28/11/2012 - 29/11/2012 25 °C
We knew we should have started early on our long drive from Blenheim to Hokitika on the edge of mountain country, but the lure of the wineries took over again. And since we’d been unable to visit all our favourites on Tuesday, we chose to call in at the Montana Brancott Estate and then Cloudy Bay. I was so pleased, at last - wines that taste just as I expect them to taste - lovely! Brancott have a delicious not-for-export desert wine, a bottle of which is in my bag as I type, ready for Christmas.
Everyone we spoke to had told us to visit Nelson (although we hadn’t intended to do so) and to stop at Havelock on the way for the best green-lipped mussels anywhere, so we set off in the opposite direction to where the sat-nav wanted us to go. Mussels and mussel chowder went down well with a glass of sauvignon blanc, sitting in the sunshine on the slipway at Havelock. Nelson was an attractive seaside town built around a splendid marina full of big white yachts, and so eventually we actually embarked upon the great journey south...
Of all the God awful, boring trips! Mile after mile of yellow gorse and nondescript hills. After about 4 hours (all one stretch of about 80km without seeing another car), we finally came to ‘gold rush’ country and the scenery managed to become both boring and scruffy! The best bit of the trip was crossing a single lane road bridge (of which there were many) which was shared with a railway track - you actually drive along the rails, half expecting to meet a train coming the other way!
Five and a half hours after lunch in Havelock we finally arrived at Hokitika and checked in at the ‘Shining Star Chalets’ which are right on the beach. It’s not a swimming beach, the tides and currents are far too strong, but it’s very dramatic to see the waves crashing onto the sand and pebbles. The beach is festooned with huge pieces of driftwood, mainly trees and their roots, which resemble great tangled Neolithic sculptures.
As we are so far south, the days are longer, and so we had to wait until 10.00pm before it was dark enough to cross over the road and follow a short track to visit ‘Glow Worm Dell’. This turned out to be a little glade all festooned with the magical fairy lights that are glow-worms at night. So sweet, and so unexpected.
At the end of a very long day, we slept like logs, lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.