Situated at the top of the South Island, Marlborough is home to over 75% of New Zealand’s wine industry. As a region, it is Whakatane’s (where I live) closest contender for the country’s highest sunshine hours and the hot days and cooler nights allow grapes to ripen slowly ensuring intensity of flavour and high acidity, the perfect combination for award winning Sauvignon Blanc.
The region also produces superb Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Sparkling Wines and more recently, Syrah, Albariño, Arneis and Grüner Veltliner have been making their mark.
And all this when Marlborough’s wine history only goes back to 1973.
The same warm dry weather that makes good wine is also part of the salt making process at Lake Grassmere, just south of Blenheim. In this alien and fascinating place, seawater is pumped from the Pacific Ocean onto the flats where warm north-west winds blow across the exposed lake, evaporating water and increasing the concentration of salt. The very salty water is pumped into deep holding pens, then into shallow crystallisation ponds. As the water continues to evaporate, salt forms as a crust on the bottom of the ponds. The remaining water is pumped out and the dried salt is harvested, crushed, washed and moved by giant conveyor belts to form huge mounds of sparkling white crystals. The pink to purple colour of the crystallisation ponds is caused by natural microscopic green algae that change to pink in the high salt concentration. The same phenomena gives the Red Sea its name. There are also small pink shrimps in the water that thrive in this salty environment.
We stayed at some stunning Department of Conservation camp sites. Whites Bay campsite at Pukatea near the entrance to Te Whanganui/Port Underwood (east of Picton) is a lovely scenic site at the beach where you can enjoy fishing, safe swimming and bush walks for a mere $8 per person per night.
Picton was perhaps my favourite Marlborough town. A pretty waterfront park sits below the town which has a relaxed vibe about it. Boutique and independent shops rather than the ubiquitous Australian owned mega stores found in every large NZ town give it a village feel and the 2nd hand book shop, Down Under Books is a definite bonus.
Known as the gateway to the South Island, Picton is the southern land fall of the interisland ferries. Sitting at the upper end of Queen Charlotte Sound, the scenery is jaw dropping. These gulls on the Picton waterfront were engaged in a rowdy argument.
The Edwin Fox museum on the Picton waterfront has the remains of the sailing ship Edwin Fox on display. Built in India in 1853, the ship spent time as a troop carrier, immigrant ship, even convict transporter from the UK before finally arriving in Picton in 1897 where she has remained ever since, initially as a freezer ship and later as a coal hulk. It’s fascinating to see the size of the timbers used and the skill involved in building the ship. Many of the original timbers remain as do remnants of the exterior copper cladding. It must have been a sturdy old thing.
In Blenheim we visited the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. We were a little late getting there and only had time to see Sir Peter Jackson’s WW1 collection. Each plane was set in a life size diorama depicting a scene from the war years, much more interesting than a lot of planes just hanging from the ceiling. This one showed a plane that had crashed into a tree and the English pilot being congratulated on his skill by his German captors.
Cowshed Bay is another DOC campsite in Queen Charlotte Sound. DOC camps are rated basic, standard, scenic or serviced. All have toilets and a water supply, some are free to stay in and some at the other end of the scale, like the camp at Lake Rotoiti have powered sites and hot showers. There are over 250 vehicle accessible campsites in NZ, most of them accessible for campervans. How lucky we are to be so well provided for.
Patti Moed says in this week’s Lens Artists Challenge ‘We often have a subject in mind when we raise the camera to our eyes and click the shutter….. But sometimes when other people look at our photos, they might have trouble figuring out what the subject is.‘
I have often been guilty of snapping away without any particular focus or purpose. Hopefully that’s not the case with these images.
Here’s a link to Travel in the Shaky Isles 1.