At the Rotorua airport we caught our private charter jet for the 45 minute flight to the South Island. This is the way to travel!
The 100-seat British Aerospace BAe 146-200 was pretty spacious with only 17 of us! The four person flight crew (pilot, co-pilot, steward and stewardess) will be with us throughout the week.
In half an hour we had traversed the remaining length of the North Island and passed over Cook Sound. I’m used to things looking closer on the map than in real life, so I was surprised to discover we could see both the North and South Islands out of the same airplane window; they’re quite close. In a few more minutes we touched down at Blenheim Airport in the midst of New Zealand’s Marlborough region. Our coach for the day was waiting for us five steps from the base of the jet’s stairs.
This is the country’s main wine-growing region, and we were surrounded by vineyards, mostly planted to Sauvignon Blanc. There were also sheep (sometimes in the vineyards), cattle, and deer farms. A half hour’s drive brought us to the marina where we boarded a ship for our Marlborough Sound excursion.
The water was quite placid, and the three person crew (Coach Driver/First Mate Ryan, Captain Aussie and Chef Hamish) kept us amused for an hour or so as we made our way to a mussel field.
There we learned how the mussels are cultivated and harvested.
It’s a complex process that involves recovering the mussels three different times, to spread them out and seed them onto ropes that hang down thirty feet into the water.
Then we had a chance to eat our fill of freshly steamed ones in delicious dipping sauces. (Dani says “yuck.”)
Lunch followed, great salad, salmon and ham. The salmon was cooked on an on-deck grill, atop a sheet of Teflon. I hadn’t seen this before, but it’s really practical, as there’s no cleanup.
Excellent wines were poured from Framingham Vineyards. The Sauvignon Blanc was great with the mussels, and the Chardonnay with the salmon. I also tried a red from them made from an Italian varietal I hadn’t seen in New Zealand before.
On the way back we sat next to Captain Aussie and enjoyed chatting with him about the business, and how he came from Oz to NZ for a month trip 25 years ago and has never gone back. It’s clear they all love the area and their jobs.
The return plane trip was just as effortless, and even shorter, within 20 minutes we were in Wellington. The Capthorne Hotel on Oriental Bay is much nicer than the previous two NZ hotels. The two beds are in separate areas on opposite sides of the bathroom, which is quite practical. And the view from the balcony is great.
The weather has been delightful. I zipped the liner into my leather jacket this morning, then never even put the jacket on all day. Apparently we’ve been very lucky, as Wellington doesn’t have the greatest reputation for weather.
While Dani worked on her blog, I went out for a walk around the area, and did one of my favorite activities in a foreign country: visiting the supermarket.
Dinner tonight was in the hotel’s dining room, One 80, on the seventh floor, one above our room. It was pretty good, but not quite as good as our previous hotel meals.
For more details of our day, see Dani’s blog.