A Travellerspoint blog

APIA

APIA, UPOLU, SAMOA

sunny 32 °C
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A FABULOUS/FASCINATING/FUN FACT ABOUT THIS PLACE:

Apia is the capital of Samoa. It is located on the island of Upolu. It is the only "city" in Samoa.

There is a McDonalds and a NAPA AutoParts store here!

The famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson brought his family to live on Upolu in 1890 and built a large home in the foothills above Apia, where he spent the last five years of his life. He was affectionately known as ‘Tusitala’, the storyteller, and he is buried on the crest of Mt Vaea. His home and tomb within the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Reserve can still be seen today.

As for the country of Samoa:

Samoa, officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962.
Population: 188,000
Capital: Apia; 40,000
Area: 2,831 square kilometers (1,093 square miles)
Language: Samoan, English
Religion: Christian
Currency: Tala
Life Expectancy: 69
GDP per Capita: U.S. $5,600
Literacy Percent: 100

Samoa has its own Ancient Pyramid. The Pulemelei Mound or Star Pyramid, is situated on the Island of Savai’i. It was built between 1100-1400 AD and was no longer used by 1700-1800 AD.

Until recently, Samoa had been the last country in the world to see the sun-set. On December 29, 2011 – Samoa jumped the International Dateline and became the first country in the world to see the sun-rise. Samoa skipped a day (December 30, 2011) to fall in line with New Zealand and Australia to welcome in December 31, 2011 – New Years Eve.

Men wear a straight wraparound lavalava along with a shirt: Yup - even the cops...
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Every day, evening prayer (sa) takes place in every village around dusk before the evening meal and lasts about half an hour. It is usually signalled by the sound of a conch shell or the ringing of the church bell. The sa usually means no loud noise or walking through the village commons. Matai sometimes stand by the side of the main road, which pass through village land, to slow down traffic until prayers are over.

The 2009 Samoa earthquake was an 8.1 Mw submarine earthquake that took place in the Samoan Islands region at 06:48:11 local time on 29 September 2009. At a magnitude of 8.1, it was the largest earthquake of 2009.
A tsunami was generated which caused substantial damage and loss of life in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center recorded a 3-inch (76 mm) rise in sea levels near the epicenter, and New Zealand scientists determined that the waves measured 14 metres (46 ft) at their highest on the Samoan coast. The quake occurred on the outer rise of the Kermadec-Tonga Subduction Zone. This is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates in the Earth's lithosphere meet and earthquakes and volcanic activity are common.
189 people were killed by the tsunami.

In 2013 Air Samoa became the first airline in the world to charge passengers by their weight as opposed to by seat.

HOW EVER DID I GET HERE?
Air Pacific was kind enough to drop me off at the airport :) After first dropping me off at the airport in Fiji and leaving me for 6ish hours that is...

WHERE DID I STAY?
Tatiana's Motel. Can't say I would recommend it. But I didn't die at any point throughout the night. I have to admit though as far as I can recall, this is the only night I ever slept with my knife, blade out, ready to go.

THE AGE OLD QUESTION: HOW WAS THE WEATHER?
Hot and humid :) I arrived near midnight and it was 30+ even then. Such a welcoming change from New Zealand.

WHAT DID I SEE HERE AND WHAT DID I DO?
Good question. I didn't see or do as much as I had wanted to here. After arriving at the motel close to 1am, exhausted, both physically and emotionally, barely sleeping due to motel sketchiness, loud people, stray dogs barking and roosters making a racket, I didn't have the energy to accomplish much the next day. I walked around Apia a bit but quickly realized that as a single female with barely any tan, I was just a walking target for harassment from the menfolk. And one large and incredibly sketchy woman. I managed to walk through the town a bit, visit a market, eat a donut or something, go to the tourism information center and stroll along the harbour front. I realized that it was a lot easier to just not make eye contact with anyone so as not to encourage their comments, advances and offers of taxis, but I really didn't want to see a new country by looking at the ground the entire time. After stopping to sit and drink a bottle of water on the sea wall and being approached by a large woman with the shiftiest eyes I have ever seen, who tried to lure me into her blacked out SUV with a busted tail light and some dude driving, I decided I had had enough of the city already and just wanted to get to the beach. I returned to my motel, asked for a taxi and got out of there.

