Sunday morning in Hastings means the local markets is on and being travelling gluttons we cycled there to view the local produce on offer. The weather was dull, cold and wet but the market was still well attended.
We are attending a vegan pot luck meal tonight at our Air BnB hosts so we spent our time checking labels and ingredients. A loaf made of nuts, seeds and tonnes of vegan goodness, a salami style log made of figs and almonds and a jar of lime marmalade to accompany this pass the vegan test.
We then had a cycle out to Alpha Domus vineyard, the sun was shining and the sky was blue once we got there, the Crowded House song, Four Seasons in One Day was an earworm.
They are a tiny boutique vineyard, but do export to UK via the NZ Wine shop in Brixton which we keep hearing about and will be visiting when we get to London next. We bought a Viogner for the afternoon.
Todays adventure is cycling to Napier, 20km away. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt entirely in the style of the times, Art Deco, which we both love. We had fond memories of it last time so we looking forward to visiting it again. Plus, we have been lucky enough to be invited to a wedding which is being held in the Electric Cinema in Brum, so it was a great opportunity for me to get a dress for the big occasion.
We started off cycling along the train tracks and through light industry, not as photogenic as we were hoping. We stopped for a coffee and almond croissant. Cycling is ace, it means you can eat whatever you want!
We finally got to the ocean front and had a beautiful cycle along it for about 9km. The waves were crashing down, repeatedly, the driftwood was everywhere and Guy was in photography heaven.
We parked up in Napier and went for a small snack at Hapi, an inspiring cafe with loads of gluten free, vegan, veggie and other dietary foods.
The city wasn’t as photogenic as we remember. The high street seems to be the same as everywhere else filled with Farmers, UniChem, Hannahs, etc. We managed to find some gorgeous shop fronts to photograph and I got a dress and head piece for the wedding!!! Result.
We spotted a fish cafe on the seafront and settled down to some stunning green lipped mussels and calamari at Hunger Monger.
A walk was required to settle stomachs before we cycled back to Hastings avoiding most the light industry views this time.
A slight detour on the way back and we were at Vidal cellar door. More wines were tasted.
Dinner was a vegan lasagne, salad and roasted tomatoes, delicious.
We sat around chatting to our hosts and housemates, sharing a bottle of wine, the rest of the evening. We even played the card game, Monopoly …….and lost.
Another day on the bikes so we had a non vegan breakfast on our way out of Hastings. I actually wish it had been vegan after we had tasted the plastic hollandaise sauce and slimy packet salmon.
Hawkes Bay is set up for cycling, there are routes all over which are flat and go via the many vineyards that are around the area. We feel it is our duty to utilise this facility.
Our Air BnB hosts also rent out bikes so we utilise this facility and get 2 bikes and rode to the vineyards.
The scenery is very different to Blenheim, more distant craggy ridges rather than distance rolling hills. It is much closer to the ocean (the Pacific to be specific 😂) which is massively exciting for us Midlanders, and as many orchards as vineyards which at this time of year the trees are dripping with their red and green fruits and are quite stunning to see.
First vineyard is Black Barn, a boutique vineyard which doesn’t export, even past Hawkes Bay! The setting is stunning, it is set up on a slight ridge with views all around their vineyards.
Next is Te Mata Estate who have ‘since 1896’ on all their marketing, however in asking the cellar door lass for more information she simply repeated that they had started in 1896. Oh well. The building was fabulous.
Next was a recommendation from Black Barn, Aka Rangi vineyard, a very boutique one, set in an old disused church, it was the most atmospheric tasting we have had so far. The Chardonnay was so good we bought one.
There were even old cars full of weeds on the driveway, you don’t get more atmospheric than that!
Now we needed to do a long (ish) cycle to the coast and up the shoreline which is rugged, filled with driftwood, discarded sea detritus and lots of dark grey pebbles of all different sizes. This is my favourite kind of beach, the white sands are nice but the rugged beach is so much more appealing to me. I like my men like my beaches……😂
We get to Clearview Estate vineyard and cycle in for the largest tasting so far, 14 wines and one comedian! The lass on cellar door was entertaining and we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting.
We stayed for a platter of local produce, included smoked mushrooms, marinated green lipped mussels, mozzarella with basil oil, hams and olives.
On our way home we passed all the savvy types in their campervans, sat out enjoying the sunshine and possibly a good book, and / or a glass of wine. This will be us in a few years time, we hope.
A long ride back along the raised cycle path and we were ready for our dinner of vegan lasagne, roasted tomatoes, pasta and tomato sauce.
It was delicious and we had a lovely evening chatting to the other people staying here.
32 miles cycled today according to Google and the onboard navigator, maybe Google is correct then?
An early morning start, 6.30am, and we are on an Intercity bus to Hastings going via many small villages, through valleys and over the hills of North island. New Zealand is such a beautiful country.
We get to Hastings and have a long walk with our heavy bags to our next Air BnB hosts. This is slightly different in that we are glamping on someone’s driveway. The woman at tourist info warns us it will be cold tonight, 6 degrees. We are slightly apprehensive. Our hosts are also (practically) vegan and cook for guests, they run bike hire from the garage, host seasonal travelers, another couple in a caravan on their drive, and have 2 small kids as well. It is a totally different household to the quiet ones we are used to so we were looking forward to this.
We arrive sweaty and dump our bags in the small tent abd greet our hosts. We then makebour way back into town to get our bearings. We have a late lunch at Madeleine’s cafe, spelt correctly.
We get back to our tent and meet some of our fellow residents, dinner is a vegan feast of soya bean rissoles, tomato and veg soup, salad, tomato bake.
Pudding is frozen bananas and soft red fruit wizzed up with coconut cream and topped with nuts, cinnamon. It is absolutely delicious and something to try at home.
