Geoff has booked ahead for Hamner Springs as the forecast is wet! Blissful to slide into a dry cabin and listen to the rain on the roof! There is nothing I hate more than sitting in a soggy tent. Hamner Springs centres around thermal pools, and we head over in the morning, squelch over from the car park and hand over a largish sum of money plus extra for the slides (boys only. E and I opt out). It rains all day. Non stop. I feel sorry for the lifeguards under their umbrellas. We don’t mind a bit! Great way to spend a wet, grey day. The pools are hot (I can’t imagine enjoying the 40° pool in the sunshine!) everyone us wet anyway, and no one gets burnt! The weather looks a bit bleak for the next few days, and after a bit of debating, we hunt for a cabin on the route. Fairly few and far between. In fact, the only one available is in lesser known Methven. Turns out to be a piece of good luck! Lovely campsite, chatty owner, pool,darts and a tv in the cabin! When I tell you we had time to watch one lord of the rings film, jerassic world, garfield and a documentary on cats, interspersed with Paddington 2, Ferdinand (E, O and me) and Jamanji (R and Paps) at the tiny weeny cinema in town, games of dart’s and pool, you will have an idea of how much it rained! We managed to squeeze in a lotrs film location as well. Can you guess? We sadly say goodbye to our cabin and head onwards.
Driving down the coast, we saw plenty of land slide damage from the earthquake. The road has only just been reopened. Lucky as the alternative route takes 6hrs instead of 2. We find a sheltered spot in the campsite and head off to look at the wildlife tours on offer. Christmas presents! We book a Whale watching tour and a Dolphin watching tour. Swimming with the dolphins is fully booked. We get on the waiting list. Much excitement from the three! Animals they have only seen before! Sunday is free so we head off to see the seal colony. We see one seal very close up, but compared to Cape Palliser, it’s a bit of a damp squib. We walk in the hopes of finding more seals, but it’s pretty hot and the three are beginning to bleat a bit when the phone rings. We can swim with the Dolphins today!! Only one hour to go! Much rejoicing, and we charge back to the car, dive in and Geoff suggests we head back to the campsite and make sandwiches. We all look at him witheringly and point out the lack of time. He grudgingly agrees it might be a bit tight. Luckily the local chip shop is open! Amidst much cheering, we get two massive bags of chips. 15 mins to eat them! Not problem. They are polished off in no time. The seagulls are pretty interested, and one sits on the bonnet and looks longingly through the windscreen. He guards hus prime spot tirelessly, and we reward him with a chip! It’s all we can spare. The 3 gannets have polished the paper clean! With 3 minutes to spare we bundle into the ‘encounters ‘ site. After a bit of faffing and squeazing ourselves into wetsuits, watching the safety video ect, we are off! A short bus ride to the boat and out to sea! We manage to nab the upper deck, and it’s spectacular. Riding over the waves and looking for the dolphins. We spot some Hector Dolphins. Two of them. Small and rare! They are exiting enough, but nothing compared to the pod of Dusky Dolphins! Loads of them jumping and gliding past the boat! What a sight! All the swimmers sit on the end of the boat and await the horn blast and jump in! O and R were pretty brave as it was a bit scary. The water was cloudy so visibility not great, but they swam so close, and r and I saw them underwater on the first two swims, and I got a good look on the last swim. Epic adventure! All buzzing with joy. What happy, playful creatures. R feels a bit queasy on the way back but us revived by the hot chocolate and biscuits! Elodue does justice to the biscuits and we head back. We are lucky enough to see an Albatross sitting on the water on the way back. Magnificent bird. Our next trip is the Whale watch. Much bigger boat this time, and bigger waves. The Maori captain speeds out, jumping and diving over the waves! We have to head out a long way, but the boat trip is such an exiting ride we hardly notice the time. R is obviously prone to seasickness and starts to look a bit green. Lots of people looking green. One chap avails himself of the good old paper bag. We are all scanning the horizon and the crew are using some sort of gentle sound device to listen to the Whales. They can’t use anything which interfere’s with the whales. When a whale comes to the surface there us a 10 minute window before he dives. Our captain gets a plane message saying there is a sperm whale on the surface. We speed over, and after a highly undignified scramble fir the outer deck (I manage to push rio up the stairs too hard and give him and nive bruise! ) luckily I was pushy and we got and good look at the majestic animal as he takes his last couple of breaths and dives back under, flipping his tail up in farewell. So amazing. No one can quite believe we saw a real wild whale! Kaikoura high up on the favourites list!