After the long drive turned longer from Mount Cook, and the tragedy turned …. well, something … we were happy to be in Kaikoura, which is a beautiful and sleepy costal town on the north east coast of the South Island.
Last time we were here we had a short stay for a couple of days at a campground right on the water, but this time we opted, with kids, to go the AirBnB route for the vast majority of our trip which allowed us to have beds everywhere, and not looking around for where we were going to stay every night.
The last time that Deb and I did this we had our tickets and that was pretty much it, other than a safari that was booked in Africa. We would fly into an airport, go to the bookstore and buy the latest local Lonely Planet book for the country, and then go from there. We would stop over at an Internet cafe and send an email to our parents so that they could know we were still alive.
Now, everything is planned out. We know where we are going to be every day, where we are staying every night, and the only thing that is left to chance is the agenda for what we are doing in the towns that we are visiting… but then there is mobile research that goes on while we are driving around.
I woke up in our cozy apartment and got my gear on to go for a run, which ended up going through a field of sheep over to the other side of the cliff that we were staying on. It felt not to bad on the way out, but when I started to run back and noticed that it was largely uphill, that meant that it was a nice downhill the whole way out. Now the real exercise began.
I got back and the kids were still in bed, so Deb headed off for a run and she turned the wrong way and ended up running through a field of sheep dodging piles of sheep poop everywhere. She eventually made it to the bottom of the peninsula where a seal colony was, and then found a steep path that led back up to the top of the peninsula and our house.
When the kids got up, we found the game “Operation” in the closet, and pulled it out. The kids were surprisingly good at it, as was Deb, but my startle response was a bit over the top. Occasionally when I set off the buzzer, I would literally jump and jerk my hand which resulted in the game board flying away across and off the table.
(YouTube Video Link of us playing the Operation Game … https://youtu.be/ilzn2ddQxRs)
After we finished that up and got mobilized for the day, we headed down to the seal colony, and the surrounding coastline where there was a vertically oriented pancake rock feel to it. Eerily similar to what existed in Tsitsikama in South Africa.
That has been another thing that we have noticed along the way, and probably did as well when we travelled the world last time, but we failed to either be impressed or remember, but there are a number of areas in the world that have very similar geologic formations or patterns, as well as parts of the world (like Tasmania and New Zealand) that you can tell once was connected in the supercontinent, Gondwonaland.
Now, I am no expert, but to the naked eye, you can certainly see this. Super cool.
We headed out for lunch in “Downtown Kaikoura” which was a bustling area with tourist businesses and restaurants. We found a restaurant called Poppy’s that served awesome ice cream (first) and pizza and pasta (second).
We all had great ice cream, but I had a flavour that I had never had before, which was very good…All Sorts Licorice ice cream!!! With chunks of real All Sorts! Yum….
It was very good, and glad that we put all of our eggs in one basket and ate lunch and dessert there!
There was a very large earthquake that happened here in 2012, and there were a number of buildings lost, a bunch of landslides down the mountains which blocked the paths in and out of Kaikoura for any land based traffic, and they are still putting the roads back together today.
In town, this provided a unique opportunity to create innovative buildings out of sea cans that were fused together, wiring put in the walls, and then dry wall put up on the inside. It surprisingly made efficient, and cute stores in the area.
Outside these stores, they had large connect four games, and chess games for people to play, which was good to keep the kids occupied as we shopped around the area a bit.
We went back out to see the seals, as the parking lot was too busy in the morning, but there weren’t many seals to be found. So, we headed over to a house just down the road from here and had a sheep shearing show and lesson about wool and different kinds of sheep around.
He had a baby sheep that he had kept away from his mother, so it needed to be fed by bottle a couple of times during the day by hand. So, the kids got a large bottle full of formula and had a chance to feed the sheep, which was ravenous for some milk!
We headed into the barn where the farmer brought out a ram for the kids to feed, which was equally as aggressive in feeding it. However, it didn’t want to feed to much from Lulu…maybe it smelled her macaroni and cheese still on her hands!
Then the sheep shearing show started. It only lasted a few minutes as he flipped the sheep around, and started from on end and went to the other giving it a shave within an inch of its life.
It was incredible how much wool came from one sheep! There are a number of people who hire themselves out as consultants or farm hands, and that is all they do….and a good shearer can shave up to 400 sheep in a day! That’s crazy!! It took him about 10 minutes to shear one sheep, so that would mean that he could only do about 48 sheep in an 8h day.
We finished up at the farm and made our way out to the Kaikoura airstrip for our final adventure of the day.
When we were here 16 years ago, I stumbled across the opportunity to “Pilot a Plane” here and I wanted to offer the same opportunity to the kids and Deb if they wanted to.
Luck had it that they had two spots left for the day that we were there! We had researched this many months before we left on the trip to see if it still existed, but we couldn’t find it. So, it was super exciting to see that it still existed when we came into town!
Deb went up as the first pilot, and Lulu got to ride in the back of the plane as a passenger and photographer.
It was a cute little Cessna plane, which could have seated four, but was “some of us” were too heavy to go all together.
So, the two of them went first, while Wilson and I stayed on the ground and watched for them to come in. We ran to the end of the runway to see them come in, but when they came in for the landing, they landed at the other end of the runway! Too bad we missed it.
Deb got out of the plane beaming with a huge smile on her face, and Lulu was equally as excited for the flight in a little plane.
To see Deb’s flight, take a gander here:
(YouTube Video Link of Deb Flying The Plane … https://youtu.be/MjevwW7IWfc)
Now it was Wilson’s turn behind the yoke. He climbed in and was already grinning from ear to ear. The pilot got in the co-pilots seat and fired up the engine and steered it to the end of the grassy runway.
Then they both put their hands on the yoke and Wilson pushed the throttle knob to get the speed up, and off we went!
Wilson was all business once the plane left the ground and he was given control of the plane.
The pilot took the controls and showed Wilson the different ways that the plane moved around, and created positive G’s and negative G’s as she twisted and turned the plane through the air.
We got back close to the airport and Wilson lined it up with the end of the runway and the pilot took over the controls and brought the plane back down to terra firma.
Safe landing, and everyone is alive! Here is a video about his flight!
(YouTube Video Link of Wilson Flying A Plane … https://youtu.be/LNs9BB6udd4)
It was a great day overall and we had a lot of fun with Air Kaikoura. We headed back to home, and had another quick dinner and then off to bed for the short drive up to Picton where we were going to catch the ferry back to the North Island.