Our bus ride down the east coast of the south island lead us to Kaikoura. It's a small coastal town where mountains literally meet the sea. This town is all about tours. You can go whale watching, swim with seals, learn to surf, heli hikes (you take a helicopter up to the surrounding mountains to hike the trails), wilderness tours, and even southern hemisphere star gazing. The main reason why we visited Kaikoura was to do hike the Kaikoura peninsula. It's a 4 hour hike that takes you along the rugged peninsula coast for sweeping views of the ocean. Along the way are seal colonies, sea birds, and if you're lucky you'll spot sperm whales, orcas, and dolphins. Here's a short video of what the view was like:
Kaikoura Peninsula Video
The beaches here have no sand but instead have smooth black rocks. The water is very cold and the beaches are swimmable.
Here are some photos of the town center:
Fishing is big business in Kaikoura. The delicacy here is crayfish and they charge an arm and a leg for it. Averages $80 to $100 NZD for a whole cray. I don't understand why they charge so much for crayfish even though the crayfish are abundant in these waters. Another delicacy here is Paua, which is Maori for abalone. We saw some divers fishing for Paua while hiking the peninsula. The divers are kind of hard to see in this photo and this is the best my zoom lens could do.
Paua is protected here in New Zealand and you're only allowed 10 per person and each one has to be of a certain size. You're allowed to fish for more than 10 if you are a commercial Paua fisherman. The Paua in New Zealand is typically eaten as a patty. They tough meat is minced and mixed with onions and spices and pan fried to perfection. My first taste of Paua, however, was not a good experience. I ordered a Paua sandwhich at a local cafe and the patty was mushy and way too fishy and to be honest it tasted disgusting.
Then, when I came back to our lodge I started talking to a couple of people at the pool area and low and behold these guys are commercial Paua fisherman. They had a ton of Paua that they had just caught earlier that morning and when I ate these I was hooked. Absolutely delicious! I ate so much Paua my belly was going to burst. I asked them why the Paua I had earlier tasted so different and they said because it was probably frozen. And Paua tastes great with ice cold Stella Artois also supplied by the fisherman and they said they paid over $40 NZD for a 12 pack. Yikes! So I bought them shots of Vodka and some beer at the bar down the street since I felt bad for eating the Paua and drinking the pricey Stella.
The seafood here in Kaikoura is great. I didn't eat any crayfish since that is way out of my budget. I had some local caught pan seared scallops that I devoured in a couple minutes. The scallops are served here with the delicious roe. Washed this dish down with a refreshing New Zealand lager.
Believe it or not my eating binge that day continued. After spending sometime down at the beach we came back for some beers and I ended up ordering some local mussels. We also entered a trivia game at the bar and team USA! USA! got clobbered by the kiwis. I don't think it's a fair competition when they have questions like "What is so and so's rugby player's natural kicking foot?" or "What is New Zealand's largest inland city?"
Well, we're headed further south of Kaikoura to the town of Christchurch. We'll spend the night in Christchurch to catch the first flight out to Queenstown. I just hope there are no more earthquakes in Christchurch while we are there since that city is still getting aftershocks from the devastating quake from about a year ago.