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The hostel seems to be filled with other foreign (to NZ)travelers. Judging from the babel in the background, they seem mostly from Northern Europe. I've recognized German, Dutch, Hebrew and a Scandanavian langusge. Their are also some young Asians in the hostel, which just about filled up last night. Just a few KIwis and I'm the only American. Coming over on the ferry, about half of the cyclists (we had to group together to get on) were from the US.
From this morning's paper, it seems that there has been a record year in tourism in New Zealand. While there has been a fall off from the US (you couldn't judge it by the flight over), it seems to have been made up by an increase in visitors from Asia. That is really a big difference from my last trip here in 1996. Then the only Asians you saw were packs of Japanese tourists in tour groups, most older people. Now there seem to be many more young people traveling independently.
I got up this morning and it was cloudy and blowing about 25 knots southeasterly, directly to windward. After having a breakfast of yogurt & Muesli and two lattes (I have a miniature espresso maker that makes a double shot and a milk frother--It was one of the things that I couldn't give upwhen I lightened up), I decided to try it anyway. The trip from Picton to Blenheim started with a rather long hill, but after that it was pretty flat. It wound through the hills and then out onto a plain just before Blenheim. The wind wasn't bad in the hills, but was a little gusty when I got to the open spaces near Blenheim. The road was quite busy. It seemed that the cars were going about 100kph and there were a number of those big double trailer trucks. It has a nice wide paved shoulder along most of it, but they pave by spreading tar and then gravel on top and rolling it, so the shoulder significantly rougher than inside the lines where it has been smoothed out by traffic.
Among the sights along the way was an Alpaca farm, along with the usual sheep, cattle and deer. There was also this car going the other way with a Boxer with its head out the window and the longest tongue flapping in the breeze I've ever seen. I stopped about 18km out at the Koromiko cheese factory and shop. It said "The World's Finest Cheeses", so how could I resist. They did taste pretty good, so I got a little package of their sharp cheddar.
It is pretty cool, windy and gray here in Blenheim, which is definitely an agricultural town, sort of like Napa, but not quite so trendy. It has the requisite two or three supermarkets, lots ot supply stores, heavier service industry on the outskirts and a pretty nice downtown. They have an interesting method of slowing the traffic here in New Zealand. I've seen it here, in Picton, and on some of the smaller streets in Auckland. They have crosswalks that double as speedbumps. The crosswalk is elevated to the same height as the sidewalks and has a cobblestone ramp on each side. The center section is brick. The cars have to slow down to get over them, but it is kind of like riding up and then down, not a jarring bump.
Spent the night at Jack's Backpackers on High Street, Bleheim. I wouldn't recommend it. Just a little too run-down and grubby for me. The bed was clean and comfortable enough, but the only place they had hot water was in the shower. They had a instant hot water heater for coffee and tea in the kitchen. I used water for that to rinse my dishes. About the only other guests were a group of Japanese, who may have been traveling together since there was only a single car in the drive. The only good things about the place were Jack and Beau, two Border Collies who run the place.