Feeling a little sad sitting in this sunny parklike holiday camp – Top 10 Picton. My last night in the South Island and this part of the adventure is now over. I have been thrilled by all the wonders I’ve seen, and very happy to have seen my country in greater detail. Places I’ve known about are now familiar to me too.
The best thing that happened today were the whales, of course. I realised when I arrived in Kaikoura last night, that I couldn’t go without seeing them, so I booked and found that they were adding a third trip for the first time today, as part of their promotion. I got in on that first one, which suited me perfectly because I could get away by lunchtime to come North. I was heartened that the bit of rain overnight stopped and when I got up at the crack of dawn it was to this:
Whale Watch is just around the corner from the holiday park, so I threw on some clothes, had my peppermint tea, and unplugged the van. Then I drove around the corner into this.
A group of about 25 of us were gathering early for the shuttle bus to take us at 7.45 around to the next bay where the boats leave from. It was windy and cold but not wet. Whew. Soon we were loaded on the smallest vessel and very comfortable. I was a tad concerned about my seasickness, as they warned it may be choppy, and it was. I downed some ginger sweets that were on offer at the shop, and kept my eyes on something fixed on the horizon and I was mostly fine.
Not long after we sped into the frothing waters of the ocean, our spotter noticed a spume of water go up and he pointed the pilot in that direction. Sure enough, to my ecstatic joy, a male sperm whale was cruising along calmly. We were all invited to step out on the side of the boat and take photos. It did not go too close to the whale, but that’s a good thing. I had also seen a small and rare hector’s dolphin leap up beside the boat when we left the shore.
After snapping some shots and seeing the whale submerge we headed in another direction and kept our sights on the sea. About half an hour later, the number of dolphins had increased and suddenly another plume of vapour burst upwards from the distance. This one was a humpback, surrounded all the time by his/her frollicking dolphin friends. The dolphins were like puppies in the water.
I tried to get photos, but no sooner do you see something than it is gone as your finger depresses the shutter. I took video but that was only lucky sometimes. The best part was actually being there and seeing those wonderful creatures for the first time in the wild.
At 11am we were back in the bus and soon deposited by our vehicles. I am still exhilarated by the whole experience. It’s well worth doing. An 80% success rate apparently. I drove north along a golden coastline, with some snow-capped peaks to my left. What a pretty town Kaikoura is. Who knew?! About 3/4 hour north we left the coastline but not before I saw a cafe called The Store at Kekerengu. It had a wood fire going, a modern vibe, and great food. That first coffee of the day went down a treat.
From Kekerengu I plunged inland on rolling pastureland and hills, distant mountains still visible in a haze. So pleasant a country.
About half an hour later I came upon Blenheim, which I have never visited. It was nice enough, and big enough to have a small maze of main streets. I got out and walked for a bit and stopped for a bliss ball and coconut chai at a place on the main street. It shut at 3pm. I must say that Blenheim did not have half the charm of Kaikoura or Picton, both of which have either the ocean or the mountains to recommend them. At Blenheim there is a bit of history when I first came in, in the form of an old restored house from the late 1800s. Nice.
Now I was getting pretty tired, and faced into the sun and north, reaching Picton in 20 minutes. So nice to see the harbour, and the palm trees, and summery atmosphere with the ferry coming in from Wellington. I went first to the Top 10 Holiday Park and logged in and had a one hour nap, then I drove to town and wandered before settling on a meal of meatballs and vegetables at a bar and bistro on the corner called Cortado. Very nice they were too.
I am now back in camp, preparing for my 7pm spa, and then I will be ready to wind down for the evening. What a happy trip this has been. Very early start to catch the ferry across to Wellington tomorrow.