CC to Welly
Hello again! I left you last as we were arriving in the South Island's most populous city, Christchurch. Our hotel was right on the edge of the city center, so our drive in took us past some of the ‘burbs. From the outside heading in, it looked like a pretty standard city. It was once we headed into the city center, however, that we began to notice the city is still recovering from the shock of the earthquake eight whole years prior. It was quite saddening to see that the core of the city is still somewhat in ruin. Many buildings are still boarded up, and areas where buildings used to stand are still vacant. Even Christchurch cathedral, the symbol of the city itself, still lies in shambles with the front of the buildings gone and animals in the belfry claiming it as their own.
Repairs needed on Christchurch Cathedral The good news is that the city is starting to rebuild. There were sprouts of rebirth happening all over the city and there's no doubt that every construction worker in the area is employed. Although I am not sure how long it will take, I am certain the city will come back to life in due time. We left Christchurch feeling a bit melancholy, unsure of what to make of our time there. We knew we had to continue on and see what else New Zealand had to offer.
One of Christchurch's new, thriving areas Our journey then took us up the east coast of the South Island, with our ultimate destination being the ferry terminal located in the town of Picton. On the way we stopped in the town of Kaikoura, which not only made for a good stopping point about halfway up the coast from Christchurch but it is also the prime spot on the South Island (that I know of anyway) to see some whales, dolphins, seals, and other marine animals. We knew as we arrived in Kaikoura that the weather was not going to be on our side, but the whale watching boaters were adamant that unless the weather really kicked up the waves, our tour would still be a go. Somewhat assured, I used the day before our whale watching tour to hike near some seal colonies and see what I could see. The plan was a 3 hour circular loop around thy peninsula where they hang out, keeping in mind that it is imperative to keep a safe distance and never get between them and the ocean.
See all the seals? This hike actually ended up being one of the toughest I have ever done, as it was very wet, slippery, and the trails were in really poor condition. As I danced over streams of water and slid over countless slippery rocks, I more than once found myself dangerously close to a seal. I felt like I was in a video game, climbing over rocks and looking for safe passage with these bulbous mammals in my way. At one point I found myself between the ocean and a rather large looking male seal in a cave and I knew I had met my match. Feeling a bit defeated, I turned around and headed back the way I came.
Glad this guy was friendly As it turned out, my bad luck with sea mammals wasn't over. When we showed up to catch our whale watching tour, we discovered it had been canceled due to high waves. We were told there was a chance that things would calm down before the end of the day, but with a 3 hour drive ahead of us, we just weren't willing to take the risk. I guess we'll just have to see whales for the first time somewhere else. Feeling even more defeated and the weather still not looking good for the following days, we drove the rest of the way up the coast and headed a bit west to the town of Nelson. While not known for any well-known sites, this little town sits right on the water in an area known for beautiful vineyards, and the town itself is nice for a stroll with some eateries and places to hang out. It was the ideal place to hang out and relax for a few days, if the rain would just stay away!
The town of Nelson One thing I am constantly reminded of here in New Zealand is that weather reports are basically useless. Being a long, thin island with mountains running most of that length and ocean on either side, anything can happen, and if can happen quick. I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit here, but just yesterday we had a few instances where it poured down rain for literally 5 minutes before returning to blue skies - and this was on a day where the weather sites said we would have thunderstorms the entire day. Anyway, all that to say we actually lucked out during our time in Nelson and had some really nice weather.
Enjoying the sun, working on numbers Feeling more optimistic, we backtracked a bit to the ferry terminal and set out on our three and a half hour interisland ferry to Wellington - and the North Island! The ferry was actually a pretty large boat, as it transports not only people but also cars across the Cook Strait between the two islands. We were hoping have some dolphins or maybe some albatross join us en route, but once again we had no luck with animals.
Ferry boat in the harbor As we sailed across the straight, we first got to pass through many Sounds before heading out into open water. The Cook Strait is of course named after Captain Cook who was the first white person to explore and survey the area. The most interesting thing about the crossing in my opinion was that even through we were transitioning from the south to north island, the entirety of the journey on the ferry took us about due east!
On da boat Now that we're in the north island, I'll be sure to publish a blog sooner rather than later with our exploits here. Be sure to stay tuned!