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November 2nd 2014
Published: June 29th 2017
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Geo: -41.5116, 173.957

Well what an awesome day today has been. I'm sitting here now at our comfy room at the Two Tree Lodge in Blenheim, with slight sunburn, a full stomach and half a bottle of Shingle Peak wine to finish. After-all, we have now arrived in the Marlborough region!

The day started off in Christchurch. We were up (barely) with weary eyes around 8.30am to grab breakfast and explore Christchurch. I found a nice spot called Vics Bakery and Cafe. Wasn't a bargain at 45nzd for us both but our eggs Benedict/Florentine and freshly squeezed juices hit the spot. Subsequent exploration of Christchurch was actually a brisk, sad and largely uneventful affair. Of course Id read/heard about the extensive damage done by the 2010-11 earthquakes, but actually exploring the CBD and seeing it for myself first hand was an eye opener. The city was a construction zone. It felt like a ghost town. Empty, quiet streets, ad hoc witches hats for seemingly random road blocks, quarter full make shift rocky car parks where buildings once stood and derelict, half destroyed structures everywhere you looked. Tumbleweeds would be right at home. Especially in abandoned hotels, shops and businesses it felt like someone had hit a stop watch in February 2011. They were left just as they were when the quakes hit. Menus still visible, lights hanging, tourist information brochures on the rack, all with dust, debris and leaves for company. It was all a sad sight, most notably the state of the grand central Cathedral, its spire gone and rear collapsed entirely, now a gaping window to the dozens of grateful pigeons that have taken residence on The exposed beams within.

From Christchurch, we started the 2.5 hours drive northwards along the East Coast towards Kaikoura and then onwards to Blenheim in the Marlborough region. Don't think for a second though that this drive was a chore. On the contrary, I feel the drives around the South Island are going to make up a memorable part of our overall experience. It wasn't long after departing Christchurch we were marveling at lush green fields, rolling hills, pretty streams, rivers and yes, countless sheep.

First a pit stop for supplies, and what eventuated into the worst part of the day. Not the shopping part; wine, muesli bars, chocolate, juice, water, chips, fruit, lollies, bread, ham and cheese to sustain us for our travels; that and an unwanted discovery on return to our car. A friendly and kind individual was waiting to deliver us bad news: some careless fellow had plowed his door into the side of our rental car, inspected his work, left his mark and went on his way with no note. Our informer kindly provided us details, but unsure of how this will eventuate.

The drive into Kaikoura was inspiring. Shades of the Great Ocean Road back home and Cape of Good Hope road in South Africa. Winding roads, crystal clear bright blue water, tunnels, and even the bonus of overlooking Whitecap mountains above. The town itself feels like a surf beach side resort, where we settled on the beach for ham and cheese rolls for lunch. We elected to skip whale watching due to time restrictions, extreme cost, mixed reviews and similar experiences. Instead we took a couple hours walk along the Kaikoura Peninsula trail down towards some seal colonies and beaches.

What a beautiful and scenic walk in glorious warm sunshine under blue skies. Seeing wild seals only metres away was pretty special. The walk took us up along cliff edges with great views of the ocean, beaches and thousands of birds and seals.That wouldn't be enough, or the best of the seal action to come however. Id real of a place north of Kaikoura called Oahu where small seal cubs liked to hang out. When we found the lookout, that was pretty awesome. No other people, and a couple hundred seals on the beach, many very young and very playful. The best was yet to come though at Ohau stream down the road.

A 10 minute walk to the base of a waterfall. Here a pool with 8 tiny seal cubs playfully living it up whilst their parents are out fishing... living it up.. and their big black eyes. Think the cat from Shrek, times 107. One of the best animal experiences in memory.An hour on, we arrived at Blenheim around 7.30. We picked up some fish n chips and settled for a night in as the weather changed and rain started to fall. Tomorrow we have a full day to explore the wine region of Marlborough before heading on to Nelson.

Additional photos below
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16th November 2014

Doesn't look like a sandy beach!

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