Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Zealand Sth Island - Part 1 Kaikoura

Day 1 - Sydney - Kaikoura

I'm finally on my way to explore the South Island of New Zealand. Our travelling party is myself (45), my adult daughter (25), my sister (53) and the traveller of honour - my elderly mum who is 73 and mobility impaired. We have a very civilised time for our departure - 10 am Sunday. Perhaps odd not to leave on Friday or Saturday, but I wasn't planning on skipping our tix to the Wharf Revue yesterday which were booked a year ahead. (The Wharf Revue was hilarious of course!!) We travel Air New Zealand and as the Qantas ground staff give mum chair assistance to the plane they - like everyone else you meet - assures us the South Island is just gorgeous and we'll love it. The plane is new and comfortable with screens and individual viewing choices or games for each passenger. Heaps of leg room. Great friendly service. We are all very impressed. The lunch provided is delicious too with a strange salad made from noone seems to know what. Little balls a bit like giant cous cous crossed with tapioca with roast pumpkin and fetta and of course a delicious dressing. We've opted for the Shepherds pie, which is lamb and quite tasty. The pudding provided is banana cake. The drinks service comes around and while my companions procrastinate I tell the stewardess to give them L&P. Then I explain to my family that this is the appropriate thing to try under the circumstances. Mum doesn't like it. Too sweet. Sis and daughter LOVE it. I just don't do fizzy, but I take a small sip for educational purposes. Interesting. We watch some shows on New Zealand. Mum reports she watched one on deer farming. I watched one about a private penguin reserve on the Banks Peninsular where there is a colony of white flippered penguins. What a great idea for people heading over the ditch, having this option on the plane.
As we approach landing we fly in over beautiful snow capped peaks, patchwork fields and a broad braided river.

We have no dramas picking up our Europcar rental - a Suburu Forester, but we find it's a squeeze fitting in the luggage for 4 adults, after some initial alarm we manage it OK and set off directly for Kaikoura. I need to ring to confirm the whale watch.. what to do about a phone?Daughter and I head back into the terminal to find a phone and are pleased to find a vodafone phone rental outlet. We end up buying a NZ phone and local SIM card that has a deal going where we can ring any landline in Australia and talk for 2 hrs for $2. This seems better value than the rental as hubby and I are back in Feb so we can use it then also. I had meant to buy a phone card before leaving home, but this seems a more convenient solution anyhow. The girl on the desk at vodafone is friendly and efficient. I'll save time in the report and say now, the service just about everywhere was.. yep you guessed it - friendly and efficient. Well done NZ your service and hospitality is consistently outstanding.

Looking back on it, it's amusing how enchanted we were by the scenery in this early part of the trip. We find it beautiful, and fascinating with the hedgerows and flowering broom everywhere we look. I just cannot resist it and we head off to explore the road down to Motunau Beach. The weather is a very windy and it creates fascinating patterns in the grass which we look down on from a road with expansive views. I pull over when my companions request a video stop. We arrive down at the beach and enjoy the views of the waves with the plume being tossed back by the wind. We stop to use the local public toilet facilities which are reported to me (without prompting) as clean and impressive and much better than is typical in Australia that's for sure. Really? Pipes up Mum and out she hops to see this wonderous sight and take the opportunity for a comfort stop. As we pack ourselves back into the vehicle all bemoan our own country's pathetic lack of achievement on the toilet front -especially the growing trend of installing those horrible stainless steel jobs with the in-built seats. Rant concluded we press on, leaving Motunau Beach about 6:15 and decide to throw caution to the winds and take the inviting little dirt road back to the main route which is signposted Happy Valley Rd. This was a delightful little detour. We stop when we come to a flock of birds. Out with the binoculars. What are they? Maybe wild canaries??? They look like canaries with brown bodies and yellow heads. There appears to be house sparrows among them, but they are definitely not all sparrows. We have not yet acquired a NZ bird guide, but we later check and think perhaps they were yellowhammers. This is later confirmed by locals familiar with this bird.

On we drive thoroughly enjoying the countryside. We come to a flock of sheep along the road where there are no fences. This is the stuff! We're back on SH1 by about 7pm. The main road is good, but winding in places and eventually we come to a beautiful oceanside drive. There are occasional railway tunnels for the trains that run alongside the road. We're loving it. It's already wonderful scenery. You can't go too fast, but why would you want to with scenery like that?

