Over Friendly Chickens

Blenheim has been ungodly boring. Some people raised eyebrows when we said we were going to spend a week in Blenheim, with that not-too-subtle implication that they thought Blenheim was boring.

But, to be honest, Blenheim has not been boring because Blenheim is boring. It has been boring because yours truly managed to catch COVID. It started with a runny nose and then progressed into a raging headache, coughs, sore throat, muscle aches, and a crabby COVID host that was pissed off that he got COVID. Susanne administered the COVID test and exclaimed after about 10 seconds “Holy shit, you’re already reading positive even before the control line shows up.” Leave it to me to overdo something. Amazingly, Susanne tested negative and, as of this blog’s publication date, continues to test negative. Fingers crossed on that miracle. I tried to get some Paxlovid but no dice. I needed to be 70—60 just didn’t cut it unless I had a whole host of other serious health problems. So I have to ‘harden up’ and solider through it. Luckily, it seems to be in the flu-level of feeling crappy. I was super bummed to get it, but I guess at this point, every one of us is going to get COVID eventually.

Yeppers, that’s positive

So we are on what they call a 7-day isolation protocol. It’s actually more of an 8-day protocol, since the day you test positive is day 0. You can go walk outside or drive around as long as you maintain distance from others and don’t go inside anywhere. Susanne read all the rules and we are trying to be good Kiwi rule-followers. Anyway, COVID is why Blenheim has been very boring. Sally, our Airbnb host, has been super sweet and felt really badly that we were just stuck here with COVID. She offered to help if we needed. About the only positive thing that I can say about being cooped up here in the room is that the Tour de France is on and I figured out how to watch it from an Australian channel. Yeah! We have managed a few things while we have been here and from those few things both of us have a very positive feeling about Blenheim as a possible location.

We didn’t really know the drill for the ferry from Welly to Picton and the booking said that the last check-in was at 7:15, so we thought we should get there early. We showed up at 6:00 AM and there were some folks there already. Ok, so maybe we weren’t too early. But there were no coffee places open and the check-in wasn’t open yet either, so we sat in the car and waited.

Tight fit on the ferry

Eventually, someone showed up and started checking people in and directed us to drive to another area where we queued up in specific lines and waited some more. Eventually, they directed everyone onto the ferry and we parked and headed up to seating area. It was impressive how tightly they packed the big 18 wheelers in there. The boat was very cold and we sat bundled up in our jackets playing games and reading. There was no WiFi. They did have coffee and it wasn’t hideous, thankfully. All in all, it was a pretty dull affair.

The day we arrived in Blenheim, it was a beautiful sunny day. So after we got settled into the Airbnb, we headed out to Wither Hills Farm Park for a hike. It’s a lovely open space on the south side of Blenheim that has lots of hiking and mountain bike trails. I was wishing I had a bike as it looked like great fun. We worked our way up the—not surprisingly—very steep hill and got a great view out over the Marlborough valley. We did about 5 km and 800′ of climbing which felt good after a boring day on the ferry.

Stretching the legs
Overlooking Blenheim

The next day, we headed out in the morning for a walk along the Taylor River Reserve that goes right through the middle of Blenheim. It is a beautiful park that stretches for almost 11 kms. There were a lot of people out walking their dogs and of course we took every chance we could to pet any of them foolish enough to come within our reach.

Taylor River Reserve

We had a meeting at noon with Mike, an accountant. More adulting, damn it. He’s a super nice guy and we spent a lot time talking about why he had chosen to move to Waikawa from Auckland. He loves it and I think his reasons for choosing a place really matched up with ours well, so it made us feel better about checking out the area. We had lunch at the Wairau River Wines Restaurant and then headed back to hang out. We had dinner that night at a great Brazilian restaurant called Gramado’s and headed home. That’s when I started to realize all was not well in Gotham and I was pretty sure I was getting sick. I was hoping it was just a crappy cold. Sadly it wasn’t, and it became clear we were going to have a boring week in Blenheim. Bummer.

The first day I really felt terrible. Both physically and for the people I probably exposed. I emailed them to tell them and everyone was super cool about it. Thank you. On day 3, Susanne talked me into going for a drive because the weather was pretty ok, so we headed down to Rarangi Beach, about 15 min from Blenheim, to get a feel for it. It was quite beautiful and looked way mo’ better than the beach in Napier. It was a short outing, but it felt good to be outside. Then, to match how I was feeling, the weather turned to crap. It rained hard. Well, if you are going to be sick, do it when the weather is bad.

Crabby patient
Beach with snow-capped mountains. Cool? Yes!

It is now Saturday and I have concluded that I am not going to die, at least not in the near future. It is amazing how this realization can improve your mood. That, and I can tell my immune system is kicking in and starting to beat this thing down. I was even up for a pretty decent length walk on the Taylor River this morning. Sally texted us and told us about a nice drive we could do out at this winery called Yealands. Very nice of her. I still felt pretty good and was definitely anxious to get out while the weather was decent, so we headed out.

Yealands pride themselves on having very sustainable farming practices and when you drive around the property it really shows. One of things they warn you about is the over friendly chickens that they have running around the vineyards. There are coops everywhere and when you drive up close to them, a cloud of chickens come racing out at you with great hopes that you are there to feed them, I think. It is very funny. The are truly over friendly chickens. There was a duck that was quite friendly as well. The winery and vineyards are right next to the ocean. You can drive all around the winery on a very nicely signposted road to a beautiful view point on a cliff above the ocean, and they have picnic tables all over the place—we’ll have to come back in the summer and have a picnic. Great scenery, and it just felt good to get out.

We are headed for some even worse weather in the next couple days, so the remainder of our time in Blenheim will be back to boring. Bummer.

On a side note, and to illustrate why it dangerous to leave me sitting in front of my computer all day wishing I was out doing something, I bought a gravel bike! I had been scoping bikes in Nelson and saw this beauty. And it was on sale. And it was way cheaper than I could buy it in the States. Thank you exchange rate. Go figure! I can’t wait to pick it up and do some rides. I really suffer without my bike. Yeah!

Isn’t she lovely?
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