The Steam Dreams Rail Co is running a 3 week tour of New Zealand in Autumn 2021. See http://www.steamdreams.co.uk for more info.
This blog reveals how the research trip scoping out the tour panned out.
Day 5 – up early and bleary-eyed for the 8am ferry to Picton. It was miserable day, weather-wise, so we sat in the car queuing for the ferry. Once aboard, we (no surprises) had something to eat. This time I was encouraged by the (even for a Kiwi) unusually bright and cheerful lady serving at the counter – this time it was a peculiar Kiwi breakfast speciality called “mince on toast”. I don’t think there’s a need for further details; it was just that!
Despite the less than favourable weather forecast (and Marcus suffering from a mild case of his usual weather-related stress), the crossing went without a hitch (although we were all a bit dopey thanks to the seasick pills we’d taken!).
Arriving in Picton some 3 and a half hours later, we quickly found ourselves huddled under umbrellas with the welcoming folks from the Marlborough Flyer and Steam Inc who operate this short steam charter from Picton to Blenheim. We had a tour of their carriages (similar to those we saw at Steam Inc’s depot, with wooden interiors and red vinyl bench seating) and discussed their operation and how we might work together during the tour in 2021.
We then drove to Blenheim and thanks to the man responsible for running the Marlborough Flyer, Paul Jackson and his wife, we had a delicious hour at “The Wine Station” – Blenheim’s railway station-cum-wine tasting club-cum-cafe. We tried a selection of the world-famous Marlborough wines and enjoyed a delicious cheese, meat & fish platter. My idea of heaven. The wines were displayed in clever temperature controlled cabinets, and guests could buy a credit card-style “wine card” allowing them to try a small sample, a large sample or a whole glass of any wine they choose – up to the limit they’d pre-paid on the card. A genius way of getting people to try wines before they buy. And a genius way of using what was a disused railway station.
Thinking we might change the itinerary slightly (taking account of ferry times and not staying over in Palmerston North), we scoped out some hotels in Blenheim (a great base for wine tours of this stunning area).
Then back in the trusty Nissan, for the 2 hour jaunt to our next overnight stay, Kaikoura. On their last visit, Marcus and Marianne had stumbled across the Artists’ Retreat, a small rustic self-catering lodge set back from the coast but with marvelous views. This was home for one night only and Ben rustled up some scrambled eggs before another early night, listening to the creaking timber frame as the wind blew in.
I had a plan to sneak off on my own for a couple of hours early doors, so needed some shut eye (although my nervous excitement meant I didn’t sleep much). More on that next time.