On arrival in Kaikoura I find that the road atlas I'd aquired in Sydney is hopelessly inadequate, but fortunately Kaikoura is not a huge place and we find the Admiral Court Motel without too much trouble and check in. It's clean and fresh smelling with all units open for airing when we arrive. A good sign. Perhaps a little more modest in the appointments than you would find in 4 star at home, but perfectly adequate for our needs. It's a bit out of the town centre, but everywhere else mum would need to be driven to the things we're doing anyway, so once in the car the distance is no matter.

With our leisurely drive up from Christchurch it's time for Dinner and the Green Dolphin Restaurant is next door. My research on the NZ dining websites has suggested that this is the place to eat. We are not disappointed. This being Kaikoura - kai meaning eat and koura meaning crayfish - daughter and I decide to go for the crayfish. Sis has the lamb and mum has the steak. We also decide to sample the whitebait which has been "microbattered" ie each individual tiny fish battered and cooked separately. We add the scallops and some breads. Everything is totally delicious. Totally delicious. It's a wonderful bread selection. The reviews online have got it right. Dessert follows. All are delicious but the white chocolate cheesecake with fruit compote is the unanimous winner. Not baked. We don't like baked Cheesecake and, it appears as our trip unfolds, neither must kiwis. The service was efficient and friendly. Good stuff. What a fabulous start to our trip.

We make for our beds as we have an early start tomorrow for our whale watch cruise and NZ is two hours ahead of our body clocks. Uggh.

Day 2 - Whale Watch Cruise and Nin's Bin and Ohau Point

We rise at 6am with great excitement. It's time for my own pinch me moment. I'm here. I'm finally here in Kaikoura!! We get ourselves ready and after a quick stop by the waterfront for some snaps of the mountains in the morning light we make the short drive down to the whale watch office which sits opposite the beachfront.
The beach presents a broad expanse of black sand, white breakers and glorious blue ocean. It's a strange sight to us who have been raised on golden sand beaches. To be honest I had seen on the local website comments about the beautiful black sand beaches and I was a bit sceptical, but beautiful they most certainly are. Blue white black in a stripe. Simply lovely. The whole area is simply beautiful, and the snow on the mountains is the finishing touch.
We check in and have time for a quick spot of brekkie at the whale watch cafe. We order our food and step back to get organised before heading out to a table. An English mum and adult daughter step up to make their choices. The older lady goes to pay and the kiwi behind the counter says "nah, that's Aussie money so it doesn't work". We laugh. The English lady gets real huffy. Says she's been given it in change in NZ and it's too early in the morning to be poked fun at. We are puzzled and think she really needs to lighten up. A short while later the penny dropped. The poor lady thought we were all laughing at her for handing over the wrong money. So I went across to her table and explained. We weren't laughing at her, we were laughing at the dig the kiwi was having at us Aussies with his comment. Kiwis and Aussies do that to eachother all the time and this poor lady just got caught in the crossfire. She seems relieved at the explanation and a lot happier. What a dreadful misunderstanding. Glad we got that sorted.

We are bussed to South Bay to join our cruise. The weather is good. We are told that for weeks the weather has been dreadful. Lucky for us, not today. Lucky for us this has kept the snow on the mountains which we are told is quite unseasonal. There is not much wind and this makes for a comfortable trip. Everything about the cruise was slick and professional. You are required to be seated while underway, which was no problem for us who have our sea legs and iron stomachs, but maybe not the best way to avoid sea sickness for the more delicate land lubbers. All through the cruise there is entertaining commentary and educational video presentations on the whales and the local marine geography. Our young guide - who has an English accent - is very competent and professional. We stop occassionally to listen for whales with the underwater listening gear. We chase after whales. The whales dive for extended periods, usually about 45 mins or so in this area, though they are capable of longer. They stay on the surface for just a short time maybe 5 - 7 minutes, so there's only a small window of opportunity to get close enough to see them before they dive once more. The helicopters also keep in touch with the boats tipping them off as to where they may be successful. Some of the passengers managed to see a whale just as it dives, but the majority do not. None the less it has been a very interesting and impressive cruise. We even got a lesson in how to pronounce Kaikoura. Apparently it's more like Kai - koda or kai-koe-ra with a strongly rolled r sound. Apparently it's common to say kai-koora but "koora" means "feathers" so Maori find that pronunciation rather funny as it means "eat feathers". We make the necessary adjustments, but as we travel the south island we find a number of kiwis find our not saying "kai-koora" a bit strange and they correct us.

