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Whew what a trip!  It started off rainy, but we actually had pretty good luck staying dry the entire time.  We got a healthy dose of fun in the sun, admired the amazing scenery, and moved along at a great pace, where we saw a lot, but didn’t feel rushed.  As the Kiwis say, “Sweet as”.

We set out from home in the pouring rain, which was more than a little disconcerting.   The much-feared and dreaded ferry ride was long and boring (they played two movies, but we had only one seat to share between the four of us, and the movies were mostly inaudible) and too wet to really be out on the deck enjoying the scenery, but we did manage one photo before a massive blast of wind and ocean convinced me to put my camera away…

photo from the ferry

We had planned to stay two days kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds, but with the weather not cooperating, we skipped that and drove straight down to Kaikoura, where our whale-watching plan seemed more conducive to rainy conditions.   We had a lovely little campsite right next to the highway and a train track that was bone shakingly active at night!   While the rain did let up, and we stayed nice and dry (thanks to Mark’s skill with a tarp), the ocean was too rough for the whale watching boats, so we spent our time watching the surfers, playing mini-golf, and just enjoying being together.

our cozy site…

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the beach across the road…

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life in a tent…

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so cozy!

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pj’s in the morning…

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mini-golf!

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watching the surfers…

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scenic coastline…

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the seals in this area are so accustomed to humans that you can walk right up to them — I’d be willing to bet you could pet them, but I wouldn’t want to try it.   We saw a seal lying under a palmy bush about 100 years from the beach, but he was so well hidden that most passerby didn’t notice him, which also made him hard to photograph.  Here are a few photos of the less shy New Zealand fur seals…

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roadside bird watching… Pukekos!

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After a few days in Kaikoura, we moved along for a day trip to Hanmer Springs, a town where the main attraction for us was a giant hot springs facility, with thermal pools of all different temperatures, a cold pool (which was great, as it turned out to be a lovely, hot day) and waterslides.  Apparently I didn’t take any photos, but here is a rock called “frog rock” that we saw by the side of the road after our quick dip in the pools, as we were moving along to Christchurch…

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We didn’t actually see much of Christchurch, though we thoroughly enjoyed ‘the teddy factory’, which the kids had seen advertised on tv and were just dying to go visit.  We worked those overpriced, gimmicky bears into an early christmas present, and also hit the Antarctic Centre, which turned out to be the only place we saw penguins on our whole trip.

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The Antarctic centre was pretty neat, overall.  We all learned a lot about Antarctica, and even went into a room that had a simulation of a -18C storm blow through… it wasn’t nearly as cold as most of our holidays in Alberta, Canada, but we’ve never done that in shorts and sandals…luckily they gave us all jackets and overshoes, and there was an igloo to hide in for those of us not brave enough to take on the ice slide behind it…

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I think I’ll leave off there for now, tune in next time for Christmas at Okains Bay and Akaroa, Arthur’s Pass, Greymouth, Paekakariki (Pancake Rocks), Marahau and Abel Tasman National Park, Takaka/Golden Bay/Totaranui, and finally Nelson with the Ricciardis!

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Lucy just did a post on her blog about a big walk we went on yesterday, with a lot of photos, if anyone is interested… click on the photo below to read it!

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my first steps on a new zealand beach!

my first steps on a new zealand beach!

mark and lucy's first new zealand beach!

mark and lucy's first new zealand beach!

dexter's first new zealand beach!

dexter's first new zealand beach!

island bay playground

island bay playground

island bay crazy slide

island bay crazy slide

island bay walkway to beach

island bay walkway to beach

crocodile bike ride, oriental bay

crocodile bike ride, oriental bay

oriental bay

oriental bay

oriental bay playground

oriental bay playground

stoppin' for drinks

stoppin for drinks

and here it is... artsy beer

and here it is... artsy beer

dexter missing a tooth!

dexter missing a tooth!

view of the city from mount victoria

view of the city from mount victoria

view of the airport from mt. victoria

view of the airport from mt. victoria

more mt. victoria

more mt. victoria viewing

halloween vampires

halloween vampires

Lucy bungies

Lucy bungies

Dexter bungies

Dexter bungies

Well. 

First there was this guy, tearing all the bark off a tree in front of the house…

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and then there were these creatures we ran into on our way to the beach…

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all of those creatures together started hunting these creatures…

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 and came up with handfuls like these…

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Then of course, *snif* there was this little guy…

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Sal. 

Ah, Sal, your time with us was brief, but your memory will live on. 

Some of us were VERY sad to see you go…

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but with one last hug here…

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and another last hug there…

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we were able to stand together, amid cries of “I can’t bear it!!” and release you back to your rightful place on this earth.  well, we actually upgraded you a little from the giant log we originally found you under, that would have squished your little melon if anyone rolled it over, to a more out-of-the-way treestump where you would live on, safe and well-fed.

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and yes, there was a bit of snow that day, thanks.