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Wednesday 10 Mar 2004
Christchurch, New Zealand

Down south!

Ive travelled well into the South Island since arriving here yesterday morning...

8th March 2004

Spent day chilling out at Wainoumata National Park and took a 3 hour walk to pass the time. A very pretty walk through some thick beech and a tropical section very much like the walk I took back in July in New South Wales.

Went off to the Picton Ferry around 4pm... early because I had to make sure I didnt arrive late for the 5am check-in!!

When I got to the ferry, the lady there said I could stay the night in the car-park for free. In fact several vans were doing this, so this place could have very well been used as an alternative place to camp now that I think of it!

At 4am I awoke... pretty refreshed considering I slept through the noisy traffic all night on account of my earplugs!

9th March 2004

Boarded boat at 5.30am.. met an Austrian guy called Marcus who is travelling around on a motorbike. Sound guy, he told me of an organisation, Sepas (or something.. Ill have to check with him again), that exists throughout Oz and NZ which allows you to stay with host families throughout the country, the numbers and addresses of whom are in a small book. He gets free food and free accommodation!! All he has to do in return is take part in a "cultural exchange" and basically tell the family all about himself! Way to save money eh?!?

He told me a website www.globalfreeloaders.com is where he got all the info.

The staff on board were laid back and overly generous (allowing myself and Marcus to get as much free coffee as we wanted) since there were literally only about 6 people on board!! I keep wondering why I was told to book two weeks in advance to avoid missing a booking?!?... hmmm.

The journey over the Cook Strait was slightly rough, but quick.. no sooner had 3 hours passed then we were travelling through the convoluted waterways of the Marlborough Sounds (everything gorge-like landscape in New Zealand is called a "Sound" of somesort). I knew I had arrived in the REAL Middle Earth once I saw the gigantic mountains on the horizon and all around us. It was an awesome half-hour journey to Picton through this valley of green towering mountainsides!

Upon arriving I decided to explore the area before heading on south... I spent the next 3 hours driving through the EXTREMELY WINDING road of the Queen Charlotte Drive on the way toward Havelock. The road was so winding that I felt a bit sick (ironic considering I just came off the ferry with no prob!). Didnt do the brakes on my car any good Ill bet though, since a lot of these sharp corners were taken on a 30 degree angle down a mountainside.

Despite the tedious drive, the scenery was simply breathtaking along this route and is well worth it! I couldnt count the number of times Id round a corner and be presented with a lush view of titanic mountains dominating a calm waterway with the sun shining brightly throughout.. and me going "woah!". Very serene!

Once I arrived at Havelock, it was still early (around 10am!!!) so there was no need to start looking for a campsite yet. I decided to head on down south and so drove off for Kaikoura...

On the way to Kaikoura I stopped off at a Seal Colony on the roadside (there are loads of these on the east coast of the south isle, apparently). Id seen seals in the zoo plenty of times, but this was the first time Id seen seals in their natural habitat, totally free. For me, it felt almost like seeing a new animal for the first time!

There was a wall partitioning us from the seals - a good thing considering a busload of selfish elderly yank tourists came along, almost pushing me out of my way as they tried to grab the best photo spot before anyone else in their group.. then they marched off as quickly as they came!

I went back after they left and stood there mesmerised as I watched the seals playing and swimming.

By 3pm Id arrived at Kaikoura... backed by a fantastic mountain range.

Apart from whale watching trips (albeit expensive though!) there wasnt really much else going on in Kaikoura. The scenery here did afford a stop overnight!

I eventually found an idyllic camping spot 5km out of town on the road toward Christchurch. It was an old grass-overgrown driveway through to the beach, opposite the entrance for the Kaikoura Golf-club.

10th March 2004

I only realised HOW good my camping spot was in the morning. I had my own private view of the beach 100m from my car and from here I was greeted with an amazing sight: at least 100 dolphins swimming along, about 80 m from the shoreline, in a straight formation.. a leading dolphin somersaulting out of the water periodically, as if he was leading a parade! And, considering town was 5 km to the left and nobody was on the beach, I had this all to myself!!! Wahay I felt pretty damn priveledged!

Id never seen that many dolphins in one group before, even on TV wildlife shows! Amazing!

I found a public shower facility in Kaikoura at the public toilets (pretty convenient.. despite being cold showers!!) and then I left Kaikoura for Christchurch around 11am.

Well here I am now... there wasnt really much to see on the drive down from Kaikoura, but I HAVE come a long way: Im already about half-way down the country only on the second day! Im not sure if Im gonna be ABLE to stretch out 6 weeks in the south isle if I keep going at this pace!

Christchurch then? Well its a very pretty city, if not just a little more than a large town! It took me well over half and hour to find the city centre though, the signage wasnt great and there wasnt any real "centre" to the place as far as I could see (Ive found it now though!!!).

A lot of the "city" is covered in green patches and, in a remarkable way, it looks like your driving through sections of the Phoenix Park. Buildings occasionally pop up along streets resembling those in the posher parts of southside Dublin city.

I have to get a new battery for my watch tommorrow which will take most of the day to process - its a waterproof watch, so needs to have a complicated "pressure test" done to ensure its still waterproof.

...added the next day...

Just a short addition. I found an ideal camping spot on the road leading out East along the coast toward Lyttleton....

About 2km out of town you reach an area of shops like Woolworths and Subway on the left. Simply take a left after this block of buildings, following the coast, and there is a "Windsurf Area" just to the right around the corner.

Its got a great view of the lake and is pretty to stay beside as the moon comes up!

The location even has toilets and an outside shower! Handy!

Getting the watch done today, and then Im off west tommorrow along the Aurthurs Pass and well into the Southern Alps region.

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