Saturday, 9 February 2013
On the Road to Kaikoura
The East Coast and Seals on Wheels
Vic started off ahead of me the next morning, but I caught up with him having a second breakfast in a small hamlet just where the road first met the east coast. We more or less rode together the rest of the day. It was a spectacular ride. Including my first sight of snow-clad mountains, and the winding beauty of the coast, carved into the cliffs at some points and following the railway, as view after view was revealed after every headland. It even had a few short tunnels. Vic was inclined to a leisurely pace, he's about fifty years old, which suited me at this stage. We talked about his life in NZ and why he'd moved to Australia. Seems like he'd like to move back now! he was at the tail end of a three week ride around the northern end of the South Island and was returning to Christchurch. We also talked about cycle-touring. I was all ears for any tips! At one point we stopped to take pictures of each other riding. A bit posy, but this, it turned out, was the only time anyone would photograph me riding!
When we discovered a seal-colony we decided it was lunch time and idled away an hour or so. The seals were quite large and also aggressive. We watched them sunning themselves and rolling about in the surf with the kelp. The afternoon ride continued down the coast. Kaikoura could gradually be seen on the horizon, but took its time getting closer. As we entered town we headed for the Tourist Information to find details about accommodation and entertainment. Vic introduced me to Hostels, a well established chain of independent houses offering basic shelter. There are also YHA's scattered about the country. This was all news to me, as I had planned to camp everywhere. These hostels were particularly useful in the small towns and cities. We shared a dormitory room in the one we found in Kaikoura, but decided to have dinner out after a 'jug' at the local pub. The local beer is slightly sweet, and often served in a large jug, with a small glass.
At the Tourist Information we also found out that this place was famous for its excursions to see whales and dolphins, which apparently come to feed just offshore where a huge underwater chasm draws nutrients to the surface. We decided to stay an extra day and I booked myself onto a whale-watching trip for 6am the next morning.