Seals, Whales & Crayfish

New Zealand's flag
Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Kaikoura
June 25th 2009
Published: July 1st 2009
Edit Blog Post

The Marlborough wine trail covers a pretty large area but most of the tours and tasting’s are done in Blenheim or Renwick. There are over 50 different wineries in the area and the tours can be done on bikes, foot or car. We decided to stick with the van as the last time we went on bikes it didn’t end too good!(add link) There were so many wineries we didn’t know which ones to go too. The lonely planet suggested some and we also got a list of all the vineyards open in the area in winter. First up we dropped in to ‘Forest’ where we could have 6 tasting’s for NZ$10 or 2 for free. We took the free option but still ended up trying 4 each. We eventually left with a bottle of 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. For those wondering was I drink driving I was barley tasting them and leaving Michelle to properly test them. Next up we went to Nautilus where you could have 6 free tasting’s. The girl in the cellar door was from Tyrone so we talked to her while about NZ and home. After testing the different wines we went with a red Pinot Noir which cost NZ$38(€24), a little bit expensive for us but will probably be worth it when we open it! When we got back in the van Michelle’s cheeks were a little red and she was slightly tipsy. It was very funny for 12 o’clock in the afternoon. Even though each tasting is only a small mouthful, when you’ve had 10 they can add up to a glass or more. If you had a designated driver for the day you could make a good day of it!

We left the Marlborough region and ventured southwards towards Kaikoura. Along the way we made a stop at a place called ‘The Store’, which is a very nice café/restaurant on the Pacific coastline. The Store is in the middle of nowhere but comes well recommended by the lonely planet and its even marked on the road map that we have. It was quite when we went in with only three other tables. It has big open fires and great views of the pacific waves crashing up onto the beach. We got a cake and coffee each before wondering down to the beach. We didn’t stay there long though as we had another stop to make before reaching Kaikoura. Donegal House just outside the town, is a restaurant/pup owned by an Irish family that immigrated from Ardragh in county Donegal nearly a century ago. When we arrived it was dark and we still hadn’t decided where to stay for the night. We did think about asking could we stay in the car park as we fancied staying there for awhile. When we went in we were met by a Jacksie (from Killinascully) type character behind the bar. When he found out we were Irish and from Galway he had a big welcome for us. As he had Guinness we had one each and talked to him for over an hour about home. He’s been to Ireland half a dozen times and knows the country very well, in fact he probably knows our history better than us. He is writing a book at the moment about his great grandmother and he had some very interesting stories to tell us about her. She was from Roscrea and while she lived there the average life expectancy was 26 years old. She lived to be 104 and wrote down some of her life before she passed away. His pub was very much like a traditional Irish pub with a big open fire place and plenty of pictures of his family home in Donegal and Kaikoura. He also advised us to cross over the Lewis Pass instead of Arthur’s Pass as it was the most scenic route to the west coast. That means though that we will have to skip Christchurch for a few weeks. We could have stayed there all night talking but we needed to find a place to park for the night. I didn’t feel like asking about staying the night in his car park as he might have felt under pressure to say yes and also I would have been embarrassed if he said no. We felt it was right to leave with good memories of Donegal House!

Next morning we drove down to a seal colony where we said we would have breakfast while the sun came up. The seals are literally everywhere and you can walk right up beside one if you want. It is not advisable though as they have a nasty bite. They recommend you stay at least 10 metres from them. They come out into the car park and even sleep behind bushes. I was up close taking photos of one when I realised I was surrounded by loads sleeping behind trees and bush. They are curious animals and look back at you wondering why the hell you are staring at them. Although dangerous on land they are meant to be amazing to swim with and not at all dangerous. It was great to be able to get so close to the seals without it been on a tour or in a boat.

We had a dilemma that day as to what to do. Swim with dolphins, swim with seals, sea fishing or whale watching. We went with whale watching as we will be able to swim with dolphins elsewhere but wont be able to see whales. The type of whale we would go and see was the Sperm Whale which swims not far from the coastline because the sea bed drops from 20m to 1800m in one go because of the continental shelf. We had been promised an 80% refund if we didn’t see any whales. Before we got on the boat our captain informed us that it was a near perfect day for sightings and that the sea was calm. You can see a Sperm whales spout from nearly 2km’s away. The whale swims deep in the ocean for 35 minutes before returning to the top for more air for 10 minutes. We sailed out to sea and when the boat wasn’t moving we were allowed outside. The crew knew there were whales nearby through the use of sonar. Everyone was looking around to see the spray from the whales spout. Two guys known as ’spotters’ lookout from on top of the boat. Of course I was the first to spot it! It was my new prescription sunglasses! The captain told everyone it was on the right hand side and spotted by a passenger first(me!). The boat was far from the whale so we all has to hold on while the captain drove towards it as quickly as possible before it went again. When we got near all we could see was the top of the sperm whale. Eventually before it goes down again it takes one more deep breath and dives, lifting its tale high up into the air before submerging. We saw four different whales when on average they only get to see two.

When we got back to ‘Ted’ there was flyer on the van advertising an outdoor seafood barbeque. They had crayfish on the menu as well for a very reasonable price. Crayfish or Rock Lobster is very expensive with prices up around €45 for one. They had a whole one for €29 plus they had giant green muscles or scallops at €3 for six. We drove down to the bbq and realised it was at the side of the road, but the place was full of cars and people so it had to be good. It was cold out but we wrapped up anyway and ordered a mixture of things. They did half a crayfish of €15 so we got that and three muscles and three scallops. In total it cost €19 but it could have easily cost us double that in a restaurant. As we had never had crayfish before and it was the speciality in the area we were keen to try it. It is full of meat and every part can be picked, sucked or chewed! The ‘giant green muscles’ are giant and are very popular in New Zealand. Although I’m not a big fan of seafood I was pretty impressed with what I had. Also the fact that you are sitting practically on/in the pacific ocean made it even better.

Or time was over on the east coast and we hit the road for the Lewis pass in search of the west coast. The area is known as Westland but better known as Wetland! So far the weather has been fine for us and even though people had warned us that it was the NZ winter, it is nothing like the winter we get at home. Although it might be cold it rains nowhere as much as it does at home.

On thing I have noticed about NZ is the amount of one way bridges! They say there are more sheep here than people and I would say there are probably more one way bridges than people too. So far we have done 2500km and I have to say the roads, although small and windy, are very good and excellently signposted. Although, I have had to do more than enough U-ee’s over the last two weeks!

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: Mundy - July!

Additional photos below
Photos: 42, Displayed: 28


Tot: 0.036s; Tpl: 0.02s; cc: 12; qc: 25; dbt: 0.008s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 3; ; mem: 1.2mb