El albergue

El albergue

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Along the way

The morning of the eleventh day of Mom and Dad’s trip, we left Napier, heading north toward Coromandel. First stop was Huka Falls, actually more rapids than falls, a solid channel of lovely, crashing white water further misted over by a fine curtain of rain. We ran along the path by its side a little way, gingerly keeping our flip flops from slipping on the slick rocks. Ignoring the moisture seeping through various seams and surfaces, we stood looking out at the roar, soaking in the raw beauty of the water surrounding us.

And then, of course, as we stepped back towards the parking lot to leave, the rain stopped. A few minutes later, however, it came back with a vengeance, although by that point we were already at our next stop – the Huka Honey Hive, a fun honey shop with an extensive array of honeys and meads available for tasting. So many shades of color, so many nuances of flavor, so much to savor. We enjoyed chatting with one of the shop attendants who had been to a beekeeper’s conference in Bakersfield the year before, then picked up one or two small things before getting back on the road.

Driving in the rain. More driving. More rain.

Lunchtime! We had the fixings for a nicely simple picnic, so we pulled over by a rustic bus stop, keeping to the car to stay out of the continuous downpour. The setting made us all giggle a little, amused by the awkwardness of trying to not get crumbs everywhere as we ripped up a big loaf of ciabatta and smothered it with quark (a very mild, spreadable cheese) and sweet chili beetroot relish. Crisp apples from a roadside stand, nuts, and pretzels filled out the bill of fare, completing our quirky roadside picnic.

The most interesting part of the journey that day was the drive along the coastal road up the northern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. Absolutely gorgeous. Absolutely hair-raising. Imagine a narrow winding road with barely enough room for two cars, at times room for only one, a cliff rising sharply from one shoulder and waves swirling nearly up to the rocky other, the road slippery with rain and the cover of night falling fast. Absolutely gorgeous… but there may have been more than a few white knuckles and bitten lips in the car during that stretch of the trip.

It was with relief that we finally made it to our lodging at the Coromandel Country Cottages, a neat and tidy establishment, and then to dinner at the local favorite The Top Pub, where we unwound with stellar scallops and amazing honey pork with kumara mash (mashed sweet potatoes) melting in our mouths.

A good end to the day.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hawke's Bay = Wine Day

Alrighty, now that the holidays are over, we’re back to the much delayed chronicling of our adventures with Mom and Dad… Day 10!

The drive down from Taupo to Napier in the Hawke’s Bay area was beautiful, with forests beyond count and little waterfalls peaking out from all the nooks and crannies of twisting gorges or bubbling down near the road itself. As we drove along, we gradually realized we were actually travelling through sustainable logging country, with chunks of stately growth, baby pines, and shorn hills that looked like battlefields all evenly spaced across the hills.

As we started seeing fewer trees and more coastal landscape, Mom and Dad kept their eyes out for a nice winery to stop at for a little lunchtime tasting. As a happy chance, we pulled up into Esk Valley Winery, which had friendly service, picnic tables with a nice view of the sea, and excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And joy of all joys, to accompany these delightful wines, we had the luscious treat of a lunch of… PB&J! Not exactly the best combo, but ah well, such is occasionally the cost of travelling, right?

The second winery we stopped at, Crab Farm Winery, was a little bit disappointing in the wine department, although they did have a dessert wine with the amusing name of Botrytis, which Dad laughingly informed us is basically the technical term for something farmers usually call “bunch rot,” in which the grapes start to rot on the wine. …tasty… They did, however, have a restaurant with some meal options that got me thinking… now, who wants to come over and try some lime crusted fish on pearl barley with porcini cream and roasted tomatoes?!

Our third winery of the day was Church Road, one of the oldest in Hawke’s Bay and definitely one of the best. The attendants were quietly charming, and the wine amazing. One that stuck out to us as delightfully unique was their Marzemino, a deep red with a surprisingly light flavor that originated in the north of Italy. Of course, when we were lucky enough to get to sip a tiny bit from their Excellent Grand Reserve Pinot Noir, we got a view into exactly why some bottles are priced so very much out of our price range… let’s just say that if there had been a tag on the bottle, it might have made us cry… At least it was a wonderful finish to our day of tasting!