Our first destination on the South Island was the coastal town of Kaikoura, located on the East Coast. Kaikoura is a unique town where tourism equates to much of their livelihood. Due to factors such as the sea floor topography, currents (ocean, wind), latitude, nutrients, and upwelling, the waters surrounding Kaikoura bring a variety of marine mammals, such as dolphins & whales, and seabirds, like albatross, to the area. While here, we stayed on the local marae, a traditional Maori meeting house. Previously, we had been to a marae near campus, but this would be the first time we were going to sleep at one. You can’t simply walk on to a marae. You must go through the powhiri, which is the equivalent of a welcoming. There are speeches and songs and then we “hongi” with the people welcoming us. Here is an example of the hongi:

At the marae, we all slept in the main room, called the wharenui. It was so beautifully decorated and painted, all the weavings and art telling Maori ancestral stories. We all spread our sleeping bags out on individual mattresses, lined up like sardines, even our field leaders. It was a lot of fun, especially story time and laughing before lights-out.


photo cred: paul wanzek

photo cred: paul wanzek

We stayed here for 5 days and 4 nights. Our theme for the week was ecotourism and assessing its validity. We used Kaikoura as an example as $28 billion is brought there through tourists each year. The entire stay at the marae was enjoyed by everyone. We felt completely welcome and at home. It was really tough to leave. The weather was beautiful and it was hard to get back in those vans knowing we had a 6+ hour drive ahead of us.


sunrise at kaikoura

We headed over the mountains and to the West Coast. We drove to the ocean that night and stayed at Greymouth, a somewhat dismal town that relies mainly on the mining industry. It’s often compared to Appalachia in the States, but it is not quite to that scale. The next day we headed to the town of Reefton and visited a little area called Waiuta, an abandoned coal mining town.


After Waiuta, we headed down the mountain to Reffton and the Black Points museum. We met Billy who showed us how the gold used to be processed. It was a pretty simple system that effectively got the job done by constantly slamming down on the rock. After this visit we were on our way to Nelson Lakes National Park for a couple nights’ stay.

More pictures & stories coming soon!