South Island

Walking away in Kaikoura

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We spent our last two days in Kaikoura – a seaside town on the East coast of the South Island. Known primarily as a whale killing station over 100 years ago, Kaikoura has since put down its harpoons and cutters in favour of binoculars and photo shutters as a whale watching station.

From beast to beauty:

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But Kaikoura’s tourism isn’t formed only by one animal. It’s also home to seals, dolphins, albatross and other rare sea birds. So, we set out on our last stroll in New Zealand, along the coastline to see what we could spot. First up were seals in their natural habitat next to an SUV:

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Plus, some yawning the day away, as they lazed around near rocks:

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We then changed terrain on our designated walk, and moved onto a cliff to watch the whale watchers (the budget version of whale watching) and hoped to spot a tail or water from a blowhole in the distance. Sadly, no.

However, we had ringside seats to an abundance of seals (all those dots nearest the water):

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There were elements of the place that reminded me of Newfoundland, with an old boat or two laying around:

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And, the rocky shore with overlooking cliffs:

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In all it was a low key, relaxing couple of days and a nice way to finish our time in New Zealand. It’s a really amazing place, and for one that’s so small, in comparison to nearby Australia, there’s a ton of things to do.

Rose and I have both said independently that we’d like to come back to see and do more stuff. I found it really comfortable, and wished we could stay longer.

However, 28 hours, 4 planes, a tricycle and a taxi await.

We’re off to the Philippines. First stop: Donsol to hopefully spot Whale Sharks.

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Talk to you when we arrive.

 

Walking, Wine: Wanaka

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Wanaka is a town on the West coast of the South Island that’s a more subdued version of the nearby, sports crazy town, Queenstown – where things are punctuated by exclamation marks: Jet Boating! Bungee jumping! Skydiving! Soup and Sandwich!! Relaxing massage!!!!!

Instead, Wanaka more or less keeps to itself until winter when it swells a little for skiing at one of the many mountains surrounding it. Still, it’s no less attractive in the summer/spring months with a lake on its doorstep, drawing cyclists, swimmers and water skiers.

The drive in to the town was dramatic: after a series of windy roads with lush green trees, we popped over a hill to a lake, and mountain range:

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Sadly this picture looks like any other nice looking picture you might see. Though it can’t fully translate the view, I think it’s a better option than me sharing all the synonyms I can think of for the word: “majestic”.

We kept stopping the car to take photos, and after pulling in to one viewing point, we ran into the same couple who we’d seen twice before at two other spots farther North.

I know, I know. What do they look like? We’ve talked about them enough now, why not include a photo? Well, the truth is we haven’t got one. So, ladies and gentleman, once again, for your viewing pleasure, Neeeeeeew Zeeeeeeealand:

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Of course, a NZ destination wouldn’t be complete without some hiking time. We made sure to climb up the highest thing we could in a day, giving us a view of the entire city:

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Wanaka is also at the top of the Otago wine region. So, we also planned a trip to the single winery in town for a look, and I immediately wondered if the owner just built the winery on the location for the sake of the view:

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But the wine also turned out to be really good, which led us to ease off our dogmatic budget constraints, and spring for a bottle with a plate of food.

After sitting outside for a bit, Rose and I decided to play wine marketers, and did our best to put together an iconic shot of wine country. A shot we see a thousand times over in wine marketing material: wine bottle, glass with wine in it, hunks of cheese, if not all sitting on an old barrel, then on a piece of worn, rustic wood.

While we assembled the ingredients, I think the major lifting was done by the mountain and lake in the background:

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We also met a couple at the winery who just finished the Kepler Track in Te Anau. Another “Great Walk” – which Rose and I had been debating about, but didn’t think we’d have time to fit in.

However, after polishing off a bottle of wine, somehow it seemed like it was always a good idea, and agreed we’d head there next.

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Next stop: Te Anau and another light stroll.

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