Tuesday 15 November 2016

Black and silver

No news is good news. No, really: all news is bad news, isn't it? Especially this year. It's got so that opening the paper or sitting down to the evening TV bulletin is an exercise in self-punishment. Feeling cheerful? Here, look at this, and watch all the colour drain from your world. Which all makes the idea behind this blog (see upper right) something of a curse: when somewhere pops up for me to make a connection with, it seems it'll damn near always be because of a disaster of some sort. I could almost feel like a sort of Typhoid Mary, if it weren't for the fact that awful things also happen on a regular basis in places with which I haven't even the most tenuous connection.

So, anyway. The latest place to (reluctantly) feature in this increasingly intermittent blog is Kaikoura, currently all over the news here (and even overseas, briefly) because of the 7.5 earthquake that occurred near there just after midnight yesterday. It's a town on the east coast of the South Island, perched between the mountains and the sea, famous for whales and crayfish, and a reliably rewarding stop on the tourist trail. That's why I was there in February, escorting English visitors around the country, though of course I'd been there often before, most recently to do a Mazda 3 review for the company's Zoom-Zoom magazine (which I wrote with such convincing enthusiasm that I subsequently bought one of the cars myself).
On that trip the photographer (Dean MacKenzie - pic above) and I stayed at Hapuku Lodge, a high-end hotel which features five 'tree houses': lovely wood, glass and metal suites perched on 6m high stilts above a stand of manuka trees, with views of both sea and snow-capped mountains, and sumptuously cosy on a chilly spring night, each with a log-burner glowing by the window. Stilts, though? Not such a good partner for a 7.5 [later upgraded to 7.8] that lasted two minutes, I'm thinking. I wonder how that went?
Anyway, the February trip being self-funding, we stayed in a very ordinary motel just outside the town. That was where, being stuck with boring people who don't understand how things are meant to work, I ate my share of our obligatory freshly-cooked crayfish from Nin's Bin. What we should have done was to sit by that classic caravan (pre-dating the food truck phenomenon by many, many years) just metres from the sea, with gulls swooping overhead, the deep blue sea breaking white on the black rocks, and the air clean and clear all the way to Antarctica. That's how you eat crayfish in Kaikoura.

The tsunami threat didn't eventuate, thankfully, but Nin's Bin is probably now somewhat further from the sea than it was, since the sea-bed seems to have lifted up, to the inevitable doom of many fish caught caught by surprise and left flapping in the sunshine. They're not the only creatures to have been stranded: currently, I'm waiting to hear the end of the story of the three Hereford cattle left stuck on a tiny island of paddock high above what's left of the rest of their pasture, cracked and sunken metres below. [UPDATED pic below]
The most astonishing sights, though, are of the road and railway tracks, which squeeze along the edge of the coast, sometimes having to burrow through cliffs, both north and south of the town. Huge landslips have left tonnes of debris over this route - State Highway 1, people - that are going to take months to clear, if they can be cleared at all. They might have to look for an alternative route, though that won't be an easy job either. The Kaikouras are a proper mountain range. [RNZ pic]
Meantime, poor old Kaikoura, once its current bunch of tourists is removed, by helicopter or HMNZS Canterbury, will be left isolated with pretty much no income: the whale- and dolphin-watching businesses, the Segway tour, the restaurants, the souvenir shops, Hapuku Lodge and its inferiors, and all the people who work there, will have no money coming in. Dark days for the people. For the seals, whales and dolphins, though? Maybe the silver lining...


the queen said...

Ferries for the cars? Has anyone attached the cows to a helicopter?

TravelSkite said...

The farmer dug a ramp and they're now back in a flat paddock enjoying the grass.
There are a lot of helicopters buzzing about, though - shortly to include several off the USS Samson which has been allowed to visit (we're rabidly anti-nuclear here) for the Navy's birthday.


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