In Dunedin we were back on the East coast ready to start working our way back towards the North Island.
Dunedin is a fine city with grand buildings in the style of the Scottish capital it was named after. Of these the most impressive is the railway station where we met Beryl, our Servas host for the next two nights.
We took it very easy in Dunedin, recovering from the rail trail while we enjoyed good conversation and Beryl’s excellent cooking. As it rained all day, we were relieved not to have been cycling, but couldn’t do our washing! After touring the city by car we went down the peninsula as far as the Royal Albatross Centre in the hope seeing the fabulous birds, but no luck.
On Monday morning we said goodbye to Beryl, picked up a car and drove to Christchurch where we spent a night with Poonam’s brother, Ketan, his wife Catherine and daughter, Riya. On the way we examined the boulders on the beach at Moeraki and had a lunch stop and walk at Oamaru, another fine town of impressive victorian buildings and wharves – the largest collection of protected heritage buildings in New Zealand.
From Christchurch we went up the coast to Kaikoura for whale watching. Sadly although we tried 3 times the weather off shore was so bad that no tours were running. So no whales for us.
There’s not much else to do in Kaikoura but we sampled the recommended local delicacies – freshly cooked crayfish from a roadside stall and fish and chips (the ‘best in New Zealand’?). We also visited the excellent Kaikoura museum, located in the library. There we learned more about the whale hunting history of the place and also the more recent history of the devastating earthquake that rocked this coast in November 2016. This was a different earthquake from the one that destroyed a lot of Christchurch 5 years earlier. A walk along the Kaikoura Peninsula gave an insight into how much the coastline and seabed were reshaped as a result.
Restoration work is still in progress all along the coast road and railway – the road was closed for a year and passenger trains have just started running.
The drive along the coast to the Marlborough area was gorgeous. We stopped to watch a particularly active fur seal colony at Oahu.
Marlborough is New Zealand’s main wine producing area, famous for it’s Sauvignon Blanc but producing many other varieties. Vines were first planted in the 1970’s in what was previously a farming area. Now all you can see is vineyards in every direction making us wonder about the sustainability of such a monoculture – a few days later we met a student writing a thesis on exactly this topic!
We stopped at Peter Yealand’s winery for a quick tasting and to pick up a couple of bottles to take with us to Pauline and Roger, our hosts for the next two nights in Blenheim. Pauline and Roger are the parents of Poonam’s sister-in-law, Catherine, who we stayed with in Christchurch. They have lemons growing in their front garden!
At last we were able to do the rail trail laundry! A big attraction in Blenheim is the Omaha Aviation Heritage Centre. We visited the World War One display to be impressed by the convincing, lifelike dioramas of historical events created by Peter Jackson (director of the Lord of the Rings films). There is also a huge display of memorabilia featuring New Zealand, Australian and German airmen including the notorious Red Baron.
We were very impressed with the planting in the park!
We had a walk in the Wither Hills which form the backdrop to Blenheim and tried to convince ourselves that would be sufficient training for our expedition along the Queen Charlotte Track that was about to begin.
In the next post Alan will tell you how that went.