Deb and Sea Lions

April 8, 2011 Comments Off on Deb and Sea Lions

198 km

It turns out there wasn’t a lot to see in Christchurch, even as disgusting ghoulish disaster tourists. The entire downtown was closed and impassible. A couple buildings were destroyed, but very neatly; it just looked like a construction site, and I guess they might have been knocked down after being badly damaged and deemed beyond repair. The worst thing we saw was a tall pink building in the middle of downtown with a big vertical crack running up the middle of it, and the left side was probably five feet lower than the other. In fact, I hypothesize that that’s the reason much of downtown is closed: in case it falls down. I don’t know how you’d even begin to repair a building like that. I wonder if they’ll try.

It was a non-descript drive to Kaikoura, which is supposedly the sea-life mecca of New Zealand; they offer whale-watching, swimming with dolphins, swimming with seals (?), and so on. As it turned out, none of it really appealed to us. Besides, the town wasn’t really a town, it was just a collection of restaurants and hotels that sprang up in response to tourism. Aside from the main drag, it was kind of a pathetic little hamlet. We checked into a motel managed by the loquacious busybody Deb, who talked our ears off about what there was to do around here and where are we going tomorrow? What are we going to do and see then? I know where you should go. Here are some pamphlets. Well, in the meantime, here are some good restaurants. She was very nice and much of it was helpful, but we both felt a little windswept by the time we finally checked into our room. It was an extremely nice little studio, with the usual kitchenette and the feature we’d gotten used to by now: a glass front wall with a sliding door and thick curtains. It had a nautical theme, complete with a knots display on the wall and a ship-related print on the comforter, and the whole room was sort of tucked away in the labyrinthine meanders of the long driveway. Nice!

We decided to do the Peninsula Walkway, even though it was a little late and we were worried about having enough light. It had a couple tiring climbs on it (it was a clifftop walk, after all), but it was well worth it. It was extremely windy! Like I said, more wind in NZ than ever before in my life. It was bright sunny but very hazy, which was a shame because there is a huge mountain range right behind the town and it looked panoramically photogenic. Simon was very disappointed by the haze, poor guy. Down at sea level, on the rocks, were a couple seal colonies. They were too far down to see clearly, and you could walk down to one, although we opted not to because of time concerns. At the very end of the walk, as you were coming down off the cliff, there was a rocky beach with a bunch of sleepy sea lions on it. As we were coming down the path, we saw a hugebull sea lion coming ashore. “We’ve got to get down there!” Simon cried frenetically, and we trotted down to try to see the big guy from closer up. Not super close, though; when we got down there, a woman was standing directly in his path, maybe fifteen feet from him (well under the prescribed 20m), taking endless pictures. We watched, half fearing and half hoping she’d be attacked—it would serve her right, the moron. The sea lion was clearly impatient, but she didn’t budge until he charged her. It wasn’t an attack charge, it was more like “bitch get out of my way,” which she finally did, and he vanished into the grass.

That one on top of the rock looks uncomfortable.

Sea lions were sleeping everywhere; in fact, you really had to watch where you were going because some of them were sleeping in the grass and under bushes and if you weren’t paying attention you might step on one. They look so very soft! I think I wanted to pet one so badly because I was missing YT (boy, am I over that, after several days of her following me around) and their fur looked just like her thick winter coat, the way it is when you can really dig your fingers into it and feel the warmth at the bottom.

There was another colony around the corner of the peninsula, but the tide was just coming in, and you couldn’t get to it. It was a vast expanse of exposed rock, almost flat, and the speed with which the tide literally rolled up over it was impressive and alarming. We decided not to push our luck, and began the walk back along the roads to the hotel. My feet were quite tired, and I had a bad flashback to Munich when we rounded a corner and our car wasn’t there—it turned out it wasn’t around that bend, but the next, which was a relief. One vacation towing is plenty for me.

We got back to the room and were beginning to remove clothing the way you do when you’re exhausted: boots and socks first, maybe unbuttoning a fly here, tossing off a sweater there, you know, like you do. And suddenly there was a knock on our glass door, and there was Deb, waving happily at us. She wanted to know if we were going out to dinner and where, so she could figure out whether to leave the lights on, which, in my book, sounded like a lousy excuse to come talk and maybe see if your guests were taking their clothes off or anything. I was miffed. We got rid of her, I went to the bathroom, and shortly I heard another knock and Simon called, “She’s back!” I don’t know what she wanted that time. It was all very awkward.

But it was all okay, because we went out to the Green Dolphin, and boy did we do it up right. We started with martinis and the famous New Zealand green-lipped mussels (which are huge and delicious), and moved on to fancy dinners with wine—Simon got lamb rump, which was once again a victory—and finished with port for Simon and affogato with Frangelico for me (that one’s for you, Chris, Rachael, Karen, & Co.). It was very decadent and satisfying, and Deb had gone to bed by the time we got back. Whew.

[back-posted]

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