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Giesen News

Giesen Sav in Kenya Graeme Giles packed a bottle of Giesen Estate Sauvignon Blanc and took it with him on his travels to Kenya!

Graeme Giles is part of our Grower Family at Giesen and has been growing Awatere Valley fruit for us for a few years now. He went on an amazing trip to Kenya in October 2022 and packed with him a bottle of Giesen Estate Sauvignon Blanc which he took with him on his travels throughout Kenya. The highlight seeing Giesen Sauvignon Blanc on top of Mount Kilimanjaro and a few wild animals!


Here is Graeme’s blog from his trip…..


“The best part of being a grape grower is the quiet time between harvest and budburst where very little can be done. I was lucky enough to take a 6-week escape through Kenya and Tanzania. It was a spontaneous stab on a map, and the English background, that put me there, and my first experience in the South African continent. The challenges of arriving 2 days before the politically hot, 5 yearly elections suggested it was not a wise timing choice. Both slid by without issue. My mission, to carry 3 bottles of Marl Wine, representing 3 companies I grow for, and to photograph them in as many interesting backgrounds as possible. Twenty-four hours in, and the hotel maid broke the first bottle which drew considerable apologies from the manager. I should have claimed the Pernod Sauv.to be a rare collector’s item. To lighten the load 2 of us savoured the alcohol-free Giesen Wine the following night. But silly, silly we left the empty on the room desk. The apologetic maid efficiently disposed of it. Lucky I did have spare labels. Thanks to Ant Moore I still had a bottle of red although I had to bolt it down (well most of it) to get on a train between Mombasa and Nairobi 10 days later. At least I had one bottle. So, with a bit of juggling and spare labels I hit the road, well dirt. Seven days and 700 km off road on a 400cc Honda through 5 game parks, and a lake, to the coast at Diani Beach just south of Mombasa.

The highlight, 120km in one day into Rakinga wildlife park, a government camp for training international students. The small associated Maasai Village with its, redundant dried-up well, had been devastated by the Covid and the non existent students. I was the sole guest. Not one other adventurer or vehicle was sited except a warden’s land cruiser and a park gyrocopter checking us out. Giraffes’ zebras, gazelles and the odd elephant wandered across the bushed desert path.

Lake Jipeon the Tanzanian boarder gave us access to water buffalo hippos, more zebras, antelopes and heaps of bird life. Amboseli National Park 300km south of Nairobi, covering 390 sq km, was more formal. It required safari vehicle entry. This park exposed the climate change drought, and the immense feed shortage across the vast savanna grasslands. Quite the contrast was the finish in Diani Beech, south of Mombasa with its green ambiance, over friendly room ransacking monkeys, and all-inclusive hotels. This gave a great alternative to the dry parched inland areas. It was then back to Nairobi and a challenging stay at the Kibera Slum with its 500,000 people under corrugated iron. City walking tours, more game park visits, volcano tours, and historical museums filled several days.

But Hmm the temptation was too great. Untrained and unprepared I jumped the bus to Arusha Tanzania and quizzed the only other 2 passengers onboard. They had booked to climb Kilimanjaro via the long Lemosho route starting the following morning so why not, after all, it is just a hike. Yeah right. I grabbed a few necessities including my bottle of “sauv”,checked the weather, paid the $1700 US fee and turned up outside the hotel, at 7.00am as instructed. I was met by an enthusiastic crowd already on board the full bus. It took a few minutes to realise the 9 porters, 2 guides, 2 helpers and cook were just for our party of 3. We even had a flush-toilet tent follow us all the way. The 7-day climb was strenuous, mostly because of the altitude starting at 1800 metres and finishing just under 6000m. Altitude sickness was common among many of the climbers. The last day and summit-push was especially tough. After a full days climb, and no sleep, at 10.30 pm we headed sky wood to meet the sunrise at the top. It was certainly a magic experience and worth the effort. Then another full day down 3000 metres in one clamber. I was buggered.

Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Parks are world renowned. They join at the Kenya, Tanzania boarder and cover almost 17000sq.km. I couldn’t resist and a 3-day Land Cruiser Adventure was on. Quite different to the earlier safaris, this was the tourist package. It gave great opportunity to see the big cats, lions and leopards, as well as giraffes elephants hippos and hyena. Most wildlife and especially the cats, have little reaction to the tourist vehicles. The tour guides drive off track to within metres of hungry lions and hyenas devouring slow zebra. Or they park beside leopards hiding prey in the trees. The annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle had just finished. This massive movement from Tanzania to Kenya crosses the Mara River and the fat crocks were still stacked against the riverbanks. My final day was spent on a fish farm north of Nairobi, courtesy of a friendly uber driver whose family welcomed me. As for the wine. My one bottle of red with sauv label lasted the distance. Marlborough wine is apparent but only in select scattered locations.

I left Kenya considering myself fully humbled. I pushed boundaries every day, mixed with the locals, and travelled simply. I had no problems, lost nothing and mostly felt safe. Above all the experience reinforced my belief that in New Zealand we are blessed and lucky. Countries like Kenya have virtually no social support system and individuals are forced to exist on non-existent incomes. Each of us in NZ has the opportunity to grow above our own difficulties and we have every support service and system available… We are truly privileged by comparison.”

Graeme Giles, October 2022.

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Graeme Giles - top of Kilimanjaro

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Giesen Estate Sauvignon Blanc up the top of Kilimanjaro

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Zebras, Kenya

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Lion, Kenya