251105 - 251109 A World of Difference

Today four years ago I arrived on the airport of Auckland with a Residency Visa, a suitcase full of stuff, lots of dreams, hopes and a wish for adventures and challenges.

The adventures and challenges have come on my way, that's for sure (and still will come). I could not have guessed then that I would be living in a flatting situation and working in a vineyard now.

The big question always is whether your life has improved by emigrating. This is difficult to answer, because of the many changes I have gone through, that not all were related to the emigration itself. Overall I think I have gained a lot of experience and got to know myself (even) better. I definitely have learned to enjoy the small things in life much better and I am able to live under basic conditions and still be happy (at least not less happy than I was with my life back in Holland).

So, yes I am still in New Zealand and planning to stay here for a bit longer, but who knows what else will come on my way.........


Working life... and another trip around....

Thank you all for your input into my decision making about what to do after I have graduated (assuming this is really going to happen in December). No, I have not made a decision yet; I will need a few more weeks for that.

Last time I told a bit about school stuff, but since I am working three days a week in the winery I will try to explain what a working day can look like. I am sure that a lot of you will have some romantic ideas about working in the wine industry. Everyone who has ever done some wine tours/tastings and is shown a winery and vineyard or watched programmes on TV will agree. However, what is life of a cellar hand / laboratory technician in a winery really about – is it romantic…..? Decide for yourself…

. Getting up around 6.30 to be able to leave by car around 7.30 for an 8.00 start in the Awatere Valley (around 20 minutes drive).
· Taking samples from tanks to do analyses on in the laboratory. The temperature there is around 13°C this time of the year (the temperature in the winery is often a little bit colder even).
· Transferring wine from one tank to another to ‘rack off’ the lees. This means that you have to set up a pump with hoses that need to be cleaned and sanitised before use. Then connecting the right hose to the right outlet/inlet on the right tanks until all the wine is transferred and only the lees is left in the empty tank.
· Cleaning the empty tank, which means hosing it out with water, cleaning with cleaning agent, hosing out, then sanitising the tank and fittings and ready…… In the mean time you get wine, lees and water over you when you are not careful.
· Adding fining agents and/or sulphur dioxide (to protect the wine) to tanks and covering tanks that are not totally filled with gas, this is also to protect the wine from oxidation.
· Taking samples from barrels that have Pinot Noir to go through malo-lactic fermentation (second fermentation). To get to the barrels sometimes it is necessary to climb on top of the barrels that are stacked four layers high. Actually you need to be a monkey to do this well!!
· Etc.etc.etc.
· Heading home around 5pm – having a shower and preparing food for dinner and lunch for the next working day.

There must be time to play when working hard – so, before Mauricio heads of to work a vintage in the USA he wanted to see a bit more of the South Island. We planned a roundtrip of four days, which is not long but enough to show him the East and West Coast and the Central part of the northern South Island.

First of all we went to St Arnaud (Nelson Lakes Area) where we made a bush walk along Lake Rotoiti before heading to Westport via Murchison and the beautiful Buller Gorge.

Unfortunately, this day it was pouring down, but the other days were full of bright sunshine, as can be seen on the pictures. After Westport of course the first stop is Punakaiki where the famous pancake rocks and the blowhole need to be seen.

Although we were at the right time (high tide) to see the blowhole, there was not a lot to be seen. But the rocks were nice and we made a good walk along the beach before heading on to Greymouth and going inland from there. Of course we had to stop in Reefton, a town that I always see as a kind of ‘wild-west’ village. Further along the route we came past the Maruia Springs, a place that I had not been before – and we decided to stop and have a look. It was a very great surprise to find it was a Japanese place that had a lot of serenity. It is located on the foot of some mountains and the sun was shining brightly. The pools were small, but there were hardly any other people around. It was so very relaxing – especially the private spa pool……….

It is a place I will definitely go back one day – maybe even to stay, because there is a resort and Japanese restaurant as well.

