Feeling Wild in Kaikoura, New Zealand 02/25/2020

The morning started out awesome!! Pedal kayaking was a winning choice. We saw fur seals frolicking in the water, dolphins leaping through the waves, and even two Little Blue Penguins, just lazily bobbing on top of the water. This was, by far, the most wildlife we have seen since coming here to New Zealand. The trip was perfect, the water calm, and the ability to take pictures was a bonus. We are officially fans of pedal kayaking!! Kathy, ever nervous on water, tried not to be a backseat (or, actually, frontseat) driver to Dave – sometimes succeeding and sometimes not (mostly not…) All in all, it was a great day with perfect weather to kayak on the ocean!! Even with all the nagging of Dave. It was training for the evening when she nagged him not to get to close to the humongous seals!

We learned something interesting on the kayak trip.  We knew that Christchurch had a huge earthquake in 2009.  We didn’t know that Kaikoura had an equally large earthquake in 2016.  We were told that the earthquake lifted the ocean floor 2 to 4 meters (6 to 12 feet!) and exposed a lot of rock that was ocean floor, but is now just part of the land.  You could see where the old high tide marks were, but it is much different now.  Driving in from Nelson, we ran through a lot of road construction.  Now we know why!  They had both lanes of the coastal road north of Kaikoura open for the holiday break open for the first time since the 2016 quake!  Currently, it is back to one lane in many places as the construction resumes.  Incredible display of earth’s power.

We went home for lunch, then a walk around the peninsula where we got to see more seals sleeping on the rocks near the ocean. We decided to come home have an early dinner and go back out to see if we could find some more wildlife. Heading out in the early evening, we found some more fur seals, sea birds, and even a lesser blue heron. Dave took our good camera and kept busy taking closeup photos of the sleeping and playing fur seals, including some babies. Enjoy the photos from our phone camera for now until Dave’s expert photos are uploaded to be viewed. One more day and night and then we are off to Samoa. New Zealand has been awesome, but we are ready for a new adventure!

02/24/2020 Kaikoura, New Zealand on the Pacific Ocean coastline!!

Today saw us leaving our AirBnB where we slept the sleep of the innocent. What exactly does that mean? For Kathy, it means cool enough for a blanket, the right amount of breeze, the perfect height of her pillows, and just enough cushion to make it feel like a cocoon. For Dave, it means that Kathy holds still and does not toss and turn all night, does not kick him, doesn’t steal the covers, doesn’t throw the covers on him, or doesn’t get up complaining!! Feeling rejuvenated, we hit the road early to get to our next destination – Kaikoura, New Zealand.

What should have been a three-hour drive took much longer due to traffic delays. A large earthquake in 2016 (7.8 on the Richter scale!) caused quite a bit of damage, and it is still in the process of being repaired. Arriving in the town a few minutes before check-in, we decided to stop at the local “i site” (information center) for some information. Kathy eager to see some wildlife and, still feeling invigorated by her sleep last night, asked about a kayaking trip to see some seals. The trip scheduled for the morning will hopefully be fun, as we will be pedaling as well as paddling our kayaks! We should probably be embarrassed by this, since we came from one of the kayaking meccas in NYS, but, hey! that was all they had. It will be a new adventure!! Arriving at our newest AirBnB, we were greeted by our hostess who showed us around and gave us some good ideas. Not wanting to waste any time, we set off to complete some last-minute items and then off to dinner. We had a great dinner – sorry Jill, no pictures. Next time!! Then, we decided to take a walk around the end of the peninsula where we got photo bombed by a seal! Okay, we took a selfie with the seal, but the other story is more exciting. A walk up to the top of the cliffs gave us an excellent view of the “lighthouse” and excellent views of the ocean. Lighthouse is in quotations because the building was smaller that a phone booth. It was so small (How small was it?!?!) that Kathy couldn’t even get excited about it – and she loves lighthouses. The end of the day sees us sitting in our living room, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, and watching the waves as the sun sets over the snow-tinged mountains.

Only three days left in New Zealand and then we fly to Samoa!!

02/23/2020 Capitulation and the Ebullience!! Nelson, New Zealand

Another good start to the day!! We loitered in the AirBnB until it was time to leave for our five-hour journey to our next stop. We loitered on the drive, stopping a couple of times, once to eat lunch, and once to take in a view from an overlook. An animated conversation ensued between Dave and two guys from Cape Cod, MA about whether a compass still pointed to magnetic north if you were in the southern hemisphere or if it would point to a magnetic south? A comparison of the overlook’s sundial, which indicated north, against Dave’s compass showed that, indeed, the compass still pointed north even if you were in the southern hemisphere. That question answered, all four of us parted and we headed off in opposite directions.

