Thursday, 24 July 2014

Whale watching and Weatherall

Second time lucky. We went back to Kaikoura, after days of bad weather had stopped boats going out, hoping that conditions were favourable. And sure enough, they were. So we left from the offices in 'Whaleway Street', yep seriously, and were taken to the south harbour. I fought a young child to get off the coach first and get a good spot on the boat. I think I was just a little excited! The chap on the boat explained that it is such a prime location for whale watching in Kaikoura because 500 metres off shore the sea bed plunges from 200 metres to 2 kms (scary when you think about that too much) making it rich in food for the whales and dolphins. Anyway, whatever the reason it was absobloodylutely fantastic.

Dive, dive, dive!
They have a microphone that they hang over the side of the boat that picks up the whales cries so they know where to look. They pick up some sounds, look for the water plume of a blowhole and we speed across the water to get up close. We saw four humongous Sperm Whales. It was incredible. Unfortunately it just looks like the top of a submarine bobbing around until it dives back down to feed and then the shot everyone wants is the 'fluke'. We were all clicking away with cameras and waiting expectantly for it to submerge again. The crew were fantastic and knew exactly when it was going back down so it was all lenses ready. We had four attempts but were so scared about missing it and not knowing if we would see another that we fluffed up the pictures. The best 'Fluke' shot we could get is on the gallery.

Dusky Dolphins at Kaikoura
There was a spectacular treat in the middle of this in the form of a pod of over 100 dusky dolphins all jumping, twisting and performing in the water around us. It was incredible to see so many and in such a natural environment. The dusky dolphins are the best performers and they didn't disappoint. You could even hear them heavy breathing as they leapt along beside the boat. Truly amazing.

The boat ride back to shore was a bit choppy and several people were sick. I kept my eye on the horizon and, of course I had the best seat at the back of the boat after fighting the small child, so I was ok. We also saw a few Albatross. I thought we'd seen them before but obviously not. They are massive. They swooped around with their gigantic wings just skimming the top of the water. Pretty impressive for such a big bird. Another strange sight were seals just chilling in the sea. They were a fair way out and were literally floating around relaxing on their backs as they bobbed around. A great day and worth every cent. 

Chris, Mike, Mountains and Rocks
Next stop was catching up with Mike (surname Weatherall, that's where the blog name comes from). We met Mike over a year ago in Thailand whilst doing TEFL training and through the power of  Facebook stayed in touch. He lives about 40 kms outside of Christchurch and he offered to show us some sights. Unfortunately the weather had turned again but we wrapped up and went out regardless. We clambered over rocks where they filmed some of The Lord of The Rings at Castle Hill and tramped, that's a kiwi word for hiking, up a hill till snow made us abandon. And though the light was fading fast we even made it to Arthurs Pass which is a point of exceptional beauty. Mike showed us true kiwi hospitality and fed and watered us and let us watch the World Cup final on his huge tv. Thanks Mike. 

And final destination for our road trip of the South Island was Christchurch. A five day housesit gave us a break from the dirty camping and chance to see some of the City. We looked after the most laid back dog ever. We heard her bark once in the whole time and that was at a dog barking on the tv. Molly was some sort of terrier and looked like a giant cuddly teddy bear. Adorable. The two cats were a different story. Smooch missed the little girl of the house and would cry and scratch at the bedroom door for most of the night. Otis was your usual aloof cat and was just a giant bundle of ginger and white that would stroll in and stroll out again. 

The house was on the edge of the red zone, which is a designated area that was so badly damaged from the big earthquakes of 2010/2011 that the government bought all the land and they're making it into a park. The city itself is a bit of a sad sight. With about a third of the buildings in a state of disrepair, a third completely flattened and the rest still standing. The ongoing repairs of the roads mean so many routes are closed or one way with traffic lights. It is how I imagine London would have been after the blitz. But you can still see snippets of the old city and what must have been beautiful buildings and I am absolutely certain that in ten years time it will be back to its former glory. They are trying to make it more cheerful with lots of art pieces scattered about and a shopping centre that is stacked lorry containers all brightly coloured and the botanical gardens and glasshouse are pretty cool. We also managed to find a proper Greek kebab van, lush! 

Quake damaged cathedral
Onwards and upwards to the North Island to see what wonders that will hold. It's a tough act to follow but I have high hopes!

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