After four days in the North Island it was time to board another plane and begin my next whistle-stop tour. This time of the South Island.
Here’s an interesting fact that I didn’t know, despite Nelson being the forth busiest airport in New Zealand, after Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, it’s runway cannot accept jet planes. Therefore I had my first ever propellor plane experience. A bit different from the airbuses and jets that we’re all used to.
Also, Nelson has their own version of Baggage Claim – you’ll find your bags round the front on a tractor. Amazing.
This time I was staying with a good family friend who although I’ve known since I was about four, I haven’t seen since she emigrated to New Zealand ten years ago. Nothing had changed though, still as fun as ever! No socks in the toilet competitions though…
When I was little, Lin took it upon herself to teach me how to throw and her teaching method… throwing balled up socks into the toilet from the other end of the hall. You can imagine how much a seven year old would enjoy this game! Alas, after hours of practice I’m still a pretty rubbish shot.
Only having four days to get a taster of the South Island we decided to go on a road trip to Kaikoura, the whale watching capital, stopping along the way at various spots.
Armed with a Tina Turner cd, gummy snakes and mugs of tea we hit the road.
The Marlborough Sounds makes up 20% of New Zealand’s total coastline and is a maze of beautiful islands and waterways.
In the months between March and November Oahu Creek is home to hundreds of fur seal pups. Away from the predators at the beach, the creek is the perfect crèche for little pups before they adventure out into the big wide world.
It was a bit of a gamble whether we’d see any as November is right at the end of the season, but we were in luck. Not quite hundreds but there were two pups still splashing about in the water. They must be the lazy ones.
Photo coming soon
Whale Watching – Take One
Kaikoura is a tiny town that has been put on the map by their whale watching trips. Thanks to a deep ocean rift just offshore, the waters off Kaikoura are home to a number of resident sperm whales who feed on the giant squid that live deep in the depths.
The town sees hundreds of visitors come to try and get that golden photograph, the whale’s tail.
Cameras ready at the ready we turned up to find that our trip had been cancelled due to ‘unsafe sailing conditions’. Fair enough even the bay was pretty choppy.
Not one to give up, we rescheduled for the next day and went off on another adventure instead…
Now I know this trip is starting to sound like a sequel to Doctor Doolittle but how could I miss the opportunity to take a llama for a walk?!
The first test was trying to round up the llamas in the field. To be honest I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing so I ended up running round the field with my arms out. Thanks Countryfile.
Eventually we got our llamas, introducing Smokey and Dronny.
Can you ride llamas?
In short, no. Even though llamas are beasts of burden and can carry packs up to 80kg, it is not advisable to ride them.
Don’t llamas spit?
Not normally no. Llamas will only spit at you if you fuss near their heads. As humans our instinct is always to stroke an animal’s head (why I have no idea as that’s the nearest place to their teeth). If you avoid their head and stroke them on their neck and shoulders, they’re happy as Larry. Anyone know who Larry is by the way?
Whale Watching – Take Two
After our exciting day of llama trekking it was time to go and find a whale. The bay still looked pretty choppy but the crew were happy to give it a go, but not until they’d issued a severe sea sickness warning first. You can see where this is heading can’t you?
Full of anti sickness tablets and wearing as many layers as would fit we ventured to the boat.
Approximately ten minutes after leaving the port, the first person was ‘unwell’. Then the domino effect hit and soon half of the people had their head in a bag. I’m proud to say that neither Lin or myself were ill throughout the duration, kudos to Kwells.
It takes about forty minutes to get out to the rift, where the first ‘whale phone’ stop is. The whale phone is theoretically a microphone on a long pole which the crew use to listen for whales. After the first listen they’d heard whales so we moved further out in the direction we could hear them.
But the further out we got, the choppier it became. Another ten minutes later and pretty much the whole boat had their head in a bag. It’s not enjoyable for anyone involved. Especially the Safety Officers who may as well have been called the Sick Officers, issuing tissues and disposing of ‘used’ bags.
Shortly after this the decision was made to go back to the port. The weather was getting worse and with the majority of people looking rather green I think it was the best idea, even if I still hadn’t seen a whale.
So no money making photograph for me but here are some of the facts I learnt that day:
– Sperm whales got their name from fishermen who were amazed by the whale’s odd shaped head and on cutting the first one open (as you do) they believed the white fluid inside to be sperm, hence the name. However, after cutting open a female whale with the same shaped head and the same fluid came out, they realised it couldn’t be sperm after all. But too late, the name had stuck.
– The white fluid inside a sperm whale’s head is an oil which, when cooled, turns to a wax which acts as a weight helping the sperm whale dive deep into the ocean to feed. After about 45 minutes when the whale has finished feeding, they heat up the wax causing it to return to its oil state, acting as a buoyancy aid to help the whale resurface.
– The biggest sperm whale ever recorded was 20.5m long.
– The record for the longest dive is just under two hours. That’s a pretty long time to hold your breath!
At the end of the day, I may not have seen any whales but I did witness something else I’d never seen before… a mountain unicyclest.