Apologies again for the lack of photos, this will change with the next post when I’m in Kaikoura…
28th-30th December – From New Plymouth to Kaikoura (282 miles)
Jens had dropped me off in New Plymouth and I had two buses, one ferry, another bus and two more nights before I would reach Kaikoura. The hostel I was at in New Plymouth, the Sunshine Lodge (apparently ironically titled on that day) was, like many places I would encounter this summer, a strange affair. In the corner of my dorm room, in fact basically just past the end of my bed, a teenager had his whole room set out: television, stereo, Playstation, and he’d been there several months. Apparently the college he was at ran out of halls, and here he was, playing Tekken (badly) as I went to sleep.
I’d not given much notice when booking transport, and at this time of the year, it didn’t give me too many options other than to split my trip to Wellington up into two. The weather turned for the better (typical when you’re stuck inside a vehicle) as the bus drove past the looming Mount Egmont, looking rather ominous even in the bright sky. It was now that I was lamenting my camera, having it stolen in Sydney meant my only source of stealing images was my phone, and taking photos en route was therefore practically pointless.
I had to change buses in the quirky town of Bulls, where every shop on the main streets has an unbelieveably puntastic take on their dwellings name. The doctor’s office has ‘Cur-a-BULL’ on the side, the church quite amusingly ‘Forgiv-a-BULL’... and so on. I can’t say I ventured far from the bus depot, being lumbered with a huge backpack, but I was allowed to admire the local ‘graffiti’ in the last remaining hours of the sunshine as my bus… didn’t turn up.
But no fear, a replacement eventually did turn up, and I was crammed for the remaining hours in a coach, without a window to look out of (curtains were being drawn as the sun hung low), just waiting. Wellington came in the dark, and I took my lodgings in the hostel across the road from the station, whilst meeting my good friend Stephen from Southport who was working here for a while. A bit of home to catch up with in the middle of a bit of madness, I definitely needed it. I also didn’t mind the bit of a discount from the shop in the morning when I had to catch the ferry at some ungodly hour (okay, it was 9 o’clock), and again I was on the move.
The ferry trip harboured some great (and cheap) fish and chips, and although the ride itself was uneventful, it is worth to note one of the tightest ferry routes, as we travelled through the impressive Queen Charlotte Sound, again bemoaning my lack of a useful camera. Also, with perfect timing of the travelling curse, moments after stepping off the ship, the clouds gathered and spat down at me as I ran off to find a shop to shelter in. What I did find was a shop that sold tea, English tea. And I felt very English indeed, writing a letter back home, looking at the rain out of the window, drinking tea and eating a meat pasty, waiting for my bus to arrive.
Maybe New Zealand suddenly realised it wasn’t fooling anyone, but either way, I left the shop and walked straight into sunshine. The palm trees made a fitting backdrop to the light as you can see above. It also made me want to take in an ice cream as I watched kids floating boats in the pond by the miniature railway (wait, am I still in New Zealand again?). This part of New Zealand definitely was wanting to be more English, as the rain caught up again, and this time I took shelter in the information centre, my bus was almost here.
I say bus, because that’s what I assumed. What arrived was what seemed like an old school minibus with a trailer. And it definitely didn’t seem like it should be taking on the winding windy coastal roads as the waves crashed up in the turbulent weather. I didn’t whether it’d be better if I closed my eyes or not. I chose to keep them open, mainly because the sea is so fascinating to watch, but also so I could see the grandiose mountain ranges on the land side. A three hour long drive can go so fast when you’ve already waited two days, so I was out on the pavement of the town of Kaikoura before I knew it.
Kaikoura is a small coastal town, where you’ve got marine-rich sealife on one side, and a huge mountain range just behind you. It’s a surreal sight indeed to see an Orca whale pull up for air in front of a mountain range (at least, I was told it was an Orca). A walk for about five minutes brought me out of the relative hustle and bustle (haha) of the centre and down the deceptively long seafront to my home for the next two weeks, Cray Cottage. Of course I didn’t get there before meeting Sam and Ellie, who were going to be my New Year’s compadré’s.
Which was good fun, as you shall see…