|September 15, 2011
This morning we were leaving Springfield with Kaikoura being our final destination. However, along the way we had a couple of things we wanted to do. Firstly, we drove back to Christchurch to try and have a look around and see if we could see the damage caused by the earthquake. Unfortunately, our GPS maps are about 2 years old now and certainly don’t show the road closures from an event less than 6 months ago. We weren’t able to get close to the cathedral but as we drove around the fringes of the town we saw plenty of shops, factories, churches and houses which were partially or completely collapsed or being supported by scaffolding. Despite the fact we didn’t have much to do in Christchurch last time around, it was a very pretty, picturesque city and it is such a shame that the damage has affected that as well as the lives it has altered. All the matches which were due to be held in Christchurch had to be moved and the guy at our hostel last night was particularly bitter about that saying that organisers and the government had left locals screwed by not offering them some kind of compensation. Even when I told him they’d had first refusal on tickets for the re-arranged games he didn’t seem convinced as he stated the extra costs in transport and accommodation for a local to go to, say, Dunedin or Invercargill. I couldn’t argue with that but equally, what were the organisers supposed to do? Have games in a stadium which is considered unsafe and has a pitch with a gaping crack in it? Pay for a load of people from Christchurch to travel? I don’t bloody think so. It is a horrible situation but in the circumstances I can’t see there were many other options. He had a strong opinion on England’s black kit, too, but let’s not digress. In Christchurch we stopped at a Kathmandu store and managed to but some more stuff. I don’t feel like we’re spending money unnecessarily though as we are getting good discounts on everything we buy and it is stuff we need for winter in Switzerland. Elizabeth managed to get a new pair of walking boots for around NZ$100, reduced from NZ$350. Not only that, we’ve now spent so much at Kathmandu stores we have a $25 voucher for next time we shop there!
Our next stop along the way was a lunch stop. We’d deliberately had an early breakfast but left Springfield a little later so that we could stop at a bar called Brew Moon for some lunch. It was in a small town called Amberley just north of Christchurch and brewed its own beer and also had pizza, something Elizabeth and I had both wanted to have for quite a while (we’d unsuccessfully tried to order take-out in Dunedin and it must be the only city in the world without an Italian restaurant on every corner!). I was keen to try the sampler set of the four beers but as I was driving I picked the IPA to try and Elizabeth had the Pale Ale, following a similar pattern to other places we’ve been lately! Alongside a really nice meat feast pizza (including really yummy lamb) and a chicken one with sun-dried tomatoes and an aioli topping, it was a good stop for lunch and the thought of another couple of hours of driving wasn’t at the top of my wish list right now!
The drive into Kaikoura was easy enough but nothing spectacular and we seemed to be covering the kms pretty quickly until just about 45 minutes outside the town. The road joined the coastline at this point and the easy highway became a scenic, twisty, hilly road following the rocky coastline and providing some wonderful vistas. The windy road soon straightened out and we could see a small town up ahead and this was the turn-off into the centre of Kaikoura. Our hostel was just one block away from the beach front and we dumped our bags in the dorm and decided to spend some time deciding what we wanted to do over the next couple of days. Almost everyone we spoke to recommended the Peninsula Walkway so we decided we would do that tomorrow afternoon, following on from our whale-watching flight. For Saturday, we decided to have a day of relaxation and would head to Hanmer Springs and the hot water springs there.
After heating up our leftovers from last night, we headed to the local pub, The Whaler, to watch the rugby. Tonight we had a vested interest as the US were playing Russia and although it was a low scoring match, it was quite exciting with plenty of good breaks from both teams and just poor handling let both sides down at key moments. Again, the poor weather didn’t help and the second half started in a torrential downpour which left many of the crowd deserting their seats. One person not deserting though was a blonde American woman wearing a bikini who the cameraman seemed to like the look of but it might have been the fact she was accompanied by a MAN wearing a stars and stripes bikini that was of most amusement to all. Thankfully the US held on for a close win, 13-6, and although it was a good victory I’m not sure it merited the tears coming from some of the American players at the end. We watched the match with an American girl from our hostel, Kate, who had never really watched rugby before so I had to try and explain some of the complicated rules which with something as difficult as rugby was no easy feat. Thankfully, no one knew better and I was able to make up plenty of stuff!
