Dec 2nd to Kaikoura
The cleaning, the disposal of rubbish, the filling and return of the hire car , check-in of our luggage for KiwiRail, then a wander round the metropolis of Picton, coffee in Le café , sarnies in the park near the playground, as we watched kids chasing ducks, and the Interislander coming into port.
Back to the station in time to board the train.
At first the word scenic seemed an exaggeration. We made our way between hills which looked bleak and bare, some of them had been cleared by logging. Then a patch of wasted willows – more unwelcome invaders needing to be eradicated? The farmsteads looked like temporary settlements, the sort of place that is put up on a hurry and the owners never quite get round to replacing. Old machinery rusts away before it has a chance of being reused. Cows and sheep are slightly fewer than on the lusher pastures.
Then we pass vineyards, vines in rows so regular that you see patterns in all directions. The train makes a short stop at Blenheim to drop and pick up a few passengers. There’s Lake Grasmere, and the salt pans, where sea water is evaporated by sun and wind. Interesting, but not scenic.
The commentary on the headphones is sporadic and laconic.
As we continue the scenery improves, with a magnificent view of the snow capped Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku (2885m). This was used by Edmund Hillary as practice for Everest.
We cross the Clarence River, and there’s a tale of a boat lost while the captain was “entertaining a lady in his cabin”, and further tales of him abandoning the ship, and being drowned with vast amounts of treasure which are still on the seabed somewhere.
A little further south we see a colony of New Zealand fur seals, once hunted to near extinction, now recovering. They loll about idly on the rocks, though I spot two having a set to.
The mountains of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges, are still in snow-capped evidence as we pull in to Kaikoura station. We are spending the night here, in the Aspen Court Motel.
Once we’ve found it and booked in we laze for a while before hot-footing it into town to find a meal – at the Adelphi, where a Spanish waitress serves us, and later explains that everything shuts down at 9pm, though at the height of summer they may stretch to oh – 10pm.
We walk back admiring the mountains to the north, and the almost overdone sunset to the west.