Along the way a cape petrel lands on the water near the guy with the listening gear. They're not feeding the birds but I guess this little guy figures there's no harm in trying. Off in the distance a large white blob is announced to be a Gibson's Wandering Albatross. We find both interesting and exciting. Haha. Just wait till tomorrow and our Albatross Encounter!

As we have not been successful in seeing a whale it is announced that we will all get 80% of our money refunded. Just pop to the check in desk for that. We decide to skip the queues and come back later. We've already decided our refund money will go towards a helicopter whale viewing flight. So we high tail it over to the i-site to make enquiries. We're a bit dim really. The heli office is right back next to the whale watch offices. Never mind, some of us wanted to stop at the motel first and change into cooler clothes anyway so we were going right past the i-site.

As we arrive at the heli base we find the English ladies we met this morning have had the same idea. We have a friendly chat before we head in for the flight briefing and before long we're all wishing eachother good viewing and boarding our choppers and heading out to sea. Sis was a bit dubious about going up in a chopper (though she loves small planes) but she's in the front seat and loving it. We locate a whale on the surface and circle it and circle it for what seems like an age before it finally does a shallow dive followed by the longer deep dive and we head back towards land. Daughter announces when we get back to ground that she was praying for the whale to dive. Each turn around the whale and she was edging closer to motion sickness. She manages pretty well almost always without taking pills or remedies, but that circling while looking at the water took her to the edge. We've opted for the longer flight so we head down the coast a bit to look for dolphins. At this time of day they have dispersed from the bigger pods, but we find a few and watch them leaping and having fun. After the whale they look so tiny. We also spot a couple of seals before turning and heading up along the coast. Wonderful. Maybe not as exciting as some other chopper flights, given that ocean below for much of the flight isn't the most thrilling scenery, but it is certainly an effective way to really get a good look at the whales. They look like a submarine travelling along.

Back on the ground we get a snap of us all with the chopper - volunteered by our pilot and taken with our own cameras. Gee thanks!! As we walk from the helipad we observe a dotterel with chick which is wandering about by the train tracks close by.. so cute.

Time we claimed our refund thinks us and we go into the whale watch desk. You could have knocked us over with a feather. They have already run our refund through with the bank and here's the paperwork if we'd care to sign it please. Wow. That's organised. We would have expected the refunds to be given only if and when you claimed it. We are really impressed with this operation. Boy oh boy do they know how to run a business!!

The weather is beautiful and sunny but cool. Our plan for the afternoon is to head up to Nin's Bin for a crayfish lunch, visit the seals at Ohau Pt and try to find the waterfall suggested to us by the cruise guide which is pretty special at this time of year.

First we head to the local supermarket for some supplies. We are fascinated to find lots of interesting chip varieties. Once again it looks like the Kiwis must run things better than we do at home. How come a tiny little nation like NZ can have all these varieties and all these companies producing chips while we in Australia have so few. I'd like to read a comparison of the laws relevant to these matters between countries because clearly we must be able to learn something. We buy a selection. The most memorable of which were the Lamb and mint.. mmm.. tastes like roast potatoes, lamb gravy and mint sauce. Well well.
We stop again at the bigger New World supermarket on the way north out of town for Sis to pick up some pure aloe vera juice which she finds medically necessary (very expensive here in NZ double what she pays at home apparently) . Finally we're on our way.

