Published: September 21st 2009September 18th 2009
South Bay, Kaikoura
Consider the finger pointing towards the moon...... don't watch the finger or you'll miss all that heavenly glory - Bruce Lee
And that's exactly what we were doing, watching the finger and missing all the heavenly glory that surrounded us. Standing in the centre of some of the worlds most stunning scenery but we couldn't see it, it's not because our eyes were shut, they were open and looking but not seeing. The finger had now become the thorn in our side, pressing hard with its sharp nail, on occasions drawing tears, nothing seems to suppress the poking finger, it dominates most if not all our conversations and all conversations come round to the finger, it was hard to concentrate on anything else. The finger taps our forehead when we're trying to sleep and if we're lucky enough to sleep, it worms its way into our dreams. The finger is relentless, a one digit beast we made and now can't control. We had to get out of the city confines and find that heavenly glory.
Where The Mountains Meet The Sea
The word Kaikoura means one thing to the many passing travelers or tourists, “Whale Spotting”
followed by “but we only stayed one night” and in our minds that's a crime against your soul, where are the karma police when
We're just happy to be here!
we need them! Admittedly the drive to Kaikoura lacked some of the more stunning scenery that we have become accustomed to but it still knocks the spots off the M25! The road into Kaikoura however is blessed with its own picturesque scenery, where snowy mountains meet the beautiful ocean, giving Kaikoura its stunning setting positioned at the edge of a sweeping bay.
We had a tip off from our hostel about a walk up stream to a tiny waterfall and a place baby fur seals play in the small rocky pool below. We arrived at Ohau before the hostel tip off had finished her sentence! A small walk followed the gently running stream, under the rail bridge and up to the waterfall. It took a couple of moments for our eyes to adjust, there in the pool were three baby seals, splashing about in the shallows, occasionally stopping to make sure the adoring crowd were still adoring and we were. These seals know how to work the crowd, playing with the balls in the pool, then stopping to pull the cutest doughy eyed face that would melt the coldest of hearts, then back to playing. We watched two babies
and their long journey to the sea following the stream down, over large rocks that blocked the flow of water, under the rail bridge, under the road, over the beach and into the open ocean and back again (we didn't watch it all, in fact we only watched them arrive at the first large rock and that took forever, they're very cute but very slow!) This whole coastline is awash with fur seal colonies, you look out over what seems a motionless rocky coast, slowly one by one the rocks start to move, it's only then that you comprehend the sheer quantity of seals.
The skies were clear and blue, the ocean lay motionless and we were in no rush, so we waited out the weekend for the whale watching trip, we chose the early one to guarantee we would get up for sunrise; a decision we did not regret. We were greeted by a bright red sunrise that constantly changed from shades of red and orange through to pinks and more muted colours. This sunrise sighting was all we needed to get us out of bed for the next three mornings for one of natures light shows and
she did not disappoint, every morning a different light show set across the backdrop of the bay, reflected in the ever changing ocean - pure magic!
Save The Whales.....................Eat The Japanese!!!
The expectations for spotting a whale were high, this could be our only chance to see one, particularly as the staring out endlessly at sea option had not provided even an ickle spout from the depths. We checked in for our boat departure where we were warned of there being a risk of sea sickness; typical, the day before the sea looked like a mill pond! Rob had been troubling himself over night as he was, concerned that he might have a repeat performance of the Poor Knights Island trip where he ended up feeding the fish! The warnings were enough to make Rob reach for the seasickness pills, just to put his mind at rest you understand! The boat was a slick affair fitted out with all the latest in whale detection systems plus an on board spotter just in case the technology was not up to the job. The swell was pretty big once we left the shelter of the bay, it was not long before
the first victims of the ocean demon struck and the sick bags were out. We tried to focus on the horizon and concentrate on the job of whale watching to keep us focused. Then an announcement from the crew a whale had surfaced, we buckled down as the skipper shot across the swell, we all piled out onto deck but alas it was too late the whale had already gone back to the depths. There was a degree of disappointed murmuring amongst the passengers but wait..... another potential sighting, everyone got back to their seats, pronto; a buzz of expectation swept the boat, would this be what we'd been waiting for? The boat stopped we piled out, and “there she blew!” our first whale sighting! It is bizarre really you see a tiny part of this utterly huge sperm whale above the water, it is hard to imagine how big they are, the spouting water and the huge tail appeared before it submerged back to the icy depths. There was no time for reflection as we were ushered back to our seats for a pod of Dusky dolphins that had been spotted, we were pretty chilled about the prospect of
seeing dolphins having already been lucky with seeing our fair share but nothing could have prepared us for the sight of this pod, at an estimated 500 (crews estimation, we did not try and count them) this was a sight like no other. There were dolphins as far as the eye could see, the water appeared to be churned up and looked like it was bubbling, an effect produced by the sheer number under, on and above the water, it looked as though a line had been drawn in the sea where the dolphins started and finished, a smooth looking surface in the far distance and the churned up ocean in front. After the dolphin excitement there was one more potential opportunity to see a whale but unfortunately nothing came of it. We headed back to terra firma which was a bit of a relief even between all the excitement of whale and dolphin spotting the constant rolling of the boat was taking its toll, with the majority starting to look a little green around the gills!
