February 5, 2002 - Rain & Wind in Kaikoura

The decision to stay in Kaikoura another day was good one since it poured most of the day. It was sprinkling when I got up but rained steadily from about 9am. I have to decide by 7 whether or not I'm going top stay another night. I'm sure glad that I bought the rain gear; I certainly needed it to do my shopping in morning.

I'm glad for the break, as I've been pretty weary and I felt a little queasy stomach this morning, but I felt better when I went for the walk to get groceries. I hope that I'll feel better tomorrow. I haven't really been sleeping well and wake up pretty early each day.

The only caveat about the TopSpot is that it is the primary hostel in Kaikoura for the Kiwi Experience bus. Kiwi Experience is a bus company that does backpacker style tours around New Zealand. There is a bus every day and each bus goes only a single leg per day, with a leg being from one major attraction to the next. Riders can hop off a bus and stay or can contunue on the same bus the next day. When they stop for the day (usually early in the day), most riders stay at backpacker hostels.

Kiwi Experience Bus leaves every morning at 9:30 and a new one appears around noon. It gives the passengers a chance to do an activity in the afternoon as well as an early morning trip like a whale watch that leaves at 5:30am. It was rather boisterous last night, but it was all out on the back terrace, so I was able to retire without being bothered. I don't know what it will be like tonight, if the terrace is too cold and wet. I have to say that the glass and can recycling bins were overflowing with beer bottles and cans this morning.

The place clears out around 9-10, and the left fairly clean as everyone cleans up after themselves. Kat, the manager here, says that it depends a lot on the bus driver and the group, some groups are great and others are "wankers". Once everyone not staying over has left, Kat and two other women make sure everything in the kitchen is clean, empty out the refrigerator and food cupboards (they must never have to buy food, with all of the left behind, unopened stuff they take away).They scrub down all of the counters, appliances and sinks and wash the floors and vacuum all of the carpets as well as change all the beds. They keep they place quite clean.

Aside from the daily tide of Kiwi Experience riders, I'd recommend the place. It's clean and relatively comfortable, has lots of kitchen space (3 stoves, two sinks), a collection classic (but somewhat scratchy) albums, a great view, a TV room and free Internet access. It also has a pleasant and attentive manager.

The Particulars:

Beacuse of the Kiwi Experience Bus, reservations ahead of time are just about essential. I was able to stay only because of a cancellation.

I was in the kitchen, making lunch, when the day's bus showed up. What a zoo. The entire kitchen filled up with people with giant backpacks and bags of food. Among the collection of mostly twentysomethings, was a guy from Columbia, with his parents. I'm not sure who it must be tougher for, the parents, attached to this group of kids or the son, who has his parents in a group of folks his age.

In the afternoon I headed out and found the nearest ATM; technology comes through again. While I was in town, a couple came by on cycles with full touring gear. They definitely looked pretty bedraggled, making me even more glad of my decision to stay put. By the time I got back to the hostel, it was about time to make dinner. My pasta dish was pretty good for me, but I was just winging it--probably too little seasoning. It's amazing the range of dishes being cooked as various people came in and made their dinners. It seems that many on the bus are either traveling together or have coalesced into sub-groups for meal preparation.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is mixed, so I think that I will move on to Oaro, which is only about 25km away, but it is at the foot of the hills I have to cross. Hopefully, it will not be raining, since it's after 7 and I had to let the manager know if I wanted to stay another day. If I get to Oaro, the next step is only about 30km, all up hill (actually four big up hills with a couple little ones thrown in). In theory there are places to stay in Oaro and Hawkeswood Pass. I'll see.

Things were much quieter here this evening compared to last night. The rain & cold seems to be keeping people indoors and the music is not as loud, since it doesn't have to reach the terrace. The beverage of preference seems to be wine, rather than beer. Must be a different crowd. Either that or they're all out at local pubs.

I have been sitting in the kitchen writing and talking to the folks around me who are from Germany, Austria, England, South Africa, Canada and the US. The guy from the US used to work for Goldman Sachs and then at a medical web site start-up. He was probably in his late thirties. Actually, several of the men that I've spoken with tonight seem older than I expected. Everyone I've spoken with has been really friendly. When I sat down, I took out my reading glasses and one lens popped apart and the screw dropped out. Two of the guys helped me look for it for about 10 minutes. I eventually found it, thankfully. As the volume of talk in the room cranked up, the fellow from NY who had been traveling on the bus for the last three weeks said that one thing that you didn't get traveling on this type of bus is much quiet time.

Updated: 16 March 2002