First regular post-quake bus service pulls into Kaikoura
The return of regular bus services to Kaikoura on Thursday is another boost for the tourism-dependent town.
A mini-bus run by InterCity brought nine people into Kaikoura on Thursday morning, all of them tourists. Another seven people were booked for the trip back in the afternoon.
It is the first regularly scheduled bus service into the town since the November 14 quakes caused extensive damage to all of the roads in.
Whale watching and dolphins were on the mind of Swiss tourists Leonie Happle and Sofie Biedermann, both in their 20s, who were first off the bus.
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Biedermann said the ride up "was just a normal trip" and they weren't impacted by the slips or roadworks.
The cousins, who were planning to stay for three nights, didn't think they would be able to visit Kaikoura on their travels.
"We planned to rent a car but we were a little bit too late and there weren't any cars left and we thought 'OK, yeah, maybe we can't go to Kaikoura'," said Happle.
Then a family friend in Nelson told the pair the service was starting up, so they bussed to Christchurch to catch it.
For Happle, it is the end of her time in New Zealand as she flies to Australia on January 17, and was really happy to be able to get to Kaikoura.
InterCity Group general manager Sam Peate said prior to the quake there was a lot of demand for people who wanted to travel to Kaikoura specifically, so it was "great to put that back on the table".
He said they were "delighted with the response" since the service was announced on Monday, and expected numbers to improve "as the service becomes more well known and we get a bit more time under our belts". People had already booked on the service for November this year, he said.
Peate said there was no concern the service would sell out as they could adjust the size of the bus going or put on a second one at short notice.
"We'd love to get to a situation where we can operate two buses a day, which is what we were doing before the quake struck."
Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby said the service returning "means a lot to the region" and had local tourism operators very excited.
He said the town tended to get a lot of "free independent travellers" (a term in the tourism industry for people travelling with a self-booked itinerary) through InterCity, and it was good they had another avenue to get there.
The bus will leave Christchurch daily at 7am to arrive at Kaikoura about 9.40am. The return trip leaves Kaikoura at 3.50pm to reach Christchurch about 6.25pm.