|Kaikoura 23rd – 27th February Blog 147
As we previously described in “the day the earth moved” we headed out of Christchurch and ended up in Kaikoura, we stopped here briefly with Murray on the way down to look at the seal colony and have a look around the town.
Waking up in the DOC camp on the outskirts we decide to double back and have another look around as we may not get another chance. We stop again at the seal colony and get some really good video and pictures, it’s still great fun to watch the youngsters playing.
Kaikoura is famous for whalewatching as there are deep sea channels not far offshore that are a foodsource for whales. Several boats take people out to look at them on a daily basis. We ride into town and have a look around the wharf area where they leave from. Karen gets chatting to one of the crew who tells her none have been spotted for a few days which is unusual. We wonder if they sensed the earthquake and left for a while. We stop at a little black caravan called “the coffee owl” as we both fancy a coffee and they have free wifi giving us a chance to check our emails. The news of the earthquake means our inbox is groaning and just when we think we had better go before we are taking the mickey, we meet the manager who it also owns the backpackers next door too. He as it turns out is a really nice guy who not only gives Karen another wifi voucher as hers is depleted but lets us fill up the jerry cans with drinking water. We are grateful for this as our DOC camp is a basic free one and has no water and the shops are all stripped of bottled water. Later we explore around the other side of the bay called south beach, the sun is just beginning to set and it makes for good pictures. We move on to the end of the road and make dinner here on a picnic table watching the sunset. After some more pictures and a walk around it’s time to head back to camp as it’s getting dark. We end up riding back in the dark which isn’t a problem thanks to our good headlights but spotting the DOC camp in the dark is tricky. Doris our GPS helps here as she paints a blue line behind you the whole time like a trail of breadcrumbs so we know when to slow down so we don’t miss the tiny entrance. We more or less go straight to bed but in the morning we see new faces who rolled in last night. Among them are a Polish couple who are hitchhiking, they are up and away early to catch a ride. We get talking to the nice Kiwi couple next to us as we did yesterday. He is a keen hunter and fisherman and they spend about 7 months of the year away staying mostly in DOC camps in their caravan only returning to work for a few months so they can do it all again next year. It’s an interesting life style !
Partly because we have been chatting we are away fairly late, we are heading for Blenheim as it’s still hard to get supplies and fuel here. We text Murray and Alison to ask if we can stay again, they have two couchsurfers staying tonight but say come anyway and they will fit us in….phew.
On the way back up we detour slightly via some salt pans to have a look at them and have lunch. They crystalize out with a pink top layer it looks very strange. We stop and explore for a while then resume our journey back to Blenheim, Murray has the garage door open and a spot reserved for the bike what a nice welcome. It’s good to see them all again they are a really nice family, to our surprise the couchsurfers that are also staying are the Polish couple (Mike and Mia) we met this morning so we say hello again to them. We all mix well together and it’s a good evening, Alison and Jo (Murrays wife and daughter) cook us all a fabulous meal and we all recount our stories of Christchurch as Mike and Mia were caught up in it as well.
We also discuss plans for tomorrow (my 40th birthday) we arranged with some local bikers to go out in Christchurch but the earthquake put paid to that. There is a really good first world war aviation museum here so we decide to go to that tomorrow and Murray wants to come too so that’s even better.
He has been before but there is much to see and the exhibits change from time to time anyway. It is a great museum and is superbly presented with the walls and structure all blacked out and many of the planes suspended and spotlit they really look good. They have also cleverly built some scenes around some of them which makes them look even more realistic and great to photograph. The centre of the museum houses some smaller exhibits and it’s cleverly laid out so you don’t see all of it in one go but scenes are revealed as you walk around. It takes us a few hours to look around and we thoroughly enjoy it. The museum is right next door to one of the grass airstrips and hangers, we have an invite from Dave (the guy who built the quasar) to come over and say hello. He works for the museum, they are busy building a full size replica of a V2 rocket out of wood to be used in the next airshow they are doing. There are also about 6 Gypsy Tiger Moth’s that have flown in for the day to practise a display. Karen does her best to blag me a go in one for my birthday but they are not insured for passengers etc. But with a sweet smile and a bit of cheek she gets us a joyride in a piper apache four seater for a cheap price which means she can come up too. (Murrays not keen he’s more of a helicopter man).
We meet our pilot (also a Kevin) and get buckled in, it’s my first proper go in a light aircraft as the two previous times I have been in the tradesmans entrance and jumped out at 12000ft so it’s quite nice to have a comfy seat and an intercom for a change. For anyone who has never been in a light aircraft they are not for the faint hearted as being so small and light they get buffeted around like mad in the thermals and air currents. Kevin shows me how to open a little side window so I can poke the camera lens out and I get some great pictures. We head out past the range of hills to the coast and the turbulence eases considerably, after flying along the coast for a while we turn inland and Karen asks if I can have a fly seeing as it’s my birthday and all. That’s no problem says Kevin, the controls are the same on both sides and after a quick run through of what to do I am flying the plane ! Once I have got the hang of it a little Kevin directs me to follow a course up the winding river which gives me something to do and aim for. It’s great fun and I can see how people get hooked on it, Kevin points to two huge white spheres that are an early warning station and asks me to bank the plane round to head for them. Neeeooowww I like this it’s fun ! but now I have to hand over the controls as we are on the final approach to the airfield. Kevin is just lining us up having radioed the tower when we have a bit of a near miss with one of visiting aircraft practising aerobatics. Kevin has to abort and come round again as this other guy is right in the way without permission. Second time around we come in to land with no problems but the other pilot gets a ticking off when we get down.
Back at Murrays Alison has got the happy birthday bunting out and Murray gives me a couple of really nice ales for a present. We get the maps out and Murray gives us some ideas for places to go off the beaten track. We hatch a plan to ride through the Molesworth and Rainbow cattle stations on the way, these are off road tracks that get right into some really wild country that Murray hasn’t yet done. Mike, Mia and Jo have been on a cycle tour of the town and they are already back and cooking dinner for us all including some Polish dishes which are really nice. After dinner when we are all flumped in the front room watching a Monty Python video. Alison and Jo suddenly appear with a chocolate cake with candles singing happy birthday. They are smashing people and I am really touched as just when my birthday looked doomed we have had a great day shared with friends which is all I could have wished for.