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Full Circle

Day 146: Wellington to Kaikoura, S. Island

The Coastal Pacific, New Zealand 
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The Coastal Pacific, heading south to Kaikoura.
Michael Palin - Full CircleAt Picton we disembark and board a train grandly named the Coastal Pacific. It's little more than a tourist shuttle, three coaches running once a day on an old single track. We move on, heading toward the sea, passing distant vineyards, apple orchards, and dry, brown fields aching for rain.

Kaikoura Station is not much more than a wavebreak away from the Pacific Ocean. It calls itself, rather cookily, a Whaleway station, on account of the main attraction of the town. Two hundred thousand people a year come to Kaikoura to watch whales and the whales come to Kaikoura because the ocean here is special.

'It's globally unique,' says Wally Stone, a small dark-haired Maori who looks like a university professor and who started Whalewatch. 'Three deep trenches meet out there. They're like huge rivers that run under water. You've got a cold current coming up from Antarctica, meeting a warm one coming down from the Pacific, meeting a third from the west coast of America.'

They meet in a trough one mile off shore which is so deep that, as Wally puts it:

'You can take the biggest mountain around here, drop it in the water and you still wouldn't see it.'
Kaikoura, New Zealand 
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A sperm whale dives at Kaikoura.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 146
  • Country/sea: New Zealand
  • Place: Kaikoura
  • Book page no: 202

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