On the homeward journey

Eric apologises again for the late arrival of the supposedly daily blog, he is doing his best, honest.

 

Tuesday 13th January 2015. Day 127. Fossil fascination

To paraphrase a well known ditty

‘There’s a little yellow eyed penguin to the north of Oamaru,

Tho’ sighting it is difficult, that much is true.’

 

We were away very promptly at our target time of 8.30am because we had a lot to pack in today. The overnight rain continued as we left Oamaru, having tried to fill the just under three quarters full petrol tank and only managing to get 3 litres in, leaving it three quarters full, as a product of Eric’s petrol paranoia. Our route led us to the valley of the river Waitaki and the settlement of Duntroon. Here we found the centre of a local palaeontological initiative to bring the unique fossils of the local limestone to a wider audience. Of special note are the skeletons of ancestral dolphins from the Oligocene plus whale and penguin remains. The centre has original fossils, as well as casts, and offers a hands on experience of extracting a fossil and identifying, which is very popular with children. We arrived well before it opened but one of the local volunteers arrived and admitted us to all but the fossil extraction activity.

On his advice we retraced our steps and found the weird rock formations created by weathering and erosion of the limestone known as Elephant Rocks, where the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe battle scene was filmed. As we headed back to Duntroon we visited the Maerewhenua site which featured Maori rock art in a cave shelter. Back in Duntroon we saw the 1910 jail and the dressed stone church before travelling to Tokiroa cave shelter for another site of Maori art, where the art could be seen more clearly, but the best bits had been moved to a museum.

Further up the valley, just past Kurow, we passed the Waitaki dam, the first of three HEP stations along the river, then drove across the Aviemore dam and along the shore of the lake, an almost continuous campsite. The road then cut back to the main road across the Benmore Dam, a huge earth dam which creates a lake that extends all the way to Twizel. The landscape became more hilly and the vegetation sparser, dominated by dry grass and scrub.

The road then took us through Omarama and Twizel, crossing the huge canal from Lake Pukaki, before turning along the western side of this lake with the snow covered southern alps a clear barrier ahead. The beautiful azure blue of the lake was counterpointed by the brilliant white of the snow and ice on the horizon. Mount Cook dominated our view as we drove alongside the lake, looming larger and larger. Driving into Mount Cook Village we were greeted by the majestic Mount Seaton with its beautiful glaciers.

After our picnic lunch, outside the visitor centre, surrounded by the grandeur of the mountains we drove towards the Hooked Valley which offered even better views of Mount Seaton. Turning south we then drove towards the Tasman glacier, although our travel, was interrupted by the road workers resealing the road. Having parked the car we walked towards to viewpoint on the top of the terminal moraine. Turning aside to view the ‘blue lakes’ we came to the first one and were disappointed to find it had no colour whatsoever. Disheartened by this Joyce returned to the car while Eric continued the steep climb to the top. The view of the proglacial lake and the vertical blue ice of the snout of the glacier covered with a great depth of moraine was stunning. On descending the path Eric caught sight of the other two moraine lakes, the furthest of which was a shade of bluey green, one out of three is not bad.

We retraced our steps to Twizel, where we refuelled, much to Eric’s relief, then headed towards Lake Tekapo. Just before entering the settlement we visited the viewpoint at the Mount John Observatory, producing a stunning view of the beautiful blue lake. After taking the opportunity of taking pictures we sought out the Reflections restaurant, recommended by Trip Advisor, where we enjoyed beautiful lake and mountain views and had an excellent meal with Joyce enjoying the Mongolian chicken and Eric yet another steak. While waiting for our meal we took advantage of the excellent free WiFi, as we had had a poor service in our previous room.

Leaving Tekapo we visited the Church of the Good Shepherd, the stone built church on a promontory overlooking the lake. Nearby was the monument to the collie dogs who helped open the country for sheep farming. We then drove in the gathering gloom of thickening cloud and drizzle through Burke’s Pass, a heritage village with a quaint wooden church, founded in 1859. In Fairlie we found our extravagant motel room at the Top 10 Park, which came with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge.

 

Wednesday 14th January 2015. Day 128. Akaroan attractions

Yesterday’s rain had stopped before we left at 9.00am but the sky remained overcast. In the clean air the hillsides stood out with particular clarity in the clear light through the grey clouds. The damp roads were speckled with small birds, foraging for who knows what, who repeatedly took to the wing almost a fraction too late as the car approached. Unfortunately one poor specimen misjudged that fraction and we added to the road kill total.

