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Notes on the Geography of New Zealand: Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a town of 2,000 people who welcome or tolerate some 380,000 visitors annually. Most of the visitors are foreigners drawn for a night by the chance to see whales and seals.

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New Zealand: Kaikoura picture 1

We've been smart and avoided the fast, coastal road north from Christchurch. Instead, we're on the so-called Inland Kaikoura Road, which runs about 60 miles north from Culverden to Kaikoura. That's the Kaikoura Range in the distance. If you pass 10 cars in an hour, it's a busy day.

New Zealand: Kaikoura picture 2

There are very few barns. Call it a little mystery.

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Maybe you don't have to store feed for these critters?

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Or these. They're fallow deer, and they're a major crop here: New Zealand's the world's biggest source of farm-raised venison. Who knew?

New Zealand: Kaikoura picture 5

Possums are a big problem. They were introduced from Australia in 1837, and though their numbers are down by half since the 1980s there are still an estimated 30 million. Says an employee of the Animal Health Board: "...everybody hates possums." And here's what the doctor ordered.

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The Kaikoura Peninsula, seen from the north.

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A closer look. There's lots of seafood available here, including abalone.

New Zealand: Kaikoura picture 8

The Fyffe House, a remnant of a whaling station established in 1842. Back then, everybody wanted to kill sperm whales. The wing on the left housed the cooper, kept busy making barrels for whale oil. The house sits on a foundation of whale bone.

New Zealand: Kaikoura picture 9

No whales today: just some young seals playing near Ohau Point, 15 miles north of Kaikoura. You'd think they'd be nervous, since everything else running loose is or has been hunted, but they seem oblivious.

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