At Nin's Bin we find some convenient picnic tables and the rocks just off shore have some seals basking on them. The water is clear and inviting and appears fairly protected and daughter regrets not having brought her swimmers and snorkel with her this afternoon. As I get to the table with my plate of crayfish ($39 NZ). I realise I need something from the car, so stupid here, puts the plate on the table and takes the few steps necessary to get to the car. A cry of alarm and the lovely young family at the table next door are shooing a gull away from its attempt at highway robbery. I hadn't even noticed any birds around but I guess that was pretty predictable. Much thanks to our (Canadian?) defenders and they say it's not a problem they did the very same thing!! We devour our crays partly straight and partly on delicious cray and avocado sandwiches.. mmmmm. Glad sis was thinking ahead and brought some avocado and some salt. Everyone is blown away to find my picnic sack I've brought includes a claw cracker... well I KNEW I was coming to Nin's Bin after all!!
So to our friendly gull. He's beautiful. He's solitary. He's got his patch well under control. A couple of times over the half hour or so we're eating another gull makes a move to see what they can get from us. One threatening squawk from the godfather of the gulls and they think better of the idea without even getting to land! This gull is watching us with a level of intensity and concentration such that you'd swear he was a hypnotist or something. He's not pushy he just stands there never taking his eyes of us. Not afraid of making eye contact with us at all. He clearly knows just what he's doing. Finally when we finish our meal daughter tosses her cray shell. He's well and truly ready for it. He starts devouring the meal in the most extraordinarily efficient manner. He's done this before that's clear. We comment to eachother on this extraordinary bird, but we conclude... well of course.. this is a New Zealand gull so obviously it must be friendly and efficient!! Talk about a national characteristic!!

We pack up our plates, return Nin's Bin's stuff to them and pack away our own. Clear up the rubbish (including the shell the gull is finished with) and we head off up to Ohau point. We spend a while just watching the seals. Conveniently a big male has set up a territory right in front of the viewing platform and we watch (and video) as he persuades another big male that coming into his patch might not be such a good idea. Over to the right a little a young seal has found a convenient spa and is clearly having a ball playing in the breakers as they create aquatic turmoil in the pool. Wonderful.
Dragging ourselves away there is some discussion about where to find the waterfall that was recommended by the whale watch guides. Sis had thought it was right here at the point, but I said nah, it's just somewhere in the area. Our map isn't much help so we decide to just keep driving north and see what we find. We find a sign that points to a waterfall and walk and figure this must be it. A bit dubious as to whether mum will manage this walk, we set off leaving mum and sis who is also a bit restricted in her walking, to take their own pace. We head up the path, up, up for what seems a really long time. Nah this can't be it. Daughter is well ahead of me and after a while she comes back saying - It's AWESOME. I just came back to tell Gma not to turn back. Finally we all have arrived at this beautiful spot. It's a seal pup creche!! The mother seals leave their pups here while they go out fishing. When daughter arrived there was about 8 pups just sitting around on the rocks, but some have made a dash up the very steep hillside. A couple have headed down stream. We are absolutely gobsmacked that they come so far up away from the sea and at their agility on the steep terrain. We sit as quietly and as unobtrusively as we can, while the shadows lengthen, watching the seal pups play in the water of a waterfall that is worthy of a visit in it's own right. FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!

Finally we tear ourselves away and head back to town, stopping to photograph a field of male deer with lovely antlers all sitting in most picturesque fashion in a field along the road. Back in town we head across towards Sth Bay and notice there's a BBQ stall still operating at 6pm. Looks tempting, but we're keen to go to the pasta night at the Green Dolphin. Once again our meal is delicious. The pasta servings are huge. Sis had the pick of them we felt with her Papardelle with chicken bacon and orange mustard sauce. .. Yep you guessed it. A couple of serves of the white choc cheesecake to share between us for dessert.