ANY RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, HOSTELS, PEOPLE ETC WORTH MENTIONING?
No. Not at all.

FAVORITE MEMORY FROM MY TIME HERE:
Leaving the city. Also, the people at tourism information were very nice.

WOULD I EVER COME BACK HERE IF I HAD THE CHANCE OR WOULD I RECOMMEND IT TO A FRIEND OR FELLOW TRAVELER? :)
Toughie. There are things I didn't get to do in Apia that I would have liked to - such as the Museum of Samoa and snorkel the marine reserve. But I really didn't enjoy being in Apia. If I did go back I would go with a friend. Preferably a man. And a big strong one.

NOTABLE NOTES:

Pictures Instead!
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THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION OF THE ISLANDS. QUITE THE EXPERIENCE

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CLOCK AT THE CENTRE OF APIA

Posted by karencook 18:31 Archived in Samoa Tagged capital hot apia humid Comments (0)

END OF AN ERA

AUCKLAND, NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

15 °C
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A FABULOUS/FASCINATING/FUN FACT ABOUT THIS PLACE:
The Auckland metropolitan area in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest and most populous urban area in the country. Auckland has an urban population of 1,397,300 and a metropolitan population of 1,507,700, which respectively constitute 32 and 34 percent of the country's population. Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. In Māori, Auckland's name is Tāmaki Makaurau and the transliterated version of Auckland is Ākarana.

HOW EVER DID I GET HERE?
an awesome 11.5 hr overnight bus ride! SO much fun. And on a Saturday night too... Lucky me.

WHERE DID I STAY?
Silverfern Backpackers

THE AGE OLD QUESTION: HOW WAS THE WEATHER?
Cold. Rainy

WHAT DID I SEE HERE AND WHAT DID I DO?
For the most part I just wandered around Queen St and the waterfront in denial that I would be leaving the country after an epic 16 month run.

ANY RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, HOSTELS, PEOPLE ETC, WORTH MENTIONING?
Saw Steve for the last time. Not easy. :S

FAVORITE MEMORY FROM MY TIME HERE:
hmmmm Does bawling my eyes out at the airport count? Yes? Okay that then. Cause that was fun......

WOULD I EVER COME BACK HERE IF I HAD THE CHANCE OR WOULD I RECOMMEND IT TO A FRIEND OR FELLOW TRAVELER? :)
Only because it has that international airport that gets me into the country!

NOTABLE NOTES:
OMG IT'S ALL OVER!

Posted by karencook 19:09 Archived in New Zealand Tagged airport goodbye tears it's_over Comments (0)

ZUCCHINI SISTERS TOGETHER AGAIN!

WELLINGTON, NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

11 °C
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A FABULOUS/FASCINATING/FUN FACT ABOUT THIS PLACE:
CAPITAL OF NEW ZEALAND SINCE 1865! IT GETS REALLY REALLY WINDY HERE! SOMETIMES PEOPLE BLOW OVER. NOT JOKING.

