Wild life

Bon jour! – We're still in "Little France" ...
... and still "suffering" from tropical temps here in Akaroa.
We stay at "Potters' Croft" at Rue Grehan and when we walk to and from downtown we pass this small street. Rue Matics may just give you backaches because it is quite steep.
In the morning we boarded a vessel and went to sea to see some wildlife – and to get some cool air in the hair.
We spotted quite a few of Akaroa's speciality: Hector's Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori).
This small (50 kg, 130cm) dolphin is endemic to New Zealand.
The two most distinctive features are the small body size and the rounded dorsal fin.
Another wildlife treat was even smaller: The Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor).
This is a species native to New Zealand and it is the smallest of all penguins (1.1 kg and 40 cm)
At this time of the year, the Blue Penguins are done breeding and the adults are busy molting all their feathers. Accordingly, the plumage has a very moth-eaten look.
After a French caffeine pit stop we ventured home for an extensive siesta during the sizzling hot hours.
As dinner time approached, the giant Long-finned Eels in the creek just below our terrace became active and got some snacks. The big one is about 80 years old and as thick as my leg.
. . .
Oh yes, we also paid a visit to the local museum.
 One of the exhibits was me – or my doppelgänger!!
Hugh Wilson, botanist and conservationist



Last evening we arrived in Christchurch from Hanmer Springs by bus. Stayed overnight in a new (i.e. post-earthquake) hotel with tiny rooms and a view over the many, many free parking lots (where buildings used to stand) and boarded-up buildings (to be demolished or repaired). The awful scars of the devastating quakes 8 years ago are still very much a part of the cityscape.
View from our room.
In the morning we walked to the bus terminal to catch our French Connection bus.
Above are all the things that are illegal to do inside the bus terminal. You can ride a wheelchair, though.
 We rode the bus to Akaroa, a small village in a grand 8-million-years-old volcano setting on Bank's Peninsula, about 85 km southeast of Christchurch. 
En route we had a "comfort stop" at Little River ex-railway station where some of our Chinese fellow travellers engaged in their ubiquitous photo-posture events.
However, we made it to the top of the old volcano crater and enjoyed this view:
Akaroa is on the far side of the bay to the right.
Presently, we are staying in a marvelous B&B in Akaroa with a sublime 2-acre garden.
The weather remains hot and Mediterranean ...
Clapping Cicada (Amphipsalta cingulata)
... and the cicadas are singing their high-pitched mating songs as noisy as ever.
The kereru, a huge endemic New Zealand pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) is the biggest native inhabitant of "our" garden. 
. . .
Akaroa is a sweet spot on the map with quite a bit of French atmosphere, although it is almost 180 years since 63 French immigrants from Rochefort, France, arrived in Akaroa to plant the Tricolore, create a French colony, settle and get a new life in a new world far away from revolutions. (History tells us that it didn't go according to the French plans).  –  However, Akaroa isn't far enough away in today's world to avoid US immigration politics.

The goodnight sky with Orion as seen from our terrace.


Kaikoura and beyond

Having recuperated from the wine tasting the night before, we got a mid-morning start and drove out of Blenheim towards Kaikoura.
Still in the Marlborough district, we saw lots of vineyards, some of them just "sprouting". 
The landscape was magnificent with big, rolling hills and SH-1 ran along the Picton-Christchurch railway for long stretches.
The highway had lots of traffic and only a few, but brave, bicyclists who dared the very narrow lane.
We reached the Pacific Ocean coast and stopped at a colony of New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) with lots of young ones.
The month-old fur seal pups were sucklings and had already grown much thanks to the very fat milk provided by the mother (c. 40% fat contents !!).
We also spotted a specimen of the extremely rare Double-bodied Black-backed Gull
(Larus dominicanus thingii).
We drove into the coastal town of Kaikoura (which is Maori for "crayfish food" or "crayfish town").
 The town also has a lot of whale watching activities.
 This would be the obvious place to get some nourishing sea food. Hence, we satisfied our hunger with some excellent sea food chowder.
After lunch, we browsed and shopped in a well-stocked paua business.
The paua is a large edible sea snail with a very colourful shell, that is also a valued natural resource for all kinds of beautiful ornamental handicraft by the locals. We became the happy owners of some shells.
Kaikoura is situated along two wide bays and was badly hit by a big earthquake in 2016.
The quake also raised the land and the seabed c. 2 meters, so large areas along the former coastline have become a new foreland above the new high tide line.
The presently hard and dry beach shows the former soft and muddy seabed with numerous holes once inhabited by happy (but now very dead) clams.
Do not plan to carry or consume alcohol in this part of "Crayfish Town". The local police will confiscate your booze and violators may be fined up to 20,000 NZ$ .!!
 This charming kiwi with maori-wannabe tattoos was part of the late afternoon traffic rush.
At Kaikoura's South Bay we saw the real Maori woodcraft ...
... as well as some Pied Shags (Phalacrocorax varius) that are distant cousins to the pelicans.
South Bay was also significantly changed by the 2016 earthquake.
Heading home to Hanmer Springs in the still very hot evening, we came upon a Red Deer farm. Here are some on a steep slope. Red Deer were originally imported to New Zealand in 1861 from Essex, England. Presently, they live as farmed deer behind fences or as wild deer roaming freely. The farmed deer are mainly providing venison for meat-eating folks around the world.


Ta Papa Manu Toa Ki Omaka

We are presently surfing on a heat wave. Strong winds are bringing 30+ °C used Aussie air to New Zealand. Being a couple of winterized Danes we're not suffering too much.
However, the beginning of the day looked somewhat mixed as seen from our kitchen, 
 while Eva was making us copious amounts of French toasts to go with the hot coffee.
At 9:45 we hit the road heading for Blenheim.
We passed this watering system that tried to keep a cattle pasture as green as a golf course. 
In the wide and long valley along the Wairau river vineyards after vineyards appeared.
Because of the risk of freezing in spring and autumn, the winegrowers have installed a large number of small windmills to be activated when needed (they mix the cold and the less cold air).
A "historical" windrose in a vineyard.  
Our first major stop was the aviation centre in a suburb of Blenheim.
The filmmaker tycoon (and locally born Kiwi), Sir Peter Jackson (e.g. The Hobbit + Lord of the Rings) has been instrumental in setting up the very good exhibition about WW1 and WW2.
We even saw an old biplane being exercised on ground and in the air.
Then we drove into Blenheim –  
– and after locating our motel we walked to the local wine station (which doubles as a railway station) ...
... to taste some of the 80 different wines produced in the Marlborough region just around Blenheim.
After trying various grapes, vineyards and terroirs we settled for the exquisite Pinot Gris Reserve 2018 from Lawson's Dry Hills.
We have enjoyed yet another fabulous day and have seen a lot that we will always remember.
. . .
Tomorrow we will go to the coast and smell the ocean
– and see what we can do.