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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marine Lover’s Paradise

Wellington --> Picton --> Queen Charlotte Sounds --> Kaikoura --> Blenheim --> Wellington

Second weekend in New Zealand gave me a chance to reach exploration adventures of mammoth proportions! By mammoth I mean a heart the size of a VW Beetle, and hiking tracks that go on for days and days. However with the term “weekend”, only sampling size proportions were possible. Oh well.

Queen Charlotte Sounds
First stop: Queen Charlotte Track in the northern sounds of the South Island. The entire track is 70 kms or so, usually done in 4 days. I tackled 15 kilometers (around 9 miles. Uphill. Both ways.) , and threw in the proverbial towel. I’d have to say that this was really my first big “hike”, so there were lots of new experiences… Packing all my food on back. Packing weather-change clothes. Eating for necessity every hour, drinking more frequently (all in, no out!). But long-haul hiking virgin, I am no longer!! Man it was awesome. Step one, Queen Charlotte Track. Step two, the entire Appalachian Trail! Yeah right.

15 kms down, and one beautiful coastal drive to go! Destination: Kaikoura, New Zealand
Dusky dolphins (smaller than the common or bottlenose)
This drive was one of the most scenic and gorgeous drives I have ever observed, and I hope you might someday have the opportunity to see this as well. I literally had difficulty not pulling the car off the road every 15 minutes. This town’s tourism is really the only reason I planned this trip though – the drive was simply a bonus. The tourism industry? Marine, marine, marine! Whale watching (yes, I paid the exorbitantly overpriced tourist rates), dolphin swimming (skipped this one, but was on the verge), hiking (another fur seal colony!), coastal relaxation, cold brews (definitely), just bliss.