Kaikoura, Picton and Wellington (again)

I was picked up from Christchurch airport at about 10am the following morning. Only got lost once driving back to the airport…

We arrived in Kaikoura in the early afternoon. As I was spending 5 nights in Kaikoura, I had quite a leisurely afternoon buying food and chilling out. I had intended to do some laundry but as there was no dryer at the hostel, I decided against it.

The next day I went whale watching. I’d done this when I was in Kaikoura in November 2014, but was being violently sea sick at the crucial photo op point when the sperm whale did its dive. Having sussed out the weather forecast (gloriously sunny) I decided to try my luck again. Having had my sea sickness tablets, I arrived at Whale Watch Kaikoura at 9.30am and checked in. After watching a short safety video, we boarded a coach for the short journey to the dock on the south side of the peninsula.

We left the dock and headed out to sea. Whale Watch Kaikoura pretty much guarantee that you will see a whale as they have listening equipment to listen for the unique sound waves that sperm whales emit. On our way to the location of the whale they were tracking, we were lucky enough to spot some orcas (also known as killer whales). 

(Bad picture but you get the idea).

As someone who is very prone to sea sickness, I was feeling a little bit queasy at this point, despite the medication, having an ear plug in my left ear, and making a conscious effort to focus on the horizon. We headed off towards the supposed site of the whale and waited for it to appear for its roughly hourly poke on the surface.

Sperm whales have a characteristic spout at about 45 degrees

This whale came to the surface quiet quickly, and we had a side-on view when it dived.

We then headed to another site where another sperm whale was due to make an appearance. We waited there quite a long time, during which I became increasingly nauseous. Just as we were about to leave, the second sperm whale made an appearance, this time we were front on, and I got a picture that I’m very proud of.

After this we (thankfully) headed back to dry land, and arrived back shortly before 1pm.

As I had not been well, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hostel, using the fastest wifi so far.

The next day I decided to do the Kaikoura Peninsula walk. This was a 4 hour walk around the Kaikoura peninsula, and back to the centre of Kaikoura. I bumped into some more wildlife on the way.

It was a lovely walk and a very nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I still had 2 days lefts in Kaikoura. I had originally contemplated some more sea kayaking as I had enjoyed it enormously in Abel Tasman, but after being quite ill on a relatively calm day, I decided against it. I spent the next couple of days pottering around the town, looking in the local shops and enjoying numerous chai lattes (I think I’m addicted). I also went for my first run in over 2 months. Not terrible but not great. I’m quite pleased that my stamina seems to have improved with all the walking I’ve been doing (though I still hate hills and steps), but my speed is sloooooooow.

On my final morning I got up early to watch the sunrise. 

Pretty awesome.

We were picked up from Kaikoura at 9am and then headed up the coast towards Picton. We stopped briefly at Ohau point to look at the super-cute seal pups. This place is like a seal-pup kindergarten as the parents go out to sea during the day and leave the pups to play in the stream.

We arrived in Picton at lunchtime. Some people were catching the early afternoon ferry, but I had decided to stay the night. I took a nice walk along the Snout Track to the Queen Charlotte lookout, over the Queen Charlotte Sound.

New Zealand, it seems, just carries on getting more beautiful.

The following day, I caught the early afternoon ferry to Wellington. In the morning I went to the Edwin Fox maritime museum, and the aquarium. The Edwin Fox museum houses one of the boats that convicts were sent to Australia on.

It was a perfect day for a ferry crossing. The first hour of the 3 hour 20 minute journey is through the Marlborough Sounds.

Eventually we made it to the head of the Sounds and out into the Cook Strait.

We arrived in Wellington at around 5.20pm, and as it is now definitely autumn, it was already going dark. I headed to the hostel for a chilled evening.

I now had 2 days left in Wellington before heading back to Auckland.

On the first day I took care of some admin – sending stuff home that I don’t need, and hunting around for a printer. In the afternoon I went to the Great War Exhibiton at the National War Memorial. Learnt quite a lot, including that the British, German and Russian royal families were all related (I’m sure I most have known that before but evidently I’ve forgotten how pally Kaiser Wilhelm was with King George and Tsar Nicholas), and the origin of ‘bangers’ as in ‘bangers and mash’.

In the evening I went to see The Boss at the cinema. Very entertaining.

The next day I was struggling to find something to entertain me in Wellington. Having been here for a couple of days 5 weeks ago I think I’ve done almost everything. I had a wander around the Saturday underground market, and some of the shops. Wellington claims to be the ‘coolest little capital’, but I think Cardiff definitely challenges it on that front 🙂

I ended up in the cinema again in the evening. This time it was Eddie the Eagle. I have been to the cinema a lot while I’ve been in NZ, but I never go at home, so why not? This will probably be my last trip to the cinema as America is going to be too packed (I think) to fit anymore trips in. Also, it was an excellent opportunity to see Hugh Jackman looking fiiiiiiiiine.

