Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The North of the South - Kaikoura

Time was running out, as always...

We had spent more time than we had planned enjoying beaches, swimming with dolphins,  seeing giant trees,  cooking our feet in boiling waters,  learning the haka, bungee jumping, climbing volcanoes from the lord of the rings, and more.. and still, we had only visited the North island of New Zealand.
"Should we go down to the south?", "we won't have time to see much..", "but for sure there would be nice things to see", "and probably there will not be another opportunity soon to see this side of the world...", "ok, lets do it !!"

With this decision came also a weather change, autumn was arriving, some wind and some rain were on the menu. But first a ferry boat ride through the Cook Straight from Wellinghton to Picton passing through the Queen Charlotte sound.
The Cook Straight is not that straight at all, in fact it is a huge patch of ocean that takes more than 3 hours to cross, luckily there were some 30 dolphins that decided to keep us company, hitch-hiking on the waves created by the ferry. The ferry then cruised into Queen Charlotte sound, a beautiful landscape, like a maze of cuts in the coastline which stretches further and further inland.

But where should we go? We had read that there was a chance to see whales in a town called Kaikoura, and that's where we were headed. The whale watching season was almost over and we were taking some chances...we also read about the possibility of seeing some seals but we were open minded for our plan to completely fail.

We drove down the coastline in a race against the sunset, it would be a lot more difficult to find a place to spend the night once it got dark. 

Even if our home "John Lennon" had wheels, we always preferred to check the surroundings with some light. Campervans are everywhere in New Zealand, and there are legal places to park overnight, but most of the times one has to pay some money. We were cheap, and we wanted to do it for free, but safely, and we didn't want to park our "invisible" campervan in front of a police station and wake-up with a ticket on the wind shield.

We crossed some road signs saying 'seals crossing'...."are they kidding, or is it real?", we drove through some more bays and we saw some movement by the beach... seals?
We had to stop to have a look. Far down the beach there were some silhouettes that resembled seals, small, big..there were seals!! We were delighted, laughing like kids, but...

But, wait a second! whats this thing in the grass looking at me?

Am I disturbing?
Yep, BIG EYED one, looking at us! we had just been reading in the guide book about respecting the seals, to keep a distance, that some times they get aggressive..and by accident we almost stepped on one.

It was time to move and try to find a place to spend the night.

Kaikoura is an old whalers town, everywhere you go you see references to it. But nowadays there is no more slaughter, instead it has become a mecca for whale watchers and Lobster eaters, but that's another story. It is said that when whales existed in large numbers, before whale hunting, one could hear their singing from land, those days are long gone...

This is Paikea, I had heard of his story in the movie the "whale rider" (a great movie by the way).
It is said that the people of Kaikoura are descendants of Paikea, the whale rider, who came to New Zealand on the back of a whale from the pacific islands. Legend or not, his memory is still remembered in the town of Kaikoura.

...And we were not going to see any whales this time.., the morning woke up with rain and many clouds, and because of that the air planes that help spotting the whales from the air would not go out. Hence the chance to actually spotting whales during a tour would be very small and not worth wasting our money on. 

Instead we decided to walk around town and try to see some more seals.....easy breezy.

When the whale watching season is over it's definitely the seals that own the place.

They spend most of their time lazying around in the beach, either that or looking for food. And it's like if they are schizophrenic: on land lazy and sleepy, in the water super fast and agile.

Since the water was too cold for us, we preferred the lazy version of watching them, ...in their dreams.

And we had time for a photo shot too.



The coast line is amazing, even in a cloudy and rainy day.



Ahh... I mentioned Kaikoura is famous for 2 things: Whales and Lobster right?



Since we didn't see any whales we had to wipe our tears with the second option, great meal! mhhhhh...

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