A sunrise, 2 seals & vintage aircrafts

I am up early for the sunrise, but it is not a sunrise sort of day; grey and drizzly. There is so much fogg that the Kaikoura ranges I could see yesterday from the beach are completely hidden.

I am the only one on the beach, the town is not awake yet so I am left with the sound of the waves rolling back and forth across the stony sea bed. The birds are also quite lively at this hour of the morning.

10 more minutes and the sun should start appearing above the horizon. Some pink hues appear in the distance, this could be promising, but as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared again.

No beautiful sunrise for me this morning.

Another time.

My next stop is to the seal colony. It takes me about an hour to walk there. It’s an easy walk along the waterfront. I arrive, ready to spot some seals, but it’s actually a bit disappointing. I manage to find two, but they are both sleeping, so I decide to take a short walk up the hill to the lookout point which has some pretty sweet views.


I head back to the backpackers, we pack up the motorbike and continue our journey north heading to Picton. The ocean is sage green and the day is very grey, such a contract to what we rode through only 1 week ago. 

Again, from the motorbike I am able to spot seals playing in the waves and sleeping on the rocks.

I actually see way more than I did at the seal colony.

We stop in Blenheim for lunch and then make a trip to Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. We visit both exhibits, Peter Jacksons, ‘Knights of the Sky’ a WW1 exhibition and ‘Dangerous Skies’ WW2 exhibition.

The displays are incredible.

Huge, realistic and dramatic. Also very informative.

The collection includes some original aircrafts, such as a Caproni, and replicas recreating very realistic scenes.

There are even some artefacts that once belonged to Baron von Richthofen, also known as The Red Baron.

There is some sort of aviation event happening just outside the hanger while we are here, which means we are viewing the displays with the sound of old aeroplanes flying overhead.

It really adds to the atmosphere.

I found the very early models fascinating. They seemed to be made of nothing more than wood and canvas – so fragile and vulnerable.

Another fascinating but awful fact I learnt was that pilots in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1 were not supplied with parachutes, even though they had been invented by this time. Aside from the cockpit being quite small and not a lot of room for a parachute, it was thought that supplying parachutes would encourage pilots to abandon the plane at the first sign of trouble, rather than stay and fight and try and save a valuable plane.

I can’t even begin to imagine what this would have been like.

This is an excellent exhibition and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I am not really that interested in aviation. I highly recommend it.

There is also a vintage car exhibition at the same site. We didn’t have time for this, will have to check it out next time.

And for those who are vintage aviation enthusiasts, you can enjoy the views of Marlborough from the air in a Boeing Stearman.

We arrive safely in Picton but pretty dirty. There are still lots of road works happening around Kaikoura. Combined with rain, it made for a pretty muddy trip.

Our old fire blade will definitely need some TLC when we get home.

Motorbiking, the best way to travel

Today is a traveling day. No plans other than get from Geraldine to Kaikoura where we are staying for a night.

It is another windless, sunny day. Daniel chooses the route we will be taking – state highway 72, the inland scenic route through the Canterbury plains. Just out of Geraldine, Mr. ‘never gets lost’ takes a wrong turn. He realises pretty quickly though and we are back on track in no time.

I’m not complaining, it’s a rather pretty wrong turn.

Heading north, we pass golden pastures (aka, hasn’t been any rain in a while and everything is so dry) framed by mighty mountains in the distance. We pass over Rakaia gorge and stop to take some photos (and awkwardly try to ignore the 2 women having a very loud argument in the car park) There is also a walkway at Rakaia Gorge, that according to Google, is an easy 2 hours walk which you might like to check out.

The rivers and lakes in the south Island are so mesmerising. The colours are incredible and I am speechless every time I see them. The photos don’t really do them justice.  I don’t recall seeing rivers this vibrant in the North Island. (Might need to do a bit more exploring)

Carrying on, we pass lots of small country towns, some so small you would miss them if you blink. We make a stop in a place called Oxford for some lunch. I had a rather delicious tomato and herb soup.

I think motor biking has got to be one of the best ways to travel and explore a place. You have the convenience of a vehicle, but are far more engaged with the environment around you than you are in a car. You experience the elements; the sun, the wind the rain. You can smell the forests and feel the warmth of the sun in the air coming in through your helmet. I feel far more connected to my surroundings on a motorbike than I do in a car.