As we returned to base we reflected on seeing our first ever whale, here in NZ and we couldn't have been happier!
Going, Going, Gone
Our first, last and only whale!
Perfection On A Disposable Plate!
Our early cruise meant that we still had the rest of the day ahead of us, more importantly lunch, the opportunity to try out some local fresh fish could not be missed in Kaikoura and where better to sample it than at a road side Crayfish shack with tables and chairs set up next to the makeshift kitchen overlooking the beach. We were greeted by a friendly kiwi who talked us through the available fish and the serving options; it came with bread or rice! Always best to keep it simple, particularly in your makeshift kitchen with no running water, luckily we did not need the toilet but we think they were somewhere in the bushes behind the shack! Crayfish had all sold out but we were told “a friends bringing more” as he looked towards the rock pools 50 metres away (if you get our drift!). Kirstin had the grilled Elephant fish sandwich and Rob had a local favorite, Paua pattie sandwich both with roquette and lemon, all too good for a single taster, Rob's next course was the scallop sandwich, the “a friends bringing more” hadn't turned up yet so no third
Dry Land Whale
Street Mural Kaikoura
course! Edible perfection surrounded by sea and simplicity. We had a slow walk around Kaikoura Peninsula watching the last of the sun turn the dusky sky pink, a perfect end to a beautiful day, awaiting the start of another.
It was only at the end of the day, surrounded by all this perfection that the events of the day sank in, leaving us all warm and fuzzy inside.
Having an Indian in a French Town in New Zealand!
The time had come to leave Kaikoura and head to Bank's Peninsula, the closer we got the more the weather deteriorated, the winding road from the top of the old volcano rim was shrouded in clouds, obscuring our view below. We popped out of the clouds as the road descended giving us the chance to make out our next destination of Akaroa. The town is an old French settlement complete with French street names and restaurants; this is where the Christchurch inhabitants come out to get an authentic French meal. For us though it could not have been further from a French meal for dinner, we had arrived at the hostel for curry night! Rob took a quick trip to the
shop to buy the necessary ingredients to whip up a dhal and salad so we could join the evening.
It was here that we learnt New Zealand has two degrees of separation where as the rest of the world has six, we met Salli and Sebastian who we had met but not really spoken to when they managed the hostel in Arrowtown which they had since left, we had bumped into other people along the way that had met them on their travels and here they were working in the hostel. We were pleased to have had the opportunity to get to talk to them on this occasion, you only have a short time to get to know people but what we did find out was these guys not only grab the bull by the horns but push, pull and swing it around in the spirit of living, abusing the poor bull worse than a drunken Matador in a back street bull ring on a Tuesday! In other words, they live life! We wish you both all the luck for your future wherever it takes you.
Akaroa was a pleasant place to stay even when the weather was
not great but when the sun comes out it really is a beautiful place where a huge inlet from the sea is surrounded by mountains, a nice place to relax, with the sun came the people. We were hoping to stay a little longer to continue our relaxing but had overlooked the fact that at weekends this place gets busy with its close proximity to Christchurch and the hostel was booked, ours minds were made up for us, it was time to move on. Plan B was to try Hamner Springs but alas it was also all booked for the weekend, so it was time for Plan C, find any hostel close to Christchurch but out of the city.....Sumner fitted the bill nicely.
We passed Lyttleton on the way to Akaroa, well we stopped for a wee and we both thought nice toilets, just kidding, we thought nice place with its funky café and edgy people, this place threw up something different but a wee is only a wee and we were off to Akaroa. We passed back through Lyttleton on the way to Sumner and this time we stopped long enough for a killer coffee and a splendid
muffin before our wee in the nice toilets!