We are on our way home from the furthest point in our journey, it has taken us 232 days to get here and it should take 8 days to get back 😨.
We had a great start to the day (if you avoid the struggling to get all our crap into teeny rucksacks) and went to Ritual for salmon and eggs for Guy and a small savoury muffin for little ol’ me. The music being played was excellent, Tame Impala, Alt-J, Foals, Maccabees all courtesy of a bloke from Sunderland.
The bus took us from Blenheim to Picton in about 25mins. Easy.
We had 2 hours before the ferry so as soon as we saw a Whitehaven vineyard umbrella we were sat there with a bottle of savvy wondering just how the hell are we going to adjust to life in the UK? Apparently it hasn’t changed so much that this is acceptable behaviour at lunchtime, every lunchtime.
We boarded the ferry and got settled, in the bar, where we spent sometime chatting to a guy with a Mancunian accent who has lived here since 1964. He had some tales to tell.
Arrival in Wellington was prompt and soon we were in a scabby backpackers thanking our lucky stars it was only one night. It felt grimy, dirty and the bathroom was so rank we didn’t shower. We feel like travellers again.
Scrubbed up, via the sink, we went to our favourite wine bar and tried a mystery tasting. The deal is to try and identify the grape, region and vintage of each of the 3 wines, we were hoping we could get maybe just one grape right!!
After much deliberation and pontification we decided on our grapes. We got 2 out of 3 right, the French chenin blanc evaded our tastebuds and I even got the producer right for the chardy (Chardonnay). Feeling pretty chuffed we celebrated with another glass of red then headed off for burnt dumplings at Dumpling’d in town.
We had bought a bottle of Yealands savvy thinking it was BYO at the dumpling house. It wasn’t. The posh Yealands wine was drunk, back in our scabby hostel room, out of paper cups. I am not sure the winemaker had this scenario in mind when he was perfecting his craft on this lush wine.
Anzac day is a pretty special occasion here, all shops are closed, at least for half a day, on this day that 2779 New Zealanders died at Gallipoli. There are dawn services in some towns around the country, which is the time that most lives were lost in this bloody campaign.
Blenheim doesn’t have a dawn service so we were in town for the 10.30am parade of veterans, serving members of the air force, navy, army and families of those who have lost their loved ones, to the cenetaph. The bag pipes were screeching, the bugles were calling and a beautiful brass band accompanied them on their short journey to the town square. It was wonderful to see so many young families with kids and babies attending. Everyone was on the streets, coming together, to remember the sacrifices made in the past, and the commitment and courage still shown today by the serving members of the NZ forces. We were really moved by it.
Even when we went for coffee afterwards the cafe was playing songs from that era or about the war, when we walked in they were playing The Pogues ‘Waltzing Matilda’ which has me in tears anytime of day or night, coffee was quickly drunk before too much eye leakage happened.
As we were missing our usual 20 mile bike ride around vineyards we got the bikes and went for a ride around town and onto the easy mountain bike track. It was ace fun, we loved it although my disc brakes were well used in a couple of steep descents!!! We might have to try more mountain biking when we get back.
After ham butties on our terrace we spent the afternoon blogging, drinking wine and playing with Instagram apps.
Guy spent more time photographing his diary than writing it.
We had a kebab for tea and the evening was spent chatting to our hosts and watching MKR….. Addictive stuff.
Our penultimate Monday before returning to the UK and we had to get up early to drop off our rental bikes, still it wasn’t until 9.30 that we dropped them off and then we were having breakfast at Ritual. Sweetness for me, man sized full English for Guy.
A bit of diary and blog catching up was done and then we were off on another days vineyards adventures, only this time it was different. We had chatted to a somillier, Alex, at Nobel Rot in Wellington, and found out that his dad owns Greywacke vineyards, he offered us a chance of a tasting as they don’t have a public cellar door. We first tasted their savvy (as the kiwis call Sauvignon Blanc) when staying in Cellar Wine Bar, Clevedon, and over a long weekend, we never had a bad wine at that place, and the Greywacke savvy stood out! So we had to turn up with fresh palettes at 2pm at Greywacke HQ, we were very excited.
We set off early for our cycle ride, the sky was blue, the leaves of the Pinot Noir vines were turning red, as we have learnt that this is what happens 2 weeks after the grapes are picked. The wind was making itself known a little but it was mainly helping us along the road at a fast pace. It is such stunning scenery with the mountains in the distance and vines in the foreground, I will miss this ride so much.
We were about an hour early for the tasting at Greywacke so decided to go to Brancott estate to see what they had to offer. Boy, oh, boy, was that a view worth cycling to.
We didn’t expect much, Brancott being a massive multinational who do bargain price wines at home, so apart from the stunning views we were stunned at the wines available. It was $12 for a tasting, by far the most expensive but it was well worth it and we had more than were listed on the ‘official’ tasting.
Then a quick cycle down the hill to Greywacke, we turned up as Kevin was finishing a pork pie for lunch. Good start, proper tucker!!!
For the next hour and 40 mins we learnt so much from him, there was another Finnish guy at the tasting who was working at Hunter vineyard, who knew loads as well so we just soaked up the knowledge and thoroughly enjoyed the wines, and even got to take a couple of the opened bottles home. Kevin’s photos were also stunning as you can see from his website. If you ever see a Greywacke wine, try it.
We then cycled like crazy to get back to Lawson Dry Hills before it closed. This is our final vineyard for this region, the other side to town. We went here in 2000 but it was much much swankier now, the TV has been replenished since it fell off the wall in the recent earthquake, the wines on the wall stayed put.
A few wines tasted and we were back on our bikes and cycling home for a buffet tea and tat TV.