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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Travelogue: New Zealand (Day 5 - 8)

Continuing from my previous post

On day 5 we reached Picton late afternoon, by the InterIslander ferry from Wellington. The ferry ride which is about 4 hours was extremely beautiful but very rough while we were in the open sea..To top it, rain was still following us, all the way from Auckland! So though it was technically summer, the weather was freezing cold out there!

Picton is a small town and nothing much to do there. There is only one street which is like a main street in the town with restaurants and shops. By 5pm the street looked deserted as if there was a curfew! We took a walk around in that super cold weather and had a nice dinner at one of the Italian cafe bar before heading back to our backpackers lodge. We stayed 1 night at Sequoia Backpackers hostel and it was very cheap and worth the money.

Next day morning we left for our full day wine tour in the Marlborough region. Our guide Kerry, from Bubbly Grapes picked us up from the hostel and took us into the vineyards of the Marlborough and for wine tasting in 7 wineries! It was a lot of fun tasting wines but got a little too much by the end of the day.. :) so we had to call it quits after 7 wine tasting sessions!

We headed to Blenheim directly from the vineyards and stayed at Copthorne Hotel there which was one of the best hotels there and quite expensive as well. Blenheim is close to the Marlborough region than Picton, so we chose to stay there as we had planned for another half day of wine tour the next day! :) Blenheim is a much bigger town than Picton and I could see more people on the streets here making it look like a real town!

The next half day was spent again in the vineyards and we visited another 4 to 5 wineries before we headed to the train station to catch the Kiwi rail to Kaikoura. This route is one among the most scenic train routes in the south island as it passes right next to the sea all along (for about 2 hours). We reached Kaikoura late afternoon and checked into a backpackers hostel yet again - "The Dolphin Lodge"! The weather was still freezing and Kaikoura is extremely windy as its just by the sea side. So that made it even worse! To top it all the hostel had a room heater which would switch off every half an hour (going green, you see!) to save electricity. So whole night was spent in switching on the heater than sleeping! We learnt our lesson to check this before booking a hostel again! (The pic below is the town of Kaikoura)

Kaikoura is a very small town and the only tourist attraction there is the Whale Watching. It's one among the very few whale watching places in the world. So we went on a whale watching tour early morning on the next day. Boy! it was truly a memorable experience! Watching those huge sperm whales at a few metres away from you is quite thrilling! We were lucky and spotted 4 whales, a few dolphins and the albatross that day. However, the sea was again very rough and we had to pop in a few pills to avoid the sea sickness! So it's always a good idea to carry some along...
(The pic below shows the sperm whale making a dive back into the sea)

After the whale watching we had lunch in the Kaikoura town (in a crappy thai restaurant) and headed to the train station again to board the Kiwi rail to Christchurch (the capital of south island). This also falls on the same scenic route by the coastal side and was a beautiful 3.5hrs journey! We got to watch some seals too.. I would highly recommend travelling by trains and coaches there than driving around as it reduces the trouble of driving and you also get to see these beautiful sceneries which otherwise is not accesible by the roads...

We reached Christchurch by 6.30pm and still the sun was not being generous on us. It was as freezing as Kaikoura 'coz it had just rained and was very windy that day. Damn my luck! I was hoping to enjoy the beautiful summer but ended up being dressed like I'am in a snowland!

We were so tired by the time we reached Christchurch. We had travelled every single day so far and there was more to come! So we checked in to a motel - The Bella Vista. It is a chain of motels and it was really neat and clean and nice! I would highly recommend this anywhere in NZ. After checking in, we walked down to an Indian restaurant nearby (yeah, you can find an Indian restaurant in even the remote corners of NZ!) and called it a day.

The next morning we were off to Lake Tekapo by bus! We still had Tekapo - queenstown- milford sounds- franz joseph glacier - greymouth to travel before coming back to christchurch and ending our trip!

To be continued in the next post....