it's been a busy few days, but all good things to report. thursday we awoke in kaikoura to beautiful blue skies and a gorgeous ocean. the beach was all black gravel, not sand, which made the waves crashing on the coast even more dramatic. after a quick walk on the beach, we drove north to picton, at the very tip of the south island. we were fortunate enough to book a spot in the afternoon kayak trip through the marlborough sounds. what an amazing stroke of luck! it was one of the most amazing experiences i've had. kayaking up there was so peaceful and natural. we saw stingrays swimming in the water not a foot below our boat. our tour group had only five other people plus a guide, which was a perfect size group. we took tea (or a "smoke-o" as one guy called it) on a secluded beach on one of the bays and soaked in some of the afternoon sun. after our paddle back to our starting point, mike and i drove further into the sound to camp on the next bay over. we had a lovely dinner watching the cormorants flying and diving in the water and the small boats bobbing up and down.
friday we did a wine tour through the blenheim wine region. our favorite by far was the bladen winery, which is a boutique winery that bottles fewer than 4000 cases of wine per year. the owner was a cheery chap who spent the better part of an hour chatting with us about his wine philosophy, the region, rugby, and the best spots for dinner. he suggested we take his gewurtztraminer into town to a thai restaurant called bamboo garden. the restaurant's green curry inspired the flavors that he aimed for in his gewurt. (he hit it right on the head, by the way -- the wine was perfect with it, as we later found out, and it also paired well with the red fish curry). it was such a pleasure to talk with the guy, and we hope to come back and visit him another time.
saturday we stayed in blenheim for the marlborough wine festival. situated in the middle of the montana brancott winery, the festival hosted more than 50 area wineries and food vendors. we had some lovely savignon blancs and chardonnays, and also enjoyed some delicious seafood courtesy of the area fisherpeople.
we had to cut our time at the festival short, because we had tix to the christchurch/otago rugby match later that night....so, back down south four hours to the match. it was a rousing game, with the local christchurch crusaders team beating the otago team by a good margin. i was especially pleased with the game, considering i got a front row (ok, second row) view of my favorite hottie player, dan carter, and the superstar, soon-to-be captain of the all blacks, richie mccaw. it was so cool. i am so hooked on this sport.
last night we did a tour through a penguin reserve to see yellow-eyed penguins. they were such a crack up! we mostly saw fat chicks (birds, not people), but a few adults were just arriving back to the reserve after a full day's fishing. the reserve owners have quite a set-up -- in the reserve, there are tons of tunnels and blinds set up where you can watch the birds with minimal interruption. very cool.
today we're in dunedin for a short bit before heading over to the fiordland national park for a kayaking trip through the doubtful sound. (we hope we get tix, though...stay tuned for that.)
we're having such a blast, as i'm sure it's obvious. we're not hardly thinking about work, haven't watched tv or read a newspaper in a week, and are totally chilled out. only slightly worried about ena, but i'm sure our good housekeepers are keeping a good eye on her. thanks guys!
we'll check in soon, but in the meantime, drop us a note here to let us know how everything is!