End of New Zealand, now back in Oz – 7 June 2010

Hello again from Sydney!  Back in Oz, with a couple of days around Sydney and then off to the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Surfer’s Paradise and the like.

We’ll start off pictures with a few leftovers from the end of the last week I was here in Sydney, taking a city tour and going to the zoo.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

I didn’t even take a picture of this turtle, the name and description pretty much did it for me.  And yes, they can also be found in Alabama.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

I really enjoy this photo because there is your standard “stand in front of the giraffes” picture, but you can see the opera house above the treeline.

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I’ve had a few posts about New Zealand, but no pictures yet.  The first few days in Christchurch were quite bad weather, so they were for the most part spent relaxing, doing a little more normal activities, such as socializing with friends and going to the cinema (which, by the way, I think Prince of Persia was a pretty awesome movie).

After a few days of lounging around, I decided to forgo the bus option, and test my luck hitch hiking, and boy did it ever pay off.  I learned a few things about how to be a good hitch hiker, such as body language, clothing choices, and where you try to get picked up are quite important.  And most likely, you will end up talking to yourself about the people driving by.  Also, there will most likely be a lot of people that drive by before someone stops, so stay positive, no one will pick you up if you look pissed.

So, first hitch hiking experience was awesome. I was picked up by an older couple, Linda and Kevin, on their way to spend the weekend boating and enjoying Picton.  I was heading to Kaikoura, which is right on the way.  We spent the two hour drive talking about NZ, the area, the people and culture.  To make things even better, about 30 minutes outside of town, there had been a seal spotting!  Of course I wanted to stop and see, so we got out of the car and walked down to coastline, and there they were, over 100 of the little buggers, sunning on the rocks! They are not scared of people, most likely because they would bite your hand off if you got too close (this picture was probably taken from too close).

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

Once in Kaikoura, it was out for a proper fish and chips dinner, blue cod, and so tender it fell apart when you picked it up, served in paper, which is the traditional way.  I’ve yet to have fried fish in the US that has compared to this, and since Kaikoura is a little fishing town, it was probably caught that day.  Another fun fact, Kaikoura’s name comes from ‘kai’- food/meal, ‘koura’ – crayfish.  They are known for their crayfish (which I think is just a type of lobster) and serve it at almost every restaurant.

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After some dinner I watched a rugby practice at the local field.  I’ve really started enjoying rugby since being away.  It’s such a active and exciting sport.  Later that night a group of the hostel folks went out for a pub quiz.  Then the greatest thing happened, “Sweet Home Alabama” came on over the speakers!  To top it off, everyone sang along.

The next morning woke up to a clear and crisp day, ready for a whale watch tour!

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

To start out the whale tour, we were lucky enough to see a pod of Hecter’s dolphins, which was quite rare because they are endangered.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

I’m proud to report that I was the official spotter of the whale, a large male sperm whale that is known to the tours because of his distinct dorsal fin.

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Finally, after 15 minutes of some nice close-up views, he started on his next feeding dive, which is when the so called “tail shot” happens, the iconic tail up in the air.

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Heading back in from a good morning tour.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

Well, I’ve realized my first unfortunate mistake of my trip.  I forgot to take pictures of the people who I’ve been with the last few days.  First, Kevin and Linda from my drive Christchurch to Kaikoura.  Then Pete, who drove me from Kaikoura to Blenheim.  Last and definitely not least, Jim and Lynda, who are friends of my family’s friend’s brother.  Yeah that’s quite a connection.

Anyways, Peter, who also is from NZ, and I had a great time getting from Kaikoura to Blenheim, stopping for some photos and discussing local agriculture and wine making.  Peter and his wife have been making wine for some years now, and he was nice enough to not only give me a ride, but also gave me a bottle of his wine.  You don’t see that everyday.  This view was a little off the path we were taking, but it overlooks the valley that Peter grew up in.  Back when Peter was growing up, though, all of these fields would have been filled with sheep, not grapes.

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After arriving in Blenheim, I was welcomed into the house of Jim and Lynda, who as I said, are of a distant friendship relationship and happen to have moved to NZ 4 years ago with their son Curtis and daughter Paige.  They welcomed me into their home, and the next day we went on a little adventure exploring the north side of the south island.  We walked down a nice hiking trail, and there was this really cool suspension bridge, which of course, Jim and I tried to bounce around.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

This winery was right down the road from where Jim and Lynda lived, and we picked up a bottle of this brand from the store to enjoy with dinner.  Fish and chips with some of Jim and Lynda’s friends.  I’ve been instructed that I need to come back again, and spend some time on the other parts of the island. (Actually, the time frame is by the end of next year)  I would like to extend a special thanks to Jim and Lynda for letting me stay with them in their home, and taking time to show me around their part of the island.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

A little something for the little sis.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

A view of the harbor of Picton, where the “Interislander” leaves from.  This is the ferry that shuttles people and vehicles across from the south island to the north island.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

Leaving the sounds, heading off to Wellington.

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A couple of hours later, arriving into Wellington harbour, where I spent the night.

End of New Zealand, now back in Oz - 7 June 2010

So now I’m back in Sydney, with plans for a tour of the Blue Mountains tomorrow, then off to the Gold Coast on Wednesday.

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