Welcome back to our blog!
Three’s a charm! Still around? Quickly read on for the adventures in our third week down under! If you’re looking for the first week, head on over here, and week 2 can be found over yonder. You can also subscribe to our website for a (give or take) monthly email update with new posts!
We live at a small farm with a really nice garden, some chickens and two cows. There are many birds around like Tui, Tauhou (Silvereye), Kāhu (Swamp harrier), Pukeko and ‘European’ birds like Yellowhammers (Hurukōwhai), chaffinches (Pahirini), goldfinches (Kōurarini), house sparrows (Tiu), dunnocks, song thrushes (Manu-kai-hua-rakau), blackbirds (Manu pango) and starlings (Tāringi). Most people in the area have a small farm with sheep, there are many vineyards around and some people have cows for milking. It’s very quiet and the closest neighbors are about 200m down the road. If you haven’t mapsed us yet, now would be the moment to do so!
Monday 8 August
It’s cold, really cold… supposed to be the coldest week of the year in Marlborough. So we decide to stay inside and just chill all day. We google lots of things, try to research the area a bit, organize some things that need to be done (phones, money, visa..). Inside we wear multiple sweaters and/or coats and hats. As the house is quite big and we’re only here with the two of us, we don’t want to waste electricity on heat. Sticking around in the warmer rooms of the house also helps. When the sun shines the living room gets really nice and warm because of all its windows. Some of the nights this week we spend in the kitchen after using the oven it’s nice and warm there.
Tuesday 9 August
Today we go to Blenheim to have a coffee at The Karaka Kitchen. We got this recommended so we take a look at their really nice little shop and have a flat white and a little cake. It’s really good; you can tell it’s homemade. We also meet up with the Dutch owner of the café, which is great; he’s a really welcoming guy and has been living in Blenheim for quite some time now with his family.
After that we go for some groceries: they have a really cool store that’s called Binn In. Here you can fill up your own cups/bags/pots with all kinds of things like rice, flour, honey, oil, chocolate or whatever. They also sell quite some international products, among which ‘hagelslag’, ‘beschuiten’ and typical Dutch licorice (no, haven’t bought anything yet!!). When we get home, we decide to walk up to the cemetery that’s close to the house, which is up a hill which provides us with a great view. In the evening we turn on the sauna. It’s so nice and hot and it really relaxes us, so we have a great night’s sleep after that.
Wednesday 10 August
We’re up for some exercise today so we decide to go and explore the surroundings of Blenheim. We go for the Wairau Lagoons Walkway, which is a loop that takes you through the lagoons that have formed over the last 6500 years behind a huge boulder bank. It’s quite an interesting habitat for many special animals and plants. Except for one other car we’re the only ones there, which is exciting.
It’s a beautiful day: very cold but quite sunny! The path is quite wet but gives us amazing views right from the start. At some points we have to divert through the grass on the sides of the walkway due to a lot of water, but we’re mostly fine. Except for when we get close to the sea: it gets so wet that we can’t get around and it’s quite a long stretch of water. I don’t have waterproof boots yet so we decide to turn back. Luckily, we just get to see a glimpse of the Waverley: a sunken boat that lays in the lagoons.
Back at the parking we’re not really satisfied: we want some more walking! After lunch (sandwiches in the car) we drive to the Withers Hills Farm Park. This is a sheep and cattle farm where you can also walk. The hills provide quite a nice backdrop to Blenheim and the Wairau Valley. We walk in the direction of Mt Vernon, (462m). It’s a very steep walk up, but that leaves us with amazing views almost immediately. As it’s getting dark quite early (we’re still in winter!) we decide to go back about halfway through. We buy some local wine and go back home.
Thursday 11 August
In the morning we relax at home and do some cleaning and baking. Xander bakes some fresh bread and Danique makes a lemon pie with lemons from the garden. We have lemons, New Zealand grapefruits and tangerines from the garden now. There’s also apple trees, walnut trees and we think a plum or apricot tree. That means we also eat apples from the garden and there’s a ton of walnuts for us to eat. In the afternoon we grab the bikes and we cycle in the direction of Blenheim to check it out.
