Having a Whale of a Time

9:45am 1st November

Again I’ve been lax in updating my journal — this time I haven’t the excuse of being knackered, I was simply lazy! We’re now in Kaikoura, a beautiful little town on the eastern coast just north of Christchurch. Kaikoura is famed for its whale and dolphin expeditions which is the primary reason we’re here. Before I get on to that though, a brief summary of the last couple of days!

On the 29th after we’d left the camp site we went for a drive northwest along the Queen Charlotte Sound. I’ve now learnt from the guide books that a sound is a flooded river valley. Confusingly, the ‘sound’ we plan to visit in the south, Milford Sound isn’t actually a sound at all, it’s a fjord. A fjord is a glacier-carved river valley that’s subsequently flooded, apparently.

Anyway, whatever it’s called, the sound is beautiful. The ferry the night before travelled the length of it, but it be being so late and the weather being so nasty meant we couldn’t see it. Further along the road diverges from the sound, and we travelled up towards the Abel Tasman national park in the north west.

Along the way we popped into the town of Nelson for a spot of lunch. Nelson is a very European-looking town, and was a nice place to stop for a couple of hours. For lunch I had lamb skewers on a ‘Stone Grill’ — a large slab of stone superheated in an oven was supplied on my plate along with raw lamb kebabs — the idea being you cook your own food. It was great fun and delicious!

Outside of Nelson, we continued along the main state highway. Again the scenery was fantastic, so great in fact we decided to stay. Initially our plan was to drive up a bit then come back on ourselves towards Kaikoura, but with such views we couldn’t resist camping out. With more time now available to us we went off the main road a bit and discovered some amazing beaches. The sun had come out for us too which made the whole thing rather more magical.

Eventually we found the camp site we were looking for, just on the Golden Bay at the far north of the island. It was literally right next to the beach, and it was lovely to spend some time there in the sunshine, overlooking the beach, planning our time in the south island.

The morning was again glorious — sun beaming down on us. An unusual noise brought our attention to a little bird that was tapping on the windscreen. It seemed pretty tame, though latterly I found that what it was tapping on was the dark (and probably reflective) part of the windscreen — perhaps it was fighting a reflected rival and was therefore not too interested in our movements! We captured it on film at least, and a little camera video. Bizarrely I’ve spotted a bug in our camera too — the date and time set for the MPEG videos is twenty hours ahead the actual time which confused the heck out of me when I first loaded it into Picasa!

Anyway, after our brief ornithological episode we upped sticks and retraced our steps (back over two mountain ranges; we’re getting quite adept at navigating them now) back to Nelson and then down south to Kaikoura. We arrived here at about 5pm last night, booked our campsite then wandered into the sweet little town to book our excursions. As ever people are so helpful and friendly; we’ve now booked to stay here for two days: Later today we’re whale watching and tomorrow we’ll be swimming with dolphins!

Once back we ventured into the town and had dinner in a little Italian-type restaurant. Although nice it wasn’t as good as we’d had elsewhere in NZ. We did try the local green-lipped mussels — very meaty if a bit too chewy for me.

I’m so excited, particularly about swimming with dolphins, though the idea of swimming in open ocean does give me the willies a bit! Before that though, whale watching — our boat departs at midday and before then we’re going to visit a pharmacy for some motion sickness tablets…just in case. The last thing either of us want to be is ill on the boat and although we’ve been ok so far, we’re told it’s pretty rough out there at the moment, so we’re not taking any chances!

Filed under: New Zealand Trip
Posted at 04:30:16 GMT on 1st November 2006.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.