September 16, 2011
Today we had arranged to do a flight to try and spot some whales. We had the option of a whale-watching boat tour or flight and given the prices were similar we chose the flight. The small airport was about a 10 minute drive out of town and we were soon checked in and waiting. We were joined on the flight by 4 other people, including two French guys from our hostel who had actually walked to the airport. They thought it was a 10 minute walk and had we known we’d have given them a ride. The flight itself started well as we saw some amazing scenery, the Kaikoura coastline and mountains in the background clearly visible in the nice, clear skies. Unfortunately though, we didn’t see any whales which was really disappointing. The flight before us had seen three or four and even though we circled for about 45 minutes, 15 longer than our supposed flight time of 30 minutes, we didn’t see a single piece of marine wildlife. It just wasn’t to be our day and no amount of pretty scenery would make up for that. We gave the two French guys a lift back to the hostel after the flight and we were all disappointed. This is the second time we’ve done whale watching now, once in Bermuda, and neither time have we seen whales. We didn’t get a refund in Bermuda as supposedly we’d seen a tail fin and we didn’t get a refund here either as the flight was deemed to have been completed, regardless of sightings.
After stopping at the hostel, we briefly visited the information centre and picked up a brochure about the Kaikoura Coastal Walkway before heading to a local bakery for some lunch and then heading to the grocery store for ingredients to make fajitas tonight.
After lunch we decided to tackle the Coastal Walkway. The walk was supposed to take anywhere from 2-4 hours but was not particularly difficult. We left town and headed along the coastline at sea level, eventually reaching a car park at the start of the main walkway. There was a seal colony which was around the beach near the car park and two of the big males were sleeping right by the side of the road, in the bushes. Elizabeth missed both of them as she was walking which was quite funny given how close they were, particularly the second one! I got some great pictures including some of a smaller pup on the beach as well as a larger female coming out of the water!
From there we headed up the hill to the first lookout point and followed the trail around the clifftops. It was surprisingly warm and we both ended up walking along in our t-shirts as our fleeces were proving much too warm. From the cliffs we could see down to the water and we saw another two or three massive groups of seals, one of them looked to have well over 100 lazing around the rocks and on the beach. The walk was really good and we both felt it was a good way to let off some steam after the disappointing morning as well as get some much needed exercise. After around 2 hours we reached the downward slope to the car park at the other end and from here we had another hour or so walk back to the hostel, crossing the hill at the centre of the peninsula. Altogether it took just under 3 hours and it was well worth it for the sights of the seals and the lovely views as well as the shiny shell that Elizabeth stole!
Back at the hostel we both showered and started to make dinner. This hostel didn’t have a TV which was great for socializing and meeting people but not so great when we wanted to watch the matches. I didn’t really want to go out to the pub but given it was NZ playing and I wanted to watch the match we didn’t have much choice. The locals were out in force to watch a massive 83-7 win for NZ against Japan and although it was one-sided it was good to see the Japanese fighting so hard right until the end.
September 17, 2011
After our walking exploits yesterday, which included Elizabeth breaking in her new walking boots and getting a blister or two, we decided to have some relaxation time. About 90minutes drive from Kaikoura is a place called Hanmer Springs which is known for its thermal springs and has an area for tourists to while away the hours soaking in the warm waters. When we arrived we were surprised how busy the place was so we booked a private pool for half an hour to get some peace and quiet. We had to wait a while for the private pool so we found a little picnic area and had our lunch while we waited. Although the sun was out, it was pretty chilly and we were quite wrapped up, not sure how much fun it would be hopping from one pool to the next although there were plenty of people braving the cold air to enjoy the warm waters!
After half an hour in our private pool, we joined the main pools and tried a few different ones out. Many of the areas were differing temperatures and so we switched around to try them out. The “aquatherapy” pools were child-free which was a bonus so we spent a lot of time in those but we also tried out the sulphur pools. These are supposed to be good for your skin but right now, typing this four days later, I still have some weird rashes on my hands and arms which mysteriously appeared after going in this pool. The fact they appeared almost immediately means it is easy to link the cause and we didn’t spend too long in this pool. As if the leper-like skin wasn’t bad enough, the smell was awful and I couldn’t blame Elizabeth this time! After a play around in the “rapids” which Elizabeth enjoyed along with a load of pre-teens and a couple of lengths in the main pool, curtailed by a load of ugly teenagers with their uglier boyfriends trying to make out under the water, we headed to get showered, dried and warmed up.
As a further treat, we made a brief café stop before we left Hanmer and both had a hot chocolate and shared some chips, complete with a really yummy aioli. The Kiwis certainly seem to like having aioli with their chips and some of the homemade ones we’ve tried have been excellent.
After the drive back to the hostel we both took proper showers and did some laundry. We had an early start tomorrow so we wanted to get packed up as much as we could tonight so we wouldn’t wake everyone in the morning. For dinner we had leftover fajitas before heading out again to watch the rugby. It seemed like a whole hostel outing tonight as we went to the local Irish bar, the Strawberry Tree, to watch Ireland beat Australia. There were a few Irish people in our group and everyone was pleased to cheer on an Aussie defeat!