Danique would prefer to commute to work by bike, if possible. It’s about 15k to get there and there’s a diversion as you can’t cycle on the 100km/h road all the time, but still, it would be preferable to driving every day. We started looking into bike options, maybe even getting an electrical bike. We cycle up to Grovetown (one of the other little towns located above Blenheim). Here the route gets really wet and we decide to turn back. Our simple road bikes are not up for this off-road experience.
It’s a really nice route though. The first part is a bit boring as it’s just straight 100km/h streets. The second part is a lovely cycle/walking path that’s been set up with some nice native bush and some cute benches on the side of the road. We still need to figure out if it’s doable to cycle the whole route, but we think it should be possible! We’ll try out this weekend.
Friday 12 August
On Friday we need to run some errands, like get an IRD number so we can file taxes. It’s a pretty annoying thing because you need a bank account. But to get a bank account you need an address. And we have an address but we don’t have a mail address here (we use a PO box. This is often not accepted by IRD/bank, so we need proof of our address. However, that’s quite hard to get as the residents are not here at the moment and we don’t have any utility bills or other way to proof we live here.
I have to go the AA, which is like a New Zealand version of the ANWB shop. They say they can help me but in reality they can’t. I still need to open a bank account for which I need a New Zealand phone number. We decide to take care of it after the weekend as we’re a bit annoyed by all the administrational stuff and all these silly rules. Oh, the joys of moving abroad!
We head out to get a nice lunch at a café in town, which lightens our moods. Then we go into the library and try to get registered there: if you live in Blenheim you’re able to get a library card for free! We’re so happy to hear that the lady doesn’t need any sorts of proof from us. She believes that we live here so we get a card. We browse around for quite some time and both take some interesting books home to read and discover. Also, there’s supposedly no limit on how many books you can borrow, and we came by car… We end the day reading books, for obvious reasons.
Saturday 13 August
We’ve been given a tip about the Community Gardens in Blenheim. They host a working bee every second Saturday of the month. We go there around 9am and immediately we are kindly welcomed. There’s a huge turnout today and it’s nice to meet so many people that like gardening. We help out with sorting out the compost pile. During the break we have tea (and many nice cookies!) together.
After, we get a little tour through the gardens, we listen to an explanation about sowing and cutting and we meet a lot of very kind people. We hand over our contact information to see if we can get a little piece of the garden ourselves later. As it’s a beautiful sunny day we’re outside in the garden for a bit and go for a walk with Louie. The rest of the day we spend reading books and researching things on gardening and plants in New Zealand.
Sunday 14 August
We visit the Farmers Market again; we need to go and get some veggies! Here we buy all kinds of good stuff and decide to get ourselves a coffee and some nice pastries. We sit in the sun and soak up our the sun and our new life. It can get really cold at night and even during the day, but once you’re in the sun out of the wind it can get quite nice and warm quickly! We even had some days where it was possible to be out and about in shorts and bare feet, even though it’s winter!
First trip in the area
After lunch we drive to Picton, as the weather is amazing today. Picton is a small town in the north, it’s where the ferry from the North (Wellington) to the South Island leave and arrives. It can be pretty touristic. But right now, in winter, it’s really quiet and lots of shops are closed. We visit a secondhand book store where Xander finds some nice books (did you expect anything else?) and then we have lunch at the waterfront.
It looks like its summer in the pictures, with the palms and overlooking the Sounds! Then we go for a walk; we walk up to Bob’s Bay Reserve. You walk through the native bush, up and down, on a narrow path and then arrive at a beautiful little beach. We’re almost alone and it’s beautiful. What we’ve been dreaming about for so long is now reality! These are the moments that we have to pinch ourselves, because it can all feel so unreal.
We hear many Korimako (bellbirds) and see a Weka, which is a flightless bird that’s pretty quiet, so you don’t see them around that often. I take my shoes off and put my feet in the water: it’s cold but also refreshing. We walk back to Picton, have a look around and slowly drive back home. Another beautiful week flew by!