Still drizzling so we abandoned the walking idea and drove a short distance to Waikawa Bay. Snapped a few lack lustre photos, Christine sighted our first kiwis; the car and its inhabitants were refuelled, and Picton became a distant memory. State Highway 1 to Blenheim; it sounded the perfect place for antiques, and a coffee filled in the minutes before opening time. Ron and Christine could have stayed there for hours; Christine found a stroller.
Marlborough country was rich with vineyards, lush green paddocks and was relatively flat. The highway follows the coast mostly so there were views of headlands and water too. We stopped briefly at Seddon – not quite the Melbourne suburb of Seddon – and arrived in Kaikoura at lunchtime.
Our progress had been slowed by extensive road repairing following the 2016 quake which dismantled road and rail, and destroyed much of the town. The extent of the restoration of the roadway and the rail line – the tunnels, the building of barriers using shipping containers, gabions, and cement walls – was colossal. At one enforced stop we were able to watch the fur seals snoozing on the rocky coast. It was dramatically scenic and the mixture of sea mist and cloud added a film of uncertainty. But on our Monday the sun was beaming happily and the earth was firm.
Over lunch we read about the magnitude 4 earthquake in Christchurch the day before, which reignited my much vocalised thoughts about not going to Christchurch (ever). No one else seemed concerned. (The major earthquake was in February 2011.)
We drove to the most easterly point along the peninsula to Point Kean car park. We passed Fyffe House, the oldest surviving building in Kaikoura and a reminder of whaling of the 1840’s; its foundations are constructed out of whale bones.
Once forested by native trees and plants the peninsula has been reduced to outcrops of hardy shrubs through human development. There were seals blissfully sleeping on the boardwalk. We took to the hills and viewed the sea and the mountains from a platform designed in the shape of a waka, a Maori canoe. We continued walking along the clifftop which gave us superb views of the cliff formations and also the tidal platforms and the Kaikoura Range. The track led off into the distance and prompted plans for future walks, but we needed to retreat and push on to Christchurch, 180kms south.
So much sun.
It was the very late afternoon as we drove into Christchurch. House walls boarded, shored up facades of historic buildings, and many empty blocks the closer we got to the CBD. Our accommodation was clean and compact (our bed was surrounded by walls on three sides), and a ‘before dark’ stroll led us to the familiar “Countdown’ supermarket with its Woolworths logo, and then in the wrong direction to a Thai restaurant, that when found, was closed. Hungry and tired we settled in at the Lone Star. A Mistake, starting with “sit in the bar while I prepare a table for you”. That took 20 minutes at least and amounted to putting four menus on the table. It was a long night and we didn’t pay their wages through drink sales! Nor did Gary pay for the unwanted chicken breast.