Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Kaikoura - got the T-shirt

We woke up at six and left the Hickman's at 6.30am to drive to Kaikoura. We arrived at Dolphin Encounter for our first adventure of the day - a swim with wild dolphins. We got kitted out in wetsuits and were given a mask, snorkel and fins to take on the boat with us. A short bus ride to the pier and we hopped on a small boat to take us out to the dolphins. Within 15 minutes we'd found a pod of 200 odd Dusky dolphins, got our masks and fins on and were sat on the edge of the boat waiting for the sound of the horn. A short blast and we jumped into the water where we were surrounded by literally hundreds of dolphins swimming around us in interest. What's great is that they are completely wild and not led into temptation by tasty morsals. If they choose to stick around it's completely their choice. We had three swims with them in total and it was completely awe-inspiring. They were swimming all around you just centimetres away. Spectacular!!!!

In the afternoon we headed out on a second tour to go whale watching. This was an equally exciting experience. We saw three sperm whales, loads more dusky dolphins and some local fur seals. It was a fabulous day all round.

In the evening we headed to the campsite (with pool and spa I might add) and sussed out how to put up our tent and pump up the airbed before treating ourselves to a session in the pool and hot tub.

In the evening we headed out into the small town for a feed of crayfish (delicious) and the nightlife (or lack thereof as it turned out). We found a bar with a guy singing with a guitar then found a livelier pub where we met an American called Pepe who'd just come back from setting up oil pipes in Antarctica. A quiet evening but enjoyable all the same.

The rather long scenic route...

After a day in Wellington and an early evening, Vix and I were up at the crack of dawn to catch the Interislander to Picton on the south island. The trip is spectacular as you travel through the Marborough Sounds. Luscious hills covered in trees and firns drop down to the water's edge with only tiny pockets of habitation.

At Picton - a relatively unspectacular small town - we picked up our shiney, new, red Toyota Corolla. Vix took the wheel to begin with and we headed into Picton to pick up some essential supplies: a pump for the airbed, snacks and plastic bowls. We then decided to go the 'scenic route' to Blenheim via Port Underwood.

The scenic route turned out to be a beautiful, windy, well Tarmaced road - well for the first few miles anyway. Then we ended up on an unsurfaced hell hole of a road that lasted about 20 miles. Nevertheless, we did get to see some fantastic little bays and developed only mild back problems from driving on shale for miles on end.

Once in Blenheim we headed to Annie's cafe for a bite to eat before hitting the wineries. We visited Cloudy Bay and Wairau River vinyards and tasted a few local Savs and Pinot Noirs. We picked up a couple of great bottles from Wairau then headed - albeit rather nevously on my part - to Tim's parents' farm about half an hour south of Blenheim.

Mary and Ossie were extremely welcoming and both Vicky and I felt at home instantly. Ossie gave us a tour of the farm in his car and we saw Jet (the sheepdog) in action as she rustled a few sheep off the railway line and back into their paddock. we also met John (one of Tim's older brother) trying to sort out a 'flattie' on his van and then back at the house we met Paul (Tim's younger brother), Nadine, Ashley and Matthew (the most recent member of the Hickman clan at 8 weeks' old). The evening was spent with the family and with Ruth and Gordon (some other friends of Tim who'd coincidentally arrived on the same day as us). It was really great to get an insight into a completely different aspect of Tim's life and somehow it made me feel like i'd suddenly got to know him so much better. In fact, seeing the photos of him as a child just made me realise just what a great guy he is and how lucky I am to be able to call him mine (for now at least).

Monday, 25 February 2008

A day in kiwi life

After an epic 30-odd hour journey I made it into New Zealand. Just. I had a bit of a nerve wracking experience passing through customs after white-lying a little on my customs form about 'not' having a rather muddy pair of hiking boots in my rucksack. I then sort of confirmed the lie when I was asked directly as I passed through customs. I think the guy sussed me and sent my bag for an x-ray. I felt the closest I could to being a drug dealer and was rather nervous as my bag passed through the x-ray. Thankfully the girl checking the screen was deep in conversation and missed said walking boots. I've never left a customs area quite so quickly :)

After that I had a short bumpy flight into Wellington and met with Vix. We had a fabulous day. The temp was around 25C so we had a wander by the beach before heading to a funky cafe for a bite to eat (my third breakfast of the day). After this Vix helped me choose a pair of much-needed sunnies (not an easy task considering my ears - and hence face - are rather wonky).

After this we caught the cable car up to the botanic gardens and a glorious view over the coastline. Had a wander round then headed to a bar for a few bevvies in the sun. This evening we caught up with a bunch of Vix's friends for Malaysian food and cocktails before I finally gave up to jetlag and we headed home.

So a pretty good first day all round. Tomorrow we have an early start. We're catching the interislander to Picton on the South Island then picking up a car to kick start our roadtrip. More laters