Our friends Jan and Doug have a holiday home on the East Coast of New Zealand at Kaikoura. So, on Monday 9 January, we drove "over the hill" to the coast. There was a serious earthquake in New Zealand in November and the highway near the cottage has been seriously damaged. We had to take the detour so the journey was 6 instead of 4 hours.

The holiday house is really nice. Doug is a very able tradesman and can fix almost anything. The location beside the ocean is spectacular. It's such a pleasure, and indeed privilege to be here. There's a steep hill behind the house and Doug has constructed a trail to the top. Amazing view. Incredible place.

Today is Jan's Birthday. So we went into Kaikoura for lunch and a look around town. Happy Birthday Jan - Many happy returns. It's a very nice little town. We could live here. The weather is mild and pleasant for most of the year. I understand that it's a little warmer all year round than England. Houses are nice and much less expensive than property in England.

The earthquake here in November has done a lot of damage to property and infrastructure. The land has risen 2m and that's very apparent as sea level seems to have dropped by 2m. There's a lot of work going on around the harbours to deal with the consequences. We visited a restaurant which is owned by friends of Doug and Jan. The place is closed to the public indefinitely. That building will need very considerable structure modification. I guess it will take several years to agree on how to fix the building and how the work is to be financed. A worrying time for the owners. There East Coast Railway is severally damaged by rocken rocks. Tunnels have been blocked. Lots of work being carried out on the road. I'm sure the locals have plenty to say about the speed of the work, however I was impressed to see the extent of the efforts to deal with the situation.

It's really great to be here. New Zealand is a beautiful country. Alison and I are really impressed. We're also very happy with the hospitality that has been extended to us by Jan and Doug. We hope they'll come to visit us soon in England and we can return their generosity. We've no spent 8 or our 16 days in New Zealand. I'll be sad to leave this beautiful country. We'll be back.

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