Day 3 - Albatross Encounter and Maori Tour

The weather is holding once again. It's a beautiful windless morning as we check in at the Encounters desk at 5:50 am. Again we are bussed across to South Bay. This time the boat is smaller and we climb up the ladder onto the boat which is then launched. Apparently sometimes the swell is quite intimidating and this is the safest and easiest way to do things. The birds clearly know the encounter boat and before long we have something of a following. The lovely little cape petrels are prominent and early devotees. After a short while we get far enough out for a cage of fish liver and scraps to be put over the back of the boat. From there on we follow a pattern of travelling a bit, stopping for a while. Travelling a bit stopping for a while getting further out and attracting more birds and new species along the way. I am beside myself with happiness and excitement. NOW this is the pinch me to end all pinch mes. I have wanted to come on this tour for sooooo long and it's living up to all my expectations. We photograph, we video, we exclaim. Salvin's Albatross wins the beauty stakes. No!! look here this is a white capped albatross! Woah! he's gorgeous. And what about those southern giant petrels. The vultures of the sea.. they'd crack a mirror but what characters!! A few westland petrels turn up - they breed around Westland only (naturally) and are here on summer holiday. Classy birds. Very schmick, but not so easy to get a photograph. And look here's a white chinned petrel. Notice the difference in the bill to tell it from the Westland Petrel, otherwise they look very similar. Gibson's wandering albatross.. woah, big, but not so attractive as the Salvin's or White capped... Northern Royal Albatross.. AWESOME!! The time goes so fast. We've been out here for hours but it seems no time at all before we're heading back in. This time we're looking for rafts of Hutton's Shearwater. They feed off the point closer in and breed up near the snowline!! Seriously, who would have imagined that? They're in trouble though and numbers are seriously low. Up in the Seaward Kaikoura Range is where they still are hanging on. FANTASTIC!! A Kaikoura must do.
Daughter has expressed disappointment that I am not booked to swim with the dolphins. I'm only booked to observe. Clearly unable to deny her and with much trepidation, on return to the Encounters office, I upgrade my dolphin viewing to dolphin swimming after an enquiry as to the weather forecast for tomorrow. I don't feel confident if the sea isn't quite calm. It's looking OK for the morning with a change moving through a bit later. I am booked in and have until 4 oclock or so to change my mind... hmmm.. what am I thinking.. the things you do for your kids!!

Back on land Mum and Sis go back to the motel for a rest before our Maori Tour this afternoon. We have been advised that the snorkelling is good everywhere when it's clear and that the thing to do is just take the opportunity when you find a clear spot. I can't leave without daughter having a snorkel so we get her gear and jump in the car. Stupidly we pass the clear waters right near our accommodation and decide to head up towards Nin's Bin once more. When we get there however the water isn't clear as it was yesterday, and the Bin is pretty busy causing daughter a spot of shyness. We go a little further along and pull down into a layby by the ocean to park. Unfortunately it's low tide and access to the water just there doesn't look real safe - would have been awesome at high tide here, but we keep our distance from some seals that are basking and have a fossick among the rocks all the while serenaded by lovely birdsong from the bush on the other side of the road. We find brittle stars very much like what we get at home and a cute little fellow under the rocks that perusal of a guide in a gift shop revealed was a false crab, more like a bug or something it has long fine feelers and very flat nippers. He tucks himself into the cracks between your fingers in a most adorable and inoffensive way. There were also other crabs that just play dead when you discover them, some sea anemones and an unusual star fish that we couldn't extract from the rocks without risking hurting it; not to mention the limpets which caused daughter to comment "man, they even have beautiful limpets!!" Finally we figure we need to head back so we're not late for our tour but we both imagine returning one day and allowing time for some more extensive fossicking around and snorkelling.

Back at the motel, we rest for half an hour and are collected at 1:15 by Tania and Maurice our guides for the Maori tour. When everyone is on board we head up to an old pa site up on the hill with beautiful views across Kaikoura township and the coastline. Before entering the pa we are all given Moari names and taught the welcome protocols and how to introduce ourselves. Which is a challenge to some of us.. you have to name your mountain... hmmm. I really don't think I have a mountain... but my river and my canoe are not so difficult.. We learn about the history and the settlement that was reached to compensate the Ngai Tahu about 11 yrs ago complete with written apology from the queen for past wrongs. We hear the creation story about earth mother and sky father and the work of Tane Mahuta. we visit some carvings of Maui and have them explained as well as the site of the local Marae which we do not enter, but hear some more about the history of this significant place and have the totems out the front explained. Along the way we progressively learn a song that has been written for the tour. When we have the protocols in hand we adjourn to Maurice's own home for afternoon tea where we hongi on entering and introduce ourselves to Maurice's wife following the protocols. Delicious food and stimulating conversation and finally we head off for the next section of the tour.
On the way to our bush walk we are taught to do some flax weaving. At the bush a good omen as we see two Kereru (NZ Pigeon) which is pronounced to be quite unusual to see them just sitting out openly like that. We walk. We hear about the traditional uses of various plants, try some traditional tea using the leaves of one of the plants but prepared earlier from a plant in Maurice's garden. We come to some significant old trees where we pay our respects by singing our song. Finally we return to the car park where we see the Kereru plus a third one has joined the group and some good times are being had ;o) ;0) The path along the walk was quite undulating but mum coped OK with it.
We clamber back in the van and head back for dropping people off. With some lovely parting words from Maurice and an invitation to contact them whenever we're in town as we are now friends.
Wonderful tour very interactive and real. It deserves the high ratings people give it on Rankers. This is another Kaikoura must do.

