Saturday, 3 December 2016

Week 33 - Baton Valley

After a relatively relaxed weekend playing Yahtzee and watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople (if you haven’t seen it, watch it), we felt relaxed and well fed, thanks to Kym’s amazing Sunday roast and banana bread, ready to face our journey to the South Island. It was a standard early rise, though slightly earlier than usual 5.45am, to catch the Bluebridge ferry from Wellington to Picton which took fucking ages! You are instructed to arrive at 7am to sit in a long queue, before being directed to wait in another long queue, before finally boarding….precisely 5 minutes before your scheduled departure, resulting in a 20 minute delay in leaving the harbour. But as far as boats go it was probably one of the best water based journeys we’ve had in 7 months, the boat was essentially a mini cruise ship. Complete with wifi, a bar, cabins, quiet room, family room, cinema and a (shit) cafe. Seriously, don’t eat at the cafe, save yourself some money and take your own food. 

The trip was advertised as 3 hours, in actual fact it took four, for the most part we enjoyed ourselves taking in the scenery and chilling out. However for a little while we did feel sick, this was only made worse when we went outside for fresh air and came back in again, Kyle soon turned a lovely shade of grey after he caught some air. Should you ever take this trip, (I mean if your in NZ why wouldn’t you?), then you will notice that there are occasions when the whole boat flock outside or to the front windows, this is to see a pretty amazing view, don’t follow the crowd, be your own person and head upstairs, past the cabins, and up another flight where you will find an amazing out door space, windy, but amazing, and you’ll probably only share it with about 20 other people…much better than being a sardine downstairs. You’ll especially want to be close to a window, or upstairs, as you approach the South Island, from a distance it looks like an uninhabited forest island with snow capped mountains, as you get closer you may notice a house or two. Further in you will be in awe of the mountains, forest and ocean, so perfect that it almost looks unreal, like you want to reach out and touch just to prove that it is. 

Our final approach took us into Picton, though at this point you’re stood like cattle waiting to be guided back to your car so you won’t actually see much, (if you were one of the last ones on and your facing the back of the boat, take your time, you won’t get off for ages). When we finally did disembark we quickly drove through Picton and headed for the State Highway, the journey to Nelson was amazing, we went by vineyards with mountains in the background, through lush green forests and over high hills…I mean the North Island is amazing but this was really something else, each way you look there is something pretty, and the best bit is, coz all the towns are so far apart this scenery goes on for miles!

Nelson was a surprise, bigger than I expected it to be and filled with all the same stores as the likes of Wellington, but the main surprise was the vast amount of bars! Each corner held a bar, pub or ale house so it quickly became clear why this area is so popular with backpackers. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to explore so after a quick wander an amazing cheese platter (I can’t tell you the last time we enjoyed cheese that good), we got back in the car and continued on to Motueka. 

The hills on this leg of road gave way to glorious beaches, long stretches of golden sand and crystal blue waters, paradise for me. Motueka town gave way to the Baton Valley, the road ran alongside a beautifully clear river with National Parks and mountains on either side and we soon reached our turn off….which was a favourite of mine, a gravel path. Halfway up the path we encountered a farmer moving along his cows whilst his young son drove his truck, so young in fact it reminded me of all those kids riding the peds back in Bali, like those youngsters he was also a very good driver. When we arrived at Baton run we were greeted by Fiona and her young helpers, Pip and Melody, they were on their way to yoga and kindly invited me along, I had to pass though, by this point I was dead on my feet. Kindly, Fiona showed us round and settled us into our new home before she left, and what a home it is. A cute little cabin with views of the mountains, complete with outside shower and toilet and plenty of dogs for us to play with, a perfect countryside retreat for us to relax in before roadtripping the rest of the South Island. Later that evening we met Fiona’s husband, Richard, who over tea recited some poems for us, including one about a flying pig and another to do with stretching. It was a great evening, and we were quickly made to feel at ease and welcome, like most people we have met in New Zealand, Fiona and Richard are genuine and caring, which makes us appreciate the time which we will get to spend with them. 

