Adventures in Kaikoura

One thing you should know about New Zealand is that towns on the South Island are pretty well isolated from one another. Also, not every town has a gas station so people have to drive to a larger town to fill up their tanks and often fill up plastic fuel tanks as reserves.

What I’m leading up to is the fact that Marilyn and I were so caught up in chatting and enjoying the beautiful day that we didn’t consider stopping to refuel. We had a full tank before leaving Balclutha, but we didn’t think we needed to fill up along the way.  However, several kilometers outside of Kaikoura, the low-fuel indicator light popped on as we made our way up and down some pretty large hills and wove in and out along the coastline.

It’d wouldn’t be exaggerating much to say we were freaked out. Here we were on a two-lane road in the middle of nowhere desperately looking for a gas station. We weren’t sure we would make it to Kaikoura despite all the signs announcing that we were nearly there. But, there was no way to pull over and turn around to search for the last gas station. We didn’t even know when we saw one.

In the end, we made it to Kaikoura (on fumes I imagine) and filled up immediately. Then, we checked into our hostel and dropped our bags off. We splurged on a two-bed private room, and Marilyn was excited that they gave us a bunk bed. She quickly called dibs on the top bunk to which I heartily agreed. Then we set out for some late lunch/early dinner as we’d skipped breakfast and lunch on the drive.

After a really great meal, we headed out to the Point Kean seal colony at the other end of town. When we arrived, there were many people (busloads in fact) who had the same idea. But, the seals didn’t seem to mind the paparazzi action going on all around them. Some sunned atop large rocks in the middle of the water while others preferred to be right up on shore. A few seals even managed to find a nice pile of grass to doze upon under the cover of bushes and trees.

Afterward, we walked up to Point Kean viewpoint to see the surrounding area. On one side, the Pacific Ocean extended as far as you could see. On the other, the Kaikoura Ranges stood in the background beneath the clouds. It was an amazing way to end a long day on the road. After a few peaceful moments, we headed back to the hostel to get some rest.

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South Island Road Trip

And the adventure begins! Marilyn and I hit the road early for the long drive north. When you’re this deep in the south, everything is a long way away. We had a vague itinerary but nothing was set in stone. It was nice driving with the windows down, the music turned up and the sun shining bright.

As the scenery passed by, so did the array of topics as we caught up with one another. Despite not seeing each other for years, we easily fell right back into it again.

Our road trip was off to a great start, and I hoped it would continue. The New Zealand summer can be fickle and you never know when the clouds will roll in. But for now, the sky was blue and we only had the open road ahead of us.

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Going Way Down South

After spending a few days in Christchurch, I took a bus down south (and I mean way down south) to Balclutha to meet up with Marilyn and Shawn. I met Marilyn while working at Nuvolari in Rotorua three years ago, and we’ve kept in touch despite the span of time and distance.

When I told her I was coming to New Zealand for a visit, she invited me to stay at their place in Balclutha, so I booked an Intercity bus from Christchurch and made the seven-hour journey. The ride didn’t feel as long as it sounds. I was happy to be traveling through large, green pastures filled with lazily grazing sheep. Yes, I know that’s a  clichéd image of New Zealand, but that’s really what it was like. Of course, sometimes along the way there were cows instead of sheep, but you get the main idea of the idyllic visions that passed by my window. 

When I was living in New Zealand a few years back, I didn’t feel any particular pull to the country. It was a special place, but it wasn’t somewhere I could foresee myself living for the rest of my life. However, on this visit, something was different. Maybe it was a bit of nostalgia? Maybe it was simply returning to a familiar place? But, whatever it was, I really felt a sense of calm and balance as soon as I landed. I even let out a sigh of relief when I first touched down at the airport. The closer I got to Balclutha and my friends, the more I felt like I was returning home.

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