April 7, 2011 Comments Off on Moeraki

336 km

We had breakfast at this classy-looking little place which apparently had good reason for being completely empty. We were welcomed vociferously by the waiter or owner or whatever he was, and, although we were planning to get lunch at a fancy seafood place up the coast, we ended up ordering breakfast here. It took forever for anything to happen; Simon went out to feed the meter (that is, the NZ equivalent), and finally the food came…but it wasn’t what either of us had ordered. We had both wanted eggs on toast, but I got fancy poached eggs on English muffin with hollandaise sauce, and Simon got French toast. It was after the food came that I stopped being pissed off and started to see the entire situation as extremely funny. When Simon came through the door and slowed to a stop, staring suspiciously at his plate, I began giggling helplessly. The food wasn’t even good—the hollandaise sauce made me slightly sick: too rich too early, I think. We bolted it and left in high dudgeon.

Sidebar, ladies and gentlemen: There’s a neighborhood in Madison called Dudgeon and I think it’s really funny. I make jokes about high dudgeon every time we pass the sign for it, and Simon has never hear the phrase before so he never gets it. That is all.

We drove up the coast to Moeraki, where the supposedly fantastic seafood restaurant is, and made a reservation for 1:30, when we hoped the bad breakfast would be out of our system. In the meantime (because Moeraki really wasn’t that far away), we walked along the beach to the famous Moeraki Boulders, collecting (in my case) iridescent snail shells. Incidentally, no one reprimanded me for bringing them through airport security or customs, so I assume it was legal, but all the same, maybe it would be better if no one ratted me out to the Kiwis.

Me in a hollowed-out concretion.

The Moeraki Boulders are huge spherical septarian concretions, which Simon describes (rightly) as geological pearls. They form in loose sediment, as the water percolating through around them begins to deposit crystals

Simon and the septarian concretions. (This is the name of my new band I just made up.)

that nucleate around some imperfection. Layer upon layer is added until they are, in some cases, very very big. There were some in Dinosaur National Monument that were fifteen feet across—supposedly, although I never saw them. The Moeraki ones were up to a couple meters across, still very big, and what happens to these concretions is that eventually they shrink slightly, and crack, and pure crystals (as opposed to crystals cementing together rock grains) begin to form in the cracks. In this case, there was a network of calcite planes dissecting the concretions, and sometimes the whole rest of the boulder would be eroded away, leaving only this faceted little boulder covered in calcite. It was all very interesting. Many of them had hollow centers, and some of them formed tide pools. It was way cool. And the beach was great—too cold to do anything but bundle up and bird-watch, though.

Then we had our fancy lunch at Fleur’s Place in Moeraki, which was a pretty fantastic resto, although it did cause me to decide that I don’t really love shellfish, in general. I got the “shellfish hot pot,” in the spirit of “quick! we’re in New Zealand! get seafood while you can!” It was clams, mussels, scallops (Maybe? The waitress called them cockles, I have no idea what they are in American. Maybe cockles.), fish, and snails (!) cooked with purple potatoes in a saffron broth. It was good, as shellfish goes, but everything was too salty and there’s just too much going on inside a bivalve’s body for me to be okay with chewing it. Organs and beard roots and I don’t know what-all. I didn’t care for it, in the end, but I could tell it was good. And for dessert…excuse me while I pass out at the memory. Simon got apricot walnut crumble with vanilla mascarpone cream, and I got sticky gingerbread pudding with toffee mascarpone cream and praline sauce. It was every bit as decadent and delicious and amazing as it sounds. Oh, god.

Instant food coma ensued. Simon passed out, but I was happy just to sit, and was awake enough to drive. We got all the way to outside Christchurch, and stayed just outside it, not sure what we’d find in the city proper. It didn’t look like there was much to do around Christchurch even when the city hadn’t recently been half-destroyed, and we pretty much decided to swing through town and be disgusting ghoulish disaster tourists and then continue north. We had a nice quiet night in another family apartment (less big and less creepy, this time), watching movies on TV and ordering Domino’s. That was kind of an experience, pretty complicated, in the end. Maybe this is only funny to me, but this is for your enjoyment in case you have the same sense of humor:

ME: Hi, I’d like to order a pizza for delivery, please.

DOMINO’S: All right, what’s your phone number?

ME: Well, I’m calling from a motel. Would you like that number?

DOMINO’S (in a tone of near panic): Which motel?

ME: Uh…Blue Gum?

DOMINO’S: Hang on, I’ve gotta get someone who knows that hotel.


DOMINO’S: Hello?

ME: Hi, I’d like to order a pizza for delivery to the Blue Gum Motel.

DOMINO’S: Oh, sure, I know that place. What would you like?

ME: I’d like a medium Godfather pizza.

DOMINO’S: We only have one size.

ME: Oh. Then I’d like a Godfather pizza.

DOMINO’S: We don’t deliver just one pizza.

ME: You don’t?

DOMINO’S: Would you like to order a side or something?

ME: Um…yeah, I guess I’ll have to call you back in a minute.

DOMINO’S: No, no, no, hang on, hang on! If you order a soda, that’s enough.

ME: Oh…okay. Pepsi?

DOMINO’S: We have a two-for-one deal. If you order one, you get another free.

ME: Okay, well…I only want one.

DOMINO’S: I’ll just give you two.

ME: …Okay.

DOMINO’S: What’s your name?

ME: Natalie.

DOMINO’S: Okay, is that N-A-D-L-I?

ME: …Sure.

It was a weird call. Like I said, I think it’s really funny. And that’s how we ended up with two two-liter bottles of Pepsi Max. They rolled around in the backseat for days, until a couple occasions where we were tired and wanted a little pick-me-up. In the end, most of both of them went in the trash. Ah, well. At least one of them was free.


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