Saturday, October 19, 2013

NZ - Kaikoura to Nelson via Picton

This day we drove around the north east coast of the South Island from Kaikoura to Nelson via Picton.

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We woke to a beautiful day with no clouds. By the time we finished breakfast a few clouds had appeared over the snow capped mountains. By the way, the highest peaks are over 5000 feet and the snow comes down to about 3000 feet in winter. Snow is very rare at sea level.

What wonderful colours.

The railway line continues alongside the ocean. There is a passenger train, the Coastal Pacific, that leaves Christchurch at 7:00 am and arrives in Picton at 12:13 pm. It has to be a great journey beside the Pacific Ocean.

We had been told that about 25 km north of Kaikoura was a seal colony. We pulled over to have a look and all we could see were rocks and waves.

We soon discovered that we had pulled over too early. A little further north there were scores of them lazing about on the rocks. They are in fact resting.

The coastal road, as spectacular as any coastal road in the world.

We decided to walk to see the waterfall and hopefully we would see some seals which apparently make their way upstream.

Train tunnel.

We came upon a deal off to the side of the path. We quietly wandered past.

The sunlight is so bright and intense that at first you only see the waterfall. Then you can see movement in the pool. Make sure you play the videos below.

Yes, the baby seals were leaping and playing. It's absolutely magical to watch.

Another river fed by snow.

As they say, New Zealand, where men are men and the sheep are nervous. 

We eventually came to the Marlborough region, famous for its wine, particularly sauvignon blanc. Whenever I fly Air New Zealand I always order the meal that goes with white wine since I know there will always be offered a very acceptable sauvignon blanc.

More vines beside the deep gorge. 

We were not expecting to see a swamp.

We eventually arrived at Picton which has a gorgeous location at the end of the long Queen Charlotte Sound.

The war memorial to the 'Glorious Dead'.

Picton is the terminus for the ferry from Wellington on the North Island. many visitors who want to visit both islands use this ferry which also takes cars.

An automated toilet. It even plays a tune while you are inside.

Pleasure boats. 

We headed west up a hill that overlooked the ferries.

Picton from a hill.

The Sound. You could get used to a view like this I suppose.

The road became very hilly with lots of bends. Our car is a small manual Hyundai Getz which has been more fun to drive than I expected. It certainly goes round the sharp bends very well. It reminds me of the Mini that I drove 40 years ago. 

There are houses dotted here and there, most with gorgeous views. However it's not a drive you would want to do every day so you wouldn't be popping down to the shop for a gallon of milk.

Some sort of pine cone.

And of course, ferns everywhere. 

To the right is the little town of Havelock that claims to be the green shell mussel capital of the world. We thought of eating some mussels while we stopped for lunch but we could only find a restaurant that was serving them as a full meal which was too much for lunch. I'm sure we will get to eat them elsewhere and we each had some the evening before at Kaikoura. These mussels are much larger than the ones we eat in the USA.

The day's drive was really good. My only complaint has been the NZ drivers who love to tailgate, even when you are doing the speed limit. 

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