It has been an eventful last week which entailed some rearranging of our summer travel plans and then later in the week we played hosts to Clement and Anais who we met on our recent Abel Tasman walk.
When we met in the South Island, Ruth had invited Clement and Anais to come and stay when they ventured up to the north of the country. Along the way north they had also had a little earthquake related excitement as the Tsunami sirens sounded during an overnight stay in Tirua on the Cormandel coast. We learned that things that we take for granted her in the ‘Shaky Isles’ can be confusing for visitors. However, they got the gist of what they had to do and headed for high ground along with everyone else.
They have been very active during their two months of travel in NZ which was part of a year long down-under experience that also included work and travel in Australia. They were able to give us some good tips on day walks in the South Island as well as some inside information the Tongariro Crossing in the North Island. We hopefully pointed them to the best spots for the remainder of their trip up to Cape Reinga and back to Auckland, and Ruth provided a few shopping tips for their stopover in South East Asia on the way back to France.
Clement lived in a town in Burgundy that I had mistakenly lead Ruth to during our 2013 Tour de France. Well it was not quite the actual town but if I had kept going in the wrong direction for another kilometer or so he probably would have seen us bike past.
We shared culinary tasters and tips and on Sunday set out for a picnic at Oke Bay, our favourite spot here in the Bay of Islands. Nature duly cooperated and the bay looked stunning, complete with a pair of Dolphin that were frolicking around the Bay close to the beach.
Both Clement and Anais decided to brave the cold spring water temperature (even Dolphins could not entice me) and get in for a swim in the hope that the Dolphins would come a little closer. Clement had his GoPro and the Dolphins duly obliged by coming right up to investigate these hardy goose bump covered souls, not just once, but several times. It was one of those encounters that many of us dream about but rarely get an opportunity to experience. In this case it was at a largely deserted beach and, with a bonus, it was all free of charge. I was tempted to put it into the perfect planning category but events earlier in the week proved that there is no such thing.
We declared it a great weekend and were sad to bid them farewell.
The earthquake that hit the north of the South Island was one of the biggest to have hit New Zealand and the impact has been stunning, almost unbelievable. When big earthquakes hit mountainous regions they literally move the mountains. This has left the town of Kaikoura on the north east coast cut off by road. While it looks as though a road route from the south will be open for all traffic soon, a road route from the north looks challenging in the short to medium term.
As a result, we decided that we had better make alternate plans as Kaikoura was our first destination in the South Island.
We were already planning to return via one potential alternative route so rather than cover the same ground we have decided to detour across to the West Coast, spend our “Kaikoura time” in a remote settlement north of Westport and then cross back over the Alps to our second planned destination on the East Coast, Lyttelton. Accommodation was already heavily booked and waiting, for repairs that are unlikely to happen by early January, was not really an option.
One of our last planned stops was at Hamner Springs, on our journey back north. Hamner was actually the closest town to the epicentre of the quake but the news media is focused on Kaikoura so it is very difficult to get any information. Given that it will be several months later, I am working on the basis that it should be OK by late March.
We are planning to return to explore the North and West of the South Island in a future trip, Kaikoura will need to be added to the plans for that detour.