After that we went to Hanmer Springs to stay for the night. Here we stayed at a backpackers run by a Dutch couple. It was a great place, more like a small hotel than a backpackers hostel. It was not too crowded in Hanmer at this time of the year although it was Saturday. The pubs were busy however since the All Blacks played against the Wallabies (Australia). Everybody was happy at the end of the evening because the ABs destroyed the opponent on the field. The next day we made a long, enjoyable walk through the bush and then it was time to go back to the East Coast.

We ended up in Kaikoura, a place I normally just pass through or stop for a coffee/lunch on the way. It was great to stay here the night and to be able to explore the surroundings. Unfortunately, then it was time to go back to always lovely Blenheim.



Student Life....

The last few weekends I have been active with tramping etc. but suddenly real student life started again, although…….

Last week we ended the week on Friday with a trip to Picton and watching and listening to a Jazz duo in one of the cafĂ©’s there. Not a lot of people attended the performance, but the atmosphere was nice and the singer and guitarist were a pleasure to the ears. It is still a miracle to me why it is so difficult in Blenheim to find gigs like that.

The next day we had a bbq party at one of the classmate’s. It was nice to have a party again after quite a while and we had a nice time chatting, drinking and dancing. On the Sunday unfortunately the weather was really bad and thus not a lot of excitement was to be found outdoors. Luckily there is always homework and study, although after a night partying that is not easy to get your head around at, so it was more like a lazy Sunday.

My regular weeks at the moment consist around a Monday at school, Tuesday/Wednesday work, Thursday school and Friday work. Last Thursday we checked out one of the newly opened restaurants in town. The food was enjoyable but the service was not on an acceptable standard to us, mainly Europeans. Maybe we are too fuzzy? Then it was time to relax a bit on Friday night at home with a movie. Since my injury earlier this year I have seen a huge amount of movies. More than I have seen during the rest of my life, with exception of course of the Film Festivals visited in Rotterdam, where I often watching 4/5 movies a day.

On Saturday we had some people around for dinner and that was another pleasant night with some good wines. And what was on the menu?...Mauricio’s Pizza again!

In the mean time the end of the course comes in sight – only around 2.5 months to go!!! So it is getting time that I decide on what to do next. However, there are a few possibilities and it is hard to figure out what would be best. Basically the choices I have are:

· Working full time at my current work at The Crossings where I have another year’s contract
· Studying full time for my bachelor’s degree in wine production and viticulture, either in Blenheim or Christchurch
· Studying part time for bachelor’s degree – or via distance learning
· Trying to find job in other part of New Zealand
· Going overseas to gain more experience in a different country – choices could be Spain, France, Italy, Chile or Argentina.

Anyone who has an idea about any of these or other options, I am open to anything at the moment. So bring on the ideas, please!



Passport back and some sunny pictures

After I dropped off my passport in Wellington I received it back together with a new passport within two weeks, which is pretty quick in my opinion. Luckily I could just send those to the NZ Immigration Office for transfer of my visa, so that was easy. Now I am in the possession of a nice new passport valid for another 5 years. Not that I need it, because I am not planning of travelling anywhere outside of NZ and not even outside of the South Island.

When we woke up this morning the sun was already shining and it looks like it would be a beautiful day. This is quite common in Blenheim, since we have a great micro-climate here, with lots of sun and little rain – especially compared to most of the rest of the country. So, after a good breakfast we decided to go for another tramp again. This time it took us to Rarangi, Whites Bay and Port Underwood which is on the coast in between Blenheim and Picton. The pictures will show some of the nice views we had on the way. It was quite hilly and slippery at times, but it was all worth the effort. After our 3.5 hours tramping we were back at the car and travelled via beautiful Port Underwood Road to Picton. Here we had a well deserved, very late lunch and an even better tasting beer. Sitting in the sunshine on a terrace overlooking the sea…….. life is good!

At home I was lucky – my flatmate was eager to try to bake some pizza himself. Yammmiiieee!!!




