Whale watching and Christchurch
By now Robin is getting used to driving on the “right” side of the car, but the left side of the road. He doesn’t turn on the windshield wipers when he wants to change lanes anymore. It’s a good thing, the roads here are winding and narrow. The scenery is spectacular, most of the drive along the coast, some of the time quite low to the water.
Leigh Ann, our travel arranger, suggested to Robin that we might want to stop at Nin’s Bin for lunch. We did, and we were glad. Nin’s Bin is a small shack/caravan on the side of the road by the sea. It serves whitebait fritters, crayfish, and, since it reopened after the earthquake, fish and chips. The crayfish is amazingly expensive, and not what I was expecting. They are the size of a lobster. So, we had fish and chips and whitebait. John, a school friend of Robin’s had told us to try the whitebait. It is pretty unappealing looking – kind of just like it sounds – but it is really good.
The guy running the place was a real character, so it was a good choice. He asked us where we were headed – in an accent that was as hard for me to understand as a Newfie’s – and when we said Kaikoura, he said “too bad - bad timing, Prince Charles and Camilla the Gorilla are there now.” I had hoped he was joking, but no it was true. PC and C had been in Christchurch, he to give money for the Cathedral that was pretty much destroyed by the earthquakes or 2010 and 2011, she I guess just tagging along. PC went on to Kaikoura the next day, but Camilla went home – the news reports said either that they had split up or that she didn’t like flying. Kaikoura had pretty much been destroyed by the 2016 earthquake, so PC was there to show it in a positive light. Luckily, they were both gone by the time we got there.
We stayed at the Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses – the tree houses were really lovely – in the middle of a deer farm. The deer are farmed for their antlers, which are picked up off the ground and sold to China as medicine. We had a lovely dinner – as usual.
Sunday, Nov. 24
We drove through Kaikoura to the Whale Watch depot. We registered, watched the safety and info briefing, and then we all headed onto a bus. The earthquake caused the seabed to rise 5.5 Metres, and so the whale watching boats cannot come in here anymore, and we had to drive across the peninsula to board the boats. The whale watching boats are quite nice, very fast, water jet propelled, so quiet underwater. We are in search of sperm whales, male sperm whales as the females are elsewhere. This is the only place in NZ where they feed. We found two – apparently that is quite rare to have more than one at a time. They are BORING!!! They lie on top of the water, one third of them visible, spout a bit, take some breaths, then dive. They can stay underwater for a very long time, and dive very deep. There is a very deep area of water not far off shore, so that is why they are here. The porpoises were more interesting – leaping, doing somersaults, showing the young how to jump and feed, and mating.
On our way to Christchurch, we made a stop at Pegasus Bay vineyards for lunch. What an amazingly beautiful vineyard. It is owned and operated by the Donaldson family, who were pioneers of the local wine industry. The gardens are worth a visit in themselves. We had a very nice tasting, lots of Reislings and pinots to compare, and then had a delicious lunch.
By the time we got to Christchurch we were all pretty tired. Robin and I walked around town – pretty small place – and over to the ruins of the Cathedral. This is why Prince Charles was in town. It does not look like any reconstruction work has even begun, but the signs say it will soon start.