A stop in the town of Richmond, NZ was where we had an “immaculate capitulation”. Kathy had been talking about Shamrock Shakes from McDonald’s with Dave and she was able to convince him that stopping there was a good option. Yep!! It was a great option. Kathy was ebullient that the milkshake was a real shake, not just milk that was flavored and shaken. She could see the ice cream floating on the top. Dave, unfortunately, did not get his Shamrock Shake, but sometimes it is not about him!! For once he did not get a (sham)rock instead is  “berry” happy!

Finally, we found our AirBnB, a lovely apartment that sits on the top of the hill overlooking the town of Nelson. Newly built, you could see all the modern touches. The owners’ house? Well, let’s just say it could be on an episode of “Hoarders.” We are under the impression they are in the process of getting ready to tear down there home and build a new on, so that could be why they have so much stuff on their lawn. Dropping off our items, we hopped back into the car and drove to Abel Tasman National Park. There we walked along a boardwalk that curved around a large estuary and the bay (which was at very low tide – we even saw boats just sitting on mud waiting for high tide to float again.) Kathy was then again rewarded when she saw one of New Zealand’s four flightless bird – the Weka – and her three babies rooting around in the nearby bushes.

A nice dinner of pizza. Okay, not your normal pizza, but good, nonetheless. The drive home was meandering and beautiful and we had ample opportunity to watch the sun set over the Tasman Sea. Now it’s time to settle in and just relax!! (Pat C, the word “ebullient” used above is just for you!!!)

Queen of the Mountain 02/22/2020 Hokitika, New Zealand

We are still feeling delightfully pampered, after a real dinner last night, sleep in a bed that is already assembled, and a leisurely breakfast with coffee for Kathy. Nice to see Kathy after a couple of cups of coffee!! The morning was spent just doing routine stuff, no having to check out of a campsite or tear down the bed to make room for the table — just feeling royal at this point.

This afternoon saw us go down to the center of the village where we took a walk along a historic trail. Historic buildings were interspersed with more modern buildings. It was an interesting walk. A quick decision and we decided to walk along the “West Coast Wilderness Track”, which ran along a road and railroad track on one side and a river on the other side. It passed by a dairy factory, and then went through a neighborhood. Some “wilderness track”! Yet, we did get to see an egret and climb a tree!! After walking about an hour, we headed back and decided to visit the Hokitika Gorge! An amazing view of the gorge from a swinging bridge. While the river was not turquoise, it was still amazing to watch. It flowed under us from the bridge. We hiked to the end of the trail which saw us at the river’s edge with a slew of boulders along the banks. Kathy climbed atop the highest rock and declared herself “Queen of the Mountain.” Thankfully, she didn’t slip on the wet rocks to find herself “kissing” a few frogs in the fast-moving river.

After another normal dinner, we walked to mass. The rest of the night was spent just chillin’ at the nice Aribnb. Sometimes the best times are spent with each other doing a pile of nothing.

I am King of the Mountain!! 02/21/2020 Castle Rock, New Zealand

It was the best day ever!!! No more campervan! And even better, we have a brand new car that zips along and does not strain going up the numerous mountains in NZ. Dave was definitely the “King of the Mountain”, both while zipping past slower vehicles and gleefully laughing at each driver of a campervan, and also on our hike. While Kathy exercised caution, Dave bravely clambered up the rocks and leaned over to look at the view to be had from the highest rock in the bunch. The hills were covered with limestone rocks that attract visitors from all over the world. The area is a sacred area for the Maori people in New Zealand and some areas included burial sites, similar to Effigy Mounds NP in the US. We did not see those, as they are not open to visitors, but the rocks themselves were a fun place to play. Dave climbed over, under, and across the many areas while Kathy climbed up but stayed off anything that might require grace. She understands her limitations!!

Just in time, we headed back down the mountain before it started to rain. Just because everyone should say this at some point, “It was a dark and stormy” day and night. It rained and rained and rained and we saw areas flowing with rapid water. Water streamed from the sides of the mountain and we saw one area under repair getting ready to collapse. At points visibility was limited, but in one area we had the good fortune to see the elusive Kiwi Bird. The good side to all of the rain? We saw numerous waterfalls, sometimes dozens at a time.

