Kaikoura

New Zealand: Reflections

As our trip comes to a close – we fly out today – Robyn and I have been doing some early post trip analysis. Here are our thoughts on our trip.

Best Coffee
I’ve written a lot about coffee so it seems only fitting this is the first cab off the rank.
N: Bureau de Cafe, Queenstown
R: Bureau de Cafe, Queenstown
Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of it – but honourable mentions go to the Sugar cafe in Kaikoura, Gusto in Picton and Coffee Culture in Christchurch.

Gusto, Picton

Worst Coffee

There have been some stinkers on this trip. It’s hard to pick. But here goes.

N: The Why Not Cafe, Kaikoura, I’ll tell you why not – the coffee seemed to be exothermic. It got hotter as time wore on, the coffee itself was untastable because our taste buds were scalded off.

R: Piazza coffee at the Hermitage Hotel/Edmund Hillary Centre at Mount Cook.

Best Budget Accommodation
N: Top 10 Holiday Park, Franz Josef. Talk about million dollar views. It worked out at $42.50 pp so that’s value. Plus there were bunk beds in the room so we could have been even more efficient.
R: Holiday home at Hanmer Springs. Worked out at $30pp and was clean, well equipped and very comfortable.

Best Accommodation

We’ve stayed in some nice places as well as some budget places. Here are our top picks.

N: Living Space, Christchurch. It was quirky, colourful and handy to the CBD for strolls and coffees.

R: Breakfree Alpine Village, Queenstown. The views of the lake from the balcony were stunning and it was a spacious one bedroom apartment handy to town.

Worst Accommodation

N & R: Te Anau Holiday Park – the lakeside A-Frame cabins look cute and cozy, but inside were anything but. It was cold. We were supplied inadequate blankets and the bed was like a marshmallow.

Dishonorable mentions: Picton Holiday Park – full of smokers, poor facilities and dangerous cliffs.

Best Breakfast

N: Sugar Cafe, Kaikoura – Big breakfast – venison sausages, hashbrowns, bacon, eggs and a terrific relish.

R: Sugar Cafe, Kaikoura – maybe it was the seal swim induced appetite, but the Sugar Cafe scored again for their eggs benedict – Robyn says it’s the best she’s ever had.

Best Lunch

N & R:  Fergburger.

Honourable mentions go to the Skyrail buffet, and the Honey Pot Cafe for their sensational toasted sandwiches.

Best Dinner

N & R: Bailies Pub, Christchurch. Robyn had Lamb Shanks, Nathan had a sirloin cooked to tender perfection.

Honourable mention – the hot rock dinner at Hanmer Springs.

Best Activity

N: Seal swim, Kaikoura. Seals are cool.

R: The Skyline experience – paragliding, luge and lunch. What a winning combination.

Honourable mentions go to horse riding, puzzling world and the jet boating part of our white water rafting adventure.

Best Drive

N: Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura – the rest of the car was asleep but these picturesque mountain roads were fun to drive.

R: Te Anau to Milford Sound – lots of scenic stops on the way, a tunnel through a mountain and the constant presence of a glacier in the rear view mirror on the trip back made this a drive to remember. As did the early morning start.

Honourable mentions – Queenstown to Lake Tekapo for the Lord of the Rings style rolling mountains and craggy rocks, Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook for the cows and roadkill, and the Wanaka to Queenstown stretch.

Best City/Town

N: Christchurch – lots of cafes, churches, old buildings and a comfortable city feel.

R: Hanmer Springs – a cute little village in the mountains.

Honourable mentions – all the rest.

Most Memorable Person

N & R: The grumpy horse riding lady.

Most Memorable Day

N: Picton – simply because Robyn almost fell off a cliff. I won’t be forgetting that in a hurry.

R: Queenstown – paragliding, luge, lunch, and gondola ride – plus the best coffee all trip. A winning combination.

Honourable mention: Fox Glacier. I’ll never forget the pain in my legs during that walk – or the sense of satisfaction drinking a cold beer on our return. It was all worth it though – walking on a glacier is kind of cool.

Most Picturesque Location

N: Mount Cook

R: Lake Tekapo, Church of the Good Shepherd.

Honourable mentions: Milford Sound and Kaikoura.