The weather had led us to modify our plans for the day. Originally we had intended pushing a little further north via Methven to visit the Mt Hutt ski area for more mountain views but the low cloud meant that the views would be confined to mist. The fact that we had booked an afternoon harbour cruise in Akaroa also contributed to our change of plan as we still had a long way to go against the clock. As a result we took the road to Geraldine as a way point to rejoin SH1. We paused briefly in this town, admired to few heritage buildings as we drove down the main street and paused at the Kiwi Country store but with little special on offer and being a little early for coffee we pushed on to Ashburton. Entering what we thought was the settlement we were disappointed to find no nice cafés and after doing a right street U turn, as all the shops were on the other side of the road because the railway ran close to the western side, we stopped at a bakery for some patisserie and take away coffee, which we consumed in the car being buffeted by the stream of trucks heading in both directions along the main north south highway.

Rejoining the main road, in the right direction, we found the actual town of Ashburton, with some nice cafes and heritage buildings on offer, but by then it was too late. Starting with Ashburton we passed across a series of rivers, each with a settlement named after them on the south bank. These rivers are highly braided carrying coarse sediment in mainly meltwater from the mountains, necessitating very wide bridges. Eric was particularly gratified to cross the Rangitata river, which he had used for years in teaching Fluvial Geomorphology as an example of a river changing its plan form along its length, depending on slope and load, between braided and single channel, and which he was delighted to see actually existed. The view from the bridge was brief but dramatic in terms of the meltwater colour and the wide expanse of braiding.

After crossing the Rakaia river we attempted a coastal approach to Akaroa, juggling the gps directions and an inadequately scaled route map. We skirted the Lake, a huge lagoon, Te Waihora or Lake Ellesmere, created by a spit, eventually rejoining SH75, the Christchurch to Akaroa road. The weather had closed in again, with intermittent drizzle and harder rain, and the mountains of the Banks peninsula, named by Captain Cook 5 days after the birthday of Joseph Banks, the expedition’s botanist, and wrongly thought to be an island.

The peninsula owes its origin to the creation of a series of  interconnected volcanic edifices which have been subject to radial drainage and deep incision, then flooding by rising sea levels. As a result a series of deep straight rias fringe the peninsula while the breaching of the main crater had led to the formation of Akaroa harbour, relatively shallow at 15 metres depth.

The drive into the peninsula allowed views of the lagoon, with patches of violet flowers across the mud flats, exposed at low tide. From Little River, with the Silo-stay hotel where the rooms are inside grain solos, the road rises steeply and tortuously through Cooptown to Hilltop where it descends equally precipitately to Barry’s Bay, offering superb views over the Onawe Peninsula and Akaroa harbour, which must be even better under sun and cloudless skies rather than through mist under a low cloud base.

From Barry’s Bay the road travels around the northern end of the harbour, cresting ridges before returning to the sea in a series of bays. A final climb brought us above Akaroa where we found our Top 10 holiday park perched above the harbour and offering superb views, even in the rain. Although it was only 1.40pm our cabin was ready for us and given the poor weather we phoned the cruise company and rearranged our trip for the next morning. Moving into our cabin we enjoyed our lunch, admiring the views through the cloud, before relaxing for a couple of hours, waiting for the weather to improve.

During the afternoon it stopped raining, although the harbour remained misty and clogged in. At around 4.00pm we decided it was dry enough to venture out and we drove down the Old Coach Road into Akoroa, parking close to the Catholic Church. Akaroa has the distinction of being a French settlement, albeit under English rule, the whole of South Island being claimed by the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi and the English flag being planted at Green Point only days before the French settlers arrived. As a result the surviving architecture and the street names retain their Gallic charm.

After visiting St Patrick’s Catholic Church, built in 1864 on the site of the first South Island mass celebrated by Bishop Pompallier, who we had come across in Russell, we moved on to Trinity Church, the Presbyterian church, which was locked and the shop holding the key was closed for the day, before visiting the Anglican St Peter’s Church, built in 1863.

We passed the museum, which had closed for the day, and a number of distinctive heritage buildings before heading around French Bay to Main Wharf to reconnoitre the cruise location for tomorrow. Our research into dining possibilities had so far been fruitless, with restaurants closed or very expensive, so passing a butcher’s offering speciality sausages we decided to reprise the Christmas dinner. Having bought a selection we headed to the wharf, discovering other buildings such as the Library and the Gaiety theatre as well as souvenir shops. On the wharf we found the departure point and the closed Blue Pearl Gallery which showcased the unique blue pearls produced in the harbour and which took Joyce’s fancy.