"Cold" tramping

After last week’s good Sunday afternoon walking we decided to take the walking to the next step: tramping. We headed out of Blenheim south (close to Ward) with the last 12 kms land inwards on a gravel road.

The route we were going to take was for experienced backcountry trampers with above average fitness. Great for us!!! The route was to the Sawcut Gorge and thus went along a river – at least, that’s what we thought. However, it appeared that we had to cross the river several times. The water was not really nice – worse even, it was ice cold and already after the first crossing our feet were soar of the cold. When you do a crossing around 8 times, then you do not feel anything anymore. The route was beautiful, the further we got – the smaller the gorge became. Some of the pictures are below. We were happy to be back at the car after nearly 4 hours and to warm our feet/legs again. We decided we deserved a nice coffee and headed to The Store in Kekerungu – highly recommended!



A weekend trip, a passport and other stuff

Weekend holiday
Last time I told about the upcoming trip to Nelson and Golden Bay. It turned out to be a good choice although the weather wasn’t flash all of the time. In and around Nelson the sampling of wine and beer was a good change from the tasting in the Marlborough. I took this trip together with one of my flatmates who is also in de wine industry, so we could discuss the different wines at length.

I will just give an overview of the weekend break (being my winter holiday). After a 40 km drive it is time for coffee and since I know a good place in Havelock that is the place to stretch the legs for the first time. Havelock is the Green Mussel capital of the world. Unfortunately, I am not very fond of green mussels but it is a cute village and since a little shop was closing down also a good place to buy some bargains.

The next stop was Pelorus Bridge where you can make a choice between a few walks through the bush. We walked there for an hour or so because the weather was lovely and Nelson not too far away. In Nelson we visited first of all the Founders Heritage Park. A place I have often passed by but never really seen. Here we tasted some organic beers at the brewery. The quality was reasonable; the weather was great, so we could enjoy the beers while sitting in the sun in the beautiful gardens. We brought some artisan bread and headed to the Japanese gardens. With these gardens I am pretty familiar by now – unfortunately, this time the water was not there since the gardens got renovated.

Walking - Pelorus Bridge

So at the end of the day it was time to check in a motel, that had a spa and sauna and since we lack this in Blenheim we decided to enjoy this. The spa pool that was nicely located next to the ice cold swimming pool was at a temperature that you got easily burned. We tried to put our feet in, but had to give up pretty soon. We should have mixed the water of the pool and the spa ……… So, we headed to the dry sauna and enjoyed this much better. Some wines later it was not too difficult to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Of course, when in Nelson on a Saturday, the Saturday morning market is a ‘must’. Since most of you know I am not much of a ‘shopper’, our trip to the market was not longer than half an hour and we did not buy a lot. It was far more interesting to head on in the direction to Motueka for some visits to wineries. Unfortunately, during winter not all of the cellar doors are open to the public but we were lucky enough to visit both Waimea and Seifried this day. Apart from that we made a nice drive around the Moutere valleys. Amongst others we were on an organic orchard where the sheep looked very healthy – they were clearly very fond of apples.

We also stopped in Mapua where a stop at the new brewery is highly recommended!.

Along the coast in Mapua

Then at the end of the day – it was already dark – we headed over the Takaka hill to Takaka. There was snow along the road, but not anymore on the road luckily, so we had a good drive and checked into our place in Pohara Beach where we made ourselves a healthy dinner.

View from the Abel Tasman Memorial and view to Abel Tasman National Park

When we woke up it was pouring ‘cats and dogs’ but since we wanted to explore the Golden Bay we took our wet weather gear and headed off. We made some nice beach walks in the rain and finally ended in the famous ‘Mussel Inn’. Here we had a healthy soup and some beers to go with it while warming and drying in front of the open fire – a real Sunday afternoon!

