"" Writer's Wanderings: New Zealand Diary - Kaikoura

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Zealand Diary - Kaikoura

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Maori culture is having a great influence on New Zealand. They were the original settlers of the islands and were there when the Europeans came. Many of the names of towns and cities are being changed to reflect that. We have learned that Wai at the beginning of a name has to do with water or the sea. Kai at the beginning has to do with eating or food. Kaikoura means something about eating crayfish which look very much like lobster to me.

The clouds have hidden the sun this morning as I eagerly glance through a crack in the drapes to see if the snow is glimmering on top of the New Zealand alps. It isn’t. I fix breakfast while Bob is shaving and getting dressed. Our plunger coffee is tasting really good. I may have to buy one of these gizmos for home.
About nine we head for one of the parking lots along the coastal trail that is a huge loop around Kaikoura. There is a long walk between the two parking lots which we plan to walk. The whole loop takes about three hours but we’re not sure we want to dedicate ourselves to that much walking.

As we round a bend just before the parking lot, we see seals playing in a pool of water next to the road. When we park and start to walk back, our path is blocked by a large seal who doesn’t appreciate being disturbed when Bob moves a little closer for a better shot with his Go Pro. For a moment I wonder if the seal is going to charge. I ready my camera just in case. After all, I can’t really help Bob run any faster if the seal decides to go after him. I might as well get the shot.

After watching some of the seals in this colony we find the entrance to the trail and begin a climb up. We didn’t realize the coastal walk was going to be high on the hillside and not actually on the beach area. The beach area would be tough to walk as it is mostly large rocks rather than sandy or pebbled beach.

Once we get to the top and catch our breath, the walk is very pleasant. The trail is grass covered which muffles our footsteps and allows us to listen to the sweet melodic bird songs. I don’t know when I’ve ever heard birds that actually sing so much. Our birds back home chirp happily but these NZ birds seem to sing.

Along the way, there are several places which interpret what you are seeing and there are very nice benches to sit and rest and enjoy the view. At Whaler’s Bay, we sit for a while and watch two boats that are obviously looking for whales. They seem to find something to look at but we don’t see any spouts, the usual sign that there are whales about. After our trips to Maui to see the whales, we find it’s not worth it for us to go on other whale expeditions—especially when you probably won’t see many whales. Maui has spoiled us with its January/February whale population.

A couple more seal colonies are below us along the way. A charming little yellowish bird poses for us. I think it might be a type of finch since it flies like our finches back home. We stop again and just take in the peace and quiet and watch the sea gulls soar.

We reach our goal, the other parking lot, but by that time we figure we are about half way around the loop and it would take us just as long to go back as to go forward. Plus, our motel is along the route and we could stop and have lunch and then finish the walk to the car. There is only one problem with that. Bob left the key to our room in the car so he wouldn’t lose it. Undaunted we forge on figuring our host will let us into our room when we get there.

We walk through the back part of Kaikoura following the Maori symbol on poles along the way. We hope to find a place to have a cup of tea and rest a bit but this part of town has nothing to offer unless a resident takes pity on us and invites us in.

The path leads between several homes and then toward another hill to climb. Unfortunately there is water draining from the hill and the path is a muddy stream. Bob makes it through that section relatively unscathed but I end up slipping and getting my Tevo sandals covered in sticky mud. We reach an area of dense pine trees. The floor of the forest is carpeted in pine needles. A small clear stream invites me to wash off my sandals. I dip my feet into the chilly water and do the best I can to wash off the mud. I’m a little squishy when I’m done but the good thing about my Tevos is that besides being good for walking, they dry quickly and can take the wet.

A plateau of grassy pasture and a narrow trail down the other side direct us back to the main street of Kaikoura. The trail or track, as the Kiwis say, is dedicated to Thomas Brent Smith, 38, who drowned when trying to save a whale back in 2003. A humpback was caught in a craypot line. (Craypots are lobster traps. The crayfish here are actually what we call lobsters.) Smith, who had some training in rescuing whales from such instances, donned a wet suit and dive gear and went out to the whale to cut it loose. A nearby whale watchers boat videoed the whole thing. The tail of the whale began thrashing and hit Smith on the head. The article I read about the inquest assumed he drowned and at the time of the article, the body had not been found.

Our legs, mostly knees, are protesting and ready for a stop. When we reach the motel the lady at the desk assures us that it’s not the first time someone has left the key in the car and done what we’ve done. I make coffee and sandwiches as Bob graciously takes my sandals to the hose outside and scrubs them off.
Lunch, a short rest, and we are trekking again. This time, only about twenty minutes to the car. The seals are all off sunning themselves on the exposed rocks from the tide going out. As we drive back, we find another road that leads to a lookout with several nice benches where we can sit and enjoy the view. We agree it would be a great place to have our evening coffee and Tim Tams. It’s a plan. With that in mind, we go off to take advantage of the guest laundry. My sandals weren’t the only thing that got muddy this morning.

After a good dinner at a place call The Whaler (a pub with great food), we find ourselves back at the lookout. Unfortunately the clouds have moved in again only this time they are even heavier and a lot darker. It’s still nice to sit with our coffee and dessert but when we’ve finished and feel the first raindrops, we decide to take cover. Maybe in the morning I’ll have another shot at taking a picture of early sun on the snow-capped mountains. 

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