HOW EVER DID I GET HERE?
Best story here. Sold my car in Christchurch and Kirsty and I wanted to go SURPRISE Ronnie by showing up in Welly. Being the efficient travelers we are, we decided to attempt hitchhiking instead of booking a bus. No big deal. People do it all the time. We, however, were 436 kms away from where we wanted to be. Oh, and on the wrong island. And trying to hitchhike out of a city. And on a Sunday. So maybe not our greatest idea. First of all we had waaaayyy too much stuff. Crazy-heavy big backpacks, just as heavy small backpacks, a food bag, a huge blanket, an inflatable jandal.... what were we thinking.... Second of all... very hard to hitchhike in a city. People just won`t pick you up because they are just driving in/through/around the city. Thirdly, Sunday is NOT the day to hitchhike. So many of the cars were full of families and therefore had no spare seats. Also, rightfully so, people are less likely to pickup random strangers on the side of the road when they have their children in the car. So our morning started with a much-too-long walk from the hostel to the road the led to the highway out of the city. Only about 2.5kms, but it felt much longer. Also, we were both feeling ill from sketchy food we had eaten days before and may I remind you - carrying many heavy things.
For about a half hour things weren't looking too good but then a very nice woman turned around and offered to take up farther out of the city where we would have a better chance of getting a ride. She only took us about 10kms but it made a huge difference. Not long after a giant van pulled over and 2 guys waved for us to get in. Sounds sketchy, I know. But it wasn't at all. Turns out these 2 guys had flown from Auckland that morning to pick it up and drive it back all in one day. We were set. And we had the back of a 21 passenger van to ourselves. Plus the guys were content to chat to themselves, mostly in Chinese, so we didn't have to make awkward small talk with strangers for 7 hours. We got to Picton and onto the Interislander Ferry. They sat on a different part of the boat, and when we docked in Wellington we met them back at the van and they drove us right to the door of Ronnie's hostel. Wouldn't have gotten that good of service from the bus! What a lovely hitchhiking success story! :)

WHERE DID I STAY?
Lodge in the City. Affectionately and not-so-affectionately known as Dodge in the City. Probably a more fitting name.

THE AGE OLD QUESTION: HOW WAS THE WEATHER?
Sunny, windy, cold and rainy

WHAT DID I SEE HERE AND WHAT DID I DO?
Hung out with the girls and reminisced about the good old days. Spent a few days at the library trying to book flights, and Samoa stuff.

ANY RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, HOSTELS, PEOPLE ETC WORTH MENTIONING?
Midnight Espresso @ 178 Cuba St was my go to place for my caffeine fix. Delicious hot chocolates and therefore mochas. Only ate here once but the food all looked delicious and there was a huge selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. If you're into that kinda thing...

FAVORITE MEMORY FROM MY TIME HERE:
SURPRISING RONNIE! And also catching up with her and the three of us talking about our Kerikeri days. Our last pizza night!

WOULD I EVER COME BACK HERE IF I HAD THE CHANCE OR WOULD I RECOMMEND IT TO A FRIEND OR FELLOW TRAVELER? :)
I would come back here in a heartbeat. I'm not a city person at ALL but I LOVED it here. SUCH a cool little city. It has it all and I could definitely see myself living here. If you ever have the chance - definitely check it out.

NOTABLE NOTES:
I think I covered it all above!

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Posted by karencook 18:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged capital surprise midnight_espresso Comments (0)

DRUNK MONKEY MAZES

CHRISTCHURCH, SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

all seasons in one day 4 °C
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A FABULOUS/FASCINATING/FUN FACT ABOUT THIS PLACE:
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's third-most populous urban area. On Saturday 4 September 2010, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Christchurch and the central Canterbury region at 4:35 am. Nearly six months later on Tuesday 22 February 2011, a second earthquake measuring magnitude 6.3 struck the city at 12:51 pm. It was located closer to the city, near Lyttelton at a depth of 5 km. Although lower on the moment magnitude scale than the previous earthquake, the intensity and violence of the ground shaking was measured to be MM IX, among the strongest ever recorded globally in an urban area and in total 185 people were killed with nationals from more than 20 countries among the victims. ChristChurch Cathedral lost its spire and widespread damage was caused across Christchurch to buildings and infrastructure already weakened by 4 September 2010 earthquake and its aftershocks. Significant liquefaction affected the eastern suburbs, and the total cost to insurers of rebuilding has been estimated at NZ$20–30 billion.
On 13 June 2011 Christchurch was again rocked by two more large aftershocks. A 5.6 at only 9 km (6 mi) deep hit at 1:00 pm in the general location of Sumner, Christchurch. This was followed by another 6.3 at only 6 km (4 mi) deep at 2:20 pm again in the general location of Sumner, Christchurch. This resulted in more liquefaction and building damage, but no more lives were lost. There were further earthquakes on 23 December 2011; the first, of magnitude 5.8 according to the US Geological Survey, 26 km (15 miles) north-east of the city at a depth of 4.7 km, at 13:58, followed by several aftershocks and another earthquake of magnitude 6.0 and similar location 80 minutes later, with more aftershocks expected. St John Ambulance reported after the two quakes that there were minor injuries at homes and businesses but no serious injuries and few indications of building collapses at the time. Christchurch airport was briefly closed. There were power and water outages at New Brighton and severe damage to the Parklands region, including roads and footpaths.
Christchurch was again rattled awake on 2 January 2012; the first; a magnitude 5.1 struck at 01:27 followed five minutes later by a magnitude 4.2 aftershock; a second larger earthquake struck at 05:45 with a magnitude of 5.5. This caused power outages to the eastern suburbs of Parklands, New Brighton, Shirley, Dallington, Burwood, Spencerville and Richmond; this affected around 10,000 homes.
4,423 earthquakes were recorded in the Canterbury region above a magnitude 3.0, from 4 September 2010 to 3 September 2012.

