Published: November 18th 2008August 24th 2008
Ok, so we are seriously behind again with the blogs. Sorry, we will do our best to catch up, and fill you in with our last few months of adventure as briefly as possible.
We have a few important messages for August first though- Congratulations to Marie and Ben on their wedding, and congratulations to Michael and Charlie on the birth of baby Mia.
After a night in the surf beach of and Curio Bay, another DOC spot with an honesty box as payment, we drove through the scenic route to Papatowai, Waikawa, and stopped at Purekakanui.........the Maori names are a real mouthful and difficult to remember, which is a bit like the welsh language I guess. Then we stopped at the very simply named ¨Jack´s Bay¨ which was beautiful and secluded with small, cute houses and lots of sheep. It was the access point to ¨´Jack´s Blowhole¨´ - , well thats after a few too many stella aaaarrtois and a tandoori mixed grill we heard......seriously though what a site, a naturally formed blowhole, 200m in from the sea and about 190m deep.
Then we drove through Owaka, onto Nugget Point, stopping at Roaring Bay for another of
our highlights. We spotted live, wild, yellow eyed penguins, which are the rarest type in the world. There is a hide at the top of the cliff, especially for the purpose, and if you are there at an hour or so before dusk, and have binoculars you can spot them coming out of the surf to nest up on the beach for the night. It was amazing, sorry the photos aren´t so good, but we would have needed a bigger lens to get a good shot.
We felt pretty good about seeing such a privileged sight, and finally fulfilling our quest to spot wild penguins. That night we camped at a site in the tiny village of Kaka Point, which reminded us of a small cornish village. The beach was quiet with good surf and the sun was shining. We were finally getting some good weather.
The next major spot was the city of Dunedin, now cities in NZ aren´t a fraction of the size of those in the UK and are much more civilised. We found it to be quite pleasant with some great beaches walking distance from the centre. The Otago Peninsula was just a short
drive away, again with some scary winding narrow roads, but great views, and the possibility of spotting wild albatross, although our bird spotting luck had run out by this point. We did a bit of free camping that night just outside the city behind a beach surf club at Warrington.
We were heading up the east coast with the aim of heading for the ski fields. We stopped off at Morekai and saw the famous boulders!! which were just big round rocks on the beach, but hey anything for another tourist attraction, and I guess they were kind of interesting if geology is your thing.
At Oamaru we had another penguin experience. This was also magical, but not in the same way as the yellow eyed. These were wild penguins, but were part of the sanctuary. They are tagged and come back to the same spot each night. They were the very tiny blue penguins, which are incredible cute, at only 30cm high, and come to shore as a group or ´raft´ - at which time you can pay to watch from a dimly lit podium a few feet away. Then they scramble up the rocks and nest
in the grass nearby. It was definitely worth the visit. A mile or so up the coast was another hide for the yellow eyed penguins (for free), so we were able to spot another couple of wild birds coming ashore. We now felt like penguins experts.
We should mention at this time that the weather had returned to its usual cold self with torrential rain, which meant a very wet night at Timaru before heading inland to Fairlie which was the nearst town to Mount Dobson where we had chosen to do our skiing. The weather had been pretty bad for the last few days and the roads and the ski fields had all been closed due to heavy snow, but reopened the day we arrived luckily. Mount Dobson was only about 30k away from Fairlie and you could drive right up to the ski field, with the help of snow chains. If you have never used snow chains before, well I can tell you its a messy cold horrible job, fitting them at the side of a road halfway up a mountain.
I (Em) had never skiied before so we were thrilled to find that the learners
slope was empty, everyone in NZ can already ski it seems. We had a lesson, with a British guy, that was ok, but not the greatest, and we were using the rope pull lift!! But at the end of the day the basics were mastered with minimal falling over. We later found out that there was a better ski field about an hours drive away, so the next day we headed to Roundhill. It had a huge learners area. Admittedly there were a lot of tiny kids whizzing around like Franz Klammer, but we did our best to ignore them. But after a lesson from the brilliant David from Switzerland, it was onto the T bar and the intermediate slope, parrallel turning like a pro.......well not quite of course...there were a few snowball ski moments, but the main thing was that I was enjoying it and could keep up with Stu.
The next day we hit the slopes again, and after another lesson progressed up to the steeper intermediate slopes and after about 6 hours solid of skiing I couldn´t walk anymore and needed to get out of there for some much needed rest. We stayed in the nearby
town of Lake Takapo, literally on the lakes edge. It was a beautiful spot, as the skies were blue and clear, snow lay on the ground and the lake glistened a brilliant green colour. At night time the temperatures dropped to below 0 deg, we were wearing thermals and had several blankets to sleep with. It was due to the fact that we also kept our heating inside the van blasting, I guess, the back window of the van spontaneously cracked and smashed frightening us to death. It was especially cold that night with just a piece of cardboard replacing it. The next morning we had to drive to Christchurch to get it fixed. It was fine as we were heading that way anyway. The repair guys were amazing, they let us use their van for an hour or 2 while, they fixed it, and it was done straight away.....that would never happen so promptly at home!!
We spent a couple of nights camping at South Brighton beach, which was a short bus ride from the centre of Christchurch. Christchurch is a really nice city. It has its dodgy bits, like anywhere else, but has a lovey city centre,
with a real english feel. Maybe it´s the river Avon flowing through it.
After Christchurch we made it to Kaikoura, the whale watching capital of NZ. We went straight to the tour office and booked onto a trip for the next morning, and then explored the one street that is Kaikoura - there is not a lot to do really, although we did walk down the coast to the seal sanctuary for some close up encounters. Then we indulged in Kaikoura´s other famous pastime, eating crayfish, freshly BBQued right on the beach and a fraction of the price back home. Beautiful.
The next morning we were up and ready for our trip only to find that it had been cancelled due to the weather and was unlikely to go in the next few days. We were gutted. We had heard of sightings of blue whales, minkes, humpbacks and orcas. But, we cut our losses and hit the road to make our way back to the ferry for the trip to the North Island, we had to make it all the way back to Auckland for the 15th of Sept. This time we took the cheaper Bluebridge ferry which
was an old french vessel and quite basic, but we got there safely and comfortably.
There are more photos below