Hello from Kaikoura on New Zealand's south island. I'm getting a bit behind with my blogs as this tour is so hectic. I've genuinely barely had a minute to myself lately. To put it in perspective I've been wanting a shave for the last 3 days but haven't even had time for that. We are up at 6-6.30ish every day and by the time I get a moment's rest its 10.30pm and I'm ready to collapse in bed. So I'm taking advantage of some free time in the tiny coastal town of Kaikoura to catch up on my blogs whilst others are out whale watching (which I did in Cape Cod).
The journey from Rotorua to Wellington was not as nice as I'd pictured. This was largely due to bad weather which spoiled our views of New Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo, and totally wrecked our chances of seeing the picturesque volcano which was used as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. We still stopped off at the viewpoint for it, which was also the highest point on a New Zealand highway at a poultry 1,000m (3,280ft). Just before lunch we also stopped off at a place called Gravity Canyon, which is home to New Zealand's 2nd highest bungee jump at 80m (262ft). It was a very narrow chasm with a river running through, and the bungee left from a steel bridge overhead. Merely driving over the chasm on similar small bridges in our large coach was enough of a thrill for me, but some people weren't satisfied. Two of the girls opted to do the canyon swing, which dropped them vertically from the bridge in a large ball and then swung about a bit, but the star of the show was Karina, who opted to do the proper bungee. It was her 3rd jump but I was still mightily impressed as she lept gracefully and without hesitation down towards the river. I would have been terrified just taking the vertical cable lift back up to the bridge! It was a long day of driving after this stop and we finally arrived in Wellington at about 7pm. 2 people left us in Wellington and 3 more joined the following morning. Still, the bus has plenty of spare seats, though as of tomorrow after we have picked up in Christchurch there will only be 1 spare.
We had a relative lie in the next day until 8am when after breakfast we were taken on the bus up Mount Victoria, which offered a spectacular panorama of Wellington city and the bay. Wellington is built on a hillside surrounding a large bay and looked very nice in the sunshine. Despite being New Zealand's capital city it is much smaller than Auckland, which is no bad thing as there was a very pleasant, relaxed atmosphere to the place. After the trip to the viewpoint we were dropped off at the Te Papa museum, which is basically a museum all about New Zealand. Its a huge place with a lot of interactive displays, but given our lack of time we only wandered around 1 floor to view the earthquake simulator and the world's only preserved collosal squid, which was about 4m long. I then went off and took a trip on the Wellington cable car (see picture) and naturally got a photo by the New Zealand parliament building, which is an ugly beehive shape, before quickly grabbing lunch.
At 2pm our inter-islander ferry left Wellington port for Picton on the south island - a journey of 3 hours. The Cook Straits between the islands are only 15 miles wide at the narrowest point, but the ferry had to go out of Wellington Harbour and then travel some way down the beautiful Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound on the south island before docking. The straits have a reputation for having rough seas, but I was unperturbed having been on numerous ferries before. However, I was wrong not to worry! Wellington harbour was very smooth but as we exited into the main channel the big waves started to hit. Initially it was funny to watch people quickly evacuate the front deck of the boat, and there were people and full drinks toppling over all around us. But after about 5 minutes I started to lose my sense of humour and suddenly felt very sea sick. The boat was lifting high off the waves and crashing down with a huge bang in the most stomach churning fashion. It was genuinely like being on a pirate ship ride at a theme park for an extended period of time. I retreated to the back of the boat where the motion wasn't so bad, and mercifully once we had rounded the north island headland, which took about 25 minutes, the seas actually calmed, so I wasn't sick. When we got over to the south island channels the water was totally flat and the scenery was very nice on route into the small town of Picton, from where our bus took us 2 hours west to New Zealand's sunniest city - Nelson....