Arriving in Kaikoura we check into our backpackers and have a bit of a rest before heading down to the beach.

It’s quite a wild beach.

Stony and rugged it has an untouched beauty about it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kaikoura is famous for its marine life. Tourists flock here to go whale watching, swim with dolphins and seals. We have chosen not to do that this time.

On our South Island trip back in 2012 I really wanted to do the whale watch. We had an early evening ferry to catch so we didn’t have time for the boat trip and instead choose to do the Wings over Whales flight, a short 30 minute flight with amazing views over Kaikoura. Unfortunately we didn’t see any whales on this trip (still and awesome experience though) and have since learnt that the best time to see a variety of whale species in Kaikoura is during winter months when they are migrating up to the warmer waters of the pacific.

We are staying only a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach so I decide that tomorrow, I will get up early to watch the sun rise. I am not sure I have ever watched the sun rise before. (We tried to at Lake Bled in Sloveina, but that was a bit of a fail)

The Ride to Christchurch

Today we are heading south to Christchurch. Our focus for this trip is to spend most of our time in Central Otago and South Canterbury, visiting family. Picton to Alexandra (Central Otago) is a long ride, almost 10 hours and while we could do it in one day, we decided to break up the trip with an overnight stop half way, allowing 6 days with family.

I choose where our overnight stays will be and book accommodation but I always leave it Daniel to decide the routes we will take. Each morning I tell him what city or town we will be staying in that evening (he has no interest in the details prior, unnecessary information he calls it.) He will then take a quick look at Google maps and decide how he wants to get from A to B. Most of the time, he is looking for the back roads; the twistier the better. 

Lucky I don’t really get motion sickness.

For the first part of the ride we are heading towards Kaikoura, through Marlborough and towards the coast. It is almost a cloudless day, perfect for a ride. Heading through Marlborough region we pass a lot of vineyards. Marlborough is known as a wine region and it reminds me a lot of the Wairarapa, another well know wine region. There are hardly any cars on the road making it a really nice ride. As we approach the coast the landscape changes. We move away from grape vines and flat plains to rugged rocks, flax and tussocks.

And then we see the ocean.

Beautiful turquoise water in one bay and then in the next, stunning aquamarine water.

Even from the motorbike, I can spot seals out enjoying the surf and sunning themselves on the rocks. Kaikoura is known for its marine life.

Whales, dolphins and seals oh my.

Along the coastal route we have to make a few stops for road works. There was a big earthquake in Kaikoura in 2016 causing major damage to roads, including SH1 and also caused the seabed to rise quite substantially in some areas. Work to repair SH1 is still underway, so if you are traveling on this route, be prepared to travel slowly and be stopped for roadworks.

On the bike, stopped at road works

We reach Kaikoura, a very popular town with the tourists – it’s pretty crowded, but we decide to stop anyway for a rest. We head to a funky little cafe call Bean Me Up Coffee and sit out front in some old car seats!

We depart Kaikoura and Daniel, AKA super navigator (honestly I am in awe at his sense of direction, he can get us anywhere with minimal effort) decides that we will move away from the coast and take the inland route for the next part.

The Inland Route

We pass deer drinking at a river, hillsides that are every shade of green and gold and have long stretches of glorious twisting road all to ourselves. The scenery today has been awesome. I can’t understand why the roads weren’t busier (although I am pleased they weren’t!)

The Inland Route

As we approach Christchurch, we also approach grey clouds and notice a change in temperature. I begin to regret my decision to leave the rain gear at home. It’s quite bulky and to have taken it, would have meant leaving quite a lot of other items behind. But it’s summer and we are heading for Central Otago so we felt confident we could leave it behind.

And so we got wet.

And nearly ran out of fuel.

Our motorbike doesn’t have a fuel gage, so there is always bit of guess work required in knowing how far we can get before we need to fill up. Luckily we make it to the petrol station just in time! Note to self, we can get approximately 180km out of a tank of petrol.

We check in at our Christchurch accommodation, All Stars Inn and collapse onto the bed after a long but fun day of riding.

The Details

I was really impressed with All Stars Inn, the rooms felt more like a hotel. The bed was huge, the room modern and quite spacious and the backpacker location is really central. There is also a nice pub on site. A double room with shared bathroom starts from $70.