New Zealand | Kaikoura to Lake Tekapo

We woke up to the sound of roaring thunder, making us want to stay put in our cozy campervan as long as possible. Needless to say, we got a late start in the morning, allowing ourselves time to sleep in the morning. This meant we got up at 6:45 am instead of 2am, tooled around, ate breakfast in the campervan, and then headed across the street to a seafood place that sold crayfish. It was closed (and no signs on the door indicating when it would open), so we drove along the wharf to the seal colony.IMG_2343 IMG_2348IMG_2356

We hiked around in the rain along the rocky peninsula, scouting out what seals we could. We only saw one or two, some not even in the actual colony, but rolling around in the grass, so close you could probably pet one. Tempting, but even we aren’t that stupid.

After burning up time on the rocks, we noticed that a couple of trailer food carts were opening up — 2 seafood carts, and one coffee cart.

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While the couple who owned the crayfish stand grilled our crayfish with lemon, butter, and garlic, we sat in the drizzling cold talkng to the guy owner. He was the only person thus far on the trip that I had some difficulty understanding, so as usual, I defaulted to let Sly do most of the talking. These guys must make a killing with their tiny little stand, as they told us of how they just returned from a 4month holiday where they toured the majority of the U.S. I consider myself pretty well-traveled when it came to California, but this guy and his family were naming off places we had never heard. They were also pretty obsessed/opinionated on their dislike of Arnie Schwartzenegger.

Finally, the food arrived. Delicious and perfect on a cold, rainy day. We ordered one crayfish (split between us), seafood chowder (which is not made with any dairy, just broth and tons of seafood chunks), and a local specialty called “paua,” or abalone.

P1010010 P1010011So far, the best meal we’ve had in NZ. We ended the meal with a trip to the coffee cart where ordered two “tall blacks” thinking that would give us a normal sized cup of coffee. We were wrong. A tall black is a double shot of expresso with a squirt of hot water poured into a tiny cup and served with a chocolate marshmallow fish (NZ’s most popular sweet).IMG_2355

Continuing on the 1 south, the radio stations became nonexistent. About the only channels that came in were all AM, and were all New Zealand Christian rock or worship music. All 3 channels. After we couldn’t take it anymore, we ended up buying an “American Anthems” 3 CD disc set from a gas station in some tiny town.Β A trulyΒ strange mix, but as it’s all we had, and looked better than any of the other weirdo cds. I imagine we’ll be listening to it quite a bit.

Our next stop was Christchurch – a very quaint town with an artsy college student vibe. Just like everyone says, it definitely feels very old-school European. We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the town by foot, hitting up the Canterbury museum and botanical gardens.

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Inside, they had an exhibit called “Paua House.” This was really confusing to me — it’s essentially a house lined with paua/abalone shells on the inside. I didn’t understand the significance until the docent told me (very nicely, of course) to watch the movie.

This house, originally located in Bluff, NZ, is significant because it is a piece of “Kiwicana,” Like flip flops, a buzzing bee toy, and their pavlova dessert, this house, and things made from abalone/paua are considered to be the kiwi version of Americana or American kitsch. Ok, NOW I get it.

According to the movie, Fred and Myrtle started hanging up the abalone shells on the walls of their house after Myrtle told Fred that she didn’t like his polished shells on the floor of their living room becuase it was hard to vacuum. Fred decided to nail the shells on the walls, covering pretty much every surface with shells. They called their living room the “power shell room” and opened their doors to the public in 1963, 7 days a week, 8 hrs a day. I guess these two were quite public figures/legends in NZ.

Afterward, we strolled around various exhibits in the museum. My favorite was similar to what we’d call a Main Street, USA exhibit, but this was called Streets of Christchurch, and allowed you to step back in time to visit old turn of the century storefronts built around a fake cobblestone street. It’s a bit Dickens fair, but I loved it.

IMG_2401IMG_2382 IMG_2383 IMG_2386 IMG_2395We hurried through the rest of the exhibits and rushed to the Christchurch cathedral for the 4:30 eveningsong sung by the boys choir. Along the way, we stopped to eat a hot dog…really, how can anyone resist a hot dog stand?IMG_2405

Christchurch cathedral occupies a cathedral square much in the traditional European fashion. It’s no longer the tallest building in the town, but it’s presence in the center of the plaza is quite impressive.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the inside because we were not allowed to take any during the service. Fortunately, I’m a sneaky viet and took a little bit of video of the boys choir singing.


