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Ōtautahi! (Christchurch in Maori)

We LOVED the tramway dinner that we enjoyed last night during the tour of Christchurch as we learned about the city and the energy of exploration within it's communities.

Christchurch lies within the province of Canterbury and is surrounded by nature, both within the active city and in the rugged landscapes just beyond the city center. The spirit of the Canterbury-Christchurch region is one of exploration, and we can see why. As far as the eye can see is a diverse array of landscapes, coastlines, and spectacular mountains with an equally plentiful array of activities available.

Today, we made our way from Christchurch to the Waipara Valley, the home of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, a short drive back north along the coast. We arrive at the Greystone Winery where we enjoy a tour, tasting and lunch (with plenty of the above mentioned wines to enjoy with the meal!

With so much left to do in the afternnoon we leave Greystone directly after lunch because we still have Church of the Good Shepherd, Mackenzie Country Basin and Stargazing at Mount John Observatory! We can't decide which of these activities is more exciting to the group, but the stargazing will definitely be the cherry on top!

Okay, The Church of Good Shepherd first, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK, you will encounter (as we did) an amazing view, although our view was an afternoon partly sunny day, you can see this beautiful tiny church in all it's glory on their website. The church was built and opened in 1935 as the only place to worship in Lake Tekapo and continues as a place of worship for the local community. The Church was built to incorporate the rugged terrain and left it undisturbed, you can find the matagouri bushes and large rocks surrounding the church everywhere. The materials (mostly stones) used for the construction of the church are from within a five miles radius of the site, and laid out in their natural condition. The original roof was of wooden shingles, but had to be replaced with the present slates in 1957. But the best par of this experience we had during our visit was feeling the energy of this area, and its surrounding beauty. The wind, the smell of the lake, the foliage, the cool stones, and the small humble church, all combined to leave us with full hearts.

We reluctantly leave this area to find Mackenzie Country Basin, this 60 mile long, 25 mile wide basin is named after a sheep thief who settled here in this remote and barren land during the mid-1800's James MacKenzie, apparently he gathered his flocks and led them to this area where he made a business out of the wool. The entire region that Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook National Park, along with many other natural attractions sit within MacKenzie Country. Again, I know it's a broken record at this point but the views all around us are AMAZING!

What a great way to finish a great day, we find ourselves relaxing under the stars in the beauty of the natural world here in MacKenzie Country. We can't tell you how many planets, stars or shooting stars, for that matter, that we counted, there are too many to mention. All I can say is that we were flooded with awe, amazement and love for the universe. Sleep well travelers, I know that you will after this day!

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Rikohia o peke! Yes! Pack those bags! We are heading out of Marlborough, and stopping along the way, so get your hats, bags, and wine and let's boogie south.

We pack up and head to the bus, little teary eyed travelers that are the mixed with the excitement for the new adventure. Here comes Kaikoura and then Christchurch for the evening. The bus is fun today, after wiping away the tears everyone perks up when Carol and Al open the bubbles. Suddenly there's chatter, laughter and excitement for the upcoming whale watching in Kaikoura! Thank you AL and CAROL!!! You saved the bus and the tears from streaming and shared the much loved bubbles that we found in Martinborough (North Island).

We are headed to the whales, and hoping with fingers crossed (toes too) that we find some of them waiting for us! It's so beautiful along this coastal drive that it really doesn't matter, we are in a memorized-meditative state as we stare and croon over the beauty. The west coastline where we are traveling is so amazing and filled with new growth since the earthquake in February 2011. And now we are traveling on new roads and highways, built since 2018 when they finally finished and we are enjoying the smooth and rapid travel via our awesome bus driver, Trevor. He's a youngster and we've had him as our driver since the South Island arrival 3 days ago. We love him already and we will enjoy his company for the remainder of the tour.

Kaikoura! WOW, we encounter an array and abundance of wildlife, seals, seabirds, (albatross in particular) are just some of the sea creatures that we gaze upon as we travel. But the sperm whale population is what Kaikoura is known for, and we're hoping to encounter several of them as well as the famous dolphin colonies.

