This trip has been full of providence. We seem to have the perfect weather at the right time and we are able to experience the most wonderful things like seeing kiwi coming out of the bush. Much of this attitude may have to do with the lack of long term planning. We plan for about 24 hours at a time and that may be done about 48 hours in advance. What we are doing is so wonderful mostly because we are unaware of what we are missing. The most frustrating times have been when we knew we were missing something we would have enjoyed. One of those times when ignorance is bliss – or at least the art of letting go well.
What has changed in the last few days we are arriving when something is fully booked. For example, there were punting on the Avon rides in Christchurch that only had the earliest opening the afternoon of the next day. We did get the LAST powered site for the Picton Holiday Park last night. Two days earlier, we attempted to get reservations for the whale watching cruise in Kaikoura which was also full for the entire day.
The kiwi holidays are now in full swing. The schools let out generally on the 20 of December and they will not start back up again until February. This is the high time for travel. Possibly that is why we are squeaking by or just missing our chance. I am beginning to think that we will have to plan earlier, especially on the North Island where there are more people. I’ve never been one to start New Year’s resolutions, but this may be a good one – plan a couple days earlier.
We began the day in Christchurch making our way to Picton where tomorrow we will catch the ferry back to the North Island. The way is becoming more scenic. The farms are replaced with vineyards, the hills are rising higher, and there are even a few mountains closer.
Kaikoura is about the halfway point. We decided to hear to the wharf for the whale watching just in case there was a cancellation. There was a 12:45 departure that we knew of. We had no maps and wandered about to find the place and watched 12:45 pass. About 1, we walked into the station with the help of the I-Site. They were just calling the names for the will-call list. Name after name was not answered. I guess people were just not patient enough. The list was emptied and there was still room for us! Slap on some sunscreen, grab an apple and let’s go!
This tour was out into the Pacific Ocean to find sperm whales. These whales live in near Kaikoura year round. Sometimes Orcas, Blue whales and humpbacks are here. For now it’s only the sperm whales. These are the 4th largest whales that have teeth. No one is sure why they have said teeth, since they use sonar to find, stun and/or kill their prey. From there they swallow the prey whole. Maybe the teeth are just for a pretty smile for the pictures?
We were able to see 3 sperm whales in the 3 hour cruise. They dive up to 3000 m to find their favorite prey, the giant squid. The whales are able to hold their breath for up to 2 hours. When they come up for air, it will be for only 5-10 minutes before they go down for 45 minutes at time. To see three in the 3 hour cruise was quite fortunate.
When they surface, we could only see the front two thirds (from the dorsal fin forward. One unique thing about the sperm whale is the blow hole is at the front of the head rather than back like the dolphin. The blow is also then unique that it is at a 45 degree angle to the water. Just as we were told, after about 5 minutes, they would dive down. We were fortunate also to see 3 flukes (the last 3rd of the whale). Each flue is unique to the whale like our fingerprints.
The day worked out beautifully with the least amount of planning we’ve done yet. I think I’m about to break that new years resolution!
For more pictures, check out:http://picasaweb.google.com/jjpeavey2/20100101JRP?feat=directlink