Friday, 4 March 2011

Wine, whales and loads of people from St Helens

Well we've made our way down to Kaikoura, a bit of a nice coastal town on the way to Christchurch, the sea looks a stunning blue and the mountains behind the town are amazing, if this is just the start of the South Island hills I can't wait to see the rest.

An update from before anyway, we quickly got sorted at Motueka that the bike hire was still on and that we had to make our way to Christchurch for 2/3 March, this meant we had a day free before we had to start travelling, we decided to do a wine tour of the vineyards around Motueka, this was a grand afternoon. A minibus took us and two other couples to three vineyards, the first a tiny boutique one run by a lady from Wales, we tasted four wines and bought a very nice bottle of Pinot Gris. Next was a slightly larger place owned by a German couple, here we again tasted four very nice wines (didn't buy, but wish we had) and had a lovely anti pasti lunch in their grounds. Last was a commercial winery where we could chose four glasses from a choice of eight bottles, working in teams meant you could taste them all, we were a bit disappointed with these ones but this was probably due to wine overload rather than any problems with the drinks themselves! We rallied by the time we reached the Moutere Arms, New Zealands oldest pub (1850), and managed a pint of cask beer brewed in Wellington, it was very lemony and hoppy (a bit like a shandy actually) but it made a nice change from the lager that seems to be all that's available here. A good afternoon followed by a nap in the sun.

A lovely 5.15am start was needed the next day to get us on our bus trip to Kaikoura, this meant three buses and three hours wait in various places. We would have loved to have travelled on the TranzCoastal train from Picton to Kaikoura but the trains are still off following the earthquake. We arrived and got pitched on quite a busy site, a lot of people from Christchurch are staying in holiday parks etc. in the South Island as they can't go home yet. A walk into town brought us to a nice chip shop for tea, a bit of luck that really! We later had a drink in a bar and got chatting to a bloke who works in a local cafe and is from Blackbrook, Chain Lane to be precise. We thought it was a bit of a small world and the following day proved it.

Today we decided on a 30 minute flight to see whales, the shuttle bus that picked us up was driven by a chap from Skipton who had lived in St Helens (Windle Island area) for a time and was matey with Tom Van Vollenhoven and his family,  sorry if I've spelt this wrong. The flight was short but excellent, a tiny little plane that flew at 1000 feet but was allowed down to 500 when a whale was spotted. Thankfully the pilot knew what he was looking for as we wouldn't have seen anything by ourselves.  As it was we saw four male juvenile sperm whales, we got really good views though it meant twirling around in a plane in a slightly sickening way. On the way back to land we saw a pod of about 300 dusky dolphins all playing and jumping and backflipping, quite excellent. Without the dolphins it would have been difficult to get an idea of the size of the whales but they were a good reference point to how huge they actually are. The afternoon was spent walking around the Kaikoura Peninsula getting sunburnt again, the scenery and cows were very like Croyde in Devon, all we needed was a cream tea at the end.

Tomorrow we head to Christchurch

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