Dec 3rd Kaikoura and onward to Christchurch
The motel was pretty decent, but a bit noisy compared to our previous isolation.
We took the local shuttle taxi to station and whale watch place, where we waited for about half an hour to see if they would sail. We whiled away the time with decent coffee and toast. Then on screen the announcement changed from pending, to cancelled. "seas too rough for safe sailing". The later trips which were probably ok to run wouldn't be back in time for our train, so we decided to walk along the esplanade, and out to the seal colony on the headland of the peninsula. The wind was still fairly strong.
Out past endless motels, and a park where a plaque explained that Kaikoura was name (meaning the crayfish?) because a Maori chief had stopped to cook food here, while on a journey chasing three of his wives who had left him. Not a popular guy. When at last he found the first one she had been changed into greenstone. He found the other two and the same fate had befallen them. Anything better than returning to their husband?
Alongside this legend, were the street names - Yarmouth, Ramsgate, Margate not forgetting Scarborough.
We passed the New Wharf, and then the Old Wharf, established by a certain Mr Fyffe, an early settler and whaler. There's a memorial garden in town, set up by Lydia Washington to commemorate those who died in the world war, and decorated by whale bones.
Past the New Wharf we came to a fishing area which is being conserved to replenish stocks, then came to Harmer's beach and a drinks and food stall by the roadside. There's a board walk and benches erected by Kaikoura Lions. A small freshwater area supports several families of mallard, lots of ducklings, though there was a squabble of gulls which made me wonder if canard a l'orange was on their menu. Right at the end of the peninsula we reached the car park leading on to the seal colony. Not many seals around, and those lumbering and lazy.
Back towards the station with a pause to finish off some of our lunch supplies, attended by a seagull. I found myself harbouring murderous feelings towards it, and was sorely tempted to lob pebbles in its direction, but restrained myself.
At the station we sat outside, muffled in coat and hat, writing draft blog entries.
Inside for a coffee we noticed that the later whale watching trips were cautioning of the danger of seasickness, but they had at least gone!
Too late for us, as we had to go away on the Coastal Pacific KiwiRail south to Christchurch, through Scenery which may have been less majestic than some, but was refreshingly agreeable.
We ended up at the Red Door Cottage, which is spectacularly good, and welcoming, with lots of basics in stock - always a major plus.
After a brief chill out, we explored the nearby Papanui Road, and the Merivale Centre, which yielded a few relatively expensive restaurants, and a decent supermarket. Eggs and beans on toast was,our gourmet choice for the evening, before a quick watch of Tv news and bed.
Dec 2nd to Kaikoura
The cleaning, the disposal of rubbish, the filling and return of the hire car , check-in of our luggage for KiwiRail, then a wander round the metropolis of Picton,coffee in le cafe , sarnies in the park near the playground, as we watched kids chasing ducks, and the Interislander coming into port.
Bright and breezy.
Back to the station in time to board the train. Very slow laid-back way to travel. At first the word scenic seemed an exaggeration. We made our way between hills which looked bleak and bare, some of them had been cleared by logging. Then a patch of wasted willows - more unwelcome invaders needing to be eradicated? The farmsteads looked like temporary settlements, the sort of place that is put up on a hurry and the owners never quite get round to replacing. Old machinery rusts away before it has a chance of being reused. Cows and sheep are slightly fewer than on the lusher pastures. Then we pass vineyards, vines in rows so regular that you see patterns in all directions. The train makes a short stop at Blenheim to drop and pick up a few passengers. There's Lake Grasmere, and the salt pans, where sea water is evaporated by sun and wind. Interesting, but not scenic.
The commentary on the headphones is sporadic and laconic.
As we continue the scenery improves, with a magnificent view of the snow capped Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku (2885m). This was used by Edmund Hillary as practice for Everest.
We cross the Clarence River, and there's a tale of a boat lost while the captain was "entertaining a lady in his cabin", and further tales of him abandoning the ship, and being drowned with vast amounts of treasure which are still on the seabed somewhere.
A little further south we see a colony of New Zealand fur seals, once hunted to near extinction, now recovering. They loll about idly on the rocks, though I spot two having a set to.
The mountains of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, are still in snow-capped evidence as we pull in to Kaikoura station. We are spending the night here, in the Aspen Court Motel.
Once we've found it and booked in we laze for a while before hot footing it into town to find a meal - at the Adelphi, where a Spanish waitress serves us, and later explains that everything shuts down at 9pm, though at the height of summer they may stretch to oh - 10pm.
We walk back admiring the mountains to the north, and the almost overdone sunset to the west.
There are still several days to fill in. Watch this space - I will!
The most magical was our overnight stay on Kapiti Island Nature Reserve.
Then a quick visit to Wellington, before crossing to South Island