We’ll add pictures and links when we get back to Australia – right now it’s off to breakfast.

Seal of approval

This morning’s activity involved some very cold water, hooded wetsuits and a colony of New Zealand fur seals. Oh, and some snorkels. It was cold. Did I mention that already? It was also great, there are hundreds of thousands of seals living on the New Zealand coast. Their numbers were significantly reduced as a result of the fur trade about 200 years ago. These particular seals were thought to be extinct. Luckily for us – they weren’t. Our tour guide informed us that a particular type of seal – I can’t remember which one – is actually more like a dog with flippers.

We finally found a good coffee – at a cafe called Sugar on the main street of Kaikoura. The temperature was perfect. Their big breakfast was also very big. We did have an abysmal failure from the cafe next to the seal swim place – it must have been over 100 degrees – it was scalding.

I think a general rule for picking somewhere to have coffee in New Zealand is avoiding anywhere serving vivace or hummingbird coffee.

There are photos from our last couple of days worth of activities now stored in our New Zealand picassa album – seal photos will be coming once we get the film developed from our underwater disposable camera.

Today is winery day – which I must say I’m particularly looking forward to. Must be off. The grapes await.

The road to Kaikoura

After an eventful morning farewelling Hanmer Springs in the best possible style – coffee at a Yak shack – aka an animal farm cafe complete with llamas, alpacas and what we think was a yak. We’re unsure because we weren’t prepared to pay the $10 each to leave the confines of the cafe for the greener pastures of a series of animal enclosures.
We hit the road – route 70 to be precise – although that’s from memory so it’s probably wrong and started the journey to the coast. We took a “scenic route” although I am unsure whether there are any non-scenic routes in New Zealand. I was struck by the lack of suitable shoulder areas on the road for drivers to stop to take photos. As my passengers were sleeping in the seats around me I was composing a letter to Tourism New Zealand suggesting they create better “lookout” facilities for drivers wanting to capitalise on the rolling hills and forests. But then I realised creating lookouts the whole way along would be an inefficient use of taxpayers’ money. We did stop for a few happy snaps – including the obligatory photos of sheep. Robyn thinks that sheep in New Zealand have reached plague proportions as every mountain is littered with them.
As we drove past a number of farmsteads heading into our eventual destination – the township of Kaikoura – I noticed that each had a unique letterbox – some where weatherboard, others were 40 gallon drums. I thought about commissioning a coffee table book of photos of the letterboxes of New Zealand – but didn’t want to end up with a collection of photos of bins (litter boxes). Something may get lost in translation there.

Tonight we’re in Kaikoura. I’m still unsure how that should be pronounced. We’re staying at a reasonable (both in price and quality) “Holiday Park” that’s Maori for Caravan Park. It’s The Alpine-Pacific Holiday Park. It’s an appropriate name. Kaikoura is situated at the base of snow capped mountains and on the coast – a blend I’ve never before experienced. The combination of New Zealand’s long twilight, the rocky beaches and a combination moonrise/sunset made for some great photos. Fish and chips on the beach is not the same without sand – but I’m happy to report the seagulls here are just as pesky as those in Australia.

We spent an inordinate amount of time throwing rocks at the ocean – well the brother-in-law-in-law, and I, started off trying to skim rocks, but that was an abominable failure. Then it became a chance to be like the children sitting next to us who were chastised by their family for throwing stones only minutes earlier. There was no fear of corporal punishment though – so it was an impressive effort by the parents to get their offspring under control. Robyn’s discus prowess was equally impressive. She could hurl a stone a mile (that’s a small bit of hyperbole) and it glided through the air with perfect form.

We’re going “swimming with the seals” tomorrow morning – so tonight was a great opportunity to scout out our prospective swimming buddies with a trip to the seal colony on Kaikoura’s headland. There was an impressive array of seals “sunning” themselves on the rocks by the water – and a bunch of really smelly kelp to add to the atmosphere. At this point the sun started to go down leading to a pretty spectacular photo opportunity on top of the hill.

I’ll have to add all the photos I plan to insert in this post at a later date, we’re about 4 minutes off running out of our hour of prepaid wireless. Hopefully some of them will be up on the picasa album before our time is through – tonight’s time that is. You should check it out now.

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