A Little Town Called Kaikoura

Dolphins leaping, albatrosses soaring and whales breaching out of the cool, blue water. These were the things I thought about when I thought about Kaikoura and as we were leaving Christchurch to head there today, I was really rather excited. There’s nothing I like more than being surrounded by wildlife and I’d heard that Kaikoura was the place to be if that’s what you wanted. I could not wait.

* * *

On the way to Kaikoura (Front seats of course!)
On the way to Kaikoura (Front seats of course!)

At 6am this morning I woke up, quite cross that I was up so early after not that much sleep, but ready to leave to visit somewhere new. Christchurch was a lovely place and had lots of interesting things to see but the constant (but necessary) building work meant that everywhere was so loud and I’d begun to miss the peace and quiet of the smaller towns. I think I’ve always been like that though; when I was little I remember thinking that I’d never live in a city because they’re just too big and too noisy for me. Of course I ended up living in Cardiff for 5 years so things did change but I really do prefer being out in the country where there are lots of things to discover and lots of animals to see. So, feeling quite ready to move on, I got up, packed the rest of my things in silence and we left the comfort of the hostel for a dark walk down the road to the bus stop.

The first thing I noticed when we stepped outside was just how dark it was. It was so, so black still. With it being just after 6am, for some reason I had thought it would be a lot lighter so it came as a bit of a shock to discover this. Not that it was really affecting us then, I like a good walk in the dark so that was fine, I was just very aware that we had our dolphin watching trip booked for tomorrow at 5:30am and if today was anything to go by, we wouldn’t be able to see anything. Hmmm. I’d been looking forward to that trip for weeks and weeks and I knew I’d be devastated if it turned out to be cancelled. By the time we reached the bus stop, it was just about 6:30am and I was now rather cross at the prospect of not seeing any dusky dolphins. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself that the sun was coming up and that the sky was getting lighter, I just knew that if we left at that time we wouldn’t able to see anything at all. I decided to just hope that the 2 hour journey up the coast somehow added an extra 2 hours of light to the early morning (wishful thinking I know) or that Encounter, who were running the tour, changed the time. The latter was obviously more likely but you never know!

Just a little bit foggy!
Just a little bit foggy!

At 7:00am exactly, the bus pulled out and we set off towards Kaikoura. It had been a lot busier than I had initially thought but we’d managed to still get seats together and were now able to sit back, relax and enjoy the journey. We’re now total experts at the whole getting on the bus thing and so far we’ve been able to sit together on every single journey in New Zealand which is good because most have them have really been quite long. I’m sure it’s fine to sit next to somebody you don’t know for a short trip but it’s not the same as being able to make jokes and things with someone you know; it just makes those horrible trips a little bit more bearable. On this particular one, however, Codie wasn’t much fun as he seemed to spend most of it with his head lolling about asleep and so I kept myself amused by watching some sheep eating in a line of twos and some cows looking bemused on a hill. At one point we passed through a thick cloud of fog which meant I had no choice other than to stare ahead into the gloom. There were probably sheep out there but you just couldn’t see anything other than the lights of cars suddenly appearing in front. It was very creepy, especially with it still being quite dark and I was glad I was able to stay nice and warm inside the bus. My new cosy fleecy was coming in very handy for that!

Nice and sunny again
Nice and sunny again

About 2 hours and 45 minutes and some stunning views later, we arrived in Kaikoura ready for some exploring. It looked like a nice little town full of nice friendly people and I couldn’t wait to have a proper look around. I was really happy to be there away from all the noise and surrounded by the sound of the sea instead. We’d even managed to spot some dolphins on the way in so it was all looking great for our trip tomorrow, providing it wasn’t too dark of course! Codie, on the other hand, was a little bit cross to begin with as it turned out that the hostel we’d booked ‘The Dusky Lodge’ was a lot further away than we thought it was and we had quite a way to go from the bus stop. I say quite a way, it was about a 15 minute walk so not the worst in the world but not the best if you’re expecting it to be pretty close by. It also didn’t help that we were carrying a load of tins either as they added quite a lot of weight and made the walk just that little bit worse. Ah well. We were in a lovely place and I decided to make the most of it as we wandered along, watching all the little seagulls bobbing about and the cat stalking a man with a lawn mower in a garden. It was all great. Much like most hostels, when we finally got to the Dusky Lodge we were told that we couldn’t check in for another couple of hours and so we ended up finding a cosy little spot to sit down in to wait. It was nice enough with it’s wooden beams and cottage-y type feel and it reminded me a lot of some of the places I’d been to in Scotland. Very cosy, very snuggly and I imagined that had the fire been on, it would have been extra toasty too. There wasn’t really much of an atmosphere, however, so that was a little bit disappointing but to be honest, it wasn’t the end of the world as we just wanted to get sorted and get out. There was so much to see, there just wasn’t any point hanging around in the hostel.

