish bar.

A perfect New Zealand send off, don’t you think!?

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