Strolling back in the resuming rain we passed the war memorial, undergoing restoration after the earthquakes, shrouded in scaffold and shrink wrap and bought the rest of the food for dinner. Returning to the car we headed back to our cabin where we enjoyed our sausage, mash and beans, plus broccoli, before watching a film on TV.

 

Thursday 15th January 2015   Day 129   Dolphin delights

Although it had rained overnight it was dry when we awoke, albeit still clagged in. We were away from the Park by 10.00am and headed down the hill again to the town. Have looked at parking places yesterday we went to the nearest unrestricted parking to the wharf and found a spot to park. We then strolled towards the wharf with Joyce settling in a café to order coffee while Eric headed off to collect the boarding passes.

Having enjoyed our coffee we went to the wharf and in the few minutes before boarding called in to the Pearl emporium to make enquiries about a pendant for Joyce. The pearls are cultivated in the harbour, by the abalone that produce the blue Paua shells. As time ran out on us we promised to return after the cruise.

Boarding of the boat was swift and we were soon heading out into the harbour. Although it had tried to rain again precipitation was holding off, but the sky remained stubbornly overcast with tantalising short breaks in the cloud. The harbour is impressive with its steep sides, now covered in pasture but originally thick forest. The slopes are often craggy and as the boat headed seaward the development of vertical cliffs became the dominant feature. At water level caves of varying sizes from tubes to the vast Cathedral have developed and active hydraulic action can clearly be seen in the embryo caves as the waves compress air into them creating fountains of water and spray through the cave mouth and through the occasional blow hole.

At the mouth of the harbour we passed out into the Pacific Ocean, the boat become far more lively as we crested the deep ocean swells. The cliffs facing the open sea are dramatic with superb arch development. On the Eastern headland the automatic lighthouse can clearly be seen. The original manned lighthouse, constructed of wood, was due for demolition but local enthusiasts bought it for $1 and moved it to the harbourside, just north of the wharf, where it stands as a proud monument.

On our way along the harbour we passed several interesting historical sights, including Green Point with its monument and where a flagpole still files the Union flag, and Onuku, with the Maori church, built in 1878, and the meeting house.

Wildlife was prolific on our cruise with many species of sea birds, especially cormorants, red billed gulls and sooty shearwaters over the open sea. Other highlights included the New Zealand fur seal colony, with a number of pups, and the sightings of the blue penguin, one swimming only metres from the boat. However the best of the day were the large number of Hector’s dolphins that swam around the boat, playing in the wake and under the bows. The smallest marine dolphin it is also the most threatened, on a par with the Bengal Tiger and the panda. Only 7,000 exist in the wild, 50 in Akaroa harbour and by our count we saw at least 40 of them, including one baby.

 

All good things must come to an end so we returned to Akaroa in time for Joyce to select a blue pearl pendant as an early tenth anniversary present, Yes it will be ten years on the 2nd April. Having put the purchase in the car we went to the museum, with 50 objects reflecting the history of the town. In the courthouse, next to the museum, a short film told the story of its development; while on the other side a two bedroom cottage, bought prefabricated from France, reflected its beginnings.

Time was now pressing so we headed for the Summit road to enjoy the extensive views of the peninsula. Stopping briefly at the Akaroa Heritage Park viewpoint all that could be seen were the sheets of rain converging on the harbour. Driving on and up we entered thick cloud and rain, with only 10 k visibility, which persisted for the whole transit of the peninsula’s spine. We passed a few other hardy souls driving the route and while reminding us of winter at home as Joyce remarked sensible people were using the faster lower road.

Emerging finally, from the mist we rejoined the main road and retraced our steps through Little River before diverting over Gebbies Pass to Governor’s Bay with misty views of Lyttleton Harbour. A short stop in Lyttleton where a brief visit to the info centre confirmed that there was little worth stopping for, so taking the Lyttleton tunnel we entered Christchurch and found our B&B accommodation. After a coffee and chat with our hosts we drove to a nearby salon for Joyce’s hair appointment. Whilst the hair was attended to Eric stayed in the car updating the blog, it is usually Joyce waiting for Eric in the car. When Joyce returned after two hours, golden halo shining, we repaired to a local Italian restaurant for spaghetti and lasagne. During the meal Joyce felt her chair move, although Eric was oblivious. Our hosts confirmed that this was a local 3.7 earthquake, tremors below 3 still occur daily, all public buildings have to be checked after tremors of 5+.

