The first thing I did the moment I hit South from the North Island was to visit the Marlborough Wine Country.
Located at the tip of of the South Island, the wine country was my biggest motivation to cross the ocean and head straight for my 3 days long wine trail in the most popular vineyard valley in New Zealand - Marlborough.
When you get off the ferry, you'll land youself straight in Picton town (after being dropped off by a free-service van from the port).
You'd arrive in front of an information centre where you could book your tour, accommodation and bus ticket to the next nearest town.
It's only half an to an hour bus ride away to the towns of Marlborough wine region.
So from here I bought my bus ticket to Blehneim, one of the two towns in the centre of the wine country.
Map of Marlborough wine trail. Blehneim town on the right shaded area.
The other town being Renwick (on the right).
It was near 9pm by the time I reached my guesthouse near the town of Renwick. The bus driver was nice enough to drop me just in front of my guesthouse, before driving the rest of the passenger down to Nelson, the next nearest town which was an hour away.
I turned in early, not before calling home to inform my love ones back home that I have arrived safely (though I doubt they know where exactly I was).
Like almost every single time I arrived at a brand new place in New Zealand, it was always too dark to know where I've landed myself till the very next day.
This time, I woke up realising that I was being surrounded by apple trees!
Care for some apples?
There were lemons too!
This was the pay phone that I tried to used last night but failed, so I borrow the owner's mobile phone after much begging and got home to call me back instead.
me in the garden
I woke up really early (around 7:30am?) so I could get a head start on my first day in the fantastic wine region, in case I couldn't cover the whole region in two days.
I decided to rent a bicycle to get around. Unfortunately for me, most car rental companies were out of cars in this region that day, it was easter holiday, so boo hoo me.
Oh well, good for work out, yes?
It's the law here that you HAVE to wear a helmet when you cycle.
Not that my skull needs any protecting, it's thick enough. :p
Thank god I didn't look too shabby in it, or I would die of fashion horror.
Plugging in my Ipod, I managed to start the sunny yet chilly day cycling on a ridiculously straight and LONG road.
It's actually really uplifting considering I was surrounded by mother nature's best.
Look at the mountains in the distant.
only my shadow and me
Then I arrived at my first winery!!!
Cloudy Bay - a rather commercialized brand
My first wine grapes of the day.
My first wine tasting session.
My first winery tour.
And my first winery shopping spree! (of the day ok, not of my life :p)
And my FIRST grapes tractor!
I've never visited a vineyard during the period of harvesting or planting before.
It was always somewhere in between whenever I visited a vineyard.
It was April this year when I visited Marlborough and since most grapes are normally harvested in February up to mid March, I was lucky enough to see a harvesting in action!
One did the plucking, the other did the collecting.
"Interesting. So that's how it works?" I thought.
(sorry but I was actually anticipating to see farmers going down the vineyard to do the hand picking)
I did a few more wineries following that and bought some wines which I stuffed them onto my bicycle pouch at the back.
my first wine purchased! ka-ching!
bicycle pouch, such convenient thing
Then it was noon and I was hungry. I hadn't had breakfast, so I made a bee-line to the boutique winery restaurant I set my mind off after scanning through my map.
Herzog, my favourite 5-star rated wine and dine boutique restaurant and boutique winery of my choice in the whole of New Zealand.
I cycled in and parked my bike at the side before retreating to a table out in their private garden behind the restaurant.
It's no cheap affair dining here, so be prepared to splurge a good 50-100 bucks (NZD) if you really want to enjoy a fanta-bulous meal.
Because their ridiculously small portioned and thinly sliced but superbly delicious appetizer of beef salami with rocket leaves cost a hefty NZD24.
O look, a wine cat.
Who says only a winery that has one or more wine dogs produces great wine. Wine cat works just as great.
Then halfway drinking and taking in my surrounding, I met this lovely Australian couple next to me, trying to chat me up.
I ended up moving to their tables moments later, and even shared a dessert with them.
The events that followed the next few hours was incredible, and almost unbelievable.
But believable at the same time as this was not my first time having spontaneous encounter that threw you off your shoes.
Because the next thing I knew, I was in this couple's car.
Holding my map.
And have them drove me to all the desired wineries I had wanted to visit on my bicycle that day.
It just mind-boggled me how nice people can be.
The moment they knew I was on bicycle, they just offered incessantly that I were to join them for the day on the wine tour.
sitting in their comfy backseat
It was obviously much easier, and a lot faster to be driving than to cycle. Following that afternoon, I've visited all the wineries I had set out to visit the night before.
In fact, I covered most of the places in such speed, I decided to leave Marlborough a day earlier to head further down South.
*do the happy dance*
It's amazing how an industry as old-fashioned as wine-making can catch up so fast to our modernly pace.
Now wineries have their own facebook page!!
I even managed to visit this Wairau River winery to have an afternoon snack of their infamous CHEESE SOUFFLE!!!
nom nom nom
Photo of my foot on pebbles.
I think I was just about tipsy when this photo was taken
Thank GOD I wasn't cycling the whole day.
Because later that evening when there's no more open wineries to visit, after dropping me back at Herzog winery where I left my bicycle, I was whoozing all the way on my bike back to my guesthouse.
I cycled left, right, in circles, just not straight.
(And this was after sobering up a little.)
I was lucky, there was scarcely any car on the road at that hour.
I remembered petting a horse on my way back.
I remembered going in zig-zag motion in one of the narrower secluded road.
I DIDN'T remember how I managed to carry three bottles of wines in my pouch, balancing in my state of unsteadiness, and cycled 3km back to my room.
check out my ipod hang in front of ze bike!
Kids. Never drink and cycle.
ps// I compiled a list of Top 5 Marlborough wineries. Check it out.