HOW EVER DID I GET HERE?
I drove across snow-covered Arthur's Pass with my trusty sidekick Kirsty!

WHERE DID I STAY?
Kiwi House Backpackers

THE AGE OLD QUESTION: HOW WAS THE WEATHER?
Oh my gosh - Cold. The first evening we arrived there was a snow/hail combo flying down to earth. There ended up being some sunny days.. But it stayed way colder than I would have wanted.

WHAT DID I SEE HERE AND WHAT DID I DO?
Nothing overly interesting. My main goal at this point was to sell my car and move on with my life. Most days were spent at the library, stealing the wifi and responding to emails about the car.

ANY RESTAURANTS, SHOPS, HOSTELS, PEOPLE ETC WORTH MENTIONING?
Kiwi House Backpackers has some of the nicest staff.

FAVORITE MEMORY FROM MY TIME HERE:
Probably have to go with the day I sold my car and could finally start to plan the rest of my life.
Aside from that, there was this day that Kirsty and I decided to go to Denny's. Haha. It was such a simple thing but it had been soooo long since either of us had eaten a proper sit-down meal in a restaurant. We just lingered and chatted for the longest time while I drank seemingly endless coffee. :)

WOULD I EVER COME BACK HERE IF I HAD THE CHANCE OR WOULD I RECOMMEND IT TO A FRIEND OR FELLOW TRAVELER? :)
I definitely didn't enjoy Christchurch this time around. I couldn't focus on anything other than getting rid of my car so I could go back to the North Island to visit friends, book buses, flights, vacations and my inevitable return to Canada. I had been looking forward to Christchurch before the earthquakes, but I can't recommend it now. There are a few neat projects in the city work a look, including Pallet Pavillion andContainer Mall, but for the most part it's just sad destruction. I would love to go back sometime in the future after the city has been rebuilt to see what they have done.

NOTABLE NOTES:
Driving in Christchurch was a frustrating experience. Due to damage from the earthquakes and current reconstruction projects in the city center, many roads are either one way or completely closed. Getting from point A to point B is a complete guessing game that never ends in a direct route. It was like driving through a maze set up by drunk monkeys. If you wanted to get 3 blocks up further on the same road you were on, it would end up being a 6 km drive that involved turning ever which way multiple times.