We are at our AirBnB now and Kathy is in heaven!! It has a living room, dining, kitchen (small), bedroom, and a TUB!!! Ahhh, the joy of shaved legs – a luxury you don’t know you miss until you can’t shave!! A nice walk to the market, a bath, and now time to settle in and watch the rain. Dave will enjoy a real bed where he can stretch out to his heart’s delight.

A failure to communicate!!! 02/20/2020 Christchurch, NZ

Today was a very pleasant day!! It started off a somewhat lazy morning, with minimal distractions from sand flies, a couple cups of coffee, and then off to our next destination: Arthurs Pass National Park. We drove down and had a lovely lunch at a café located in the village. Afterward, we went to the NP Visitors’ Center where I purchased my first Christmas ornament. A lovely ornament of the national bird, the Kiwi. In New Zealand, a Kiwi can be a fruit, a bird, or a citizen of NZ. How confusing is that? To make matters worse, the ornament that looked very cute hanging in the display, requires us to assemble the ornament! It comes as a flat cardboard sheet with pieces which you have to break apart and assemble. We then did a casual walk around town and were rewarded with seeing a Kea bird! This is a bird that can only be found here and is endangered. The bird is a large (at least 12” tall) green and orange parrot and is the world’s only alpine parrot. It also happened to be on a car near a local restaurant. They are known as “clowns”, and this one was acting the part, trying to eat the weatherstripping on the car.

We then decided to do a quick hike up to a local waterfall called the Devils Punchbowl. It was an uphill climb that ended at the base of some beautiful falls. We enjoyed a great conversation with someone from Toronto. Even though he was a Maple Leafs fan, we still enjoyed talking with someone from our neck of the woods. Someone who knows what hockey is, and not the type played on grass!!

On the road again, we were headed towards Christchurch. We suddenly stopped on the side of the road after we spied a trail marker. We hiked a short distance on the trail. It was in a lovely forested area and was more reminiscent of the trails in the US, versus the well-groomed trails that abound in many of the tourist areas in New Zealand. We did manage to meet three people on the trail, so even the quiet trails are being enjoyed in this beautiful country. Knowing that we still had a drive to go, we headed towards Christchurch, hoping to get there before dinner time. Dinner was late!!

Googling, we found a restaurant, but it was not to our liking (pretty fancy for a couple of campers who hadn’t yet showered!) We hit the magic Google again and we found a Lone Star Steakhouse. Kathy, who was familiar with the restaurant, punched the coordinates into the GPS and we were off again. This was the first restaurant we went to in New Zealand where we were, 1) seated, 2) had a waitress, 3) they took our order at the table, and 4) we got water. But this is where the similarity ended. Kathy had cajun chicken with rubbed spices. Why, oh why, did they put burrito sauce on top with jalapenos? Cajun and Mexican are quite  apart from each other and the two menus do not usually go together. As strange as it seemed, it was still one of the best meals she had at a restaurant in New Zealand. Deciding to splurge and split a dessert, they settled on “Milky Way Pud” which was billed as vanilla ice cream with white chocolate pudding and butterscotch sauce. Can you picture it? Do you have the picture in your mind? Well, now, rearrange that picture and turn pudding into cake, drizzle some hot butterscotch over the top, and add a dollop of ice cream. Good – but had to be eaten with a tad bit of haste before the cake became soggy!! Still enjoyable. We decided that somethings don’t translate the way we would expect. The restaurant had all kinds of references to people like Jonny Cash, Glen Campbell, Judge Roy Bean, the Beverly Hillbillies, Gunsmoke – even the Theme from the Banana Splits! Alas, none of the young Kiwis serving us had the foggiest what any of these things were!

After dinner, it was off to our last Holiday Park to shower and bed down for the night. We booked online and drove to the spot. Unfortunately, we were unable to check in to the camp. Checking our emails, we were accepted, then denied. We needed to find somewhere else to lay down our heads. Using our CampMate app, we verified our next site was accepted and headed off, just a quick 4 minutes away. Phew – we had our spot!! Or almost…. Two large bus-type RV’s had parked in our spot, as well as several other spots, and we were blocked from parking. We made a quick trip back down to the office where the manager graciously gave us another spot. Time now to get ready for our last night in the campervan!! Kathy is very, very, very, VERY happy to be able say: she survived two weeks in a campervan with Dave!! (Dave is also happy, too, I guess…)

Two days worth of pictures