Two weekends ago DeathCar2000 went to Kaikoura, about 180km north of Christchurch. Here, the mountainous landscape drops away sharply into the sea to a depth of over 80m, and then plummets to around 800m... the deep waters and merging of cool and warm currents results in all kinds of very edible sea life splashing about quite close to the shore. Sea food features heavily on just about every menu in town, with most places noisily advertising crayfish meals. Crayfish meal = facehugger & chips.
Not all of the sea life is there for the express purpose of being eaten; these lazy bastard seals were hanging out at the peninsula on the first day that we got to Kaikoura. They apparently do this quite a lot, as there were signs all about warning that if you get too close they'll eat your face to pieces.
Most of Kaikoura's history is tied up with whales. The oldest (and pinkest) surviving building in Kaikoura is Fyffe house, built in 1842 by Scottish whaler Robert Fyfe.
Whales were apparently in far greater supply than building materials in the 1840s, as the house is built on foundations of whale vertebrae. After many successful years of hunting whales Robert Fyfe started to go a bit mad, and wound up dead after bimbling off into the sea. The house was passed on to a relative whose name I forget; and she in turn sold it on for a huge sum of money to another relative, George Fyffe, who had long wanted to get on this lucrative whaling malarkey. Unfortunately for him the arse had fallen out of the whaling market a few years previously, and he was left completely bankrupted. Meanwhile the rest of the population of Kaikoura, being a bunch hard-drinkin', shit-kickin', whale-huntin' badasses, found themselves with no whale-huntin' to do; and so stuck to the hard-drinkin' and shit-kickin' instead. Kaikoura descended into wild lawlessness, until the arrival of Joseph Goodall who in 1867 bought Fyffe House, took up the post of district constable and restored law and order with little more than a pistol and a pair of handcuffs. What a hero.
Whales are still an important part of the local economy in Kaikoura; although these days it's less about rendering blubber and more about whale-watching. There are many different ways to see whales in Kaikoura; you can get in a light aircraft, board a ship, go for a helicopter ride, hire a sea kayak... the whale-watching option we took was to cane a six-pack in the hostel, and then spot a whale just 100m or so out from the shore as we stumbled off in search of a pub. Huzzah! This called for many celebratory drinkums.
The next day we stepped out blinking and bleary-eyed into hideous, glorious sunshine. With the whale-watching box ticked (sort of), the only thing left to do in Kaikoura was to find a mountain and climb it. It's not difficult to find mountains, since the only thing big enough for them to hide behind is other mountains; and our task was made easier by the fact that Mt Fyffe was clearly visible from the front door of the shitbox hostel.
Mt Fyffe, you're going down. Or we're going up. Either way, a relative translation of position is going to occur.
The walking route up Mt Fyffe isn't especially difficult to follow, as it's a 4x4 track - not that we saw anyone driving on it. It was a pretty steep gradient, and my legs were more than a little hurty the following day... I experienced a good few pangs of vertigo here and there too, particularly on the bits where the track was on the very spine of the hill and the world just dropped away to either side. Eek.
We kept going until we reached the hut, 1100m up; I figured that was probably far enough. We'd ascended high enough that we were into the clouds (the same ones obscuring the top of the mountain in that photo of the harbour), and there was snow everywhere; and although it would have only taken another hour and a half to reach the summit (another 500m up), it would have made for an even longer walk back; and it's not like we'd have got a view of anything other clouds from up there anyway.
The next day we were back in Christchurch, and in the evening took the short trip to New Brighton beach to watch stuff explode in celebration of the capture and torture of either a fierce revolutionary, or a dastardly terrorist (depending on how many Che Guevara t-shirts you own/how catholic you are). It was free; which is good because it means it didn't cost us anything. It's almost as though the organisers have realised the folly of charging people to see something that is happening in the sky and is visible for miles around. Despite being free, it was a very fine display indeed; the fireworks were set of along the length of the pier, which is like an actual pier as opposed to the amusement-arcade-suspended-over-water that we're more used to. On the whole it was well worth dealing with crowds of people and getting pocketses filled with sand for.
Sinister foreign confectionery this week was a Cherry Ripe.
It's kind of cheating, since I've had them before; so although it was still quite foreign, it wasn't too sinister. I quite like Cherry Ripes, but I'm not convinced that I'd ever bother with them if they were generally available; finding bits of coconut stuck in my teeth half a day later is too irritating for there to be any chance of Cherry Ripe finding it's way into my top three.