Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kayaking Kaikoura

After getting the tires changed out on our camper van back in Christchurch, Tim and I drove north up the east coast of the South Island to Kaikoura, a town known for its sealife.

Our first Kaikoura adventure: kayaking!

We picked a lovely day to head out on the water, sunny and not too cold.

Pre-kayaking on-shore prep:

The kayaking was lovely... peaceful waters, lots of wildlife. It was our first time using a kayak with a rudder:

We headed over to a rocky outcropping to see if we could catch sight of some of the New Zealand fur seals...

Found some! These two jumped in the water, curious about the kayaks:

Gah, just look at that scenery behind the seals!

After those seals got bored with us, we putzed around a bit in the bay and found some more, cold chillin' on the rocks.

Tim loves posing with seals:

Next: dolphins!

We happened upon a pod of Dusky dolphins! They swam circles around us, popping up occasionally:

We thought it was pretty exciting to see them zipping around us, including right under our kayaks, but our guide seemed a little disappointed because they can be pretty acrobatic. But I still found it cool when they swam right under our kayaks:

Here's some terrible video we shot with the GoPro. Sticking your hand in that water was damn cold!!

After the dolphins got bored with us, our guide insisted on taking the perfect action shot of us in front of the mountains. Perfect meaning in sync with our paddles. It took a few shots to get it right ;-)

Here it is in motion:

Pretty gorgeous scenery:

Our guide also insisted on a "triumph" pose photo, too:

And then we kayaked back, in our uncoordinated fashion:

Good times:

We had also been promised penguins... we finally saw this one lone guy, who kinda looked like a duck floating there:

And that was that... a lovely morning in Kaikoura!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sock World, Arthur's Pass, Tires and Castle Hil

Before leaving the south island's West Coast, I forced Tim to stop into this funny store we passed by in Hokitika, called "Sock World." I mean, the place was advertised as "The World's Greatest Sock Store," so you know we had to check it out.

They had all sort of fun yarn for sale, including some hanks of beautiful hand-dyed New Zealand merino and possum* wool yarn, which I bought. But they also had a mini museum of all these fun vintage knitting machines, including sock knitting machines... I didn't know that' how socks are knitted!:

Plus the wool roving and carding machines (I think that's what these are):

Random, but fun (for me, at least... Tim peaced out to go buy another meat pie)!

After Sock World, we headed to our next campsite and jumping off point for some hiking, Arthur's Pass. Back up into the mountains we drove:

Here are some mountain shots as we drove up, up, up:

But then, foiled!  Tim felt that the camper van was really driving poorly up those windy mountain passes, so when we got to the campsite at the top, we took a look at the van and tried to assess the problem. Um, yeah, thar be the problem... I can't believe we were driving on this shit for well over a week:

One of our tires (or tyres, if you will) was worn down to the threads in a scary way. We decided it was not prudent to keep driving on this tire, especially going down super steep hills to make it to the other side of the mountains. After a (freezing) night at the campsite and a call to the rental company, we decided to change the tire to the spare and then drive to the rental company's garage for a complete tire change-out (and partial refund!!). Let me say, changing a tire on an enormous camper van in the debilitating cold is no fun. Tim was the brute force, loosening up the super tight nuts, but I was the mastermind behind figuring out how to work the damn jack. Sigh.  But it turned out fine in the end:

But once the spare was on and we started driving down the mountains towards Christchurch, there was some more spectacular scenery (of course):

We started to see these crazy and seemingly out-of-place rock formations and decided to stop and check them out:

This place is called Castle Hill or Kura Tawhiti and the rocks are these crazy large limestone outcroppings that look like they've just been dropped right into the middle of these grassy hills:

Kinda hard to understand the scale of these boulder things until you check out this shot below... can you see Tim?:

After our foray through Castle Hill, we put the mountains behind us and headed to get that damn tire switched out.