We have some time before the Paua shell factory shop closes so we head on in there for some souvenir buying. I find some sterling silver earings shaped like gum leaves but with paua and decide these are a nice anzac sort of thing to wear so get those. We get some polished paua shells and a few other bits and bobs. Paua decorated stainless salad servers and cake server. Daughter selects some nice bangles and we're off.

We're pretty tired now and decide once more to sample the delights of the Green Dolphin, there still being tempting things on the menu we have yet to try and that bread platter is just sooo good. it's Tuesday night and it turns out not as quiet in the restaurant as they planned for. There's a bit of a melt down in the kitchen unfortunately, but the staff address the issues and compensate in an appropriate way and we certainly would not hold it against them.

We fall into bed. Our earliest rise yet is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Day 4 Dolphin Encounter and back to Christchurch

OK so today we have to be checked in by 5:25 am. We're a few minutes late and are playing catch up in the wetsuit room where we squeeze ourselves into some really thick wetsuits. We are assured they are the right size for us (larger are certainly avaialable) but it feels like we're spring loaded as we walk. I can't believe I'm doing this. The wetsuits are warm enough that even in bare feet we're toasty. We get a briefing before we head off. Tips on how to behave. How to make ourselves both attractive to the dolphins and amusing to the people on the boat who have to watch us. Basically you have to sing to the dolphins, don't try to touch them, swim, dive if you can - you know basically pretend to be a dolphin.. makes sense doesn't it.
Again we board the bus down to South Bay and board the dolphin encounter boat. Nab ourselves a good possy and busy ourselves with putting on the hood tucking it in and in my case at any rate psyching myself up to actually engage in this lunacy. Good grief what am I doing this for?? It will be cold. It will be DEEP. I hate deep water... I'm scared of sharks... was raised all my life to have a BIG DEEP awareness of sharks and I'm dressed up like shark food ...but there'll be lots of dolphins around right? Sharks and dolphins don't like eachother right? I didn't regret jumping into the deep water (briefly) at Balls Pyramid did I? I'll probably love it...Oh god....

Time comes when we are summoned onto the back deck. Our briefing said when the horn goes we have to slip quickly and quietly into the water, minimal splashing. Certainly no time for painfully slow inching yourself into water... bloody hell.... Of course all this is - well mostly is - an internal dialogue... so out on the deck I go. Mask and snorkel in position. I slide into the water. Aahh!! ... and it's not cold at all!! Well hardly at all anyway. Nowhere near as bad as getting into the water at the beach on a 30C day. And these suits are so bouyant you couldn't sink if you wanted to. It's EASY!! A slightly bigger swell would be OK I think!! We snorkel we sing... and here they are... AWESOME!! Being an independent thinker I decide to try speaking skippy to the dolphins and am satisfied to find that they seem to find this quite intriguing.. We swim and commune and circle and make eye contact with these beautiful dolphins for quite a while and the horn sounds.. back on the boat please. We're just relocating so do feel free to just sit on the back steps ready to go back in the water. At our next stop there are so many dolphins it's unbelievable. Apparently there's hundreds of them around the boat. Daughter has the camera (in underwater housing) and she's given up aiming it. It can just film where it wants as it will get dolphin in any direction. Finally the horn sounds again. Most people had got back on the boat of their own volition, there is only myself, daughter and one other still in the water. The crew express in a surprised tone we've been swimming for a total of about 56 minutes!! AWESOME!! We can hardly wipe the smiles off our faces. Sis says I look happier than she's seen me in many years. The crew crack up when I exclaim excitedly - I swear those dolphins speak skippy!! "how's that go?" they ask. I give my best skippy impression and they laugh "ah, you Aussies you just crack me up".
There's warm water which we are encouraged to hose ourselves with then we strip off our wetsuits and cozzies and get dressed for some standard on board dolphin viewing. We stop by some rocks with nesting birds and a seal colony and head back into South Bay. Another Kaikoura must do. We chat to the crew. Some people are apparently not feeling too well. Apparently they get a lot of people who have never before been on a boat. Poor things. I am thankful once more for being brought up from before I was born even, on boats all the time. Never been seasick in my life. I am so lucky.

