Back in time for tea

Travelling the world, hopefully with a cuppa in hand

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Our New Zealand photos

Mr & Mrs Penguin

Our New Zealand photos are now online, thanks to free internet from our hostel in Santiago. We had a really good time there and we took loads of photos. We´ve arranged the best into two galleries: the first ten days with Donna, and then the remaining time with just us. We hope you enjoy them.

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Our south american adventures begin here

We’re just posting a quick update from the free Samsung internet stand outside of gate 10 in Auckland airport and have only 5 mins before we have to board. A big thank you to Michelle who we met in Rarotonga with her friend Maria, who showed us around Auckland today (waking up at 5am to collect us from the airport). We had a really great day, although we were a bit jet lagged from our 2am flight from Rarotonga. Time to get a bit of sleep on the plane. Next installment from Chile.

For a quick update on the rest of our time in Rarotonga we did the following: the cross island trek through rainforest ending in a dip in the waterfall, snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, an island night, a trip to church on Easter Sunday with beautiful unaccompanied singing, and met lots of lovely people at our guesthouse, the Aremango on Muri beach. We’ll post the photos soon…

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In a bit of hot water

At the smelly sulphurous pools

No need to worry, it was thermal mineral spring water. We’ve spent a rainy Saturday soaking in the outdoor thermal pools at De Bretts in Taupo. This part of New Zealand is well known for its volcanoes and geothermal energy. It’s slightly spooky driving along and seeing clouds of steam from vents in the ground. Today we got to see a geyser erupt as part of the biggest thermal park in the area. We wandered around through the smelly air and past bubbling cauldrons of sulphur and iron minerals. We also stopped off at a boiling mud pool looking just like chocolate fondue. Lou’s on a bit of a chocolate trip at the minute as we haven’t had any decent stuff for ages.

Since our last post, we’ve crossed over to the North Island (we spotted two dolphins from the ferry), spending a speedy 4 hours in the capital, Wellington, and continued the wine theme by heading over to the Martinborough and Hawkes Bay wine regions. Martinborough is famous for its pinot noir and we tried the Ata Rangi, Martinborough, Schubert and Canadoro wineries. The wineries here tended to be more expensive and charge for tastings. We particularly liked a peppery Syrah from Schubert but unfortunately it was above our price bracket at 35 GBP a bottle! In Hawkes Bay we went to Ngatawara, Church Road, Salvare, Bridge Pa, Brookfields, Craggy Range and Te Awa. We bought a lovely merlot from Salvare which we’ve enjoyed for the past couple of nights.

The Lady Knox Geyser in Wai-O-Tapu

Its not been completely about wine. We had a lovely night camping on a shingle beach after a fry-up supper with the waves booming through the night. We stopped off in Napier to admire the art-deco architecture. The town was rebuilt in the art-deco style after a massive earthquake in 1931. We spent slightly longer in Napier than planned as Jon left Chuck’s lights on. After standing around trying to attract a good Samaritan for a bit we got a jump start from a nice garage up the road and we were on our way again. We indulged Jon’s geeky side and stopped off at a reed organ museum in Woodville run by Rosalie and Milton at their home. They gave us a warm welcome and invited Jon to play anything he wanted from their collection of over eighty harmoniums and organs.

We were looking forward to trekking the Tongariro crossing, which takes you past an active volcano, but rain and gale force winds meant that transport to the startpoint was cancelled. Instead we’re heading up to Auckland tomorrow and then fly out to Rarotonga (one of the South Pacific Cook Islands) on Tuesday. We stocked up on beach reads at a hectic one-day charity book sale yesterday and are looking forward to the warmer weather, fingers crossed.

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Our notes on NZ’s tipples

The best bike ride ever

We’ve had a very enjoyable few sunny days in one of New Zealands foremost wine regions – the Marlborough region in the north-east of the country. We spread our tastings over three days taking in a total of ten wineries by foot, bike and van. The wines here are similar varieties to those we tasted in the Alsace. Among the whites, the sauvignon blanc is the biggest seller, we found the chardonnays a bit too oakey and there are a lot of the sweeter riesling, gewurztraminer and pinot gris varieties. The reds (pinot noir and a bit of merlot) are generally light in colour and flavour. Surprisingly we also liked the late harvest very sweet and syrupy desert wines on offer as well. Needless to say we tried our hardest to sample widely and we thought we’d put the Jon and Lou pick of the bunch up here so we’ll be able to pick some up when we’re back in the UK.

The Cloudy Bay winery is one of the most famous for bringing NZ wines to international attention, and we liked their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (we bought a bottle) and also their bubbly Pelorus.

The Framingham winery was an impromptu stop-off this morning and is our favourite although harder to get hold of in the UK. We really liked (and bought) their award-winning 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and their unusual 2004 dry Riesling. Framingham have full tasting notes on their website.

Runners up include the Nautilus Estate 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and the more boutique, only available locally Mahi 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Unfortunately the wine drinking is now on hold until we pick up some wine glasses (no point in drinking these out of plastic beakers) and we find somewhere to chill them as Chuck’s cooler isn’t big enough! We’ve now recharted our route in the North Island to go through Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough so we can do some more tastings in the coming week.

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Cockles and campfires

Alive alive oh!

Thanks to the expert advice from Ulla,  a lady we chatted to at our last campsite, Jon and I have been introduced to the world of foraging. Ulla was kind enough to share some of the delicious cockles she’d cooked up after gathering them from the local beach at low tide. Following her lead, we headed off with our carrier bag in hand. The sea was far out so we had a long walk across the sand and shingle until we started spotting the cockles mostly buried in the sand. According to Maori tradition, we threw our first cockles back as a thank you to the sea for its provision. These babies are monsters compared to the diddy cockles at home! We had a wonderful time lifting the cockles out of the sand with our big toes, often finding more cockles buried below. Jon’s big toe had a lucky escape from the pincers of a crab he disturbed while digging!

Back at the campsite’s open air kitchen, we washed and steamed the cockles before cooking them up with ginger, fresh chilli, swiss chard and tomato, also kindly provided by Ulla, and enjoyed them with some sourdough bread.

Our kitchen

Our foraging continued the next day as we wandered into the campsite up the road and collected a bag of fallen walnuts. We hadn’t tried fresh walnuts before and they’re slightly less nutty but yummy none the less. We cracked open a few at the end of our picnic overlooking Farewell Spit at the very north of the island. We loved the cockle gathering so much that we had another trip out at low tide to collect some for our pasta dinner. We found a wonderful wild camping spot; down the lane towards the beach and all set up with a picnic bench. We had a driftwood beach campfire to warm us while we ate. Dinner was washed down with a drop of ‘Fat kelpie’ from the Monkey Wizard micro-brewery. Apart from being disturbed by a drunken but friendly local asking for a lift we had peace and quiet with the sound of the sea. Can’t get much better than that.

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