Day 13 - Mon 16 Apr 07 - New Zealand
Up at 06:00 so Trv could drive me to the train station which, as far as I can see, is nowhere near the centre of town and is in the middle of an industrial estate. There's lots of activity, but no sign of the replacement bus service they had e-mailed me about. I said goodbye to Trv and went up to the ticket counter to exchange my Internet ticket for a real one. It appears that the bridge work has been completed so the train is running the entire way - result!
The first part of the journey is just after sun rise and the mist is hanging low over the Chirstchurch suburbs. The train seems to have a number of tour groups on board and for a service that was going to be shut down is seems to be very popular! Next door is the viewing car, an open sided coach with no windows, perfect for taking photos. At about 09:30 we hit the first bit of coastline and alternate between views of the ocean, and tunnel walls. The views are outstanding.
We arrive in Kaikora (pronounced Ki-co-da) spot on time, and the whale watch place is right in the station building. I join a small queue and enquire if my 12:45 trip is going to take place. It's too early to say for sure, but I can go on one that's leaving now. Perfect, apart from the two metre swell, and 'server threat of seasickness'. I opt to go and purchase a $2 natural sea sickness tablet. It's a bus to the boat about 5km away, and then out into the ocean.
The swell is pretty high, but it's long and slow, so I'm feeling ok. We stop and put the hydro phone into the water, and work out that there is a whale nearby and it's coming up. I see a whale spout, but before I can shout another woman has seen it and starts shouting. We slowly motor over to the whale with two other boats, a helicopter and a fixed wing plane! We watch him breath for about 10mins, and then he heads down to feed again. The boat moves over to another point and we get to see the same thing, but with a bigger whale.
As we head back to port, we come across a pod of about a 100 dolphins. They were just showing off, jumping out of the water etc. We stuck around in that spot for a bit and then headed back in. The swell had taken their toll on some of the passengers.
Back to the railway station, and I asked the lady if she'd ring my guest house and see if they'd collect me. Normally they don't, but today is my lucky day and they agree! Both the information desk lady, and the guest house host were surprised by the small size of my bag! I explained the advantages of travelling light!
The B&B is a good few km's from town, so it's just as well it's got a restaurant etc. After checking in, and dumping my stuff I took a walk to try and find the beach, but a farmers field and the train track got in the way. At least I got some good shots of the mountains behind the B&B. The B&B is hugely Irish themed, and the setting is fabulous. I had a snooze after my walk, and then sat out and watched the sun set over the mountains.