An early-ish night followed as I was up at 5.45am to catch the bus back to Auckland. Or was I? The bus drove straight past me. Minor panic ensued, and $220 (£110) later I find myself at Wellington airport waiting for a flight toAuckland. Assuming all is well, I’m off to the Cook Islands in the morning for some time travel and some R&R. 

Wellington and the West Coast of the South Island

It’s been a while so strap in for a long-ish update.

After 2 days of rain in National Park village (where I caught up on my previous blog posts), we headed south to Wellington (or Wellie-bobs as mum called it 😄). It was still raining when we arrived in Wellington. I went on a tour around the parliament building in the afternoon. The NZ parliament building is known as the Beehive:

It continued to rain after I’d finished the tour so then it was a quick dash to the supermarket and then an evening of reading and watching Dawson’s Creek on my iPad. The dialogue is as wordy as I remembered, Dawson’s hair is terrible, I would totally still wear Joey’s wardrobe, and the soundtrack is awesome.

The next day I visited the Te Papa national museum. It is a massive museum over 6 floors with lots of different exhibits including lots of stuff on plate tectonics (you’ll remember from an earlier blog post that I like all that kind of stuff), wildlife in NZ (lots of which is only found in NZ), and an interesting exhibit on Gallipoli. I spent a good chunk of the day there before heading to the Wellington Museum later in the afternoon.

After being a bit museumed out, I went for a long walk around the botanical gardens the following day. You can take a cable car from the city centre up to the botanical gardens, where you get a great view of the city.

After a nice walk around the gardens I headed back to the centre for a wander round, followed by a nice pint of cider. Although it should probably have been a Guinness as it was St Patrick’s Day.

The following day was an early start to catch the ferry to the South Island. The Cook Strait (which separates the 2 main islands) is a narrow stretch of water, but the ferry journey is 3 and a half hours as the ferry has to negotiate its way through the Marlborough Sounds. We arrived in Picton at lunchtime and then drove through Nelson (doesn’t bear much resemblance to either the one in Lancashire or the one in south Wales) before heading to the next stop in Marahou. Marahou is on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park, and it’s not somewhere I’ve been on either of my previous 2 trips to NZ. 

I stayed 3 nights (2 full days) in Marahou. On the first day I did a trip which involved about 3 hours of kayaking in the morning, out from Marahou to Watering Cove, and then a 4 hour (12km) hike back to Marahou on the Abel Tasman Coastal Path. It was absolutely stunning.

The following day I walked back along the coastal path for about 90 minutes and fell asleep on a beach for most of the afternoon.

The next day we continued our journey down the West Coast to Westport. There’s not much to see in Westport itself, but nearby is Cape Foulwind where there is a sea colony (spot the seals!)

In the evening we had a scavenger hunt around Westport. It’s a town where you have to make your own entertainment.

We continued our journey down the west coast the next day. The first stop of the day was at the pancake rocks. Guess how they got their name:

After stopping in a rainy Greymouth for supplies, we headed to Franz Josef Glacier where we were staying for 2 nights. One of the best things I’ve done previously in NZ was take a helicopter flight to the glacier and then spent a few hours walking on the glacier. Having done this before, I couldn’t really justify doing it again, and it turned out to be just as well because for the 2 nights we were in Franz Josef it absolutely poured down. Part of the town was flooded when the river burst its banks, and the whole town was issued with a ‘boil water’ notice. It made the national news here.

As the weather was fairly miserable, I had several glasses of wine on our first evening there whilst watching England produce another fine batting collapse against Afghanistan. The satellite signal couldn’t cope with the weather and gave up when we were 85-7.

After a slightly slow start the next day (and with the weather, there was no need to rush!), I went jade carving with one of the girls on the bus, and then we walked to a glacier viewpoint:

The glacier is somewhere in the clouds!

Typically, the day we left Franz Josef was a beautiful day. We stopped to look at Fox Glacier (seeing as we were unable to see Franz Josef Glacier):

And we also had a short walk to Lake Matheson, which is a mirror lake:

Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are the 2 peaks on the right, though I forget which way round they are.

As we drove towards Wanaka, we passed lots more stunning scenery. I will never get tired of looking at these views.

As Wanaka is inland, I’ll talk about that on my next post. Hopefully I’ll get myself organised and post it in the next couple of days.