Lobster krill anyone? E-Ko tours part 2.

We leave the Hectors dolphin’s behind and continue the search for other dolphin species that we can swim with. While searching all the bays and inlets of Marlborough sounds, 2 notable things happen. First – someone spots a shark. I didn’t see it, apparently it was just a baby but in that moment I was quite pleased we were not out in the water. I have a huge fear about being attacked by sharks!

We also pass large patches of red sea water moving with the swell of the ocean.  Our skipper explains that is it thousands of lobster krill. Tiny little crustaceans. We are then asked ‘Does anyone want to eat one?’  and Daniel pipes up with ‘yip, I’ll try one’.

Hundreds of tiny krill turning the ocean red

The skipper puts one in Daniels hand – a little bright red crustacean with long slender nippers. Not the sort of thing I would want to put in my mouth! Then it looks at me. Right in the eyes and we have a moment (can you tell I am an animal lover?) and I can’t let this little creature be eaten. I beg Daniel to put it back. Fortunately for this little critter, lobster krill is off the menu today and he is returned to the big ocean to do whatever it is that lobster krill do.

This lucky little guy was taken off the menu

As we are nearing the end of the tour, it looks more and more likely that we won’t be swimming with dolphins today. E-Ko tours have an 80% success rate of getting clients in the water with dolphins but it just wasn’t for us today. But seeing as we are all kitted out in wetsuits and masks, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to go for a little swim. We dock in a quiet bay and hop into the water. The wet suit keeps me surprisingly warm and buoyant. Fish food is then thrown out around us and in moments we are surround by schools of fish darting left and right, picking up the food as it lands in the water. The visibility is excellent – there are just so many fish!

We then pile back into the boat and make our way back to shore. Although I didn’t get to swim with dolphins, it was still an excellent tour. Part of the thrill of having encounters with wild animals is that it is never guaranteed, but when it does happen, oh, how special it is!

I know I will be back for another go at this bucket list item.

Picton Harbour

It’s time to board the Interislander Ferry, our trip has nearly come to an end. This time, motorbikes are the first to load which is excellent as we are booked into the Plus Lounge.

Um, wow!

We will definitely be doing this again when we take the ferry. Big comfy seats, magazines, wifi, huge windows with great views (tinted so passengers outside can’t see in.) It is also fully catered; all food and beverages are included in the price. We head straight to the bar where the staff pour us some wines to taste before we make our selection.

There is so much food, hot, cold, savoury and sweet. What I am most excited about is the large plate of colourful macarons. I may or may not have sampled one of every colour.

Motorcycling is such an unforgettable way to travel the country, but it is tiring and at times uncomfortable. It is such a treat being able to sit back and relax in the plus lounge for the last leg of the journey.

It is a great end to our trip.

As we pull into our driveway I’m filled with excitement and can’t wait to get off the motorbike. Our dogs, Frank and Ed are there waiting for us. I have missed them so much.

Anywhere with these two is the place I call home.

1 Motorbike. 11 days. 1935km.

What an adventure.

Discovering Lake Pukaki

The start of our trip was a bit touch and go for rain, but really, we have been so lucky with the weather. (Especially since we didn’t pack the rain gear) It’s yet again, another beautiful day.

We don’t have much planned for today, we are starting to make our way back up country towards home. But we are only half way through our trip; we still have a few stops to make first.

Today, our destination is Timaru to catch up with some friends and family. To get there, we ride over Lindis Pass in the MacKenzie Basin.

Encompassed by mountains, the landscape is vast, wild, and covered in tussock. We stop at a couple of lookouts and and my attention is drawn to how quiet it is.

I think living in the city, I am so used to a constant hum of cars and trains and planes that I don’t really notice it.

Until it’s not there, and then I am captivated by the stillness, the silence.

It is so energizing.

Further on, I insist on stopping at another scenic spot, next to a lake that is perfectly framing Mt. Cook. Quite often the peak of Mt. Cook is hidden,  surrounded in cloud or fog, but not today.

And wow!

Just Wow, what a sight it is. Then I realise, the stunning lake that we are next to, I have no idea what it’s called. Google Maps inform me that it’s Lake Pukaki. I have heard of its neighbours before, Lake Tekapo and Lake Hawera but never Lake Pukaki, which is bigger, how have I never heard of this place?

Up behind us is LakeStone lodge. Before we had even left, I was looking up the lodge. Quite a big price ticket, but it is definitely a place that has gone straight onto the bucket list.

Here, you feel a world away from everything, I can only imagine the beauty you would see, staying here for a few nights.

It’s time to stop day dreaming about staying in luxury lodges and carry on with our journey.

On our way to Timaru, we make a stop in Fairlie – we have heard they are famous for their pies so decide to check it out for ourselves at the Fairlie Bakehouse. Bacon and salmon, pork belly and apple, venison and cranberry, are just a few of the flavours on offer. 

We have arrived mid-afternoon so unfortunately there were no vegetarian pies. I had to settle for a custard filled cronut instead. What a shame.

Buttery, flaky goodness with a rich creamy filling. Oh so good. (Daniel said his pie was pretty good too.)

And then we arrive in Timaru.

One of the many things I love about New Zealand are all the little hidden gems you stumble across on your journey. It does mean that a 4 hour trip can end up taking the most part of a day.

But really, the journey is all part of the adventure.

Stunning Lake Tekapo

Day 3 and we are heading to Alexandra. It’s a bit of a grey day, no wind, but rain looks imminent. Fortunately, once out of Christchurch, we are blessed with another beautiful day and bright blue skies.

I have to say, the ride from Christchurch to just before Geraldine is pretty boring – A long straight motorway, a reasonable amount of cars and not much of a view.

We are travelling on our Honda FireBlade – that’s been turbo charged!! (Totally unnecessary, it was already fast enough! Although my mechanic husband would disagree!) She’s a bit old and rough our FireBlade, but, wow, have we had some epic adventures on her!

The best way to roadtrip!

I have been really looking forward to being back in this part of the country. Last time we came down on the motorbike was the first time I had seen the lakes.  I was totally captivated; they are most vibrant shades of blues, framed by snow-capped mountains.

They leave you speechless.

As we approach Lake Tekapo we ride up over the hill and then…

WOW!

It leaves you breathless

Brilliant blue water contrasting against the dry land, it is breath taking. Tekapo is a very popular tourist destination, but despite the number of people and tour buses, the place still has a beautiful stillness and tranquil feel to it.

The beautiful blue waters of Lake Tekapo

We get off the bike and head to the water’s edge. There is sound of lapping water at the shore, the buzz of insects and alpine flowers growing. I am mesmerised.

The faithful sheepdog keeping watch over the lake
Another one of Daniel’s stunners!

We head over to the Church of the Good Shepherd to get some photos. We are just making a quick stop today, I plan to come back again when we can spend more time. This is such a photographed church and an image I have seen many times before. It’s quite a feeling though when you lift your camera and see that same image through your own lens. I distinctly remember having that same feeling when I took my first photo of the Taj Mahal in India.

Church of the Good Shepherd. I had to wait quite some time to get a shot with no one else in it!

The rest of our ride is through quite barren land, rugged hill sides with splashes of brilliant blue rivers and lakes. We arrive in Alexandra feeling rather sore after a full day riding.

We are greeted by family, who we are staying with for the next few nights and after our hellos, we are all sitting outside in the sun with a glass of wine.

Another great end to another great day in this beautiful country.

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.