We arrived at Mt Cook, but due to the wind picking up our glacial kayak was postponed for a few days.so we went to Lake Tekapo to do some swimming in the lake and relaxing in the hot pools.
In Mt Cook we stayed at an incredible DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite, it looked out onto the face of Mt Cook itself. We heard avalanches at night which was a unique experience. We ended up staying here for 2 nights and one night it reached -1, it was like a winters night so we slept in so many layers.
We finally did our kayak and had the perfect weather for it. We drove to the Tasman lake and had a 15 minute walk to where our kayak begun. We kayaked 10 km overall, the glacier stretches for 30km and ends in the lake where we were kayaking. The transition from glacier to lake produces ice bergs. We explored, touched and played with 3 huge ice bergs and one was rolling! They were so much bigger up close, they looked tiny from the shore. We had a perfect view of Mt Cook's Caroline Face once the clouds had cleared. We heard avalanches on the trip and Jeff caused one by shouting very loudly. Our guide warned us that when ice breaks off the glacier and falls into the lake it can cause a tsunami like effect and we would all have to face the wave head on if this happened, it didn't happen to us but it was important to be prepared as it happens quite often. We could pick up floating ice and have a drink and could also drink the rock floury lake water. The ice bergs that we saw were white, they can have a blue like affect when there is compressed snow and it depends on the reflection of the light. On the trip we also saw some dead ice which are isolated chunks of ice left behind when the glacier retreats.
After a great morning we drove onto Geraldine where it was raining so we hibernated and had a early night. We drove onto Christchurch the next morning and were very surprised with the progress of the re-build since our last visit, about 6 months ago. The tram was back in operation and there were more coffee shops and restaurants around and open. There was a flower show on with some great displays.
We drove on to Rangioria next where friends of Jeff's grandparents live. They had given us a letter before we left to deliver to them. We popped into them and had a chat and a cup of tea and headed off to Kaikora next.
We arrived in Kaikora and explored the town, we visited the seal colony and spotted some dolphins playing quite close to the shore. Jeff rented a surf board and he went surfing the next morning. The waves were huge and he was being sucked under a lot and kept getting pushed back to the shore, but despite all this he caught some awesome waves and stood up! We had a warm coffee and lunch on the beach. We popped into an irish Pub known for it's Sheep Shaggers lager, which was surprisingly tasty and also very cheap! We freedom camped that night, there was a huge storm which was quite exciting right by the beach.
We were booked to swim with the dolphins the next morning but it had been cancelled because of the weather. We had breakfast in the van and booked into a campsite for the next night a little closer to town. We took advantage of their spa pool and swimming pool and had an early night.
Kaikora is one of the best places in the world to see dolphins, whales and seals in their natural habitat. We took the sunrise tour at 5.30 and it was incredible. We watched the sun come up while going out to sea! We got a snorkel kit and a wetsuit and got onto the boat. Once they find a group of dolphins they get the swimmers ready to get off the boat. They can only do 5 legal swimming drops, this is issued by the Department of Conservation to protect the wildlife. Luckily we had only 3 drops, the less the better, so we got to spend some more time in the water. They told us that dolphins are really playful so if you dive down, make eye contact with them, sing through snorkel and make loud noises ( it was so funny hearing people do this) or if you circle the dolphins they will interact with you. The crew got us ready and the skipper sounds a horn when it's safe to get in the water, the first drop was incredible, there were hundreds of dolphins swimming around us and we enjoyed playing with a few and circling them and singing to them. They really make eye contact with you in the water, it was a magically experience. Once the dolphins start to move away the skipper sounds a horn to notify us to get back on the boat, the crew do a role call to make sure everyone is back and we went to find other dolphins. The second drop wasn't as spectacular as the first as there were only 20 or so and it was quite short, the dolphins didn't seem so interested so we went to a different place. The last drop was the most magnificent, there was a type of plankton in the water that was glowing (they looked like mini jelly fish) and were quite hard to swim through but the dolphins were all around us and so playful, a dolphin swum between Jeff's legs. Yes, Jeff got to ride a dolphin! San finally found Jeff, this was quite hard because everyone looked the same in snorkel equipment and wetsuits. We noticed a really really big crab coming to the surface and had to swim away fast just as we were bonding with some dolphins. It was a wonderful experience.
We left Kaikora after a big breakfast and a hot shower. We thought we would spend a few days in Blenheim, we got there, inquired about work, had a walk around and decided to move on as there wasn't any work that we could find. We did the Queen Charlotte drive to Havelock (home of the green lipped muscles) which Jeff was very excited by. We had dinner there, Jeff had bacon and cheese grilled muscles and we drove onto Nelson.