 

Friday 16th January 2015   Day 130 Busking bonanza

Our hosts were very relaxed about arrangements and left the makings of breakfast for when we got going. After a leisurely breakfast we discussed the plans for the day. Christchurch is still suffering from the impact of the two earthquakes the second of which hit the city almost three years ago. Many of the older buildings were so badly damaged that they have been demolished and those iconic buildings that could be saved are taking time to be renovated, meaning that the normal tourist activities are curtailed. However the city is responding positively to the challenge, with a clear plan as how the city can be improved as the rebuild continues. There are a number of earthquake related places to visit as part of experiencing the city.

We therefore decided to visit the centre and also to take advantage of the World Busker festival which started today. We were interested in going to a one woman Jane Austen spoof entitled Promise and Promiscuity and tried to book tickets online. As a result of Eric’s incompetence we ended up with tickets to both the Friday and Saturday night performances, which the telephone sales personnel could not sort out, only email would do. Having immediately sent a missive it turned out that it would be dealt within a two day response time. We therefore resolved to sort the problem out in town as we left at 11.00am.

Driving through Christchurch proved something of a challenge as the gps was not fully au fait with the road closures in place as repairs and rebuilding continues. After a few circuits of the centre we began to find our way around. One result of the extensive building clearance is the proliferation of parking places, for as little as $5 per day, on these sites.

Our first destination was the Restart Mall, the shopping arcade created with cargo containers. From here we walked through to Cathedral Square to view the horrendous damage done to the Cathedral, which will be repaired, and the city trams running a tour of the centre. We then found the Arts Centre which, although extensively damaged, is under repair and saw a snatch of our first busker, a juggler.

As we walked around we saw the results of the ‘Stand Tall’ competition where schools had been challenged to decorate statues of giraffes. These giraffes appear all over the centre of Christchurch and represent aspirations for the future.

From the Art’s Centre we returned, along the River Avon, to Restart for lunch and a visit to St Michael’s Church, a magnificent wooden church built on 1864 which largely escaped damage. Returning to the car we drove to North Hegley Park and found an on street parking place. Heading towards to Botanic Gardens we inadvertently strayed on to the golf course and with visions of a bombardment of stray golf balls we made our rapid way to the safety of the nearest path, which led us to the main Busker stages. Here we enjoyed the antics of an unicyclist who completed his act astride a 12 foot high unicycle whilst juggling a burning torch, a machete and a club; the ‘Coin Operated Girl’ and ‘The English Gentlemen’, who produced a magnificent and humorous display of acrobatics. In the area we found a ticket booth and explained our ticket predicament. The solution was to give us tickets for tonight’s performance of ‘The Boy with Tape on his Mouth’, allowing us to see ‘Promise and Promiscuity’ tomorrow.

From the Busker we moved to the Botanic and walked through the Gardens, admiring the Water, New Zealand and Rose Gardens and the extensive Herbaceous Border and parkland. As we walked to the Main Gate we passed an elaborate fountain, before entering the Museum, where we enjoyed the Maori, Antarctic Base, Christchurch Street, Victorian Museum and Paua House displays. Running out of time, being ushered out of the closing museum, we headed back to Restart Mall, viewing the Remembrance Bridge which is under repair. At the Mall we enjoyed a Pizza then walked to Christ’s College where the assembly hall was the venue for the show, most of the 900 seats were filled. This proved to be an excellent hour’s entertainment by a very talented and inventive mime artist whose interactions with volunteers from the audience, use of stage props and music had us all in paroxysms of laughter.

After the show we walked back through the Park in a shower of rain, avoiding the golf course, and found our car before driving back to our accommodation.

 

Saturday 17th January 2015. Day 131. Christchurch continuation

Another gentle start to the day saw us heading out at 10.30am after finding that we were to be refunded for the tickets for tonight’s show. As a result we had to purchase another two seats to ensure we saw it. Our hosts had recommended a visit to the Farmer’s Market at Riccerton House so we headed off to enjoy the local colour. Parking proved an issue but we bagged a spot within walking distance, vacated as we arrived. The market presented a fascinating range of fresh and cooked produce and we bought some quiche for lunch. The House was not open so we admired its exterior as we enjoyed a cup of coffee while listening to a trade jazz band.

The grounds of the House also contained Deans Cottage, a historic residence from the first settlers of the Canterbury Plains, which we were able to view, and the Riccerton Bush, a preserved section of the original woodland. We had an enjoyable stroll through this woodland and were entertained by the antics of a pair of fantails.

