Day one of New Zealand was strange and unnerving. I arrived at 1am in the morning and quite easily got a shuttle to my hostel. As I was sat waiting to set off, I overheard the taxi driver telling a Kiwi couple about all the aftershocks they'd been having over the previous weeks. I sat there thinking oh my god where have I landed?
Once we set off, I looked out of the window all the way there and became disturbed by the devastation the previous earthquakes had caused. Even in the dark, once beautiful churches looked like a wreck from a world war two blitz. It's quite amazing to see for yourself the power of mother nature.
Once at the hostel, I was let in by a rather tired looking man on reception (after several rings of the bell) who showed me my double room. The room looked like it should be in a lovely old lady's bed and breakfast. There were plenty of knitted spare blankets, old furniture and a huge bed. I easily fell straight to sleep.
The next day I just had a walk to the local mall and bought myself a new book. I even took a ride on the bus to a shopping centre. There is not really much to do in Christchurch as the city centre is closed due to damage. I bought myself some frood from the supermarket and spent the evening reading my book in the common room. I started chatting to one of the guys who worked there and asked what the earthquakes are like. He said they weren't so bad but the biggest earthquakes always start really small.
I was extremely tired that night so decided to get an early night. Then at 3am I was shaking woke me up. I opened my eyes and realised I was in an earthquake. The whole room was shaking. Lamp, desk, bed even me was rocking incredibly fast. A feeling of dread swept over me as the earthquake became worse. I panicked and started scrambling for my glasses. My thought process being I can't make it to the door if I can't see. Then it stopped. It was just an aftershock. I did not sleep a wink that night. I stayed awake all night scared stiff.
The following afternoon after a well deserved lie-in, I got on my first Kiwi Experience bus. We had a female driver who was a pretty crazy Kiwi but very nice. The first thing I noticed from this new tour group was how organised it was. She explained to use exactly how the Kiwi Experience works, gave us booklets and timetables. She also sent around a clipboard for us to book our hostels and actitivies at our next destination, Kaikoura. She also helped me to plan my buses and booked quite a few of them for me. This was a refreshing change from the Oz Experience.
Nightfall fell in as we arrived in Kaikoura so there wasn't much we could see as we drove in. We were dropped off at our hostel, the Lazy Shag, which is named after a native bird (as in the flying animal). The dorms were ensuite (which was quite a luxury) and I had a very comfortable bottom bunk.
That evening, I went for a walk through the town with a girl I was sharing the dorm with. We ended up in a quaint little pub after bumping into some of her friends.
The next day, everyone from my dorm left to go to the North Island and I got moved into another dorm. In this dorm were three lovely girls who were all travelling together.
That afternoon, I went swimming with Dusky Dolphins. We had to wear full wet - suits incl balaclava's as the sea would be so cold. Once geared up we set off to the boat, which we had to board on dry land. We then sailed out into the ocean and had to wait for nearby boats and a helicopter to inform us the whereabouts of the dolphins. The Dusky Dolphins have been known to swim in pods of up to 200 around the Kaikoura ridge due to the incredible deep waters providing an abundance of fish for them to feed on.
Once we were near the dolphins, we were told to get into the water. The water was absolutely bone chillingly cold. The cold that takes your breath away. Then with snorkel gear ready I began to swim and search for the dolphins in the water. The water was incredibly murky and I could say millions of tiny plankton. Then all of a sudden a dolphin swam right underneath me at lightening speed. It was one of those experiences I have always dreamt of but never thought would happen. If I wasn't so cold I may have shed a tear.
We then spent the next few hours swimming with different small pods (up to 15) of dolphins. They swam underneath me, around me, next to me, one dolphin even circled me.
Then I began to get sea sick in the water, the wet suits were boyant and the waves were quite strong so after so long of being on my front with my head in the water, my stomach had enough. Once I was out, the lady on the bgoat put a hose pipe of hot water into my wet suit to warm me up. It was a bit weird as the suit expanded with water with me still in it.
Back on dry land, a kind couple took a Swedish girl and myself to a nearby waterfall where baby fur seals swim. Just a short walk from the main road was a small waterfall with a deep pool at it's base. In the pook were four baby fur seals jumping and splashing around. They were all fascinated by us and did not mind us getting up close to take pictures.
We then walked back to the road and across to the other side to see the adult fur seals. This time we did not get up close as they are known to be quite aggressive when provoked. They weren't as cute as the babies but still amazing nonetheless.
The couple that took us to the waterfall very kindly bought me fish and chips that night from the local chippy. It wasn't like home but still a home comfort :)
The next day, the three girls in my room kindly invited me on a beautiful walk around the pennisula of Kaikoura. It was the first time since arriving in New Zealand I managed to really experience the outstanding natural beauty of its untouched scenery.
We walked past beautiful blue ocean with white lapping waves on long stretches of sandy beaches on to rolling green hills in front of a back drop of snow capped mountains. It was breath taking and more beauty than I could possibly have imagined. The air was fresh and I could see for miles every where I looked. Every where was so untouched, undamaged by western society. It made me think how England may have been a long long time ago or a real life Hobbiton.
After the well deserved four hour walk, the girls and I treated ourselves to pizza's and an early night.
to be continued..