Location: Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kaikoura Jan 2008
Just a few miles off the coast of Kaikoura there is a huge tectonic plate shift and within a few hundred feet the sea bed drops thousands of feet. This creates and abundance of algae, krill etc and thus in turn attracts a vast amount of sea life such as dolphins and whales. I managed to book on the swim with wild dolphins trip and geared up in my wet suit etc. We powered along in the boat for about 30 mins before we were far enough out to encounter them. There were hundreds of them all around us doing leaps and summersaults in midair. This was such a fantastic sight but things got even better when we got into the water as they sped by us just feet away some with young in tow. Unfortunately I had not taken my inhaler and the cold water combined with trying to breathe through a poxy little tube resulted in me having to get out for a while and take a few puffs to get me right again. Despite this minor problem it was a very emotional time and I could not help but think of Jill as this is one of her dreams and I truly wished she was there with me. The huge pod did not bother with us and thus we did not get to interact with them but hey ho it was simply amazing just to be in the water with them. We followed several groups and got to go in the water several times. After a quick dry all those that swam had to get changed together with absolutely no privacy at all and there were bits dangling around everywhere. Then we motored along for a while and this attracts them as they play in the slipstream of the boat and we got great close ups of even more jumps etc. It was such an amazing site as they leaped out of the water interacting with each other against the backdrop of the surrounding mountains, great for photographs.
The next day was whale watching and at this time of the year it is mainly male sperm whales as the females dont like the cold and stay further north towards the Fiji and Samoan Islands, this too made me think of Jill. To feed the whales send sonar signals that bounce off their pray so they can detect them in the pitch black depths that they dive to. Some people think that this also stuns the pray thus making it easier to feed. The boat is fitted with all the latest high tech gadgets to detect these signals and thus monitor the time they have spent below. One had now been down for nearly an hour and was due up any moment and then suddenly this enormous creature appeared at the surface blowing water into the air as it gasped for breath. The experts on board also monitor the whales and we were told that this one was called Old Nic who was easily recognised by the small hole in his tail fin. After about 10 mins on the surface he took one last breath before heading off for another feed. This was one of the best sights ever with the tail fin raised vertically into the air producing the inevitable gasps from us on lookers and accompanied by the constant background clicking of the cameras. Within a few seconds Old Nic was on his way down to the murky depths for another scoff and we went off in search of more sperm whales. After about 20 mins we located another who was now on top and getting ready to dive again. We got to see the gigantic full size of him for a few mins before he too was off down to the sea floor in search of food which is mainly squid. Old Nic was now due back up and so we waited around again until he appeared at the surface. We sat and watched this majestic creature for a full 10 mins or more and then he was gone but not before once again showing us that fantastic tail fin raised high into the air, amazing.
One of the guys on the Stray bus and staying in Kaikoura was Jim who was born in the UK but moved to Andorra when he was young. He is now a boat builder who travels all over the world with his work. I at least though it was funny to meet an Andorran boat builder as there is not much call for boats when landlocked up in the mountains.
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Christchurch Dec 2007 and Jan 2008
This was going to be an odd feeling as I had not seen Bugs and Louise now for nearly 4 years but I was really looking forward to it as we had had some great but mad times in the past!!
Bugs met me at Christchurch airport and off we went to his home 30km away in a town called Rangiora. Their large house is just unbelievable with its huge garden and secluded position. It was also time to meet their new addition in the very cute 12 week old Olivia.
For New Years Eve we had a BBQ in the garden and celebrated with some Moet, what a way to start the New Year we thought.
The next few days were very chilled and we visited one of the many nearby vineyards called Mudhouse. We sat outside in the glorious sunshine and after a few samples I decided to purchase a nice bottle to consume later that evening. We also went to a nearby beach but it was unbelievably windy but very picturesque.
As the little finger was still swollen and could not be bent or straightened fully it was off to the local hospital for an examination and x-ray which revealed nothing was fractured. Strange as it is an odd shape and twice the size of my other. The following day I received a phone call and was asked to go back to see the top specialist in a few days time. I sat for over 4 hours waiting to see him and after a few twists and turns to determine that there was no tendon damage I was told that it would be ok but it might take several months to go back anywhere near to normal.
After waiting around for over 4 hours I needed a beer and so sat and had a couple at a nice trendy bar before heading back to the hostel as Bugs and Lou had gone off on holi for a few days.
I thought about having and early night but decided against it and went out again after a quick shit, shower, and shave but not necessarily in that order. After a few cheeky ones whilst listening to a band I was finally ready for bed.
That morning I awoke and went for a shower but a lovely surprise was bestowed upon me when I went to dry myself. One of the 2 German girls in the room had obviously not showered properly and a strong whiff of shit greeted my nostrils as I began to dry myself on the shitty towel, back in the shower!!
Next evening I bumped into Sam who I had met previously on the bus. We exchanged tel numbers and we met up the next day and went out for a few beers and some nosh. The next day we went up the gondola for great views over Christchurch city and Banks Peninsula but not before Sam had moaned about heights, money etc etc. Also prior to this we spent nearly an hour in the market whilst Sam decided whether or not buy a dress. By now I was beginning to come to the conclusion that she was a bit of a whinger and I was regretting the decision to invite her to join me on the Queen Charlotte trek. However the accommodation, ferry etc was booked now so I could not tell her to piss off even if I was beginning to think that way.