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Our Travels in New Zealand Part 1

Author: Mal Part (More Trip Reviews by Mal Part)
Date of Trip: March 2007



The course he’s on is quite an adventure for him – his first time away from home with people he doesn’t know. He chats away about having been to Christchurch once with his rugby team, and how Christchurch supplies most of the rugby players to the professional leagues – it’s clear he’d rather be out on the field practicing his rugby with his mates, and he tells me so. My guess is that he’s a bit home sick and he starts telling me about his dad’s failed transport business and he now drives a JCB for a living. With a, “Time for bed, hey”, he’s gone.

After a little accounting, I’m off to bed too – it’s a travelling day tomorrow, and we want to arrive early to avoid a long search for a motel.

Day 14 - Journey to Kaikoura

We’re on the road early for the short drive down the SH-1 to Kaikoura. The landscape’s odd – very hilly, but the hills are khaki coloured, with very few trees or bushes. Cows and sheep are also absent, which is very odd for NZ. It’s as if the hills are grass covered and the sun has scorched it.

The railway runs alongside the road for the whole journey, and a passenger train and a goods train add interest to the drive. For much of the way, the road also hugs the coast, and since this is the east of the Island, it’s the South Pacific Ocean we we’re looking at. The rollers are quite high, and they break and crash into the shore with dramatic effect.

By 12 noon were in Kaikoura and head straight for the sea-front area to look for a motel. Some are already saying “No Vacancies” but luckily we find the White Morph Motor Inn. The name has nothing to do with an unusually coloured cartoon character; a white morph is a large sea bird, a bit like a gull. The lady at reception says she only has one vacancy, but warns it’s next to the laundry. The mitigation is that the laundry shuts at 9pm and the room is only $100. We take it.

After unpacking, we head straightway to the i-Site to check if we need to do anything about our whale-witching reservations for the next day. The ever-helpful i-Site person says, “No, just turn up 30 minutes beforehand to check in and pay”. While in the i-Site, we run into the two French girls we’d met on the winery tour yesterday – they were trying to book a whale-watch too.

After a brunch of double eggs and bacon on toast, we make a plan to do a walk around the Kaikoura Peninsula!!!

Kaikoura is a small town. There’s a “high street” running directly off of the SH-1 – it hugs the shoreline of the peninsula – our motel is along this road, as is the i-Site office and all the cafés, shops, motels and restaurants. Beyond our motel there is very little except a car park at the end of the peninsula. From here starts a walkway that takes us around the balance of the peninsula’s headland, high up on the cliff tops. It’s the home of a seal colony and a wide variety of sea birds including: small penguins, gannets, cormorants and roaming albatrosses.

It’s an easy walk once you’ve climbed the zig-zag path that gets you to the cliff top. Again we run into the two French girls and pass some time chatting in broken English. Instead of retracing our steps, we decide to take the “shoreline walkway” for our return journey. The i-Site advisor had told us that this path is okay except for the two hours either side of high tide, when it gets dangerous. I’d noticed that high tide was about 9pm – we should be okay.

The shoreline was much more interesting – seaweed, shells, a closer look at the seals, and more interaction with the sea birds. We are unlucky with the penguins, they are probably at sea, fishing. The only one we see is a dead one; washed up by the incoming tide. But, the seals are entertaining and the sea’s always exciting.

Much of the walk is on cobbles or pathways worn by people and the sheep. But, towards the tip of the peninsula, the rock was only partially eroded – fingers reached out into the sea, and incoming waves crashed over them periodically and filled the small inlets. This made for an exciting and slightly perilous scramble up and down the rocks, timing each excursion so as to avoid the incoming swell. It was only 5pm, and I imagined that by 7pm (2 hours before high tide), it would be impossible to make this section of the walk without getting very wet!!!

By the time we get back to the car park we could both ‘feel’ our legs and our feet were aching from the scramble over the rocks and walking on the cobbles.

A chat in the car park reveals some useful information about eating in Rotorua – although our plan does not get us there until about 10th March, we make a careful note: It’s called the Skyline Restaurant, and it’s atop an exciting cable-car ride up the side of a hill that overlooks the lake and the town. There’s a $20 buffet and it’s excellent apparently – we’ll see. Our helpful advisor is killing time while his wife is doing the whale watch – he explains he’s a poor sailor, and had ducked out of the trip!!!

Feeling good after our walk, we wash up and head off for dinner at 7pm.

Kaikoura is the “crayfish capital of NZ”, so Chris decides she’s going for it. Even though the fish are caught off the Kaikoura coast, you pay the export price at all local cafes and restaurants – the only way to get crayfish cheaper is either catch them yourself, or to buy them uncooked from vendors alongside the road. In any event, we find a ½ crayfish with noodles for $35 for Chris, and I have fettuccini with mussels, white fish and calamari. With the mandatory bottle of wine, we have our first “over $100 meal”. But, we’ll never be here again hey.

Continue to Our Travels in New Zealand Part 2



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