Rimutakas, Featherston, Martinborough

State Highway 2 to the Wairarapa twists and turns through the Rimutaka Hills, inducing neckaches and car-sickness – a common New Zealand experience!

At the very top of the pass through the hills there used to be a little cafe called Pie in the Sky. The food it sold was pretty awful, but it was always a very welcome sight.

Coming from Britain this always made me think of the detective series Pie in the Sky, with Richard Griffiths as the police inspector who wants to retire and run his own restaurant called ‘Pie in the Sky’, and the wonderful Maggie Steed as his wife. I don’t know if this was in the proprietor’s mind when they named this little place…but sadly nowadays it’s all gone away.

Down from the hill, and just getting into the Wairarapa, is the town of Featherston. I only have a very old photo of Featherston, and to be honest the town has greatly improved in the last 20 years, so I’ll save that for another day.

The town has a famous museum (well, quite famous) containing a Fell engine – a kind of train engine which climbs up hills. Again, more to come on that some day.

Hurrying along, Martinborough has found fame as the centre of a group of small but rather good vineyards. The soil, climate and modern grape varieties – and perhaps the proximity to Wellington – have combined to make wine-making a viable industry hereabouts, and Martinborough now hums with visitors doing the wine trail.

The vines here are at Palliser Estate, the elite end of the industry. Palliser is obtainable in the UK, though the costs of importing in small quantities mean it’s quite pricey.

And here’s another: Te Kairanga. I’ve never seen their wine in the UK, though I keep looking!