Sunday morning I hopped on the Stray bus. With me several other people, it seemed we were mainly Germans and Americans, our bus driver was called Maverick. Of course that was not his real name, but all Stray drivers go by a nickname. He didn’t explain the origin, but it was either his driving or the fact that he liked flying airplanes in his spare time 😉
We were apparently under a bit of time pressure to get to Kaikoura in time for the activities, so we didn’t really stop anywhere, only once for the toilets. On the bus, he handed around clipboards, first for the activities and then for the accommodation that night. Easy as that, you just put your name down and he arranges the rest.
My activity was going to be whale watching. It’s what you do in Kaikoura as they have a unique underwater canyon system there and get a lot of interesting marine life. And dolphin swimming wasn’t really my thing, me and swimming just don’t go together 😉 Those got dropped off first though, then it was the whale watchers – from our bus only me. My backpack stayed on the bus and was taken to the hostel for me. Handy that! 🙂
The whale watching place of course wanted money and as we hadn’t stopped at an ATM despite his promise, I had to pay with my credit card. Why is that annoying? Because my bank doesn’t charge any fees for getting cash, but for paying with the card outside of the Eurozone (and Sweden, luckily!). I had time enough to get a coffee at the cafe and then we saw a short safety video, before we got on a bus that took us to the boat.
The boat was pretty nice and, as we soon found out, pretty speedy! We had to stay seated until we got to the area where the whale had been seen only an hour before. Everybody was excited because it was a blue whale, the biggest animal on Earth! They don’t usually get them there and not for a few days in a row, but there had been a bit of a storm earlier in the week and that seemed to mix up the available food.
We had a very nice “commentator” on board as well as a “watchman” whose job was to spot the whale as soon as possible. We learned that whales usually surface three short times in a row to breathe and then will stay underwater for up to 20 minutes. Whale watching therefore requires a lot of patience… 😉
We had a streak of luck though and saw him pretty early on. The trip was about 2.5 hours long and during that period I would guess we saw the whale about 7 – 8 times. Seeing the whale means seeing that small bit of his back that actually surfaces. We didn’t see a fin or anything, but it was impressive enough to imagine the size of said whale under water – they guessed between 18 and 20 metres. Managed to get a few nice pictures, especially with the scenery of the Kaikoura range in the background! It was an amazing experience 🙂 We also saw a few dolphins that even swam up to the boat as if they wanted to say hello 🙂
After that I went to the hostel to check in, then for a walk around the area, supermarket and fish and chips 🙂 Shared the dorm with 3 other girls and a guy, of course I got the “But you don’t have a German accent.” 😉 Watching the sunset on the terrace and talking to some other travellers was very nice and soon it was bedtime. The next morning it was onwards towards Picton at 8.30!
P.S: This and the following posts will get pictures as soon as I have proper internet. Right now I am struggling to get them up to flickr, but the whale is there now 🙂