I’m at Kaikoura, about a quarter of the way down the south island’s Pacific coast. The town is in a sheltered bay, but just offshore is a deep ocean trench used by whales as a fuelling station when travelling either north or south. It used to be a whaling port, dedicated to killing these cetaceans, now it makes a good living showing them off as a tourist attraction.
But it’s the off-season and the motels and back-packer hostels are almost empty - a lot of them closed for the winter. You can rent a unit here for as little as 50nz$ - about £25. I’ve got a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and patio with tables and chairs and can sit out (you couldn’t do this on a winter’s night in England!) to eat your supper. I’ve got a glass of Marlborough Pino Noir in one hand and a plate of olives (also New Zealand), pitta bread and locally smoked salmon in front of me.
So, ok, I can’t afford to eat in the only restaurant that’s open, with crayfish at an undisclosed price and everything else starting from $34 a throw. But it doesn’t matter. The wine and the food are delicious, the waves are breaking over the black volcanic sand a few yards away and there’s a lovely silence in my head I’ve been pining for after weeks of travelling and socialising. If Neil was here with me, this would be bliss, but he’s in an airbus 380 somewhere in the stratosphere heading for Singapore. That’s the down side. Things aren’t quite so much fun on one’s own.
Tomorrow I’m going in search of whales, weather permitting. There’s a big north-easterly blowing in, apparently, and the boats may be cancelled.