Kaikoura

I love Kaikoura! Just love it! I am so incredibly happy that I came here rather than Nelson. First of all it is beautiful. Framed on all sides by mountains and right by the sea. Gorgeous grey stone and pebble beach out front with rugged rough stones on the sides. I laid around on the beach for just a bit today and it was lovely. I didn’t have to worry about getting sandy and the stones were nice and warm.

In addition to being beautiful Kaikoura is home to an excess of marine life. Right outside the bay the continental shelf drops off steeply allowing krill and plankton to congregate on the edge. Because of this there is a large resident dolphin population that you can swim with (hopefully doing this tomorrow), resident bachelor sperm whales, other migrating whales, a large seal colony, albatross, and many other creatures. There is a lovely walk around the peninsula which only takes a few hours on which you can watch the seal colonies and bird nesting sites along with just seeing a beautiful landscape. I may try to walk it every day.

What is more the entire community seems to try its best to be environmentally sustainable. There are lots of recycle bins and signs to encourage responsible tourism. You can even plant a tree as a carbon sink.

Albatross Hostel that I am staying at is the best hostel I have ever stayed at. Actually it is probably my favorite accommodation I have ever stayed at… The atmosphere is incredibly friendly with couches and tables and places to lounge and an open kitchen so that you are not shut off when cooking. They have a piano and guitars to play as well as a place to paint stones and do artwork. They then display these stones and artwork. There is no TV which encourages interaction of hostel mates. The kitchen is well stocked with free baking supplies. Oh and the manager and workers are all super nice and chill and helpful. I could go on and on.

When I arrived it was super rainy so I pretty much just chilled at the hostel taking advantage of the free green tea, fair trade coffee, and hot chocolate. Also I played piano for a while once I found a song that was pretty and chill and not too hard. Later I met an Austrian and a Swiss guy and we played some game with dice and almost dominos and worms. It was actually quite fun. I also met a German family and learned about the awesome German parental leave after having a child.

Apparently split between the two parents you are allowed 14 months time off getting paid 68% of a salary. So a lot of families do both spouses off for 2 months and the woman off for 12 total. And this family is actually traveling with their 6 month old and 5 year old for 2 months in New Zealand. It’s very cool. I am actually realizing there are a fair number of people around 30 and 40 still traveling and staying in hostels. And it’s actually not too weird. The German I’m traveling with is 30 and its fine. So maybe there is hope for traveling extensively after vet school.

The next day I was supposed to go swimming with dolphins but it got cancelled because of high winds. So instead I hiked the peninsula and then just hung around town and laid on the beach and chilled, so nice!

The third day did i was lucky enough to find an awesome horse trek through the Kaikoira mountain range. On the trek it was just me, Liam who is the older guide, and then David around a 30 year old local. And of course our trusty steeds! I was on Nimbus and man was I impressed. He was very very sure footed and an all around good horse. At one point we had to get off to get through a really rough rocky stream and I was able to just loops the reins around the saddle, give him a pat, and send him across. Even while leading him on the trail he was incredibly good just following along, not needing to be drug around or trying to rush you.

It was a beautiful trek. Lots of beautiful mountain stream/river crossings and steep uphill bits and downhill bits. Challenging enough for me that I wasn’t bored just walking through a forest. The whole ride plus a quick stop for lunch took around 6 hours. Liam was super talkative not only having local banter with David, but also giving me a bit of background on the history, geology, and botany of the area. It was great. At times we were all quiet though, just taking in the scenery.

After we got back we just sat around drinking beer and having a good time. I think I’m ready to join and enjoy my family’s home brews and specialty buys now. The whole thing cost $285NZD which I think was totally worth it (I don’t think the beer is normally included, I was just lucky to be with a local). But it was seriously beautiful.

Afterwards I was pretty tired, but my hostel has free fair trade coffee so I was able to partake in that. I hung out with some people and then joined in on the hostel barbecue or “barby” as the Kiwis say. It was nice. Not too much later I was in bed headed to sleep since I had a very early morning ahead of me.

My final day in Kaikoura consisted of me doing the famed swimming with dolphins. This activity was $170NZD but again completely worth it. As a little girl (and as an older girl especially when I discovered my love of behavior and clicker training) I always dreamed of swimming, even training, dolphins. They are just beautiful, graceful creatures that have some innate appeal and intelligence.

I had always thought I would be swimming with captive trained dolphins or at least semi trained dolphins. But to actually get to swim with wild dolphins is more than I imagined! I got to swim with Dusky dolphins, one of the smaller, but also one of the most acrobatic dolphins in the world. And it was amazing. The dolphins swam within a foot of me. I could have reached out and touched them.

Even better for me is the fact that they don’t feed or train the dolphins to come to the boats. Rather the dolphins choose to come, likely because they think we’re entertaining and perhaps like to show off their acrobatic skills. In fact, the guides actually kept reminding us that it is our job to entertain the dolphins. And so you are encouraged to make strange noises, circle swim, and dive down.

There were three separate escapades into the open ocean and on each one I had at least one, normally two dolphins, come up and circle me, challenging me to spin faster and faster to keep up with them. You could tell they thought it was fun. And I did too. As soon as you see the dolphins you forget that you are in 13 degree Celsius water at 6:30 I the morning. You’re happy. After the dives you get hot Chocolate and biscuits and get to just watch the dolphins above. It is then that you realize you are really surrounded and the dolphins are putting on a show. You could easily see 30 dolphins from the boat, swimming, jumping, leaping and having good time. Needless to say my day was already great.

Mostly after that I just hug around. Got an really awesome lunch at Hilsops Organic Cafe. First nice sit down meal I’ve had in a bit. And the day is just gorgeous. Then back to the hostel and chill for a bit, play the piano and such. And then on the road to Christchurch with Jens.

Warning random rant ahead:
Do you ever decide not to point out a mistake because you don’t want to make a person uncomfortable? And do you think that’s a good thing to do? For example, when at a restaurant and the waiter messes up your order sometimes I think it’s okay, I’m still happy, why point it out? Of course sometimes I’m just indecisive and wait to point it out and then perhaps it is worse?

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About Meg LaFollette

I studied abroad in Fiji for 5 months in 2012 and absolutely fell in love with traveling! I went to New Zealand right after and then Peru this summer. When not traveling (and sometimes during) I love healthy, environmentally conscious living. Animals, biology, horses, and behavior are other passions of mine.
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One Response to Kaikoura

  1. Jenny says:

    3 things: (1) You must explain what you mean when you say you played a game at the hostel with worms; (2) parental leave in Germany sounds incredible; and (3) swimming with the Dolphins sounds awesome!

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