09.11.2011 - 11.11.2011 15 °C
==HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAYNE!==
After a very restless night in another 'nightclub' Nomads Hostel (Nomads are definitely off my list now!) waited outside to catch the promised 7:15 bus to the Ferry terminal. At 7:32 we were starting to get worried that we wouldnt make check in for the ferry so ran inside and asked where the bus was. I was then informed that the bus leaves at 7am only, NOT every 15 minutes like the girl I bought the tickets from had said. DOH!
I demanded my money back and a taxi ordered to try and get us there in time. The Samoan taxi driver who turned up hurried us to the terminal as fast as she could, commenting that she knew we were from England because we talk like they do on Coronation Street!?
There was a huge queue checking in so we joined the back and eventually got onto the Kaitaki ferry (largest on their fleet - holds some 1600 passengers) for the journey from North to South Island.
The crossing is listed as the most beautiful ferry crossing in the world and I can now understand why. As Wellington fell into the distance there was an hour of open sea before the view changed into that of beautiful green mountains for the last 2 hours of the trip.
We stood on the top deck for the last hour and enjoyed some fresh air and took in the sights.
I also managed to spend about half an hour inside organising a swim with dolphin experience for Jayne's birthday (trip will be on the 11th November - Day 21) with the rarest dolphin alive today (the Hector's Dolphin) that can only be found in NZ.
The coach to Kaikora was uneventful and bored of noisy dorms we checked into a private room in Dolphin Lodge as a treat for Jaynes Bday. The lodge was lovely and the room was spacey and very tidy. It was raining lightly so Jayne decided she would like to go for a walk on the coastal path which would take us past a seal colony and was about 12km.
Half way to the seal colony the rain started to get stronger and we decided to continue on to see the seals and decide whether to continue or turn around.
We found some big male fur seals chilling out on the rocks and nearly stepped on one as we made our way back accross the carpark as one had decided to camp on a patch of grass for the night!
The rain had eased off so we continued up the coastal path that took us into the mountains surrounding the coast. The views we are told are amazing and what we could see through the misty cloud that we were in looked stunning.
About half way around the walk the rain started to really hammer down and our thin waterproof 'pac a macs' didnt stand a chance. It was at this point we were beyond the point of no return so continued on... in the rain... and the wind.... soaking....cold... but we kept saying out loud "its better than work!".
The rest of the walk was more of a time trial than a relaxing hike as we stomped on determined to get back to the lodge ASAP.
When we finaly arrived back we were soaked through to the bone and as we stripped off the free hot tub in the garden looked mighty inviting, so in we hopped, well Jayne actually managed to fall in!? which broke the ice with the 3 other people already in it, a german guy called Jens, a christchurch fisherman called Bradley and a french girl Veronica. We spent the night sat in the boiling tub with the cold rain hitting us on the head drinking champaigne and wine to celebrate Jaynes Bday (the other backpackers looked mightily impressed of our drinking selection!).
When we eventually got kicked out of the tub I treated Jayne to a bowl of noodles as the restaurants were now closed! Bradley and I sat chatting until the early hours and managed to polish off a whole bottle of rum.
We started the day with a bad hangover....really bad... so treated ourselves to a full english fry up and fruit to try and soak up the offending rum/wine. The coach to Christchurch was horrendous for me, how I didn't throw up I'll never know. Twisty mountain roads do not mix well with a spongy rum head!
Finaly we arrived and got a taxi to the camper van rental office. Along the way we saw some of the devastation from the earthquake 8 months ago. It was horrible, buildings in pieces, roads closed, not good.
When we got to the offices of Escape rentals we were greeted by the manager 'Krispy'. He was a right card and kept laughing and telling us how to make fires, a bath in a stream with some rocks and generally surviving Bear Grills style for the next 3 weeks!
When he took us into the garage and asked us to pick a van we were pleasantly suprised. We were expecting a dodgy old rust filled van the size of a large loaf of bread, but they all looked almost brand new and were much bigger than expected! The one we picked had only been rented out once before us and was an auto 2.0 with tinted glass and a monster size bed in the back (which you had to build like in a caravan).
Trundling off down the road to find the nearest pack n save for supplies we managed to spend a whole days budget on meat and alcohol!
Finding our way out of Christchurch was easy so we headed for Akoroa to find our first campsite near the dolphin swim ready for tomorrow. The site was a TOP10 site which was more expensive and organised than we had hoped but short of fuel, time and energy we parked up and built our bed for the night. After a hearty supper of bacon and burgers we got our heads down for some much needed rest.
Jayne was up early for a run so I made bacon sandwiches for breakfast and did some much needed laundry and tidying up.
The dolphin swim was nearly aborted due to heavy 30 knot winds and big swells but the captain decided it would go ahead so we squezed into wetsuits and got on the boat to head out.
The sea was pretty rough but we were very lucky as only 5 minutes out a single Hector's dolphin started playing around at the front of the boat.
They are so small compared to normal dolphin and look incredibly cute! With their white bellies they look kind of like tiny killer whales! It played around following the boat for a while and then a buddy joined it and then a third. They were jumping over each other and popping out of the water tail slapping to show they wanted to play.
The waves and wind were too dangerous for us to get into the water here so the skipper tried to draw them into the quiter water of a nearby bay. The water was calmer and the guide agreed that we could get into the water with them so Jayne being Jayne was first over the side into the still very rough water.
The dolphins seemed a little less interested now that they had been dragged into the shallow waters and after a little play in the distance seemed to lose interest and moved away. Once we had picked up Jayne and another keen swimmer we went further out into the open water to find another pod.
The wind and waves by now had reached quite a serious level and the skipper decided it was too dangerous to stay out and it was time to return to the harbour. The journey back was insane with the boat lifting out of the water and slamming down so hard we were bouncing out of our seats and it sounded like the hull was going to be smashed to pieces. The skipper looked pretty worried and kept saying it was too dangerous to stop so he had to keep pressing on back to the port. (Bad times)
Eventually we made it back to port and you could see the relieved faces of the passengers and the captain jumping back onto dry land where we were informed we would receive a 75% refund as we were unable to swim with them. (Good times)
We planned the route to meet up with our friend Guru again before she left NZ and set of in our now renamed camper 'Hector'. (Jayne named it after her friendly dolphin encounter!). The drive was lovely with a mixture of very windy winding mountain passes and long straight roads that you couldn't see the end as they stretched off over the horizon.
The lodge allowed us to camp on their grounds and use their facilities, which was much appreciated before we met up with Guru for a hug and a long catch up chat.