Back on land we buy some things in the gift shop before we leave. We cannot believe our luck with the weather. We have time to get back on land before the weather starts to turn. We've been given exactly the amount of clear calm weather necessary to do every tour we had hoped for. There is no other conclusion than that the powers in charge approve of people doing something nice for their mum.. as you will see the weather is our friend for our whole trip pretty much..

These early tours finish in plenty of time to head back to the motel, shower, change, pack and check out. We head back to the Paua factory shop.. which we had visited yesterday. Having consulted with hubby last night I'm up for those nice paua cufflinks. But first a quick stop at the i-site to buy a tree from Trees for Travellers. With these you can check your tree online and visit it to see it's progress when you return to the area. Great idea! You can choose between small trees ($20) and large trees ($40).

Mum and sis need to go into the shop in town to get their little kiwi that actually make a kiwi call. .. incidentally we didn't see those again anywhere so just as well they got them in Kaikoura when they saw them. Only cheap too. Basically everything we bought in kaikoura we didn't see cheaper anywhere else and often not the same or not as nice, so we were glad of all our purchases.

Finally we head for Christchurch. Lord we have Ko Tane tonight! But we take turns in driving and have some naps in the car along the way. The weather is now decidedly rainy and wind has picked up. We stop at a winery for a break. A cuppa and comfort stop. Share a cheesecake and blueberry lemon tart. Feeling refreshed we head on and arrive at Lorenzo Motor in approx 4pm. We ring Ko Tane from the motel as I have a hunch I need to confirm as their system was playing up and they had emailed me to say they'd taken the booking by email as a consequence. Sure enough they have no record of our booking, but I book in then without a problem. We're pretty zonked and sluggish getting out of the motel to leave for the show. The traffic is heavy and we've misjudged the time, but we ring again and reschedule for the later show no worries. We arrive with time up our sleeves and are invited to wander around Willowbank, but don't worry about the NZ native stuff as that's in the guided tour later. OK. We amuse ourselves in the park but a lot of things have settled for the night. We're back for the show. First things first. The photo with the Ko Tane leader and Maori maiden (NZ$25). Then the introduction is done by a German(?) lady who is partner to the Maori chief bloke and clearly is very knowledgeable on the things she is speaking about. She says right up, well clearly you've noticed I'm not a New Zealander and she explains who she is. She does a really excellent job of telling the creation story and goes on to explain the rules and protocols for the night. Our chief is appointed and we are led down along the path. As we look at one of the animals, suddenly out of nowhere the challenge comes. All done very well to our untrained eye at any rate. Very impressive and enjoyable. No photos in the performance space, but we are slow to discover that at this stage with the challenge outside video and photos are OK.
Inside the show is not so much a show as an exercise in hospitality. Sure the Ko Tane folk perform some songs for us and some poi, but then some ladies are taught a simple poi and some blokes the haka. It's quite interactive and we are taught the Maori way of expressing satisfaction with the proceedings, though many are shy to use it. We enjoy the show and take our leave and head back to the gift shop area. I'm really tempted by a guide to the NZ seashores and creatures but it's all black and white line drawings. If it had a few colour pictures I'd have got it. I picked up a little book on flax weaving for daughter who has expressed a desire to learn more weaving. We pay for our photos and these come with a handy little book that covers the stuff they told us. Very helpful.
We hang about for what feels like a long time and then head off on the guided walk. The first stop was to feed the eels, and this we took our time over and enjoyed very much. Unfortunately from that point on the guide went way way too fast through exhibits and was moving to the next exhibit before everyone had even had a chance to look at the first thing let alone maybe take a photo or enjoy the critter for a while. It really was most unsatisfactory in that regard. We were really unimpressed that several people used flash photography in the kiwi house photographing the kiwi. The guide however was nowhere near, so all the people had to do was wait till she moved on and then snap. She said nothing whatever to them. We felt the approach at the Te Anau caves more appropriate where they just say to people no photos whatever inside the caves... but more on that issue in upcoming episodes.

It's still light when we emerge and we head back to our accommodation. We're tired and it's late so we commit the unpardonable sacrilege of picking up some Maccas for us oldies. Daughter orders Thai from Bamboo Styx which she reported as excellent.

We fall into bed once more.

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