After Christchurch, I headed on to Kaikoura (pronounced Kaikoda in Maori). I had planned to stay there for about 4 nights. It was pretty dull and cloudy the first day or two but I was extremely lucky the day I went whalewatching. There was glorious sunshine and the swell on the sea wasn’t too bad, thank God, as it doesn’t take much for me to feel seasick! We saw three whales, which was great. It’s so humbling and amazing to see them, especially when they dive. Their head dips and within a couple of seconds, their tail comes up and they’re gone again.
I took a few photos for the first two sightings but on the third, I wanted to see it for real, instead of through a camera lens. And this one was the best. It was the closest, about 50 metres away, with the backdrop of the snowcapped mountains and beautiful sunshine. We were also very lucky to see hundreds of dusky dolphins around the boat, on our way back, jumping out of the water and swimming right beside the boat. It was amazing.
I did a Maori tour here as well. I wanted to get deeper into their culture and find out more about their history and traditions. www.maoritours.co.nz This tour was very good. The Maori guide told us about the history of their tribe, the Ngai Tahu tribe, showed us how to do the Hongi, where you touch noses with each other, as a Maori way of saying hello, taught us a welcome song and brought us into the forest to show us how the plants and trees are used in the Maori culture, in food and medicine.
The Kawakawa plant (New Zealand pepper plant) is made into tea because it’s good for sore throats and for purifying the blood. It’s easier to recognise because it’s heart shaped. Maurice, our guide, also showed us the Silver Fern, which is one of my favourites. On the top, it looks just like a normal fern but on the underside, it’s silver. It’s not used as food or medicine but the underside is illuminous in the dark. Maoris use it when they’re hunting in the forest, at night. They drop leaves of the silver fern as they go along the path (and the leaves nearly always fall underside up) and they can then find their way back. He showed us a young silver fern and underneath, we could see that the silver was growing from the outside of the leaves, in towards the main vein. Normally, he said, it’s the other way around, they grow from the inside out. I thought this was really cool!