Like Wales, but bigger

A few days into New Zealand and we’re getting things done. We bought a van…

We had a swim…
And I did some kayaking…

It’s odd being in a foreign country with our own Queen on the banknotes and where cars still drive on the left. Kiwi hospitality has been just as exceptional as people say it is: from the hostel (Kiwi Basecamp) owner in Christchurch helping us to choose the van, to the kayak rental shop (Captain Hector’s, Akaroa) giving us a great deal on the kayak in order to help Emily’s swim, to friends welcoming us in at Dunedin.
The van is a Toyata Previa. A people carrier. And I don’t have 7 children. Oh, well. It has the back converted into a comfy bed, and it goes when it’s supposed to so I can’t complain. NZ has a real campervan culture – there are loads of them out here. Rentals, tourist-owned, and local-owned. So many people want them for touring here that there’s a whole market of buying cheap vans for a few weeks or months then selling them on. We plugged into that market to get ours, and will hopefully sell it in Auckland before we go.
Our first stop was Akaroa, a small town on the volcanic Banks Penninsula. It sits on an outrageously blue harbour and serves pastries under the Tricolore, proud of its French heritage. As we drove down through the clouds, the whole area had a low grey ceiling. The harbour looked more like a large lake than a sea, and a 6 hour swim for Emily was on the agenda.
Jetlag and necessity had us up early and into the water for 7.30. The swim began with a walk across the silt left shallow by the tide. Eventually, we could swim though and the cold was enough to tweak at a few muscles. Not enough to numb my face though, so maybe 15C. We swam across the harbour and around a little cove where a boat had anchored. On this side, the land dropped steeply to the water and trees hung onto the green slopes.

The plan was to swim back to the car, then I could go pick up a kayak and join Emily for the rest of her swim. So, I loaded up, thanked the guys at Captain Hector’s and headed out. We plotted a route around the harbour and the cloud finally lifted the lid on the day. With peaks and ridges all round us, and blue water underneath us, it was great day to be out and the wet bum caused by the “self bailing” (for which, read, self-filling) kayak didn’t seem like too big a problem. The swim flew by pretty easily, punctuated by the sight of rare Hector Dolphins at on stage. Their fins did cause a brief heart-stopping moment, but I quickly recognised that they were the local dolphins not sharks.

Our next plan is to hit the Kepler Trail for some hiking, and then Doubtful Sound for some more kayaking. No bikes 🙂

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