Today we’re in Christchurch, where our journey in New Zealand will end. We’re looking forward to the ridiculous heat of Sydney, but we’re also a little sad to leave NZ. It’s been a great time – look forward to a wrapup post in the next few days.Three days ago, we drove to Akaroa in search of some heat and some dolphin swimming. We found neither. Upon arriving in Akaroa, we arrived at a huge and cramped holiday park, with over 150 campsites, and only a small kitchen and small number of showers to support it. Not our favorite holiday park at all. We wanted to see Akaroa because it is the only French colony in New Zealand. Thinking we’d be able to parler un peu de Francais, we were excited. But it turned out to be le boring.
After our arrival, we heard a live band playing in town, and decided to go check it out and try to book a dolphin swimming tour, since Kenna didn’t get a chance to swim with them in Paihia, or a kayak tour, since we missed that in Milford Sound. The holiday park was up a mountain, and the hike down to the town was very scenic, overlooking a beautiful view of the Akaroa bay. After walking for a few minutes, the live band turned out to be a few 16-yr olds playing in a tent at what looked like a birthday party, but they were really good. After a few tunes, we decided we should head off to the information booth, which turned out to be closed. And by this time it was raining, again.
So, our mood turning grey with the skies, we tried to figure out what to do. This was a really small town, with nothing but a bay, which was now obscured by rain, to entertain us. Our holiday park was overcrowded and we really didn’t want to go back there, so we headed to a local bar for a quick drink. Which turned into many drinks, and tasty nachos (yes Sean, we got a picture for you). There was a movie playing, so we ended up watching it and ended up hogging the TV all night until we were the only people in the bar, and I’m pretty sure we turned away a lot of other patrons. If I went into a bar and there was a crappy movie playing (aside: Kenna and I disagree on the crappiness of the movie, but it had witches and pixie-dust and no car chases or swordfights, so it’s crappy), I’d walk out too.
Kaikoura is known for its dolphin swimming and whalewatching, so we tried to book one of those activities. But being so close to Christmas, it was all booked up. Instead, we opted for some sea kayaking, which turned out to be really disappointing. First, Kenna and I have done some sea kaying in Victoria, so we didn’t need a lot of instruction. Second, we had a really large group, complete with a bunch of small children, and the families held us back from going too far. The mom was paired with her crabby small child, who was terrified at the open water and refused to paddle, and was very vocal about that fact. The mom, adding to the situation, was a trainwreck trying to paddle by herself – she couldn’t figure out how to steer the kayak even though it was equipped with pedals and a rudder to steer, so the guide actually had to tow her and her loud kid around. Because of this mess of a family, we barely covered any ground, and ended up staying stationary for half the tour, probably so the guide didn’t have to drag around the stupid noisemaker, er, kid. But we did head over to a seal colony, where you could clearly see a bunch of seals lazing about on the sun-warmed rocks, and we were even graced by a few swimming past our kayak.
After a short nap, we headed out for our first “nice” restaurant meal, at a place called Tuti’s, followed by a stargazing tour. Kaikoura is right between Wellington and Christchurch, two of the bigger cities in New Zealand, and the peninsula is out a ways into the ocean, so the light pollution is minized and it makes for perfect stargazing. Even from our campground, we could clearly see the milky way and the the Southern Cross, North Star, and Big and Small dippers. In fact, the tour enlightened us that the North Star and dippers are only visible in the Northern hemisphere and we weren’t even close on the Southern Cross. So professional astronomers we are not.
The next day, we did a 12km walk around the perimeter of the peninsula, taking in some stunning views of the ocean in front of the mountains, and some amazing beaches. We passed the same seal colony that we had kayed into the day before, but this time the highlight was watching some crayfish divers picking the crayfish out of their nets. Crayfish are like lobsters, but they’re naturally red (lobsters are brown until you cook em, right?), and without the pincers. But even though they were caught right there, they were sold a few blocks away for $50 each! My guess is that because they have to be retrieved by a diver, they’re expensive. But couldn’t they lay traps like lobster fishermen do? We were fairly stunned that this entire peninsula offered some amazing scenery, but was completely devoid of development. And it’s not that it’s government-protected – it’s private land – but all the land is devoted to farmers and their cows. In fact, at one point in the hike, a couple cows completely blocked our path, and only after they sniffed and licked Kenna would they let us pass. Stupid cows.
After the hike, in the car we went to Christchurch, where we stayed in another holiday park. We headed to the beach to grab some pictures of us on the beach with santa hats, and stupid me, I dropped our nice, non-waterproof Pentax camera in the sand. So now its zoom mechanism has sand in it, and will barely open. I guess I have some electronic surgery to do in Sydney when we get there.
Today, sadly, we left behind Happy Diwali, leaving us only with her wonderful memories. We’re in a really nice hostel in Christchurch, ready to celebrate Christmas tomorrow! Maybe some of the other people here will be in the mood to celebrate, or maybe we’ll head to the bar. Tomorrow (Christmas day), we’re in a hotel by the airport, in preparation for our ridiculously early flight to Sydney on Boxing Day. We have to be at the airport at 3am on Boxing day – that will hurt.
So, to all our readers, we hope you’re enjoying your White Christmas!