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Day 8
28 November 2008

From Picton via
Kaikoura (Whale Watching)
to Hanmer Springs

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RV 08 PictonHarbour2 300xThis morning was the start of a lovely sunny day and the start of my trip over the South Island of New Zealand that is described as a place of grandeur and solitude and a truly wild corner of the untamed earth.  Started with a shower and then breakfast that I took on a picnic table in the sun with a beautiful view of the mountain range behind this Holiday Park.  After the breakfast I prepared the campervan and went to the waterfront at Picton Harbour.  I'd seen so many wonderful photos of this area at the harbour that I loved to see this with my own eyes on this sunny day.  I took some fine shots in this area of peace and wonderful nature.

At 09.00 I left Picton again via Highway number 1 heading for the East Coast.  Took my daily cup of cappuccino in the centre of the city of Blenheim, where at an almost deserted townsquare a streetmusician was playing guitar with his grandson walking around him.  RV 08 Ohau 300xBack in the campervan I hit the Pacific ocean near Wharanui, at that moment you've already travelled a 60 kilometres from Picton.  From this point the road will stay close to the ocean and most of the time you can see the ocean.  This is also due to the fact that the Kaikoura Range started here already with hills up to 1000 metres and climbing in the neighbourhood of Kaikoura to mountains of 2500 metres.  Between Clarence and Rakautara (23 km north of Kaikoura) you'll find the Ohau viewpoint where you can see seals.  There are signs and there is a parking place because the seals are always here on the rocks below the Highway at distances of 10 - 100 metres.  This time there were about 40 seals playing or lying and sleeping in the sun.  Took about 10 minutes to watch and enjoy the views of these beasts (really better than in a Zoo).  Of course took some great photos of them.

RV 08 OnTheRoad 300xBack in the campervan I continued my drive to the City of Kaikoura where I had booked for the trip of 13:45 (had to be there at 13.15).  The booking office was easy to find because there are a lot of signs to it.  And the area had a big parking place. So parked the campervan and walked to the booking office.  In the office the first thing I noticed was a line beside my 13:45 trip "Severe Seasickness Warning" so .. .lucky me ....  Five years ago this trip was cancelled due to high seas on the ocean and now this.  At another desk in this booking office they sold pills against seasickness.  So I bought one and took it with some gingerbeer (prescription .. haha).  I had little trust in the pill but decide to book the trip.  So got my lunch on the terrace at the waterfront in the sun and with a calm sea.  RV 08 KaikouraOffice 300xMaybe the organisation had made a mistake, but I was sitting at the same bay with a sea that looked almost the same 5 years ago and then they didn't even try to launch.

At exactly 13:45 a bus came to take us on a 20 minutes trip to the launching harbour that was at the other side of the city of Kaikoura.  The booking office is at the north side of Kaikoura and the launching harbour is at the south side of Kaikoura.  The boats leave from South Bay but there is not enough space for all the cars and vans of the tourists because it is a small Maori village.
From South Bay you can see the white crests of the waves on the ocean.  We were taken to one of the  boats, a catamaran and one of the organisation gave us some information about the trip.  RV 08 KaikouraBoat3 300xOne of the things she told us was that people who thought they could be seasick had to step forward.  These people were given seat in the back row of the cabin were one has the least problems with the waves.  According to this I stepped forward and had a nice seat in the back row of the cabin directly next to the window.   

The catamaran leaves with a female captain behind the steering wheel and another female host tells us about the Sperm Whales and shows us short videos on a big LCD-screen in the cabin.  I hear her story but keep looking out the window to predict the next wave.  The waves are between 5 and 7 metres (they told us) and the catamaran jumps over every wave with high speed.  Within 25 minutes they found our first Sperm Whale so all to the decks.  I think it was a little bit more difficult to see the whale because of the high waves.  RV 08 KaikouraBoat2 300xEvery now and then the whale disappeared behind a wave .. .but we were close enough to see it all clear.  Now I was glad with my Canon EOS 450D a dSLR camera (Digital Single Lens Reflex) that makes a photo at the moment you press.  That was good for the awaited last action of the whale .. .the dive.  At the moment the ladyspeaker announced that it was to happen within a few second I had my camera ready and cliked again and again and again.  I got the dive in a wonderful series.  I made a compilation of it at the bottom of this page. 
After this 20 minutes break we all got back in the cabin and at that moment I didn't feel good anymore.  But I did my best and my stomach came at rest.  Unfortunately it went wrong after the second stop.  As long as the boat went over the waves with high speed I could see what was happening so my mind told my body what was to come.  RV 08 KaikouraWhale2 300xWhen the boat lies still in the water near a whale there is no change to predict the waves so .. .the one moment you only see the sea and the other moment only sky.  So unfortunately I was sick (in the special bag) for things like this.  The second whale, our last, dived within 30 seconds on our arrival, so the only thing we saw was his tail coming up and going down.  At that moment we were still a bit ooi far away for good shots. 
On our way back to the whale station we've had a short view of some Hector dolphins.  The ocean became calmer when we approached the harbour in South Bay.  OK ... I lost all the food ... but I'd seen my whales so it was a succesfull adventure.  And I eat 3 times a day and this took me another five years to come here again and try to see them from nearby.  So had no problems with losing the food.  

RV 08 KaikouraSea2 300xThe autobus brought us back to the other side of the Peninsula where I stepped in my campervan.  A sandwich for my empty stomach and started the the campervan and left Kaikoura.  Back in the Netherlands I saw great pictures from the city of Kaikoura and its waterfront taken from the viewpoint at the hills on the Peninsula.  I missed this but want to give here the advice for next travellers to go up (depending the weather of course) and have a look from there.  

My next stop would be the town of Hanmer Springs in the Southern Alps of New Zealand.  From Kaikoura the road leads me about 55 kilometres to the south via Highway 1 before I take the turn of to Waiau.  From this turn off you have a very nice green scenery with a lot of low ranges up to 350 metres that gradually develops to mountains.  The Hanmer Range just behind Hanmer Springs has mountains between 1350 and 1700 metres.  RV 08 HamnerSprings 300xAt about 19:30 I arrived in the neighbourhood of Hanmer Springs where I drove over the only bridge that give access to Hanmer Springs (photo).  In the city of Hamner Springs I booked a place at the Top 10 Holiday Park and went into the city.  The famous Hanmer Springs were almost closing so I had no chance to try the famous hot pools.  I drove to a nice restaurant with a crowded terrace and had a meal outside in the last sunshine of the day. 

Back on the Holiday Park I tried the Internet facilities, but there was no answer.  This time not a bad connection but no connection and the office was already closed.  I went to bed knowing that tomorrow I would cross the Southern Alps twice.  A long travel with less adventure but I think a wonderful experience.

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