Pohara Beach

Then it was Monday already and time to head back to lovely Blenheim again. But not after we did a wine tasting at Neudorf (highly recommended) and a tasting at a fruit winery (wine from kiwifruit, feijoa, black currant and boysenberry). The weather this day was gorgeous and thus during the trip back we made a lot of stops and also travelled via pretty Kaiteriteri where we enjoyed the beach and a nice lunch.

View to Upper Takaka from Takaka Hill

Then I had another week of work and then back to school! Although school means only one day a week at the moment, since I will be doing two courses on line. Hopefully it will go all via plan so I can graduate at the end of this year. The first results of the first semester are promising!

In the mean time I have also started a programme in the gym with my physiotherapist. The goal is to strengthen my body, and mainly my back, so I will be able to do more physical work again. I tried already one day in the vineyard, but that was not very successful. A little bit more time is needed. In the winery and the laboratory, however, I can do nearly everything that is needed and in the mean time I learn a lot. This cadetship is really a great way of combining study and work, giving me a great advantage when I graduate.

Then I noticed that I should renew my Dutch passport this year. This turns out to be a bit of a challenge when you do not live in one of the main cities. I decided to travel to Wellington for the day to drop off my old passport and apply for a new one. Luckily they can mail it to me when it is finished. However, then I need my NZ residency visa transferred to my new passport, for which I need to travel to Christchurch or Wellington again. It is a time consuming and costly process and this passport is thus going to be one with a golden edge.

A nice advantage of this trip was that I have been able to catch up with a few friends in Wellington. I had a lovely breakfast with two of my American friends; had a coffee with an Irish friend and a long lunch with a Dutch friend who dropped me off at the airport afterwards. It was short but sweet…….Sorry for all of you I missed but it was only a few hours’ stay.

Just a Sunday
Yesterday we headed out of Blenheim to do a great walk along the beach near Cape Campbell (south of Blenheim). The weather was spring like and the day couldn’t last long enough. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera. On the way we visited Yealands Wine Estate, one of the high profile wineries of the area. The buildings are impressive, however, the wines did not meet the same high standards. We tasted a Sauvignon Blanc called Storm Crossings which is made solely for the Dutch market and thus for the Dutch taste. I have to tell, that it was not very positive to my taste, so………. room for improvement!



Back to work and school….and finish of the first semester….

It has been a long time, since I have been writing about my whereabouts here in lovely Blenheim. This has nothing to do with ‘from the eye from the heart’ – at least not from my side.

Let me tell a bit about the last months. A while ago I reached my short term goal of being able to drive to work again and since then I did two or three days a week, every time a bit longer. I did basic, mainly laboratory work, in the winery and could still have a look around and learn from the international, European crew that was in their final stage of the vintage then. It is really disappointing that I have not been able to work more closely and longer together with them, because they have a very valuable amount of knowledge among them. But that’s life…..

From the beginning of May I was back at school and it was great to hear the stories of the class mates on their experiences during the vintage in the different Marlborough wineries. There is a huge difference between the several companies and it seems that I am – although it is a long drive away – at one of the better places.

In the mean time I have experienced a lot of other activities in the winery and laboratory that my classmates haven’t done and I handed in my winery experience assignment, the last bit that needed to be done after the exams. Yes, exams were done last week and I am convinced with a positive result, although it won’t be as good as last year, but who cares…….. After the exams it was time to wind down and that is what I did during the past weekend – just recovered from it actually…..

The last two months it was ‘full on’ for me, juggling around work and study and still not fully recovered. At the moment I will be at around 80% of my physical ability. Today I started a programme in the gym that is lead by my physiotherapist. This way I should get my body and mind strength back, so I will be better prepared for the rest of my career. It was funny to be on a bicycle again in the gym; that has been a few months which is very unusual for me, as you might understand.

At the moment I am very much looking forward to finally heading out of Blenheim. The weekend will be spent in Nelson/Golden Bay area and should be a nice distraction from the walls of my room/house and Blenheim. The weather forecast is not very good unfortunately, but I am not too worried about that at the moment.