From the market we drove towards the airport to visit the Antarctica Centre which allowed Eric to ride in Hagglund all terrain vehicle. As Joyce could not ride due her neck issues, Eric, as a single passenger, was given the front seat, allowing an excellent view of the hill climbing, slope hugging, crevasse crossing and amphibious capabilities. Back in the centre we enjoyed snow in the seasons of Antartica display, the 4D theatre presentation of a tourist visit to the continent, complete with lashings of spume and spray. We viewed a number of Blue Penguins and baby ones in their nests in the sanctuary. We entered a room to experience an Antarctic storm in the freezer at -8C with wind speeds of 42 mph producing wind-chill of -8. Enjoyed an excellent display on the geology, ecology and exploration of Antarctica and a film of the colours and landscape.

Lunching in the car park at 2.45pm we then drove to the Christchurch Gondola. Here we were carried to a viewing platform and cafe on the rim of the extinct volcano which was part of the complex responsible for the creation of the Banks Peninsula. The views of Lyttleton and its harbour were spectacular and we could see through Gebbies Pass to Lake Ellesmere. Within the complex the ‘Time Tunnel’ ride told the history of Canterbury through DVD presentations.

From the Gondola we drove back into the city to visit the Cardboard Cathedral, an interim building which has created a beautiful and light space from containers, steel framing, Perspex roofing and cardboard tubing. Near this building were the 185 empty chairs, commemorating those who died in the earthquake, some large murals on the remaining walls and a ‘Nature Play Park’ where an area of rubble is being left to become vegetated naturally.

Having viewed these sites in an area with few buildings having survived the earthquake we drove to the Armagh Street car park near the Botanic Gardens. From here we walked through the Gardens to Christ’s College where the Old Boy’s Theatre, a more intimate venue, hosted ‘Promise and Promiscuity’. A one woman written and acted show which proved a tour de force, with multiple characters, Jane Austen quotations, clever wordplay, songs and dance. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance and returned to our hosts with smiles on our lips.

 

Sunday 18th January 2015.   Day 132   Limestone largesse

After saying farewell to our very welcoming and attentive hosts we headed to Sydenham church for the 10.00am service. The church was hosting a neighbouring congregation whose place of worship has been damaged in the earthquakes and was yet to be repaired. We had lively worship comprising more traditional hymns; the Word was based on Psalm 136 emphasised the need to always give God the glory and not seek it for ourselves. Leaving the church we headed north, diverting from SH1 on to SH73 and then the gps took us on the Old West Coast Road. As we drove we caught tantalising glimpses of the large Waimakiri river running in its extensively braided channels.

At Sheffield we rejoined SH73, pausing to buy award winning pies, and after passing through Springfield we found a shaded picnic site to consume the comestibles, which were good apart from Joyce’s Cherry Pie having the same savoury pastry as Eric’s Steak and Kidney.

A short time after lunch we passed through the Korowai Torlesse Tussocklands Park where we admired the distinctive grass which lent a golden colour to the desiccated hillsides. We then came upon Castle Hill with its rock formations reminiscent of an ancient fortified settlement. Similar forms to Elephant rocks, the limestone has weathered in large blocks defined by vertical joints, producing a field of rounded towers separated by deep corridors. The limestone surface is subject to physical spalling as well as carbonation and while karren features exist on the bare upper surfaces they are intermittent and poorly defined. Eric lingered longer than Joyce, enjoying a walk through this beautiful natural sculpture and reflecting that it is just not true that once you had seen one outcrop of weirdly shaped limestone, you had seen them all.

Our next stop was only a little further on at Cave stream, here anyone with a torch, good footwear and a willingness to get soaked can explore a stream running in a limestone cave system from resurgence to point of entry. Supressing our natural eagerness to join the large number of thrill seeking younger people in this pursuit we took the more sedate option of walking to the viewpoint to overlook the impressive gorge on one side of which is the resurgence cave, where the water comes out and adventurers go in, then walked along the edge of the steep dry valley, the original stream bed, to the gently inclined swallow hole where the water goes in and dripping wet adventurers emerge.

Our next stop was a short stop to view Lake Pearson before we ascended into Arthur’s Pass where mice with a death wish scurried across the road ahead of the car, dodging death by a whisker or not, with evidence of tiny speed bumps in the road.