Posted by karencook 17:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Snow and Birds

HOKITIKA, NEW ZEALAND

sunny -1 °C
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Hokitika turned out to be more of a town than I was expecting. After all the barely existent small towns up the west coast, I wasn't expecting much. Our hostel was easy enough to find – as soon as we turned into the town it was there on the left. We settled into a very very cold room for the night. The next morning I went for a walk to find the post office to mail some things and instead I found a lovely view of the mountains – which we missed on the drive up because of rain and fog. It would have made it a much nicer drive, and I finally got what all the raving about the beautiful west coast was about. I also found the beach. I did not find the post office – although I later I learned that I had walked right passed it when I went down to the beach. Anyway – I eventually got my stuff mailed.
I also cleaned out my car and got rid of a big bag of no longer needed items. Mostly Steve's old hoodies, and also some of my hoodies, pants and a random toy rugby ball.
NZ had finally gotten some cold weather and snow and lots of roads all over the south island were closed. Luckily by the time we were ready to leave town the requirement to carry chains over Arthur's Pass was lifted. One less thing to worry about.
The drive over the pass was nice, but not as much so as I had been expecting. There was snow though. The first real snow I had seen in NZ. I'm not counting the glaciers or on the tops of mountains. The best part of the drive was when we stopped at a lookout point to check out the view and take some pics. It was up a very steep, slightly curved hill that was TOTALLY covered in ice. Unfortunately my car couldn't quite make it up. Almost. We got about 99% of the way up and only needed to go a few more feet to get up on level ground – but by the time we got that far, sliding on ice the whole way up – we had lost any speed we had, the tires were just spinning on the ice and we were going nowhere. Cue the birds. There had been some Kea – a type of parrot that for some reason lives in more arctic temperatures – which we had been hoping to see. Apparently they like people or something. A few of them then decided that a great place to hang out would be the roof of my car. Not fun for someone who is scared of birds. It was gross – we could just hear their big claws scratching and tapping across the roof as they walked around and one even hung his head over the side and looked upside down at me through the window. It was a stressful situation for me. So we very very slowly backed down the hill, sliding around a bit and taking the birds for a ride at the same time. We made it to the bottom and had to settle for walking up to the top instead. And my god it was cold! We finally continued our way across the pass stopped a couple more times to check some things out and determine that yes – it was still insanely cold out. Eventually we made it safely to Christchurch.

Posted by karencook 21:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged snow ice parrot Comments (0)

Rainy Days in Fox Glacier

FOX GLACIER, NEW ZEALAND

rain 6 °C
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We went o Fox Glacier and guess what we saw???? Nothing! Well pretty much nothing. I DID see a rainbow one afternoon. We arrived in the pouring rain and it continued to rain all through that night, the next day, and the next night. The day we were leaving it cleared up enough for us to at least make an attempt to go see the glacier. We walked to the glacier access point and saw it. Just looked like a big piece of dirty ice. I wasn't impressed – probably because I've seen too much ice in my life as it is. Definitely glad I didn't pay the hundreds of dollars they charge for the glacier tours.

We had acquired an extra person in Fox Glacier so we stopped in Franz Josef to drop her off, get petrol and coffee/food.
The highlight of Fox Glacier was the day I called home and had the following conversation with my mom:

MOM: Hello?
ME: Hi. How are you?
MOM: Fine dear. How are you?
ME: Good.
MOM: Where are you?
ME: Fox Glacier.
MOM: Where?
ME: Fox Glacier.
MOM: Where?
ME: FOX. .. GLACIER..
MOM: Where?
ME: FOX!.... GLACIER!!!!
MOM: I don't know what you're saying...
ME: FOX! AS IN THE ANIMAL.. GLACIER – AS IN A BIG PIECE OF ICE.
MOM: ...... Do you need to be picked up???....
ME: What? No, it's Karen. I'm in New Zealand.
MOM: OH! It's Karen

Posted by karencook 00:02 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rain glacier Comments (0)

Beautiful Lake, Stunning Mountains, and a Not So Lucky Bird

LAKE TEKAPO, NEW ZEALAND

sunny
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Lake Tekapo was stunningly beautiful.

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I'm definitely glad we took the extra time and money to go there. It was probably one of my favourite places in NZ. The lake with the mountain backdrop was gorgeous. It was such a small town – population 350 – but was definitely used to hosting tourists as it had at least 4 hostels. We were lucky enough to get a 6-bed room to ourselves for the night and I used the space to sort through my stuff and get rid of things I no longer needed. We climbed up Mt. John to soak up the views/capture them digitally.