The ceremony was beautiful, meditative, simple, and memorable. So far, my favorite experience on this trip. While I don’t consider myself to be religious, or at least tied to any church or religion, I love visiting old churches, and especially love when I get a chance to experience one as beautiful as this.

We hit up the fish and chips stand after the service, a decision we both regretted. After all the crap food we ate the past few days, we had originally vowed to only eat fresh foods — veggies, seafood, that kind of thing. That vow lasted all of one day when we were lured to the fast food carts in the cathedral square.


The fish and chips were average at best. I tried to feed most of mine to the seagulls and other birds that flew around my face, but even they didn’t want it. I’ve never seen Sly so unenthusiastic about fish and chips, but even he seemed nonplussed. Oh well, the search continues.

We made it up to ourselves by getting a REAL coffee at starbucks. Finally, a cup that is larger than a dixie cup with coffee that doesn’t taste like a chocolate milkshake or espresso with a drop of water. It was a very satisfying afternoon, sitting in the warm cafe, watching the rain drizzle, splitting a huge berry muffin.


We are now in Lake Tekapo at another HOliday park for the evening. We arrived late, and after staring at the closed reception desk in disbelief, the camp host (?) took pity on us and allowed us to sign in and get one of the last remaining spots.

This place is definitely more rustic than the Top Ten holiday park we stayed at last night, but has all the same amenities, with more of a gypsy camp vibe. So far, from what little we have seen of Lake Tekapo at night, the village and the area reminds of of Lake Tahoe. I guess we’ll see if that is still the case in the morning.

Another quiet night for us, holed up in our campervan while it continues to mist outside. We discovered two new appliances/conveniences in our camper — a desk lamp, and a heater — both that can be plugged in to our makeshift power, aka an extension cord. Sitting inside our well-lit campervan, sheltered from the elements, nice and toasty, is a little slice of heaven. Such a simple, but wonderful pleasure.

Some Kiwi curiosities:
– Salmon World
– Morbid signs on the side of the road that say things like “Live or Die. Drive on the left side of the road.” or a sign with a graveyard with one of the crosses marked in read with the caption, “Don’t let this be you.”
– On the contrary, we especially liked the “Revive your drive…free coffee up ahead” sign. Great idea.
– All the toilets here are extremely clean, even the dirtiest one was still cleaner than probably the cleanest gas station toilet in the US. I’m still confused though by the full flush vs. half flush button on the toilet.
– Parking is also cheap in the city. what a concept.
– As mentioned before, there is no such thing as an American cup of coffee–drip coffee in a normal sized cup. We will see if McDonalds has it tomorrow.
– Kiwis’ favorite American fast food places: Burger King, McDonalds, and Subway (I think we even saw a subway delivery truck…) KFC and Pizza hut are a little further behind.

Kiwi decoder guide:
M.O.F = car inspection (?)
paua = abalone
give way = yield
tall/short black = espresso with hot water in a tiny dixie cup. Don’t let the “tall” fool you, it still comes in a tiny cup. Like the size you get when you ask for a cup for water.
tall white = same as above but with milk
trim milk = skim milk
kiwiana = kiwi version of Americana / kitsch
Pavlova = meringue like pie with kiwi or other fruit on top that apparently the aussies and kiwis fight over in terms of which country was the first to come up with it
yeeeaaayaahhs = yes

correction to last post: pipi is actually a shellfish of some sort.I got confused when I saw a book with a whale on the cover at the whale place. It was called Pipi and something. I assumed that was the whale.


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  • bethany
    October 30, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Seriously, more travel and less food. I cannot read this thing without getting super hungry. Now I want lobster and a giant kraut dog.

    Glad you guys are having a great time. Happy one week anniversary.

  • jj
    October 30, 2010 at 5:41 am

    They have the half/full flush on the east coast especially at state and nationally owned parks/forests. Half flush for pee, full for no. 2. However, if you’re a girl, sometimes you have to use the full flush anyway bc of the TP.
    Looks like you are having fun exploring…maybe try some restaurants rather than just food trucks while in the cities? Looks like your weather is matching ours right now. I know our shoes do – I wore them to work yesterday for casual Friday πŸ™‚

  • risa
    October 30, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    The food pictures are making me hungry…. Glad to see you guys having fun! πŸ™‚

  • veronika
    November 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    We cooked *most* of the trip since food and going out (and pretty much everything), was pretty expensive, but towards the end of the trip, we did find some good oysters and fish and chips. Sly ended up making the best mussels too. You’d think that it would be simple enough to cook fresh, simple seafood, but they fry everything. annoying. and not as delicious as you’d think.

    we also ate about 50 bags of chips. bleh.