A little while later and it was time for us to drag our bags to our room for the next 2 nights. It wasn’t exactly what I’d been expecting and we’d ended up with the only beds right in the middle of the room but it’d have to do. It wasn’t the end of the world and we wouldn’t be there much anyway. The fact that there was no barrier on the top bunk worried me a bit though as I’m completely paranoid about falling off and this time there were two sides and more risk. Hmmmm. Codie said he’d take the top bunk so I didn’t have to worry but I’ve seen him dangling off before so I don’t think that’ll quash my concerns!  Continuing the concerns, the mattresses were also so thin than you can feel the slats digging into your hips and back. Again this wasn’t too bad but it’s not what you expected from a ‘decent’ place and it was quite annoying. Grrrrrrr. I kept telling myself that there wasn’t much we could do and we just needed to be there to sleep and that was it. If we could sleep anyway!

Codie and our tasty fish and chips
Codie and our tasty fish and chips

With our beds sorted and our luggage on it’s own shelf, we decided that the next thing we needed to do was go and find out where Encounter was. Since we have to walk there at 5am in the morning in the pitch black, it was obviously better to do a trial run then so we knew exactly where we were going as opposed to getting lost and turning up late. The last thing I wanted was to be late for that! Very logical, or so I thought. Codie was quite cross about this as he didn’t want to have to do more walking but it turned out to be a lovely and didn’t take us long at all. It definitely wasn’t going to be too much of a problem tomorrow and that was the main thing. As we walked through the double doors into the building, we were confronted by a huge crowd of people all desperate to get going on their dolphin trip. The atmosphere was sparking and you could feel the excitement as one by one people were signed in and sent to change into their wetsuits. I kind of wished that we were doing the swim as well but I am looking forward to getting some good photographs of the dolphins as other than Hervey Bay, I haven’t had many chances. It really should be a lot of fun! When we finally got to the front of the queue, we signed in for the morning and were given the time we needed to be there by; 5:55am. Hooray! It was much better than actually leaving at 5:30am as it would be so much lighter and we’d be able to see the wildlife rather than just listening to it. I was so pleased with that, especially after worrying about it this morning, and I felt my initial concerns melt away. Now all I had to do was look forward to it and it was incredibly easy to do that. We were going to see dolphins and there’s nothing more exciting than that. As we left I mentally made a note to buy a chocolate dolphin after our trip from the counter. What can I say, I’m a sucker for an animal shaped treat!

Sitting in the Dusky Lodge
Sitting in the Dusky Lodge

Now very confident that we knew where we needed to be in the morning and also for the kayaking trip, it was time for something tasty to eat in the centre. I’d had my eye on a little fish and chip shop so once we’d called into the shop to pick up some drinks and things for tea, we wandered over there to see what they had on offer. It was really very cheap and so we ordered a 2 fish, 1 medium chips and 2 sausages meal deal for about $14 so £7. I’m definitely going to miss the price of that type of food when we get back to the UK! There was just so much of it too and by the time we’d made it back to the hostel, ready for a rest in preparation for the long day tomorrow, I was still absolutely stuffed and having to fight off a very persistent stitch that would not leave me alone. It was definitely worth it though and I ended up having to force down a beans on toast and sweetcorn tea. I know, we probably didn’t need to eat anything else but I think we might pass out tomorrow morning otherwise…

Tomorrow is going to be one of our busiest days in New Zealand and I’m really excited for a wildlife filled day, the best type of day! Now just to make sure that we get enough sleep to be able to enjoy it all as much as we possibly can.

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