Sometime back, after spending two years toiling in the corporate world, I went on a sabbatical for around six months on a New Zealand Working Holiday visa. Some people might think I was crazy to leave a steady job in a well-known MNC to work in horticultural jobs and travel. But it was one of the best decisions I ever made!
One amazing place there that left me with profound memories was Kaikoura. Located in the east coast of South Island, this seaside town is famous for its crayfish (or what we know as lobsters).
On my first summer day in Kaikoura, I went on a “whale-watching” tour which cost me NZ$145. Unfortunately, it was not my lucky day. After three hours at sea, rocked by ferocious waves, I was dizzy with seasickness – and there was not one whale in sight. (Good thing, though, that the tour company refunds 80% of the fee if no whales are sighted.)
Due to my seasickness, I extended my stay in Kaikoura for an extra day as I was not fit to travel to Christchurch, my next destination. When I reached my dormitory hostel room, I found I had a new roommate – a young Hong Kong girl, Karen. We bonded immediately – how often do you find another Asian in a Kiwi hostel? As I was free the next day, Karen invited me for a walk on a hiking track – the famous Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway – 2km away from our hostel.
We set off at noon. It was sunny and a cool wind was blowing – perfect weather for a walk. There are well-built stairs leading up to the cliff of the track. Along the track, we were able to glimpse Kaikoura’s picturesque landscapes with the calm blue sea stretching endlessly with misty faraway mountains in the background.
There were fur seals playing or having a snooze on the rocks nearby the coastline. I took a video because photos alone were not enough to document this wonderland!
The track is very user-friendly as there are various facilities provided. Elevated platforms serving as lookout points are positioned strategically throughout the track so tourists can enjoy a panoramic view of Kaikoura. There are benches so that tourists can take a short rest. The track itself is quite flat so it’s an easy hike. Therefore, it was no surprise to see senior citizens as well as couples carrying babies in baby carriers.
At the end of the track, we noticed a very large white area. It turned out to be the seabed which would be covered with seawater when the tide is high. We descended from the cliff to explore the seabed. On the naked seabed, we saw lots of abalones (paua to the Kiwis), stuck to the seabed. However, tourists were prohibited from gathering the abalones for their own consumption. In fact, the New Zealand’s Fisheries Ministry even dictated that only abalones of a certain size, which can take up to eight years to develop, are allowed to be gathered by licensed abalone divers.
Walking on the seabed was definitely not easy – there were jagged rocks as well as slippery “jellyfish” all around. Walking further along we were delighted at the sight of some sleeping fur seals. It was a surreal experience. However, we could not proceed further as more sleeping fur seals were getting in our way. Disturbing them was a major concern for us as they were known to react wildly if they were jolted from their slumber. So, we turned back to the trail.
The hike took about five hours. After tucking into some yummy fish and chips and crayfish at the famous Kaikoura Seafood BBQ kiosk, we hitched a ride back to our hostel. A safe ride, a wonderful walk and a new friend – all free of charge. New Zealand is simply lovely!
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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