Another couple of hours north and we hit a seaside town called Kaikoura.
We arrived early for our whale watching tour. As we waited for the tour to commence, fear of seasickness filled the air as the warnings from the tour operator were announced.
Once aboard, the friendly staff did well to keep everyones spirits up wile the boat bounced over waves, slamming back into the surf. It wasn’t long before another boat had located a whale and pointed us in the right direction.
We arrived at the Sperm Whales location where they come to the surface of the sea for air before diving deep into the ocean again. We all stood, eager and excited, our eyes glued to one side where we expected the beast to emerge.
What looked like a long submarine broke the surface of the water and floated close enough for us to see his blowhole spurt water in bursts.
Just as I was thinking that this was not worth the trip to see what resembled a floating piece of poo, there was some action. The whale turned on it’s back, and in a show on absolute power, lifted his tail hurtling it into the bleak water over and over again. My judgment instantly switched from apathy to astonishment and wonderment.
The trip was then lifted further by some local dolphins that swam along side the boat on our way back to shore, playfully leaping from the ocean, before dazzling us with a show of acrobatics, twisting and flipping through the air backwards, apparently a show only designed to mimic a bird hitting the water to attract the attention of large fish.
The tour concluded with one last loving visit to see the whale before heading back to shore, where we grabbed lunch in the small town before disappearing again to make headway to our next stop, Picton.
In each fleeting visit to another small town, each memory is anchored in our minds. In no way is the time we spend each place a testament to the adoration we hold.
We arrived at Picton, drained and ravenous after hours on the road. The camp site was just shy of town so we decided to walk to the local marina rather than drive into the centre. This would become a very wise choice. We perused the menu at Pirates Bar, we decided to share a snack of Nachos and possibly have something later at the campervan. We waited for our food, listening to an old American lady waffling on about absolute nonsense, providing her grandkids with the worst parental advice about playing in the road.
The nachos came out, a steaming mountain of beef, cheese and sour cream topped off with a special ingredient, sweet chilli. We gorged on this mouth watering dish of deliciousness, promising to return the next night for exactly the same.
Guest post from Holly:
“There was three ducks following me around the campsite. They were really hungry so I gave them some off bread till they fucked off. I also fell off the trampoline here. It really hurt. Richard could have caught me but he decided to just watch instead.”
Heading north coupled with the days hurtling towards summer, we sat outside for the first time on the trip since our first day here, soaking up the last rays of sunshine for the day.
Our trip the next day was a wine tasting tour of the Marlborough Vineyards, an early start to check out the great wines of the area. We picked up the only other tourist, a well spoken brummy chap named Waymon, and headed off for our first stop.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a wine tasting but I hoped that it would be schooling in wines and the differentiation between grapes, vineyards and vintages. What I didn’t really want was a glorified pub crawl. What we ended up with was something in between.
At the first stop our guide dutifully informed us that she was still in training and that her knowledge of wines was, to put it nicely, pretty shit. I was not perturbed and assumed the clever people at the vineyard would have all the knowledge I needed to become a keen wino. We sheepishly made our way through the first 7 wines, sinking our noses in the glass for a good sniff, swirling it around the glass like we knew what we were doing, tasting and skewing our face towards the vineyard attendee to show our liken, or otherwise, of that particular wine.
There was no real deep adoration for wine shown by the animatronic staff member who served us, just a vague performance of artificial enthusiasm, I’m assuming designed to entice us in to purchasing some cases of plonk and paying the exorbitant shipping fee for delivery to the uk.
We were left to our own devices to read the tasting notes accompanying each wine, against which we simply put a tick next to those that we enjoyed, eager to avoid a misplaced pretentious description of the wines bouquet opening up in an effort to impress the three people around us.
Even though each glass only housed a mouthful each, by the end of the first tasting we were all feeling slightly tipsy. Confidence was growing and Waymon had left from his camp pompous shell, which kind of made me like him more. Accompanying his drunkness was a frankness which would keep me entertained for the day. Sharp witticisms rolled from his tongue, now seemingly unable to refrain from letting snide remarks fire from his mouth, once or twice scathing vineyard employees.
“I’m half German”, one lady shared, “My mother is from Germany” she unnecessarily added.
“Never like Germans really” Waymon slipped in before taking a gulp of his Viognier. Free wine and free entertainment.
The more tastings we had, the less we became interested in wine making methodology and grape composition and conversation turned to general chit chat, and became, quite honestly, more fun.
The tastings continued, the wines varied and 5 or so vineyards later, we were well tanked up and heading home, equip with the valuable knowledge that a Pinot Gris is canny nice.
In a disastrous turn of events, we decided to not get the Nachos again and made the devastating choice to try wedges and garlic bread. Always stick with what you know to be true.
After sending some postcards the following day, happily hangover free we waited for the ferry to head back north to continue our exploration.
This North Island will have to raise the steaks if it wants to compete with the Spectacular South.
We arrived at Wellington, to the same car park style camp site previously occupied, on bonfire night. New Zealand celebrates Guy Fawkes night, but perhaps not to show their appreciation for the treasonable criminal plot being overthrown, but just to have a pretty firework display and a party. To our complete disgust, they had shifted the celebration to the weekend so more people could get trolled and not think about getting up for work. Oh yeah and some babble about better for the kids and stuff.Another massive drive was in store for us the next day so we put the traitorous date change to bed along with ourselves.