Zachary Sabbatical - 2006/2007 travel blog

Narrow mountain roads is an understatement - especially when driving a motor...

An ingenious folding patio table - at least Dad thought so!

You can find sheep everywhere - even in town. At least this...

Old whaling station at Kaikoura - note the grooves worn into the...

"Go away and leave me alone - please?"

Never mind one lane bridges - in some places they dispense with...

Salt works north of Kaikoura.

This sheep KNOWS he's outside of the fence, he just doesn't know...

Marlborough vineyards ...

... and more Marlborough vineyards.

"Let's spend the night here" suggested Mom. "I would really like a good long soak in the hot springs." We had been driving most of the day through cloud-veiled mountain passes and past sheep -filled meadows, deer farms, and farm gate wineries. By late afternoon, we had reached Hanmer Springs, a hot springs resort town situated at the eastern base of the Southern Alps. Although the wilderness we had just driven through was spectacular, the thought of snacking at a café and then relaxing in a natural hot springs was very inviting! It didn't take long to secure our campsite, park the camper, and then stroll up the street into the heart of the small town.

Like so many of the other quaint towns we had explored, this one had its share of boutique shops, cafés, and restaurants. Dad was intrigued by the design and function of the folding teak patio tables he saw at the café we dropped into, while I found a tempting, locally-produced lime-citrus salad dressing to add to our food supplies. (Traveling in a motor home allows you to enjoy more of the local produce!) Later that evening we checked-out the hot springs. I was afraid that it would be nothing more than a typical rectangular swimming pool filled with hot water. Far from it! There were a total of nine pools - different shapes, sizes, and temperatures all nestled within a sub-tropical garden. The hottest pools were around 42 degrees Celsius while the coolest were around 32. There was even a kid's pool with water slides and a dousing waterfall! British Columbia hot springs resorts could learn a thing or two from the Kiwis!.

The next day we completed our trek to the east coast and arrived at Kaikoura, the town where Kate (see the Oamaru posting) is from. We had booked an aerial whale watching tour since Kaikoura has a resident pod of sperm whales. There's also the opportunity to swim with seals and dolphins. Unfortunately, thick gray clouds hung low over the coast, occasionally releasing sheets of rain. With our whale watching flight cancelled, and the weather too cold to enjoy swimming in the ocean, we contented ourselves with exploring the shore. Just south of the town is an historical whaling station. A couple of archeologists were hunched over a grid on the wet rocks when we arrived. You can still see the grooves worn into the weathered basalt where whaling boats were dragged to and from shore. On the north side of town, we were lucky enough to encounter a fur seal catching a few zzz's close to shore. He was (rightly) annoyed when we got too close for comfort and told us so in no uncertain terms. Heeding his warning (after taking a few photos), we headed north towards Picton, where we planned to catch the ferry to Wellington on the North Island.

Since we weren't in a hurry, we poked along the road, stopping here and there to explore anything of interest. The scenery was all rural - mostly pasture land, but with a large number of vineyards once we reached the Marlborough Valley. It was getting dark by the time we found a campground for the night in Picton. We decided to get a good night's rest instead of exploring since we knew we would be busier on the North Island. I was also looking forward to the ferry ride since the coasts along Queen Charlotte Sound are famous for their rugged beauty. Little did I know then how much I was going to dislike our day's voyage!

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