Monday, January 20, 2014

Whale Watching

On Sunday we were up early again, as we had to check out of the motel, get ourselves breakfasted and over to the Whale Watch centre an hour earlier than yesterday. This was achieved with the minimum of fuss and in fact we had plenty of time to spare. We confirmed that the trip was running and were then given a short safety briefing before being bussed around to the marina to board our vessel. On the ride out our guide gave us some information about what we were likely to see, and whilst he was talking we saw a small pod of dusky dolphins leaping out of the water. Later we found a larger pod, and the captain stopped the boat so that we could get some pictures:

After about 10 minutes, we moved on, as the captain had information about where a whale was, and when it was likely to surface. The main attraction is sperm whales, some of which live off the coast of New Zealand. They’re not migratory, and you’re pretty well guaranteed a sighting of one as the captain and crew can locate them by sound, and know roughly how long they stay down for before resurfacing. The whales we were looking for were all males, as the smaller females stay in more tropical seas nearer the equator.

Sure enough, a whale duly surfaced. The crew were able to identify it by various markings on its dorsal fin and flukes as Tutu, who’s been living in these waters for around 15 years.

Unfortunately, the movement of the boat was by this time causing me major problems, so I wasn’t able to capture any pictures of the final dive when the whale shows its flukes; nor, indeed, any of the even larger pod of dusky dolphins we saw on the way back, many of which were leaping clear of the water and doing all kinds of acrobatics. Nicola took these:

When we arrived back on dry land, I handed over driving duties to Nicola. I had intended for us to lunch at Nin’s Bin, a  famous crayfish stop, but was still feeling queasy so Nicola and Julian dined on the remains of yesterday’s lunch whilst I had a bit of water. We then  drove on north via Lake Grasmere near Seddon, which was very windy indeed. We didn’t stay long! We completed the final leg into Blenheim, and searched for somewhere to get a cup of tea. Eventually (most of the cafes were closed on a Sunday afternoon) we ended up in the Corner Stone pub, where we spent a restful afternoon drinking tea and cake and watching tennis and cricket – the Black Caps taking on India in their first ODI of the series.

Eventually we drove off to Blenheim airport to take our Sounds Air flight back to Wellington. The wind in Wellington had picked up again and we had a slightly bumpy approach into the landing, which didn’t do my recovering stomach much good. Fortunately we only had to take a taxi home and we were back in good time.


We bunked off work early to get home and to the airport for a 6:30pm flight on Sounds Air over to Blenheim, then collected our hire car and drove the 128km down to Kaikoura. The first part of this drive is fairly average, but when we reached the coast there were spectacular views out over the sea. We’ve just had a bit of a blow here, so there were some big breakers rolling in…with a scattering of surfers in amongst them on some of the beaches.

We found the motel with no problems and met up with Julian, who’d taken the scenic (i.e. slower) route via the Interislander ferry and bus to get here. He’d set off at 9:00am and arrived mid-afternoon, so was able to check in to the hotel for us and explore the environs. This doesn’t take long as Kaikoura isn’t a big place.

When we arrived we were pretty famished, so unpacked quickly and headed into the CBD. The first pub that we came to had closed its kitchen (it was, after all, past 9 o’clock!), but we walked a little further down and found a pizza place called Passione – a bit better than Pizza Hut, I hasten to add – and they were happy to serve us with pizza, pasta, beer and wine. We then headed back to watch England play Australia in an ODI – at one point it looked like England might actually win a cricket match in Australia, but the Aussies had a different idea about that and they managed to complete the run chase with three balls and one wicket to spare.

 Next day we were up with the lark to go into town and get ourselves a good breakfast, as we were booked on the 10:30 whale watch departure. We trundled along to the Kaikoura Whale Watch centre, based at the Whaleway Station on Whaleway Road (yes, really!) only to be informed that the sea was too rough, with 5m swells, and that the tours this morning were cancelled. We were offered a refund or rebooking, so decided to rebook for the next day, Sunday, at 9:30.

This left us at a bit of a loose end for the rest of the day, so we decided to drive up the coast and walk around the peninsula. There is a car park at the beginning of the north end of the walkway, so we parked there. There is a seal colony here, and we spotted several lounging about on the rocks. We then went up a steep path to reach the top of the cliffs, and look around:

We walked along the cliff tops, seeing various wildlife including the ubiquitous red-billed seagulls, and some wax-eyes and a yellowhammer:

From the cliff tops we could see people walking down along the shoreline, and decided that we would see if we could do that from the southern end of the walkway after lunch.

We again parked at the southern end of the walkway and took the track along the coast. Fairly soon it started going uphill to the top of the cliffs, so we abandoned the beaten track and took to the shoreline to explore. The rock formations here are weathered limestone and form some spectacular arrangements as they have been bent out of shape and eroded. The birdlife seems unfazed by the surrounding geography.

In the evening we went out for dinner at The Green Dolphin restaurant, where we had fish and lamb. I was going to order the crayfish, the local speciality – Kaikoura means food/eat (kai) crayfish (koura) – but decided I’d get that tomorrow, as we would be heading past some famous eateries on the way back to Bleinheim.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Technical Support

Nicola's sister, Sacha is running in the London Marathon this year. She has started a blog to record her training and related matters, and asked me how to provide a link to her justgiving site for donations. I tested it out on my web site and have left it there, should anyone care to add to her donations. She's running for the Pancreatic Cancer UK charity.