We had a great nights sleep and woke ready to start trekking the next day. As the weather was too bad to trek, we made ourselves comfortable for the day with books and movies. Richard came back in the afternoon with a lamb ready to be chopped up for tea, as I’m a bit of a wimp I waited inside whilst Kyle went to observe. Kyle described the experience as like being at the butchers only a bit more rugged, and couldn’t believe how much meat you could actually get from one lamb…to be fair there was loads when it came to tea time, steaks and chops galore. All fresh and delicious once cooked up in the oven. 
I was really excited the next morning to be going on a short trek with Fiona and Melody even though I hadn’t ridden a horse for a good 15 years or so. By the time I was up and ready to go the girls had already cleaned up the horse poo (thank god) so that left me with the job of brushing down the horses before they could be saddled up. I was paired with little Emily, a cute white horse whilst Kyle’s was named Trinny, whose brown and a lot taller than Emily. Fiona gave us all the instructions which we would need for the day and ensured that we were both comfortable with our pairings and off we headed down to the cabin and river. 

The other (more expensive) cabin is stunning, real wood beds, a little kitchenette and an outdoor bathtub and shower…heaven for any guest that chooses to stay there, especially with the river out front and the mountains behind. I soon learnt that Emily was a fan of eating and not so much a fan of pebbles, a true princess she liked to walk around the bigger ones and step where she wanted, I can see why we were paired. The trek up the hillside gave us amazing views of Mt Arthur, still covered in snow despite the heat, it was an amazing day with some of the best views and we can’t thank Fiona enough for the experience, Baton run is certainly worth checking out if you’re in this neck of the island….even if Kyle was more of a natural than me!

Our afternoon was spent walking with Penny the pup, a cheeky little devil but one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met, I’m contemplating popping her in my backpack. We strolled along the Baton river before driving the buggy back to the farm to enjoy tea prepared for us by Pip, sausage casserole and boy were we hungry!

We decided to take a drive out into Tapawera the next day to explore our surrounding area. As it was Melody’s last day at Baton Run she needed a lift into town so that she could hitchhike her way to her next destination. Personally I think that Melody is brave, and a little crazy, she arms herself with a pocket knife but that still wouldn’t get me thumbing a lift at the side of the road. It was a bit like abandoning a puppy when we left her at the crossroads, but Melody assured us that she would be ok, so we wished her good luck and made our way back to town. Tapawera is tiny, there are probably more people living in Dalton-In-Furness, Cumbria (and that’s saying something), the children go to the same school from 4years old up until they are 18 years old….you’re pretty screwed if you don’t make any friends when you first start, hey?! We enjoyed a coffee at a little tea house and a short stroll round the old railway station before making our way back to Baton Run, where we enjoyed cocktails on the bean bags with Pip and Fiona. 

Kyle was over the moon the next morning when Fiona said that we could borrow the buggy to explore the valley, and as it was a lovely hot day we made our way down to the river to relax by the clear water. A strong current and high water levels prevented us from crossing over to the rope swing, but we did find a little tree house with great views of the valley, a cozy little spot to waste an afternoon. 

As an adventure boy, Kyle is keen to turn his hand to anything that may come up, so when Fiona suggested taking the horses down to the river for a swim and a mini trek he jumped at the chance. So keen in fact that he even fully prepared his horse for the day, Orca, including cleaning out her shoes…a real achievement, one that’s left him smug, especially after Fiona told him that he was a natural with the horses. I’m shocked at how much Kyle has enjoyed the horses, he’s even said that for something he didn’t think he would like, he has infact loved it and become fonder of the horses.

Fiona prepared a big Saturday night roast, as she does every week, for her neighbours and kindly invited us to join. It allowed us to delve even deeper into Kiwi farm life, and I’m pretty sure I could tell you all the ins and outs of logging now, Kyle’s even considering it for a career. It’s funny when a new kid comes for tea and the first question they’re asked is what are your parents called, just to check if they’re known in the valley. Bring a crate is standard (even though today the 3rd December is National crate day), and all chat will revolve around diggers, sheep and trailers, unless you can pull Micheal to one side to gain tips on the lesser travelled parts of America. We’ve enjoyed our time with Fiona and Richard so much that we’ve decided to extend it, and I can’t wait to see what other delights Baton Valley has to offer.

Love Carrie xxx