Sumner is a beachside Christchurch suburb with a village atmosphere, it has a small centre with cafés, restaurants, surf shacks and a tiny cinema, what more could you need in life?! Oh yes and not forgetting the two beaches, one complete with surf and surfers, whatever the weather, looking like seals donned head to foot in wet suits, gloves, boots and hoods, not for your fair weathered sports enthusiast. Unfortunately our three nights in Sumner were spent shrouded in cloud and rain, that did not deter us too much, well OK maybe a tad, we did get out for some brisk walks and to see the eerie rock formations, or at least that's how they looked covered in cloud. We are now beginning to understand why the Maori name for this land is Aotearoa which translates to “the land of the long white cloud”, we could not agree more! The day we moved on was the day the sun came out, showing off all the distant snowcapped mountains that surround Christchurch and the surrounding area.
We sat in our hostel, our last hostel in Christchurch, in fact our last in
New Zealand and even sadder our last of the trip, the evil finger waiting patiently tapping the door frame ready to resume its torment, flicking only questions, never answers, questions in questions which led on to yet more questions, like a tornado running rampant through our heads, the only rest we got was from a Bee Sting? (the most delicious cake in the whole wide world!) Like most cities with an international airport the hostels become a travelers waiting room, a place where, people sit and wait out their last few moments before their number is called out, then with a deep breath they are gone, only to be replaced by the next traveler, it's also a place of their first few moments before the big NZ explore but their time will come just like our time has come. It's hard not to wish your few remaining days away and just get on with getting home. Mixed emotions swirled around an already full head, the excitement of seeing friends and family (not necessarily in that order!) and the dread of normality, it had to end someday and today is a good day.
Before we said our farewells to NZ
and the traveling lifestyle we had fondly become accustomed to, we had our last family of strangers to meet, courtesy of old friends of Jamie. Joanne picked us up from our hostel with a couple of wee cute cheeky chaps who made us feel very welcome. Yet again we have been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness that people have shown us as we spent our last two days in the company of Joanne, Martin, Alec and Lewis. Thanks guys for your kind hospitality, it was lovely to meet you and hopefully our paths will cross again one day.....probably when we arrive on your door step with our bags!!!
The Long, Long, Long Journey Home
Martin kindly took us to Christchurch airport, his two passengers sat in silence, taking in the last breaths of Kiwi air. The silence continued pretty much the whole 27 hour journey home, only prolonged with a five hour stop over in Singapore. As we reflected, lost in our own little world, fighting our own battles with normality and losing! Watching film after film to pass the time, wondering if anything has changed in our one year absence, only time would tell? Flying over Blighty,
We don't know what plant it is but we like it!
one thing which remains the same (at the moment) was the stand still traffic on the good old M25, ah home! Once the plane wheels touched down, our traveling was over. We walked through passport control and customs with a bag full of emotions, tiredness, sadness and excitement.
It felt like a Stars In your Eyes moment, when the doors open onto the awaiting arrival crowd, “Tonight Matthew, we are going to be exhaled travelers!" We were met at Heathrow by Mummy Alison, Mummy Jean and Mike Wallop Read we were shattered but the greetings of love, warmth and happiness were all we needed to lift our tired spirits!
Our touch down at Heathrow meant the start of a whole new far bigger adventure into the unknown.........
When Two Become Three
We will no longer leave two sets of footprints in the sand, a third pair will now walk with us! Most people bring back from their travels a stick of rock or a disease, nope, not us we bring back a new life.
Ningy the bump has already traveled around Oz and NZ, not that Ningy knows this yet but we look forward to sharing it
The Old Custom House
well, whats left of it! Kaikoura
all with Ningy in the future!
We have been so lucky to have had such an unforgettable adventure, the memories of which will stay with us forever........or is it luck? We made a decision to do the trip and made it happen (albeit with a little help from Hanson!), these opportunities in life should not be missed, for anyone thinking of having a new adventure in their life, whatever it is, take the bull by the horns and accept the challenge!!! It is with these thoughts in mind that we leave you with the following??? Do more than exist - Live! Do more than touch - Feel! Do more than look - Observe!
Do more than read - Absorb! Do more than hear - Listen! Do more than listen - Understand! Do more than think - Reflect! Do more than just talk - Say Something!
Thanks to all our Blog followers, it would not have been the same without you!!
There are more photos below