"I wanna hang a map of the world at my house. Then I wanna stick pins in the locations that I`ve traveled to.
...But first I have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won`t fall down."
-Mitch Hedberg

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blasting Blenheim

Care and I were so excited to see some new scenery after what felt like an eternity in the Nelson/Marlborough Region, so we just drove as far as we could before sunset. That got us to Blenheim, a small town in the heart of New Zealand wine country.

We freedom camped just south of town, near a mountain bike track. The parking lot was fine, but it didn’t have any facilities, meaning every morning we had to wake up and speed to town so we didn’t pee our pants. We make every effort to be responsible freedom campers because we want to diffuse the negative stereotypes that locals have about budget travelers. A lot of Kiwis hate freedom campers because there’s always one disrespectful vagabond that litters and poops in the bushes, ruining things for everyone else.

There was one small surprise about sleeping among the Blenheim vineyards…hearing constant gunshots.

That’s right – constant gunshots.

At one point, we thought we were being attacked by canons. It put living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn to shame. Apparently there’s a large NZ Air Force base just west of town, and they like to practice…you know in case freaking New Zealand gets invaded. After listening to how much the Royal NZ Air Force practices, I pity any country dumb enough to attack the Kiwis.

A highlight of Blenheim was the Sunday morning farmers’ market. A charming old man from a local olive orchard, Tussock, took the time to explain several types of olives they grow, and let us taste the difference in the oils. We were impressed, so we bought a really tasty bottle of garlic-infused olive oil.

People keep asking if we think New Zealand is “backwards” or “twenty years behind”, and we’ve always been confused by the question. I mean, things are slower here, but that’s mostly due to the smaller population (4 million), not the lack of any technology or convenience. Sure, free internet is a little tougher to find, central heating doesn’t exist, and don’t even get Carolyn started on how crappy the laundry dryers are here. But other than that, it’s sweet as.


The farmers’ market was one of the only times where saw what people mean about going back in time. The farmers’ markets here are held by…real farmers. It’s not like the pockets of “rural consciousness” that pop up in Union Square or abandoned K-Mart parking lots on a Saturday morning in the States. These people head to the horse grounds in town and sell their produce. Little kids run around getting their faces painted and listening to the “Story Time Lady”. It’s not a pretense at capturing the lost agrarian utopia. It’s just farmers. At a market. Same thing goes for the endless number of fruit stands and “fresh eggs” signs you see on every road and motorway in New Zealand.

The simplicity and functionality made me feel transported in time. The only question is, with the frenzied rate that people in the States seem to be going “back” to organic produce and grass-fed animals, is New Zealand a land frozen in the distant past, or a country light years ahead in the future?

I know, mind blower, right?

You’re welcome.


  1. Shawn/Carolyn,

    Haven't written you guys in a while. You guys trip me out with your adventures. I have to live vicariously through you, ya know, so keep it up.

    Things are going well for us in Texas; our daughter (Kayleigh Renee) should be born at the end of next month, and I'm hoping to get promoted next month too.

    I miss you crazy kids, and I'm hoping that we can make our paths cross again soon within the next few years.

    - Justin

  2. dear c&s (though i don't really know s, but hi anyway!), i'd like to let you two know your blog is the best ever. even better is the fact that you guys have tons of photos where you have two thumbs up :) on a random note, california (at least, the bay area) is ripe-full of farmer's markets with real farmers. mind blowing.