Saturday, January 1, 2011

One Very Long and Interesting day

I don't even know where to begin...

Well, both the New Zealand and the Pakistani cricket teams ended up staying in my hotel last night and both teams came down for breakfast at the same time. It was awkward since Pakistan beat the crap out of New Zealand. One of the New Zealand players at the table next to me was reading a newspaper that had a giant picture of the team with a headline to the effect of "embarrassment." It was pretty funny. All the Pakistani players were all wearing matching button-up shirts and khakis and looked clean cut whereas all the NZ players looked like they just woke up and rolled out of bed.

After breakfast Zak and I went to rent a car. We hopped on a shuttle to the airport where there was a nice dutch family and we struck up a conversation. On the way, I saw a 1969 mustang on the road. It was an American import, not one designed for Australia/NZ--so not that exciting, but still cool to see.

Once we got the car, we headed north up the coast to Kaikoura, about a 3 hour drive. The drive was beautiful, right in between the mountains and the ocean but the town was kind of touristy and boring. We ate a terrible lunch at this horrible restaurant that nearly made us all sick and then got on a boat to go whale watching. The boat was expensive, at $145 NZ, but I don't know the next time I'll have the opportunity. We rode for about 20 minutes and then spotted a large Sperm Whale. It was actually sleeping when we came upon it (not that it would have looked much different awake). It was impressive to see. We got within maybe 40 feet of it. After hovering there for a while, we went to an area to see some Dusky dolphins. There were about 300 of them and they were all jumping very high into the air--some in synchronized packs of 4 or 5! It was very cool. We got so close that we could reach out of the boat and touch them.

Since the town was kind of a huge let-down, we decided to keep moving up the coast on to Picton, about 2 hours away. We arrived shortly after sunset and there was already a new year's party in full swing (remember that we are across the international dateline here so we're a day ahead--essentially I'm writing this from the future). We found a hotel with a vacancy and then set out for some food. Our appetites, mostly destroyed from the terrible lunch (I'm queasy just thinking about it now) were now starting to return (at 10:30pm) and we found an Indian restaurant that was open. The food was decent and we ate with great fervor. We then went to the harbor where there was a live band and had a couple of beers. At the new year, there were fireworks over the harbor. They were okay, but could have used a lesson in showmanship from SeaWorld or Disneyland. Afterwards, we all went back to the hotel to get some sleep for the day ahead.

We woke up this morning and chartered a boat to take us to the end of Marlborough sound so we can go hiking. This is supposed to be one of the 10 best hikes in the world! We're leaving at 1:30 and the boat will pick us back up at around 6 or so. I'm excited for the boat ride since we'll be riding through some very interesting features. It looks somewhat like the pacific northwest here in Picton, but with more dramatic features. I'm very impressed with this city so far. It's very clean and the views are spectacular. All the restaurants and bars seem to be more real and less touristy. Picton is where you can catch the ferry to the North Island, so it has a lot of visitors, but isn't set up like a crappy port town. We ate breakfast at a charming little cafe right by the water. I had scrambled eggs with smoked whitefish and a home-made bread. It was quite delicious. I'm very impressed with Picton. I would definitely come back here for vacation.

And yes, that's a picture of me driving on the wrong side.

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