Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Swell Day

We drove the twisty curvy road in silence.  Mark suggested that I turn on the book on tape we had been listening to, but I felt we needed to focus on the road in front of us.  The zigzag dirt track that was taking us out of the mountainous area of Abel Tasman National Park needed all of our attention.  After all, we didn't know if around the next hairpin curve we would find a speeding logging truck, an enormous motor home, or a mudslide.  I left the radio on seek and occasionally we we would get a note or two of music.  As we neared the summit we tuned in long enough to learn that an undersea tremor near Japan had put the country on standby for a Tsunami.  We were also informed that New Zealand was not in any danger, and that the waves would not be reaching the remote island that we were currently visiting.
At this point in our trip a Tsunami warning wouldn't have affected us much; we would spend most of the day driving across several mountain ranges, leaving the ocean far behind us.  However, the following morning--as we approached the eastern coastal seaboard--we were greeted by a sign with a Tsunami warning on the side of the road.  We assumed that it was related to the previous day's tremor and didn't give it much thought as we continued on our way.

The meandering coastal road between Blenheim and Kaikoura is sandwiched between majestic mountains and the ocean.  The contrast of the dense rainforest growth on our right with the black sand and blue water on our left was stunning.  Several small communities dotted the road.  We had hoped to call in for a cuppa joe, but to our surprise none of the cafes or crawfish shacks were open, so we were out of luck.  An occasional car would pass us, but for the most part the area we were driving through had a sleepy feel to it.  It was almost as though things were closed down for the season, but that was hard to believe considering how many tourists we had encountered over the last week.  

When we passed a yellow sign announcing seal crossing, Mark quickly pulled over.  To my delight there were several seals on the rocky ledge next to the road.  They were lazily sunning themselves. There was some movement in the water.  What we first though to be seals coming in for a landing turned out to be frolicking dolphins, who repeatedly jumped up out of the water.  At the sight of each ariel flight I squealed in delight.

In the distance we could see the cliffside town of Kaikoura.  As we stood in the sun admiring the view, we decided that instead of heading for the hills we would make Kaikoura our destination for the day.  We had read about a seaside hike in the area and figured we could get the details at the tourist office.
The tourist office was easy enough to find.  Amazingly enough there were plenty of parking spaces, and there were just a few tourists walking around.  Once again this struck us as odd, especially since for the last week whenever we found ourselves in a populated area parking was difficult to come by.  With the Campervan parked in the front row, we eagerly entered the building and approached the counter--we were anxious to hit the trail.  You can only imagine the look on our faces when we were informed that the coastal trail was closed because of the Tsunami warning.  Our confusion prompted the woman behind the counter to advise us that due to the large earthquake that had occurred at 3 a.m. in Chile the costal area was under a watch. Large waves had already hit New Zealand's Chatham Islands, and the area where we were standing was the possible next target.  Hmmm, no wonder everything was closed and just a few brave souls were out and about--there was a possible massive force moving our way!  Needless to say, we decided to not to stick around to see if the waves arrived.  Instead, we stuck to our original plan and headed for the hills.
We later learned that the area did experience waves up to 1.5 meters and several surges, but fortunately it was during a very low tide so no damage occurred.


  1. Holy smokes! That was a close one. Your photos are great. Everything seems so tranquil that it is hard to believe that there were tons of people touring the island.

  2. Holy smokes! That was a close one. Your photos are great. Everything seems so tranquil that it is hard to believe that there were tons of people touring the island.

  3. No wonder it was deserted! That was a close call. I'm looking forward to hearing more about the area. We didn't make it that far when we visited the South Island. I've read about it since and thought it would be a great place to visit since we've already been to Abel Tasman. And cool that you got to see the dolphins.

  4. Gonzalee, I think it was tranquil in that area because everyone had left to higher ground!

    Marta, I have no idea why we didn't think the warning could have been a new one. I am sure next time we will turn on the radio to make sure! The area was very scenic and beautiful. We didn't spend a lot of time in the area, but I am sure there is plenty to explore.