18th- 21st May
On the drive over from Greymouth we booked the whale watching trip for tomorrow, so fingers crossed it all goes to plan! Our last trip of New Zealand! Booo! The road over went through Lewis Pass (970m at it's summit) one of the three passes through the southern alps, so we have done all three of them now. On the way we stopped in Reefton, NZ's first town to have electricity and then in Hanmer Springs for lunch in the van, which looked like a very rich tiny town with big houses. It is popular for its hot springs but we have done enough of them now. From Hanmer Springs we started on the Alpine Pacific Triangle Highway, which loops up to Kaikoura and then back down the other side to Christchurch. Nath's rally driving gave us air time when we went over a hidden bump in the road and we both came out of our seats in the van! There's probably no suspension left but it was hilarious!
When we got to Kaikoura we had a short walk around town, which looked like a nice little coastal town with the usual shops and restaurants. Kaikoura translates in Maori to Kai= food, Koura= crayfish, so this is obviously the place for crayfish and other sea food! The town is built on the site of an old whaling station that was built in 1843 which was set up by early settlers who arrived after Maori (who settled here to harvest seafood) to hunt whales.
For the night we stayed at Meat Works (not a clue why it is called this)?! It was a gravel parking area across the railway line from the highway right next to the sea and with snowy mountains behind us. It was lovely! The waves where seriously crashing and were very popular with surfers they were that big.
On the 19th we were up and headed to Whale Watching base where we had a hot chocolate at the cafe whilst we waited to find out if the trip would be going ahead. They said that the trip would be on but they warned us of rough sea conditions and the likeliness of motion sickness, which was obviously good news for Nath! He took two motion sickness tablets to make sure he would be okay but they didn't work in the slightest. He started being sick about half an hour into the trip and carried on throughout, bless him! About 80% of people on board had their heads in sick bags the swell was that bad! They cancelled the trips after ours because of the conditions so we took the brunt of it!! We didn't manage to see any sperm whales but we saw many albatross and some fur seals. We followed the activity of 2 whales but we couldn't manage to see them surface and one of the whales switched it's Eco-radar off, which can be picked up by a machine they have on board. It was a shame but I really enjoyed the 2 and a half hour boat trip. We got an 80% refund and get 20% off booking tomorrow so we get it for free really so we can't complain at all, apart from
Nath being ill. The trip cost $145 each and we got the day for free and get another trip tomorrow, I just hope Nath will be okay! We learnt some very interesting stuff about the whales today too like sperm whales can dive up to 3000m and hold their breath for up to 2 hours underwater but it is usually around 45min to 60min in Kaikoura before they resurface. Kaikoura has an underwater canyon system (literally a canyon underwater) where within 500m of the shore to water drops to 1000m deep. After the trip we went to the seal colony at Kean Point and saw lots of New Zealand fur seals everywhere, even running (or waddling) through the car park, and there were quite a lot of babies too! For the night we camped at the same spot again and enjoyed the crashing waves!
On the 20th we were up again and off to the cafe at the Whale Watching base to wait for our trip. There was a sea sickness warning out again, but not as severe as yesterday. I think they may have it every time as the sea is usually quite rough. It was a totally different trip to yesterday, the weather was much better and it was sunny and quite warm, the sea wasn't as rough and it was a different crew and boat so we learnt more new facts. It was a fantastic trip and a success, we saw one giant sperm whale, many wandering albatross, some fur seals and to finish around 50-100 dusky dolphins all swimming and jumping together. We were so glad that we didn't actually see a whale yesterday so we got to do it again today and see everything that we did! We ended up paying $5 less for the trip today for some reason so we got a trip for free yesterday and then made an extra $5 off it! Can't complain at all! Plus Nath wasn't ill at all today so that was a real bonus! The sperm whale is the 4th largest whale species and the largest toothed predator in the world, so as you can imagine it was very very impressive!! Right before it went back under it did a dive down so we got a great view of its tail! It was beyond brilliant! After the trip we went back to Kean Point to the seal colony, walked up to the viewpoint and then went to Kaikoura viewpoint too to get views over Kaikoura, the peninsula, the surrounding mountains and the sea, not a bad day at all! What a perfect end to our nearly finished trip in NZ!
For an early dinner we went to Kaikoura seafood BBQ shack, which was a roadside van with tables and chairs next to the sea. Kaikoura is famous for its seafood, particularly crayfish so I got half a crayfish to try (£17) and Nath got blue cod. They were both really nice, especially the crayfish which we both loved! Who knew we had expensive taste! For the third night we stayed at Meat Works again. It was such a lovely spot!
On the 21st we woke to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise over the ocean. It looked like the colours that you seen on advertisements for Africa! The clouds behind the mountains also turned a lovely orange/pink colour which was lovely. What a great last morning at the coast! What a beautiful picturesque little town Kaikoura has been, with the great bonus of amazing sea life! After admiring the last sun rise over the NZ coast we set off for the 2 1/2- 3 hour drive to Christchurch.