Dusky Dolphins

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Friday, November 11, 2005

I had a great night's sleep at the hotel in Christchurch - it was nice not to have anyone snoring for a change! I woke up at 8am, got myself organised, and went shopping for jeans. A shuttle bus was picking us up at 10am to take us to the car hire place's headquarters, so I had an hour to kill while Mum and Stu struggled to pack their things. After getting my purchase, I went to the internet cafe to watch my brother's dvd about his extension being built...very amusing!

I started to get paranoid when our bus was 15 minutes late, but it eventually arrived and took us to our car. After filling in the mandatory paper work and sorting out insurance, we were on our way...and it was nice to get out of the city, although we nearly came into contact with another car at a roundabout within minutes!

It was a lovely day weatherwise with blue skies and the temperature nudging 20 degrees - perfect conditions for relaxing in some thermal pools. I figured that Mum and Stu would need some rest and recuperation after such a long journey, so after a scenic 2 hour drive, we stopped at Hanmer Springs.

Thankfully Stu had forgotten to bring his 'trunks' to New Zealand, so he'd bought some altogether more fashionable swim shorts the previous day. We paid just $10 each and proceeded to have a couple of hours in the pools, soaking up the sun and getting a bit of colour onto our pasty white bodies. The temperature of the pools ranged from a comfortable 34 degrees to a scorching 42 degrees. The latter was way too hot, illustrated by the fact that Stu's legs had turned an interesting shade of pink! Despite this, it was indeed a relaxing experience and we were suitably refreshed ahead of our next drive...to Kaikoura.

En route, the sunshine highlighted the colours in the scenery, so Mum and Stu were treated to an early glimpse of the South Island's beauty. The coastal route just prior to Kaikoura was particularly pleasing to the eye, as we wound our way along the road's twists and turns, with the waves splashing just a few metres to our right.

Unfortunately, my map reading skills were once again called into question on arrival in Kaikoura, as we tried to find Bendamere House - our accommodation for the night. I succumbed and called Helen for instructions, and we were there a few minutes later. I blame an ambiguous map for the slight mishap!

Anyway, there were no dramas, especially as the place I'd chosen was lovely and homey. There were teddies on the beds, the views were magnificent, and the owners were really friendly. Helen, a 72 year old retired dairy farmer with 18 grandchildren, was particularly fussy and immediately made us a coffee, with some pieces of shortbread to go with it. It was a nice welcome to say the least.

I asked Peter what time low tide was at, as I wanted to do a walk along the peninsula to see the seals again. It turned out to be at 7pm that eveing, so despite being tired, we finished our coffees and drove to the South Bay carpark. I'd told Mum and Stu that this wasn't going to be a relaxing 15 days - I wanted to fit as much into the itinery as possible. That suited them fine.

It was a 20 minute walk along the pebble beach to the seal 'colony,' although I was slightly disappointed to only spot 5 or 6 of them. I'd seen over 50 last time, but there'd be plenty of other opportunities and the ones we did see were very cute and very close.

We had fish and chips on the way back to the bed and breakfast, and bought a bottle of wine for later. Mum and Stu weren't late to bed though as it had been a long day and we were set for an early start the next morning. I stayed up until after midnight, watching football and converting my cds to minidisc, i.e. taking advantage of the facilities!

Kaikoura is famous for its dolphins, as it is common to see pods of up to 500 at any one time. i knew that my mum would love to see them after she was close to tears after seeing just 3 in Greece! Therefore I'd booked us all onto a 3 hour dolphin watching trip at 8.30am on Thursday morning.

After a huge breakfast, we made our way down to the meeting point and watched a short video about the dolphins. A 10 minute bus ride brought us to our boat, and we were all set to go dolphin spotting! Apparently a pod had been seen earlier that morning, some 20 minutes out at sea, so we were hopeful of seeing a few...

As it happened, we saw more than 'a few.' There were between 200-300 dusky dolphins in the pod we were following, so for well over an hour we watched in amazement as they performed acrobatics in the water. They were amazing, often shooting up and doing somersaults, then repeating the act again and again. We even saw some tiny calves at the side of the boat - very cute! It really was an incredible sight, particularly as the snow capped mountains created such a spectacular backdrop. It was difficult getting photos as they are so quick, but I did manage to get a few nice ones.

I could quite happily have watched the dolphins all day as they were so playful, but when we had to head back to shore at 11.45am, we'd certainly got our money's worth. The driver even said that it doesn't get any better than this, so we felt priveleged to have seen so many on such a nice day.

We returned to Bendamere House to pick up the car and say goodbye to Helen and Peter...then we were off on our travels again. It had been a brief but memorable stay in Kaikoura, and I was hoping for more of the same as we headed north towards Nelson...
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