Sunday, October 08, 2006


The Bacchanalian excesses of the previous day did not leave me in too bad a shape. (Actually I know people are going to read that and laugh -a day with like 6 glasses of wine is hardly an orgy of hedonism.) We left the van park and headed south to Kaikoura. More winding mountainous roads to start with and then following the coastline. The Kaikoura mountain range being visible in the windscreen. Because of the winding roads it took us some time to get to Kaikoura. We didn't really stop along the way other than for a coffee and at a seal colony. I don't know what it is about seals that gives us such pleasure, but both of us can sit and watch them lying about and scratching themselves for ages. Lets face it, lying about and scratching is pretty much the sum of seal behaviour when out of the water. In this particular colony were some rocks with a large pool in them. Many of the younger seals were playing in the pool, rolling about and mock-fighting.

In Kaikoura we noticed a lot of people around. The woman at the caravan park told us this was because of the Seafest due on in town the next day. A festival of music, wine and seafood sounded good to me but unfortunately tickets were sold out. Kaikoura is famous for whale watching and crayfish. When I think of crayfish I think of the yummy little prawn-like critters that live in British rivers. Not these though, they're are huge great lobster beasts.

We were lucky to get a van park space. Thankfully they'd kept a couple back for stupid tourists like us who blundered in not knowing that the Seafest was on. As the day went on the park began to fill up with a mix of people, camper vans, tents and cars. Despite the frost warnings many of the young ladies had gone with hot-pants as their chosen attire. I was all for that decision. In addition to the main Seafest on the Saturday were several bands on the Friday night. This was also sold out. So we sat wrapped in a blanket watching a DVD. We'd bought 3 comedy classics on one DVD for 3 quid. I think the words comedy and classic might have to be re-examined. Possibly, 'straight to video' and 'not very funny' might be more apt.

In the morning as the streams of revellers made their way to Seafest we scooted past them and on through town. Although famed for whales, Kaikoura is a bit of a haven for marine mammals in general. There are several established seal colonies in Kaikoura with the seals sunning themselves on the rocks. We took some photographs at the nearest colony before starting to do a walk down the foreshore. Gemma spooked me by saying we should have gone to the information centre to check the tide tables, so we turned round halfway. I had visions of us sharing a rock with a seal and waiting for the tide to go back out!

In the afternoon we drove round to South Bay and walked around the rocks looking at little fish in the pools. The sea is beautifully clear close up and a lovely turquoise as you look out across the bay. Everything is framed by the snow covered Kaikoura mountains. I managed to get some shots of a seal in front of the mountains which I hope comes out. We both got a bit annoyed at the stupid tourists ignoring the signs saying to stay 10 meters away from the seals. I know we are tourists, but we like to think we try and pay attention to the rules, which are normally there for a reason. These people were getting really close for photos which hacked us off a bit as the seals were getting obviously agitated. It would've been their own fault if they'd gotten bitten!

We went to the Kaikoura Wine Company. This was the first winery we'd been to in New Zealand that charged for tastings. But $4 to taste the whole range wasn't too bad. They claim to be the most scenic winery in the country and they might be right. On one side the straight rows of vines lead up to the mountains and on the decking the view is out over the ocean. I rather forgot about the hole in the ozone layer and didn't wear my hat, suddenly realising that my head was cooking. This was commented on later by the retired couple next to us in the van park.

The town was packed with drunken revellers when we went out for dinner. A liquor ban on the streets seemed to have been utterly ignored. After wolfing down a bag of fish and chips we went for a drink in Strawberry Tree in town. This drink soon turned into several, as a Seafest after-party started in the garden. I was busy snapping pictures of the moon and the lasers when I got asked whether I was from the newspaper by a very smiley chap. Perhaps it's the big camera. Another smiley type came over later to tell us that it was his laser that I was taking photographs of. There were two totally different parties happening there that night. Inside lots of young ladies were clustered around the jukebox singing their heads off. Lots of rugby shirt wearing blokes were watching them, some with very disturbing mullets. When we left we were surprised to see a queue to get in snaking right down the street. On the other side of the street two girls were involved in a bit of a brawl and half the town was watching.

Gemma proclaimed Kaikoura as her favourite town in New Zealand so far. It does have a lot in it's favour, the turquoise sparkling sea teeming with marine life. Seals and dolphins and whales, although the cetaceans eluded us. The mountains looming off in the distance. All in all a pretty picture. Perhaps the only downside is the amount of mullets sported by the male town folk. All good things come to an end though and the following morning with a hangover kicking in we wheeled out of town for our very last drive in little DKJ705. We were both quite sad to be saying goodbye to our trusty little van, but say goodbye we had to. Back at the depot in Christchurch, and roughly 3900 km later, we dropped off our little friend and went to the airport. Between the hangover and the fact that we've mostly been in the middle of nowhere for weeks the hustle and bustle of the airport was a bit of a shock to the system.

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