Kaikoura, New Zealand
Absolutely Brilliant” reports the Sea Conditions board of the whale-watching shop in Kaikoura. But a cruise doesn’t appear to be in the works for my afternoon. It’s 11 am, but without a reservation, I am the 34th person on the waiting list. With a whole tour bus suddenly cancelling, the noon sailing takes 20 people ahead of me I am set for the 1 pm tour. I pass the time walking the beach, enjoying a massive falafel and Kumara (sweet potato) fries.
It takes some sonar-assisted searching, but the captain tracks down four massive whales in various stages of lounging on the surface. We spot the world’s biggest sea bird (a huge albatross with a wingspan over 4 m) and two pods of more than 40 dolphins. And they are jumping. Finally, justification for traveling with my beach ball and hula hoop.
We spot the world’s biggest sea bird and two pods of more than 40 dolphins. And they are jumping. Finally, justification for traveling with my beach ball and hula hoop.
I drop Helen off early for the ferry back to Wellington, extend the seven day car rental to eight because of the breakdown’s lost time and continue west of Picton, across the northern edge of the south island. I continue slowly, however, as narrow switchback roads of the Queen Charlotte Track is the craziest driving yet. Including time spent on open stretches at 110 km/h, the 34 km route to Havelock takes more than an hour.
The Rutherford Hostel is a converted schoolhouse once attended by the legendary Ernest Rutherford. The man was scientist supreme: Nobel laureate known for his research on the age of the Earth, invention of the smoke detector and, of course, the minor accomplishment of determining the model of the atom, thus beginning the field of quantum mechanics. Word on the street here in Havelock, however, is that Rutherford’s graduate students actually did all the work while he mopped up the fame, giving their PowerPoint presentations all over the world.
With everything closed for the night, a trip to the hostel’s free food box is my only option. White rice with canned corn never tasted so good.