Vineyards and sheep on road to Kaikoura

As we drove south from Blenheim we passed large green vineyards reminding us that we were in the heart of NZ’s winelands.

Vineyards and sheep on road to KaikouraVineyards,  a flock of sheep and a river on the outskirts of Blenheim 

It was a beautiful drive as we went south and towards the coast. We left the vineyards behind and crossed the dry hills of Marlborough for a few kilometres. We were then treated to gorgeous green hills and large flocks of sheep. Gradually, we made our descent to the coast and saw some beautiful rock formations in the sea and on the beach.

Rock formationsInteresting rock formations on the beach

Laval rocks in seaLaval rocks in the sea

On 22 February 2011 Christchurch, 200kms south of Kaikoura, was the epicentre if a major earthquake. We were amazed to find that there had been very severe damage this far north. The road along which we were traveling had been severely damaged and was still under repair 7½ years later. It really made us realise the immense amount of damage that can be incurred and the time and money it takes to repair. It also made us think of those communities such as Haiti, Indonesia and even our own rural communities in SA who experience these major disasters and how they probably never return to ‘normal’.

Earthquake damage repairs 2Road repairs following the earthquake (Go to this site to see the original damage)

We had a few stops and starts as we made our way through the sections where the road was still under repair. Alongside this area were 2 railway tunnels cut into the Kaikoura mountains. They, too, were now blocked off but it was not clear if there was damage to them or the rails themselves.

Tunnel entryTunnel entrance

A few kms before Kaikoura we passed a beautiful church on the side of the road looking rather lonely but it probably served quite a large farming community. Further on we saw some Red Deer grazing in the front garden of a local home.

Church en routeChurch on the side of the road

Red Deer 2Red Deer grazing

Forced to make a comfort stop at a picnic site where there was a chemical toilet which was spotlessly clean. The site was on the bank of a lake which was described as a wildlife refuge. We were not lucky enough to see any wildlife there but it was a lovely place to stop.

Lake ElterwaterThe landing out on to the lake

We stopped to eat our lunch where we had a lovely view over the sea. Within minutes we were joined by a large sea gull which first tried to get inside the car. It didn’t take long to dissuade him of this idea and he decided to spend the time on the car roof. His real interest was in our rolls and we did share some with him, eating it right out of our hands.

Gull watches TrevorThe gull watches Trevor eat

We arrived in Kaikoura at about 2pm and found our Motel at the far end of town. The owner was not pleased to see us there early and clearly told us she would not book us in before 3pm so we were to leave and return thereafter. As we would be in the town for just 1 night we decided to make the most of the beautiful afternoon.

We travelled further into town and came to the area called the harbour although there was no sign of any activity but the views from there up to the mountains were beautiful. There was no litter and very few people so it was a good place to simply relax and enjoy the sea air. There was one building which looked quite dilapidated but had a sign that it housed the aquarium. After a good look around we confirmed that there was no sign of life in the building at all.

Kaikoura harbour 2Kaikoura Harbour with snow on the Kaikoura Mountains

We drove along the coast road until we came to a parking lot which was fairly full so we stopped there. Lying on the boardwalk was a large seal sunning itself. Apparently this is quite common and, once on the boardwalk, they will not move until they have decided that it is the right time.

 Seal on boardwalk

Seal on the boardwalk

Seal below the boardwalkSeal below the boardwalk

There was a path which led up the side of a steep hill from the parking lot and we went up there to discover some stunning views. We got as far as the first view site where we sat and relaxed for a while and then had a very relaxing walk around on the top of the hill.

View of Beach from the view siteView from the top of the hill

People on rocksPeople on the beach below the view site

There were 2 other possible walks, one which went down on to the beach, but they were described as being for the very fit which was not how we were at the time. One involved going right around to the far side of the hill and return to the patking lot via a fairly steep and ungraded path.The 2nd invited walkers to make their way down to the beach but they would have to return by the same path to the top of the hill because of the tides.

Striped terracesInformation on Maori defence systems

As we drove in to Kaikoura in the early afternoon we saw a fish and chip shop and we decided to go there for supper. This decision made our motel host very pleased as she said that it is the best place in town and we have to agree that the food was excellent value for money. What we were not warned about was the gulls who lined the walls and gutters  waitng for any opportunity to grab some food.