The landscape was magnificently glacial and fluvio-glacial. Wide, glacial troughs with flat floors, masking their parabolic form, created from moraine and glacial stream deposits now support extensive braided streams. On the valley side moraine ridges and outwash terraces abounded. As we drove we saw ahead of us snow capped peaks, with extensive rock fall tracks, released by the summer thaw, across the snow fields.

Passing over Arthur’s Pass, our second major Alpine crossing and the highest at 962 metres, we passed down along the steep and tortuous road along Otika Gorge. We stopped at the viewpoint overlooking the inclined viaduct that runs along the river for several hundred metres and were entertained by the antics of a Kea. A little further down the road at another viewpoint that promised much but delivered little we were entertained by a pair of very friendly Keas, one who took a particular liking to Joyce.

Having reached the flats at the base of the gorge, although still perched above the Taramakau river, on a wide outwash terrace, we paused at Kumara for an ice cream, then discovered the Londonderry rock, a 3,000 ton erratic which had been disturbed from its hiding place in moraine during hydraulic mining for gold and rolled to its present location, killing and injuring miners en route. The path traversed the tailings from the mining operations. Gaining access to the walk involved some interesting unsealed road manoeuvres, so much so that it took three attempts, the last one at speed to get back on to the main track. Shades of Death Valley?

Rejoining SH6 we retraced our steps of last month into Greymouth where we stayed in the same Top 10 Holiday Park. This time we were fully self contained , a definite step up, and to celebrate the facilities we enjoyed a hearty meal of chunky soup and toast.

 

 

Monday 19th January 2015.   Day 133 Pass progress

Leaving Greymouth at 9.30 am we took the alternative route to Reefton and in doing so stumbled on the Tyneside mine which led us via the 19th century railway spur suspension bridge to the site of the Brunner mine, a fascinating industrial archaeological site with its Brick work, Beehive Coke ovens, Fire clay mine and Adits. It has the misfortune to be the site of New Zealand’s worst industrial accident in 1896 when 65 miners were killed in an underground explosion. The surface remains are very interesting, with a fascinating display of the history of the mine, its largely British miners and the outcomes of the bereaved families. Also fascinating was the strong smell of H2S emanating from the lower part of the site.

Leaving the mine behind we passed Red Jacks and its preserved logging locomotive and headed for the steep and winding Lewis Pass, our third major Alpine Pass. At 907 metres it is lower than Arthur’s but still beat the 564 metres of Haas Pass. As we drove the weather closed in and when, on the other side of the pass we stopped to enjoy the view of an Alpine lake at the start of the St James walkway, the rain began in earnest so we pushed on to Hanmer Springs where we explored the town, viewing the exterior of St Andrew’s Presbyterian church and finding the hot pools before checking in to our motel.

After a short rest we returned to the pools and enjoyed a reduced Seniors’ entry ticket and the delight of a private pool upgrade, courtesy of the ‘Arrival’ magazine coupon we had collected on landing in Auckland. This was not its only benefit, we had used a number of coupons before. Once our languorous laze in 38C water was over we went to the 42C Sulphur pools, which have not been treated and come directly from the geothermal source. We next sat in the rock pools and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of effects in the Aqua therapy pools where the variety of water jets were delivered at very high volume and velocity.

Once showered and changed we ventured out to the Whatever restaurant where we enjoyed Venison. Having seen so many deer farms and being told about the hunting opportunities offered by escaped deer and seen the fruits of such a hunt carried beneath a helicopter at Lake Manapouri, we were determined to try it, this being our first opportunity.

 

Tuesday 20th January 2015.   Day 134 Glacial grandeur

We had so much enjoyed our Hot Springs experience that we resolved to repeat it. As a result we were buying an entry ticket soon after the pools opened at 10.00am. No private pool today but straight in to the Sulphur pools followed by the freshwater Swimming pool with the flowing Lazy river circuit to enjoy. We felt that the water slides were not our scene but repaired again to the Aqua Therapy experience. We managed to occupy two hours easily before lunching in the on site café.

After lunch we took to the Old Kaikoura road which travelled again through marvellous glacial scenery, a glacial geomorphologist’s paradise. The road ran along the margins of wide, flat floored valleys with their glacier fed and greeny white braided streams. Outwash and moraine terraces were again much in evidence.

At Waiau we stopped to use the facilities and to view the historic Cob House and Church. Being the old road, the river crossings were by one track bridges and in many places the road was notched into precipitous moraine slopes, high above the floor of the incised streams, making steep descents to and ascents from the narrow wooden parapetted bridges.

