Between our time in Nelson and Marlborough, we were starting to feel like lushes. These regions are heaven for beer and wine afficianados. Marlborough produces world-renowned sauvignon blanc wine, which, with its aromatic scent, crisp, clean taste and fruity notes is my favorite type of wine. While we were there, it was rainy and foggy – of course – but the fall scenery is gorgeous. I didn’t realize that leaves on the grape vines turned fall colors, so the golden hues were a pleasant surprise.
We learned the hard way during our South African wine tasting experience that maybe driving ourselves to the wineries is not the best idea, so we signed up for a wine tour. Basically a glorified DD (or at least the one we took), a driver takes you and others around to local wineries in a minivan. Like South Africa, the tastings are free. We visited six wineries: Cloudy Bay (good but expensive), Vavasour (pretty good), Spy Valley (also good, one of the last locally owned wineries in the area), Grove Mill (meh, too sweet), Highfield (good views) and Bouldevines (who knows by then?!?!)
I suppose I have to disclose that somewhere around the fifth winery, I made a complete ass out of myself. I was sitting next to Sean in the minivan’s first row of seats, which was next to a large open space by the door. I used to be an automatic seatbelt buckler, but months of none-existent seatbelts in Asia broke that habit. As the van rounded a bend rather sharply, I completely flew out of my seat and landed, hard, on my butt on the floor. I could hear the American and British girls who we’d been chatting with all afternoon stifle a laugh in the row behind us, and the Aussies in the way back let out a giggle. Sean tried to contain his laughter, but he didn’t do a very good job. After that, I felt like I should cool it on the tastings; I wasn’t anything more than a little tipsy but I didn’t want to feel any judgemental eyes labelling me as that girl on the wine tour.
The tour ends with a stop at the handmade Makana Chocolate Factory – a rather perfect way to end. We picked up some chocolate Easter eggs to go along with our newly acquired bottles of Sauvignon Blanc from Vavasour and Spy Valley for further tasting and evaluating.
Today, 408 days after we first set off, heading east around the world, we return home to Pittsburgh.
The big, fat, black raincloud that we picked up back in Malaysia followed us to Hawaii, showering seven inches just on Sunday alone and flooding parts of Kaua’i. The bad weather this past week thwarted much of our plans, giving me way too much time to think. I feel like I’m running in place, treading water. The feeling I have can best be described as bittersweet – more sweet than bitter, more bitter than sweet. It’s the end of the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it is time. I’m ready to move on from moving on.
My thoughts race forwards, to excitement at seeing my friends, my family, my cat; to what I’m going to do this weekend; to tasks I need to take care of to reintegrate into everyday life.
My thoughts are in the present, but they’re all in terms of lasts, to the last Iced Mocha at Small Town Coffee; to the last Aloha; to the last tropical fruits; to the all too brief moment of sunshine on my face and sand between my toes, to the last pretty flower.
My thoughts race backwards, to the butterflies I felt sitting in JFK, waiting to embark to Barcelona; to fleeting memories of the past year; to disbelief that it is all over. Other than my memories of New Zealand, the rest of it – all of it – is already fading fast. Things like being in Ireland with my friends seem like an isolated vacation I took a long time ago.
Overall, I’m full of anticipation, because I don’t feel like my journey is over. Sure, the perpetual physical motion is over, but the spiritual and mental motion in some ways is just beginning. Even after college, I’ve never felt like my life is so open, so full of possibility, as it is now.
Future, what do you hold for me? Only time will tell.
Nelson lies on the central northern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. It is supposed to be the sunniest place in all of New Zealand. And it was for our first day, providing the perfect backdrop to relaxing next to our campervan, drinking our newly acquired limited edition Sprig & Fern Harvest Pilsner and chopping up fresh veggies from Nelson’s Wednesday farmers market for salsa. Day two, the rain started (and pretty much didn’t let up for the rest of our days in New Zealand, save for a brief reprieve in Rotorua). Good thing Nelson is a quaint little town with historic old buildings housing shops and cafes. And furthermore that it lies in a hop growing region and has a thriving craft beer culture (like at the Free House, above. Craft beer in a church – we Pittsburghers can get on board with that). We forgave Nelson for its transgression in raining on us in the sunniest part of New Zealand.
By the way, if you are ever in New Zealand and you’re thirsty, you may want to check out some of the more notable beers we tried. It’s a hard job vetting beers but someone’s got to do it. New Zealand excels in hoppy pilsners and pales ales. We really liked Sprig & Fern’s Harvest Pilsner (from Nelson, see below); Harrington’s the Rogue Hop Organic Pilsner (from Christchurch, recommended by a neighbor Ohioan now living in Motueka); Emerson Organic Pilsner (from Dunedin); Townsend Old House ESB on cask (from Upper Moutere, near Nelson); and the Moa range of beers (from Marlborough).