Wednesday, March 20, 2013

South Island....Again

I had a flight back to the States booked for March 18.  It's now March 21st, and I'm not in the States.  

I wasn't ready to leave New Zealand yet.  I've made no secret of the fact that this country has stolen my heart, and there was still so much of it that I wanted to see.  Plus, I've really become quite a weather wimp, and all the emails and updates on Facebook reminding me of what a horrible winter y'all are having has done nothing to incentivize my return.
How can you leave these guys (hanging out in a park in the middle of Auckland)?
Yeah, I should get back at some point and get back into structured training, get some ART done on my unhappy leg, start eating well again, blah blah blah, but to be honest, my mid-season break from triathlon was much needed and possibly too short.  I still feel a little bit like I'm in a fight with triathlon, we haven't really made up after my last race, and until I'm really, truly mentally ready to get serious again, I'm not going to force it.  I'd rather do a little riding and running in new and beautiful places, just enjoy the surroundings, and keep my fingers crossed that the motivation will return, than to jump right back in when I'm not really chomping at the bit to do so, and end up quickly burnt out. 

And yeah, I do need to get home and start working again, and I will, but what's another week in the grand scheme of things?

Having thought these things through, I shelled out the many hundreds of dollars required to change my tickets and book accommodations, and I headed back down to the South Island of New Zealand to check out new areas, namely the Marlborough region and Nelson, on the north coast.

On the drive to Blenheim.  If you look really close, there's a seal
A funny thing happened while I was in Australia.  Summer ended in New Zealand.  And it took me completely by surprise.  It's been nice having summer-like weather since January, but in my mind, hot weather in January and February's not that strange.  I mean, we all went to warmer places during the winter for vacation, right?  I knew those places existed.  But it really never dawned on me that some of those warmer places, namely those in the southern hemisphere, will eventually get colder in March and April.  That is backwards, and Autumn-in-March is messing with my mind.

A lovely fall March
This is also my explanation for why I brought approximately zero warm clothes down to the South Island, and absolutely panicked when I stepped off the plane in Christchurch and felt temperatures in the high 40s.  Yes, I know for you midwesterners, high 40s sounds nice right now, but imagine a girl with a bag full of tank tops and only one thin jacket who has been living with temperatures in the 70s and 80s for 3 months. It was a shock.

Which is not to say I haven't thoroughly enjoyed running and cycling in this autumnal weather.   It's like heaven, except for the frozen toes.
Early morning frozen toe ride
The first part of my trip has involved a good deal of driving.  I flew into Christchurch, and drove north along the coast to Blenheim.   Blenheim's in the heart of the Marlborough Wine Region, which is absolutely my reason for selecting it as a stop.  It's been almost two weeks since my last wine tour, and that is two weeks too long.
For reasons not entirely clear even to myself, I decided to do this wine tour by bike.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster, huh?
Panniers specially made for wine bottles
I don't think a wine tour like the one I did would ever be allowed in the litigious United States.  Basically, we were all picked up, driven to the start point, given cruiser bikes, helmets, and maps, and sent on our merry way to imbibe to our heart's desire, traversing between stops on roads that were, often, heavily trafficked.  The owner's instructions: "it's self-guided.  Go to as many wineries as you can, just get back by five."  Game on.
So I went to about 7 wineries.  And unlike in the Hunter Valley, where LSF and I were a couple weeks ago, Marlborough wineries are not stingy with their pours.  In a way, it's good that I had some cycling to do between stops (sometimes up to 5 kilometers), it helped me to sweat out the alcohol, otherwise I would have been in bad, bad shape by the end of the day.  But, I can't look back and say that that was a safe day, in any way.  Absolutely enjoyable?  Yes.  Safe?  Not so much.

Yet I made it home, a little sunburnt, a lot exhausted, and mostly, even more in love with New Zealand.  It's amazing how, for such a small country, there is such a wide range of terrain and landscape.  Marlborough is gorgeous.  I'm glad I delayed the return to reality a little longer.
Moved on to a little town called Picton for the night

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