We arrived in Kaikoura in good time and by 2.30pm were in our self contained accommodation on the peninsula, perched high above the sea on one of the marine terraces. Once settled we explored the area finding the old whaling station with the related Fyffe Cottage, now a whaling museum. Further on we visited the seal colony, where a couple of the local fur seals lolled around on the walkway (memories of the Galapagos) and beach. From here we drove back to the shops and found the location of the Whale Watch base for the morrow before returning to our room for tuna sandwiches.

 

Wednesday 21st January 2015. Day 135   Whale wonder

We had booked another whale watching cruise today in the hope of seeing a sperm whale, after failing to see ant in Sydney. Kaikoura has the distinction of hosting a semi-permanent group of male sperm whales that feed in the 1,600 metre deep Kaikoura trench that comes within a few kilometres of the coast.

We arrived to book in for the 10.30 am tour to be told we were actually on the 11.00am trip. Standing outside viewing the actions of a very distant pod of Dusky Dolphins in the bay the very kind receptionist came out to tell us that she had been able to move us forward, for which we were very grateful.

After a short safety briefing in the centre we were taken by coach to the nearby marina in South Bay, the other side of the peninsula. Once seated, the boat headed out to deeper water, to the last known location of the whale seen on the earlier trip. Once there we stopped and were permitted out on deck where we saw Mollymawk albatross, as at Stewart Island, and a Southern Royal Albatross as well as West Coast petrel. Once stopped the Captain used hydrophones to listen for the whale’s echo location, which allows him to determine where to go next. As the whales can stay underwater fir up to 2 hours, even sleeping at depth, and only stay on the surface 5 to 10 minutes, it is a real art to finding them when they are few in number.

 

We waited patiently for almost two hours, changing our location occasionally depending on the hydrophone results. Just as we were giving up hope the whale surfaced and started to blow about 200 metres in front of us. Joyce and Eric had secured a position at the bow rail and had an excellent view. The boat pulled alongside the whale, about a hundred metres to its left and we were enthralled to watch its repeated breathing and blowing from the S shaped vent, the spray emerging at 45 degrees to a height of several metres and with its stumpy dorsal fin above water. Eventually the whale was ready to dive and gave an excellent tail display and left a clear vortical pool on the surface.

Our time being up we returned to the marina from where we were taken by coach back to the base location and our car. We then parked closer to Kaikoura and attempted to buy fish and chips at Timid Takeaway, only to have the closed sign slapped on the door just before we entered, although other customers were inside. Slightly miffed we transferred our custom across the road to Coopers, where we had an excellent lunch.

After eating we viewed the exterior of St Paul’s on the Hill, Presbyterian church and drove back to South Bay where we enjoyed the coastal scenery. Eric particularly enjoyed a walk around the beach to look at the marine erosion of the fine bedded limestone, with beautiful examples of small scale folding determining the landform produced while Joyce had a nap in the car.

Nearby was the remains of a whaling factory and as we drove back to our room we visited the earthworks of the Nag Niho Pa, one of the 11 defended sites on the peninsula.

After a ham sandwich tea we went to the local cinema for some nostalgia, enjoying the recently released Paddington. On our return Joyce was able to use the washing machine to catch up on our laundry.

 

Thursday 22nd January 2015.   Day 136    Casual coasting

We had planned an extra night in Kaikoura in case there were problems with the whale watching, so today became a much needed day for sorting out and resting. The morning started well with beautiful views of the Seaward Kaikoura Range, up until now shrouded in cloud, showing new snow which had fallen overnight. After a late breakfast we sorted paperwork and souvenirs. Eric knows they intended to take nothing but photographs, but a few light souvenirs surely cannot do any harm to the baggage allowance surely, and we have to think of the grandchildren. Note the plural as we were delighted to be informed that Clare is expecting in June.

After sandwiches for lunch we sat in the sunshine in the garden and read our books before driving into town for some groceries and presents and then back to the seal colony, where we strolled along the coastal path, running along the top of the cliffs, the 1.5 kilometres to Whaler’s Bay and back. The coastline of headlands and bays was beautiful and from above we could see many fur seals on the rocks below.

Once back in the room Joyce used iron and ironing board and the kitchenette to prepare macaroni cheese for a sumptuous repast.

 

Friday 23rd January 2015.   Day 137 Strait sailing

Our timings today were governed by the need to check in to the Picton Interislander ferry terminal by 1.30pm at the latest. In theory we were only a couple of hours away so leaving at 9.30am seemed a safe bet. Knowing we had time in hand we went back to the Whale Watch car park in the hope of seeing dolphins, to no avail. As a substitute we popped into the local quilt shop for some retail therapy. Once this was accomplished and we had refuelled we headed north once more.