The legend of the name is explained to us by our guide for the area, the story goes... Tama ki Te Rangi arrived in the area many hundreds of years ago and was tired and hungry. He found an abundance of crayfish and named the area “Te Ahi Kaikoura a Tama ki Te Rangi” – the fire that cooked the crayfish of Tama ki Te Rangi.

We stroll down the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway as it winds from the town center to spectacular views and lookouts at Point Kean where rock platforms are home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals. We come upon the Fyffe House, a small pink house built in the 1800s on a foundation of whalebones. The Fyffe House is all that is left of the once-thriving Waiopuka whaling station that was erected in 1844.

We make our way to the boat that will cruise us through these intense waters, and all we can say is YES, YES, YES!!! We see our whale, once we ventured towards open water the boat veered starboard side and found two whales spouting and diving in and out of the crystal clear blue-green sea. It was 2 extremely graceful humpback whales who apparently leave the cool Antarctic waters and head north to the warmer tropical waters, stopping off in Kaikoura for a rest before continuing on their long journey. At least that's what we were told. It's so magical to see these sea mammals and their power and grace combined.

We carried on toward Christchurch after a quick lunch in Kaikoura, bellied filled, heart too, it left us sleepy and meditative, so many travelers napped while finishing our drive south. And what a drive it is, another 2 1/2 hours gets us close, but by the time we arrive at the hotel and check in it's almost dark outside.

Distinction Christchurch Hotel is, fortunately, spacious and comfortable, and we are happy to have a rest from the bus and the travel here. The hotel sits close to a cocktail bar, and alongside Latimer Square and near the Avon River. We already love this city, it's very colorful but with that European touch too. But more on this tomorrow as we are tired, hungry... again, and ready for our dreams to be of whales, dolphins, mountains and seascapes. Sleep with beauty and peace-filled moments and wake with a smile every day. Good night my travelers and friends, see you tomorrow.

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Kia akameitakiia kotou! Thank you, thank you, thank you Marlborough and New Zealand!

It's so great to be here for another day, this is an exciting area that has.a strong mix of sea activities, farming, vineyards, and small town charm. We enjoy a relaxing day that includes time kayaking (if that's your desire and it was for several travelers), biking, scooter-ing, laughing, swimming, hiking and lounging. So many of us are ACTIVE! Yay, that means MORE food and MORE wine without guilt! Jonelle is having her nails done, and spending time pampering, but is constantly on call for those pesky questions from all of us about WhatsApp, Wifi, Data, and anything related to internet or social messaging. She's the youngest and smartest/up to date with information technology. Thank you Jonelle, we adore you and your charming personality.

We have some travelers visiting Cloudy Bay Vineyards here in Marlborough, and others opt to keep to their activity, but most of us end up there after lunch and taste through their wines. Cloudy Bay is known to be one of the most famous wineries in Marlborough. They were among the first to plant vines here and after producing wines from 1985 through present day, they still remain among the best in this region.

Our travelers are the perfect group, everyone is so easy going, fun, and connecting with each other in friendship, meals, activities and bus discussions. Speaking of the bus, it's very active and fun on it's own, bubbles come out most days by 10am, and chocolates, cookies, chips and cheese are among some of the sharing that goes on, everything is Hangi-this or Hangi-that, whether it truly is Hangi no one knows for sure. We had another beautiful day, mixed with clouds, a sprinkle in the morning but everything turned out sunny and warm by afternoon. Our mornings are generally cool, as are the nights here, but our daytime hours warm up to about 65 or 70.

This evening we are happy to have dinner together since everyone is looking to catch up with details about their day. We all loved the Asian-influenced meal, and recognized the cultural impact that Asia has on these islands, not just in the cuisine but we all recognize the mix that happens with all New Zealanders. Our conversation came to understand that the ethnic communities within New Zealand manage to maintain parts of their own cultures, and yet are mixed among other populations and seem to become popular with the overall population. These cultures seem to mix well into the general culture of the country.

Again the stars, the midnight sky, the cool night air, the stroll back to our rooms at the hotel and the conversations all add so much to this night, this tour and our enjoyment and appreciation for life. Grateful and with full bellies and warm hearts we slip into our dreamland and drift on a cloudy bay to sleep.

Good night dear travelers, good night Marlborough and good night until tomorrow!

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