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That's really all we accomplished there. It was a good time regardless. Shortly after leaving town we were cruising down the highway and we came across two huge hawks eating some roadkill. One of them showed some common sense and got the hell off the road. The other, however, held his ground. I figured it would get out of the way eventually- it seems birds usually do, but I drove into the oncoming lane anyway – just t go around it. (No there were no cars coming). The bird really held firm until the last possibly second he decided to take off. Of course he was facing the side of the road I was now on – so he flew RIGHT into the front of my car. It was a pretty big hit. These birds are HUGE. Then it flew up across the windshield, scaring the crap out of both Kirsty and I, and over the roof. I looked in my rear view mirror and watched as it fell to the ground, wings spread wide, and landed on the middle of the road not far from where it had been enjoying some lunch not long ago. Sadly, it was now fresh lunch for the hawk that had the sense to get out of the road when we were coming...
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Posted by karencook 01:24 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains birds lake Comments (0)

Dunedin

DUNEDIN, SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND


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Dunedin turned out to be a pretty cool city. Decently big. Actually the 2nd latgest city on the South Island. Although that's not saying much....Dunedin is home to the University of Otago, New Zealand's first university. It has a Scottish history and it showed in the form of Scottish stores and shops and a boy playing the bagpipes on the street for money. We embraced the educational aspect of the city by doing a tour of the Speight's Brewery and the Cadbury Chocolate factory!
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Posted by karencook 01:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged chocolate tour brewery cadbury speight's Comments (0)

Akaroa and Oamaru

SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND


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Akaroa is a super small little supposedly French-influenced town. It's located on the Banks Peninsula east of Christchurch. The drive there was beautiful but there wasn't actually anything going on in the town. It was cold.

Next stop was Oamaru. I was hoping to see penguins. Specifically yellow-eyed penguins. And we did see a LOT of penguins but we were really far away and there were too many of them to be the rare yellow-eyed species.
Not a lot happening in this town either, but it was a decent size place in NZ standards and we discovered the coolest park ever. Playground that is.
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GIANT HAMPSTER WHEEL!

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ZIPLINE

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REALLY STEEP SLIDE

That's right... We played at the playground like children until it was past dark and we had to go home for dinner.

The kids in this town are lucky!

Posted by karencook 01:01 Archived in New Zealand Tagged play penguins Comments (0)

Christchurch: Round 1

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND

sunny 13 °C
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Arrived in Christchurch in the evening after a beautiful drive from Kaikoura. The scenery along the way was amazing and we stopped at a winery for a tasting and a tour. Christchurch is kind of a sad city these days. The whole city is basically a construction zone.

I spent a little time walking around but there isn't really a whole lot to see or do.
Container city was pretty cool but sadly a result of the devastation of the earthquakes.

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This is my bank!
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Posted by karencook 19:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Baby Seals!

KAIKOURA, NEW ZEALAND

storm 10 °C
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Drove from Nelson to Kaikoura and picked up an American dude - Nick - in Blenheim. The beginning of the drive was nice - lots of vineyards along the sides of the road, but then the weather got worse and by the time we were rolling into Kaikoura it was incredibly windy and rainy.

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We stopped along the way at a baby seal 'nursery'. It's a waterfall where baby seals go to play all day while their parents are out fishing/playing/making new babies or whatever they do all day.
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It was pretty amazing. There were a lot of them and they were very cute playing in and around the waterfall.

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We stayed at a cool hostel - the Albatross. The next day I met up with my friend Kirsty and her friend Rebecca. I was hoping to be able to give them a lift to Christchurch but the guy I had picked up had so many bags and stuff it would have jut been impossible. So they booked a bus and we booked a hostel together for when we got there.
Afterwards Nick and I took a little walk around the town and the peninsula. He was determined to see an albatross - but no such luck. We did see a few more seals though!

Posted by karencook 18:33 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rain waterfall seals Comments (0)

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