Eric was tempted by the sea road so followed the gps route around the rest of Kaikoura bay rather than SH1. We enjoyed the last views of this beautiful location before rejoining the main road.

The road skirted the coastline, along with the railway, on a raised beach between the relict cliff and the sea . Once the railway moved to the inland side the views of the coast were fantastic. At Ohau Point we were treated to the view of a very large seal colony and were delighted to see a large number of pups playing in the rock pools.

Passing Rakatau village and Half moon bay we stopped at Kekerengu Store for coffee and delicious cakes, sitting on the terrace overlooking the sea. The whole of this coastline has an intrinsic beauty with the steep slopes of the old cliffs mantled in dry golden and yellow grasses while the active shoreline has little half moon beaches between low headlands with offshore rocks creating patterns of white breaking waves in the azure sea. There is little settlement along this route with the mountains offering little economic support, only the occasional farmstead and a spattering of sheep. However there are some gems such as the stone built St Oswald’s church at Wharanui.

Other points of interest were the saltworks at Kaparu , with ponds of pink sea salt, the field of relict sand dunes which the road cuts through, the vineyards of the Aweteri valley, the historic bridge across the Aweteri river built with railway on top and single track road beneath.

As we entered Blenheim we passed another historic Cob cottage, preserving the torsional building material and style of the region. Blenheim did not detain us long and we were soon speeding through the Para wetlands, with its host of dead trees the result of the 1997 drought.

We arrived in Picton and were checked in by 1.15pm, sitting on the quayside in the sunshine. At just after 2.10pm we started to board the ferry and we found ourselves on the lowest deck, next to the freight train waggons. The crossing was relatively smooth, although the one metre swells did produce some movement. The cruise through the Marlborough Sounds was beautiful, bathed in sun we emerged into the Cook Strait. The most bizarre experience of this trip was observing the crew practising an emergency situation, fire in the engine room, resulting finally in a call to abandon ship. The passengers had been warned that this was a drill but the crew seemed to spend most of the exercise chatting, many not wearing their life jackets. It did not instil confidence.

Once docked we found our way to our B&B accommodation and when settled in went to Johnsonville for a Chinese takeaway which we enjoyed overlooking the bay, sitting on our host’s balcony.

 

Saturday 24th January 2015. Day 138. Windy Wellington

 

Eric found it very difficult to get going this morning, so it was 11.00am before we drove into Wellington city centre. We parked near Te Papa, the national museum, and after a view of the harbour went inside to enjoy the art gallery on the 5th floor and then started on the extensive Maori exhibits on the 4th floor. Being Saturday the parking was free but still subject to a 2 hour restriction so after lunching in the café we headed back to the car at 1.30pm and drove south to find a beach. Oriental Bay was jam packed, with parking no sight, so we headed on past lots of small bays towards Miramar and through the tunnel to Seatoun where we parked on the seafront. It was very windy so we walked the kilometre to Worser Bay where we enjoyed a sunbathe and paddle, although the windblown sand was irrtitating. There was lots of activity on the beach, with about 20 yachts following a circular course, kite surfers, solitary wind surfer, jet ski, swimmers and families playing in the sand. Substantial beach houses were tight against the cliff sides and on the slopes above, enjoying extensive views of this larger bay. Joyce particularly liked this Suburb and spotted at least one house she would be happy to live in here, apart from the wind.

Having bought an ice cream in Seatoun we took the coast road back to Miramar, enjoying the views as we drove around the small bays. Once back in town, courtesy of SH1 and travelling through a number of tunnels, we parked near the Westpac Arena and walked to Old St Paul’s, arriving just a few minutes before it closed. This church, was the Anglican cathedral for much longer than intended and as it was much loved people lobbied for it to be maintained as a museum, it is built totally of wood in the Victorian Gothic style and is a jewel to behold.

Having enjoyed the interior of this church we walked to the new Anglican Cathedral which is a modern concrete block, with gothic additions, which lent little to its attractiveness. This was closed so we ‘admired’ its exterior before walking into the grounds of the Parliament building, admiring the exteriors of the three main structures, including the beehive. From here we looked at the fine wooden Old Government buildings, the largest wooden buildings in the southern hemisphere, and the brick built Turnbull’s House, an early wealthy settler who donated his library to the national collection, before finding a restaurant for a steak sandwich dinner.

After our meal we returned to our room where Eric was able to catch up with the blog.

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